Sunday, June 30, 2013

Christmas in June

I hardly know where to begin to share the many stories that took place on our mission trip last week. We were in small groups that worked at different sites through most of the week. Many of the stories are stories that belong to the other members of the team and I can only share them as I remember having heard them. I guess I should just start with my own stories and experiences.

As an unskilled laborer in the areas that involve construction and remodeling, I knew that I was going to be more of a gopher-boy than anything else. My jobs mostly involved things like fetching lumber for one project (we had a car and the lumber source was about five or six blocks away--downhill to the lumber, uphill when I was carrying it), cleaning up, sorting clothes at a second-hand store, working with kids at the school and wrapping Christmas presents.

Yes, I said wrapping Christmas presents.

I spent one morning at the home of Muggins and Naomi. For the last 32 years, they have been providing meals and gifts to families that would otherwise be without. Muggins told us that in December of 1980 he was laid off from working in the coal mine. He knew that they would be getting unemployment benefits and food stamps and that they would survive okay. He worried about the people that were going to have a difficult time and the families that would struggle to provide at Christmas time. He contacted some of the other miners that were laid off and had a little time on their hands. That first year they provided Christmas dinner for 15 families and managed to collect one box of presents.

The following year, even though he was back to work, he worried that there would be families that were in need during the Christmas season and went back to those miners to see if they would help him for a second year. Even though nobody wanted to continue the Christmas charity, Muggins and his wife have faithfully provided gifts and food every year since then. Last year they provided meals for more than 600 families and gave away more than 3,000 presents. A church group from Louisville has been bringing some food and teams of people to help pack and deliver the meals and the presents for several years. The food package (a ham, a bag of potatoes, flour, canned goods, etc.) weighs about 25 lbs.  Each child gets two presents to open.

Naomi still works a full day at a local nursing home, comes home for a shower and dinner and then wraps presents until bedtime. This is the first year that she has had help wrapping the donated toys! Muggins is on oxygen and said he gets pneumonia several times a year. I assume that has to do with a career of working in the coal mines.

The truly amazing thing about this story is that up until last year, Christmas was a holiday that Muggins celebrated as a day to have dinner as a family and exchange some presents. About a year ago, Muggins made the profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Last Christmas was the first time in all of the years of his giving, that he celebrated the birth of his Lord and Savior!

Right now, we have plans to return to Cumberland KY next year. I have a feeling that we'll be bringing some wrapped presents with us and providing people to wrap presents everyday.

I imagine that there is poverty or need right where each of us lives. I know that poverty knows no season. Maybe there is something that you could do this week that will make a difference for somebody--donate to a food pantry, work in a homeless shelter, provide fans in the summer heat (or blankets and coats in the winter). You get the idea. If one laid off miner can make a difference to 15 families (and now to hundreds of families and thousands of kids), what could we do?

Merry Christmas!
John <><


Claudia said...

Bless Muggins and Naomi's hearts, and your own, John! Keep on, keepin' on!!!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

What an inspiring example that couple made!