The Best Christmas!!!!
The parsonage my wife and I lived in during Christmas 1980 was cold and drafty. It was also located in a rough, impoverished and crime ridden area of Kansas City where we knew no one. In all of our lives, I’m not sure we had ever felt so alone. We had little income, no food, and no presents under our artificial tree. My father was dying of cancer and Tami was nine months pregnant, expecting our first child.
Our circumstances were bleak, but a glimmer of excitement shone in our hearts as we anticipated Christmas Day. We had made plans with family and would be enjoying the day in Topeka celebrating the joy of Christ’s birth. However, our plans quickly shifted when, on Christmas morning, I woke up with the stomach flu.
With every part of my being ravaged with pain, combined with the dark realities already in front of me, I quickly became even more depressed. Tami tried to cheer me up, but to no avail. In a prayer of bitterness I cried out to God, “So this is how You take care of people who have said they will serve You? You let them be broke, sick and unable to celebrate Christmas? You give them a father as a best friend, only to let him die of cancer? A wife who is pregnant with no food to eat and no money to buy it? And all this on Christmas? Really?” I fumed in my anguish and was sure He had turned a deaf ear.
We had $1.90 to our name. By this time Tami could hardly fit behind the wheel of our tiny car, but she squeezed herself in and drove down to the gas station. She came back with a small bottle of Pepto Bismol and a bottle of 7-Up. For lunch that day we dined on 7-Up and crackers, while I drank the pink medicine.
Tami was so pregnant she could hardly move, but her attitude remained positive and was truly commendable. On the other hand I, all day long, chose to wallow in my self-pity while complaining to both her and God.
An unexpected knock on the door came around four o’clock, interrupting my saga of gloom. As we opened the door, we were greeted by a man and a woman standing there in the cold. We recognized them as neighbors from down the street. They knew we were going to the Bible School since we were staying in the old parsonage beside the church. They also had not seen us go anywhere or have anyone come by on this special day and wondered about us. “So,” they said, “God placed it on our hearts to bring Christmas to you.”
In their arms they held leftovers from their Christmas meal. The crackers we were saving for dinner were soon replaced with warm turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and pumpkin pie. They said they had experienced a really nice Christmas that morning and they wanted to share it with us.
They had taken the wrapping paper that had been on their presents and reused it to wrap presents for us. Inside several packages were food items and baby toys for our daughter who would be arriving shortly. All of the items were used but in good condition. Even though there were no stores open, this couple had taken what they had available and given it to us.
They smiled as they told us they appreciated what we were doing with our lives and that they had felt God had shared His blessings with them so that they could share them with us. I was convicted, humbled and deeply grateful. God clearly spoke to me that day and let me know that, even in the midst of my complaining and woe, He had not forgotten about me. “In spite of what you will go through,” He said, “I will always meet you there.” What started as the worst, turned out to be the best Christmas I’d ever had.
From that day forward my faith in God was strengthened and my trust in Him changed. It was obvious for where He was taking me that I needed to experience a number of lessons in faith. Prior to that event and others similar, I would have never had enough stamina to remain standing in the midst of the challenges I have since faced. How could I trust God to provide for others if I had never experienced great need and His provision for myself? I learned from His faithfulness and this couple’s sacrifice that there would always be hope, as long as I was walking with Him.
I once lived in poverty and experienced great lack. I watched my family question as we wondered where our next meal would come from. I remember the anxiety I felt when the bills came and there was no money to pay them. I remember the sleepless nights wondering if I had missed God and questioning if things would ever change. However, I can look back now and know with all certainty that even through those trials, there was great purpose. Had I turned my back on the ministry and given up hope, I would have never experienced the richness of His miraculous provision, the best Christmas of my life, or the privilege of being a part of the Topeka Rescue Mission which stands as a testimony of God’s goodness today.
Regardless of what your circumstances look like this Christmas season, please be assured that God has not forgotten about you. He loves you so very much that He was willing to humble Himself to become a small child, born into this world to die so that you might live.
Through my poverty, God showed me what was most important in life: to have faith in Him. May you experience the joy of receiving the same this Christmas and throughout the New Year.
Sincerely in Christ,
Barry Feaker, Executive Director