West Virginia Strong…
We are out at our beloved Greenbrier while work is being done at our home in Indiana. As most of you know, we come out here several times a year to relax and renew our friendships with people we have known for years. I usually try to get a little fishing in with James, a guide I have fished with for many years, and we also spend time catching up with Cathy, the Dining Room Manager at breakfast. We have seen her every day this week – such a wonderful woman who always treats us with dignity and respect.
One of our favorite shops is the shoe store and we have known Deanna, as well as her sidekick, Lauren, for many years. In fact, Deanna is married to Greg, a longtime Greenbrier employee of about 34 years, a little longer than we have been coming here. We always get together for dinner, usually on Wednesday of whatever week we are in town, at 50 East Main, a sandwich/pizza place in town. We did that last night and it was so wonderful to spend time with local friends who reside in White Sulphur Springs.
What I am trying to say is that the friendships and people here are the biggest reason we have kept coming back for decades. Sure, there is the Greenbrier itself, a grand old hotel started back in 1778, with more history than could be told in a lifetime. The spa is a first rate experience and the food is equally unforgettable. Our favorite breakfast anywhere in the world is right here, at a window table on the terrace overlooking the magnificent gardens. This is truly a magical place – not only the grounds, but because of the people we have come to know and love – and the years of memories we have created here.
What makes this even more special is that the people here have, for the most part, lived tough lives. There was a horrific flood in June, 2016 that virtually leveled the town and many folks lost their lives and/or their worldly possessions. People were wiped out – and yet, through it all, neighbors helped neighbors and they have tried to rebuild their lives. Through these hardships, they have never stopped caring for one another – not by a long shot. Roscoe, one of our dear friends here is a good example of loving others without an expectation of anything in return.
Roscoe and his wife, Diane, lost everything in the flood – their house and all their possessions. Yet, when two children were born prematurely (at 24 weeks) to an alcoholic mother, Roscoe and Diane stepped up to foster these two boys, Ashton and Aaron. By the way, the parents stepped away from their responsibility and the kids are now deeply imbedded in the foster system. Out of 32 scheduled visits, the parents only showed up a total of 8 times. And that includes the six months the boys spent in the neonatal intensive care ward before they could even leave the hospital. Mom and Dad just don’t care… It is a real tragedy that Roscoe and Diane couldn’t tolerate, so they took over the care of the boys and are giving them the love that Aaron and Ashton so desperately need.
They are mirroring a Christ-like love that we see frequently here. By the way, these aren’t the easiest children to take care of. Doctors are trying to determine what learning disabilities Aaron may struggle with and Ashton suffers from Cerebral Palsy – and must be fed through a tube in his stomach. And yet, a loving community of Christ centered believers surrounds them, prays for them, loves them well and provides for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs while “the system” churns endlessly, refusing to return the boys to their genetic parents and leaving Roscoe and Diane in limbo as they try to adopt these two dear children.
What is it that causes the local people to care so much for each other in the midst of their own devastation and hardship? Roscoe has told me stories about growing up so poor that families had to send their kids to neighbor homes for dinner because there wasn’t enough food in the pantry to feed the family. And, as he puts it, everyone was poor and so they all helped one another. Because nobody realized how poor they were. Loving others well was the way to survive and the only way to live. They don’t know another way. What a model of behavior for us, as Christ followers, to emulate in our own areas of the country!
I feel guilty when I complain about the stuff that Janet and I have to deal with when I am surrounded by people here who are cheerful, loving and take what the Lord gives them each day. There is a lesson to be learned here. And we witness it every time we trek to West Virginia.
Jesus had quite a bit to say on this subject. He was meeting with the disciples and admonished them to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and take care of those who need help, including those in prison. In our verse for tonight, Matthew tells us how Jesus responded to the questions of His disciples, in Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” That’s the message – whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we do in the name of Jesus, just as if we were serving Jesus Himself.
My encouragement this evening is that God expects us to reach out and use our time, talents and treasure to help those less fortunate. My prayer is that we will all learn the lessons that most of the folks in West Virginia have learned through all their adversity. That taking care of others, in the words of Roscoe, is a blessing that we just can’t compare to anything else. We serve an awesome God and Savior. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…