Mr. Dowdy, Mr. Davis and Mrs. Jones

The fact that we continue to live in a fallen, troubled world is hard to overlook.   Even as a child in 1967, I could see that the world was broken and confused.  I watched my father, a U.S. Marine, go to war more than once.  My young mind often wondered, “Will He come home this time?”

My childhood was not ideal. The relationship between my mother and father was more than strained, and as a young child, I was not immune from the effects of a loveless marriage.

Yet, by the grace of God, I can look backward today with gratitude and thanksgiving.  My mother did her best to take us to church each Sunday morning.  It was often an embarrassment to be “that child whose father was never present.”  While many did indeed cast a judgmental eye my way, there were others whose eyes radiated with acts of love and kindness towards me.  Those names remain impermeably imprinted upon my heart and mind even today, over 40 years later.

Every Sunday, Mr. Dowdy steered the wheelchair of his disabled wife up to the front row and sat with her during the service.  He didn’t speak often.  It wasn’t his way.  But every Sunday summer morning, he walked quietly up to me and pressed a huge, beautiful yellow rose from his magnificent garden into my young hands.  He knew I loved yellow roses with just a hint of orange on them.  Even though he never said it, I knew that he had been saving the very best rose out of his garden just for me.

His gift said, “I love you.  I care about you.  You have worth.”  He never once spoke of my father, who was less than a father should be.  Instead, he gently showed me what a real father could be.  Through his quiet and faithful actions, this fatherless child could understand the concept of being loved for no other reason than I existed.

Mr. Davis’ demeanor belied his age.  The moment he stepped into the presence of a child, he became like the very best childhood friend any child could ever imagine. My father would not have dreamed of playing with me.  He would never have picked me up and twirled me around in the air, laughing and chuckling genuinely with glee.  But Mr. Davis did.  Mr. Davis taught me to feel joy and every Sunday morning, I experienced belly-laughs while securely dangling from his large, safe hands.

Imogene Jones taught our Wednesday night girls’ auxiliary.  She shared her love of missions with me and expanded my horizons to see beyond my ‘self.’  One evening we were studying a map of Africa.  I remember hearing a voice from somewhere deep inside of my head which told me that one day, I would go to Africa.  Mrs. Jones allowed me to dream as only a child can dream.

Four years ago I went in Tanzania to meet two of our children whom we sponsor through Compassion International.  It was as if God gently breathed into my ear, “I told you that one day you would come to Africa.  And now, you are here.”

And as only God could do, He knew I would love Amani and Witness from the deepest place in my heart, a heart molded by God through Mr. Dowdy, Mr. Davis and Mrs. Jones.

Three people. Three people I should have forgotten about long ago.  A teachable moment; a beautiful flower; a genuine touch of love;  these things saved the heart of an innocent child, then transformed it into a heart driven to serve God.  Their hands became my hands.  Their words became my words.  Their acts of kindness hopefully will continue to shared with others through me.

Would you, like Mr. Dowdy, craft the heart of another to love the fatherless child based on no merited favor of any kind?

Would you, like Mr. Davis, mold the heart of another to feel through the eyes of a child who could not understand unconditional love?

Would you, like Mr. Jones, instill a heart of compassion with the heart of another to love the poor; those who suffer both financially and spiritually?

These single acts of mercy did not originate from the heart of man.  They originated from the author of mercy – from the very heart of God.   But God…. being rich in  mercy…. because of the great love with which he loved us…. showed this one child, the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards me in Christ Jesus.  What a tremendous gift to receive such mercy from our real Father through the human hands of his very own children!

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

Ephesians 2:4-7

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