I did some Christmas shopping last night and now I’m so excited for Christmas to come. I love the gifts I purchased and I can’t wait to watch my loved ones open the gifts I picked just for them.
Do you have a favorite gift – a gift that you will forever remember because of how love was expressed and how the gift changed your life? One of my favorite gifts I have ever received was a pair of church shoes. I know, it doesn’t sound like that significant of a gift, but this gift perhaps changed my life more than any other physical gift I have ever received. In order to tell you about this gift, I have to tell you about two very special people.
There are people in this life that we cross paths with…and then there are people we meet and the trajectory of our life is forever changed. Ron and Donna Pate changed my life forever. They crossed a busy street in Bloomington, Indiana, knocked on our door and invited our family to church. When my mother politely declined, she invited them over to their house to play cards and get to know each other. Again, she invited them to church, and they politely said no.
After many attempts, Donna changed her invitation to a request to take my sister and me to church with them. My mom made up a reason why that Sunday wouldn’t work…and the next Sunday…and the next Sunday. Then my mom used the excuse, “Sherry doesn’t have any church shoes.” Before the day was over there was a knock on the door. Donna stood there with a pair of church shoes. The next day, my sister and I went to church – I wore my new shoes.
I was young but I remember being really scared when she dropped me off at my class. I also remember LOVING church! We went back week after week and soon my parents started coming too. There at Bloomington First Church of the Nazarene in Indiana, they accepted Christ as their Savior and were soon working with the youth group. My dad left his doctoral program at Indiana University and accepted a call into full time ministry. He retired a few years ago after 33 years as a pastor. The friendship Ron and Donna offered changed our family forever!!!
There are three parts of this gift of church shoes that stand out to me. First of all, these shoes represent a life brought up in the church with godly parents. Because of the influence of my parents, I too accepted Christ as my Savior. From a young age, I loved God and would tell people I wanted to be a pastor’s wife when I grew up. Eventually I made a full commitment of sanctification and my relationship with God has been growing little by little each day of my life. I am now married to an incredible man who serves the God he loves and I have three beautiful daughters who love Jesus!
This week my youngest daughter, Brooke, came to realize just how different her life would be if not for the gift Donna Pate extended on that early Spring day. The impact of the gift of my first church shoes continues generation after generation.
The second part of this gift of shoes is the first-hand knowledge that I have the potential to forever change someone’s life, just like Ron and Donna Pate forever changed mine. The third part is about opportunity. Donna had an opportunity and she took it. Now I have opportunities in my life. What will I do with them?
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words! – 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Donna made a decision in her heart – she decided to cross the road, she decided to keep coming back, she decided our family was worth the cost of a pair of shoes. Donna was not rich but God supplied her with what she needed to obey Him. God provided the seed and Donna obediently planted it.
Two good things results from this ministry of giving: 1.) I received a new pair of shoes and the experience that would last a lifetime and 2.) I have a thankful heart today for what God has done in my life and for what Donna Pate was willing to do for me. As a result of these two things, God receives glory for everything He accomplishes through me in the lives of others.
I thank God for this gift – the gift of church shoes – it is too wonderful for words!!!
Today I will be attending the funeral for this precious woman who changed my life with an opportunity and a gift. Today I will stand before the caskets of both Ron and Donna Pate and say goodbye to a couple who made sure I knew I was loved by them and loved by God. Today I will stand beside my parents and my sister as we express our thankful hearts for the courage of a woman who dared cross a busy street to once again to invite a young family to their church.
The gift of opportunity is extended to each of us today. What will we do with the opportunities God gives us before this day is over? What gift can we extend in love that will forever change someone’s life.