It is that time of year when I am thinking about the journey to Bethlehem. And like Mary and Joseph’s journey, our personal journeys can be difficult. During the past three years, my husband John and I traveled together through the most difficult time of our 46-year marriage. It was three years ago when John was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – a terminal lung disease.
On October 10, I had the privilege of holding John in my arms as he made his journey home to be with our Lord and Savior. Now traveling this journey without him, I find myself overwhelmed with many emotions. Feelings of grief flood over me and I find myself filled with sadness. At times, I rest in the fact that he is with our Lord and is no longer suffering –– and I’m filled with peace. But the emotion that is most present is the warm feeling of gratitude –– I am very grateful for God’s gift of John.
I am also grateful for God’s gift of you. Many of you, upon hearing of John’s journey home, have lifted me up in so many ways. You have visited, called, delivered food, and sent cards, text and emails –– all expressing love and sympathy. You have also given gifts in John’s memory to care for the “least of these.” Thank you.
Your prayers and many acts of love and kindness have made this difficult time in my journey bearable. Your prayers as I continue on my road to Bethlehem are coveted. I am eternally grateful.
Mary and Joseph were on a journey filled with obstacles and overwrought with emotions. I am sure they felt overwhelmed at times. At first glance, the journey to Bethlehem was an obligation –– they were forced to return to Bethlehem for a census. In truth, their trip was for a greater purpose – a purpose of fulfillment. It marked the end to waiting for the promised Messiah. No doubt a struggle, but in the end, it was a journey home.
And so it is with the many who enter the doors of Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH). The journeys they traveled have been difficult – filled with pain and trauma.
Katyrena was a baby when her mother died in a fire and her father placed her in a Russian orphanage. From there, she was adopted by a North Carolina family. When she was three years old, her family struggled and began to fall apart. Her parents divorced when she was in the third grade. She felt confused and blamed herself. And soon, she felt overwhelmed. Now in BCH’s care, Katyrena has accepted Christ. Katyrena continues her journey to Bethlehem.
Zach’s father died of cancer when he was seven years old. His grief was powerful and turned to anger. As he grew older, the anger grew to the point of consuming him. At Cameron Boys Camp, Zach accepted Christ and is finding positive ways to channel his hurt and emotions. Zach continues his journey to Bethlehem.
Alecia arrived alone and afraid. At the age of four she was abandoned by her mother. Now older, the anger raged inside her. As a teenager she sought attention in all the wrong ways. She began using drugs and drinking alcohol as a way to escape and deal with her pain. She determined there was no hope for her and became suicidal. Then, she came to BCH and loving, patient cottage parents offered her hope. Alecia continues her journey to Bethlehem
It was Christmas Eve when the children walked through the cottage’s door. They had suffered abuse and neglect. Most days, they struggled to survive. The sparkle that you see in most children’s eyes was no longer there. The siblings were empty shells. The good news is they walked into the loving arms of their houseparents who shared the true meaning of Christmas and wrapped them with the warmth of God’s love and the promise of His peace and hope. These children continue their journey to Bethlehem.
We need you urgently. The children who come through our doors need you. Just as Joseph and Mary needed shelter at the end of their journey, so do these children and the many more who turn to BCH in 2020. Will they find room in your heart this Christmas?
Since the days of Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and wise men, we have all in one way or another been on the road to Bethlehem. The beloved carol reminds us: “O little town of Bethlehem, how still, we see thee lie. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Bethlehem, where our highest hopes and deepest fears come together at the manger of Jesus.
The journey for Bethlehem is the same for all of us; the journey to a place where hopes and fears unite. It is a journey to a place where the fears are quieted and hopes fulfilled. May it be so for you and for our children.
Article Written by Brenda B. Gray, Executive Vice President, Development & Communications