This afternoon, I took a moment to ask myself, "When is the last time you got genuinely excited about sponges?" Well, honestly, I can't remember. But in the last two days, I encountered two people who were extraordinarily excited to receive two sponges. And these weren't your top of the line bath sponges. They were more like 4 for a dollar (at the Dollar Store), regular old kitchen sponges.
Sponge Story #1:
I met Esmerelda about a month ago. And for the last four weeks, every Thursday, I've visited her in her neighborhood. Every week she would run out and say hello and ask us what "goodies" we brought. Now, before I go any further, I need to tell you Esmerelda is about 6 or 7 years old. She is part of one of many families in Papago Court that I have the privilege of delivering groceries to--families, who basically can't afford to buy enough groceries on their own.
Each week, I am a part of a group that delivers 200 bags of groceries to two adjacent streets in Santa Rosa. Esmerelda is such a fireball of energy and excitement. Maybe my second week out I told her, we would be coming back that Saturday for a party. That was all she had to hear--she would be there. That Saturday, as we were setting up tables for a BBQ; chairs for a mini-church service; and putting out clothing, backpacks and other supplies to give away, I said to Esmerelda, "See--Didn't I tell you we would have a party?" She quickly responded, "This isn't a party, this is just a bunch of stuff." I suppose she was right. The stuff doesn't make the party. About an hour later as I was turning the jump rope, I asked her if it was a party yet and she whole-heartedly agreed. The next Thursday I saw Esmerelda carrying a bag of groceries with extra bread and boxes of donuts packed on top. As she carried this back to her house, she called over her shoulders, "I'll be right back for some more GOODIES!" It was one of the most precious things I ever saw.
You, quite possibly, are wondering where the sponges come in. This week we went out to Papago Court on Tuesday instead of Thursday. Esmerelda didn't come out right away, but when she arrived, we all knew. She brought home a bag or two of groceries and then came back out to play (A lot of kids come to help distribute groceries and meet new friends like Esmerelda). When we had one bag left, Esmerelda hopped up into the truck and looked inside and saw two sponges at the top of the bag. She was ecstatic. She grabbed them and claimed them for herself. Immediately she rubbed them (both) on her face and proceeded to "wash" everyone else around. In time she shared one sponge with Katie (one of the kids who came to help) and the two of them continued washing anyone they could reach. I've never seen kids have so much with a sponge that wasn't wet.
I never, before, could have believed that about $0.50 worth of sponges could be such a blessing to one person. But Esmerelda changed my mind.
Sponge Story #2
Recently I met a woman who needed help. She needed groceries and gas. She had just found out that her husband (or ex-husband) had cleaned out what little money she had in her bank account. With two teenagers and a seven-year old to feed, she was feeling desperate. I honestly was a little overwhelmed by her problems, so I asked one of the pastors to speak to her. He talked to her for a while and prayed with her and took her to get some gas. We refered her to Hope West for groceries, but I was afraid her message on their machine wouldn't be picked up right away, so I got her number and told her I would call her before I brought her some groceries.
Starting at about 2PM I tried to call, but the phone just rang and rang. So, I just left the groceries in my trunk and determined that I would call her the next morning. I tried, but still couldn't get through, but she called me and gave me her address and explained she would be home for the next two hours. She offered to come to me, but I wanted to make sure to get her a gallon of milk and a few other items. About a half hour later, I made a quick trip to Safeway and then made my way to her house. When I arrived she was on the phone, but told the person on the other end, that her "friend, Liz" was there. I was honored that, without really knowing me, she called me "friend."
For the next 20 minutes she shared the details of her life with me. The painful moments of the last few years and specifically the last few months. She shared that she was raised in an atheist family, but through a friend, came to church and experienced God's love and forgiveness for herself. This woman has been broken before and knows she will make it through this, but still struggles with how and why. She appreciated the limited scripture I could share with her and was pleased to have me pray for and with her. As we were talking, I understood why God didn't allow me to "drop off" the groceries to her the night before. She didn't NEED the groceries, she NEEDED the encouragement, a listener and a partner in prayer. As I was about to leave, she looked at the top of the groceries and exclaimed, "SPONGES! I needed these." God surely provides what we NEED.
I look forward to sharing with her in the future. Please pray for this woman.
REMEMBER: God will provide all your needs.