In September 2012, our son Branden, who is in the landscape business, received a call from a friend of ours to clean up an overgrown lot and home in Woodstock. Branden is our only child and he had recently married and moved out of our home. It was a huge adjustment for Patricia and I and even though we knew he was happy, we missed him greatly. Every chance I had to see him was a blessing.
While he and his crew were working on the cleanup, I surprised them with lunch from Chick-Fil-A. He saw me pull up to the overgrown lot and immediately came over to say, “Hi.” We sat in my old pick up truck looking at the weeds and talked about the weeds in our lives. It was great to have those moments with him. With lunch break over, he got out, I cranked up the truck to leave but before I could leave, I felt my heart starting to pull towards a ministry here — in this old, run down house on this weed infested lot. I parked again, but this time I got out and worked my way through the underbrush to the front porch of the house. There was a watermelon growing at the front door!
Inside, the house was a wreck — electrical wiring hung from the inside ceiling and it was apparent there had been some vandalism. Yet still, I felt that God-tug at my heart. I was really taken back that God was calling us here. Just having returned from a vibrant ministry in East Africa, we only had $82 in our ministry checking account. We had ongoing financial commitments to feed orphan children there and in the natural, I couldn’t see how starting a ministry here was even possible. But God had other plans.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” PROVERBS 3:5-6
That soft voice kept getting louder and louder and He urged me to call the property owner and ask about starting an outreach ministry there. Now understand this, I did NOT want to do this; I really wanted to return to East Africa and continue our work there. Not to mention that I was also very fearful of being a failure. There was no funding for what God was asking of me. My mind raced as I drove home and that evening I shared with Patricia what had happened. When I was done, she asked me, “Do you think it truly is from God? Or is it Lamar wanting to do this?” She knew my heart better than anyone, but I assured her that it was all God. She suggested we pray and ask God to make it clear as to what He wanted of us because we both thought we were heading back to Africa.
That week it all began to unfold. I called the owner of the property and shared with him what God had placed on our hearts to do. I asked if we could use the old house and explained we had little money. His response was a booming, “Yes!” As we worked out an agreement, the only requirement he asked was that we kept the grass cut. In exchange for that, he would not charge us rent. I hung up the phone in amazement. That was too easy.
Patricia and I began to share with our ministry partners that God had given us the use of this house. The more we shared, the more excited we became. A small group from a local Methodist church reached out to us and heard about our ministry. They offered to come pressure wash and paint the outside. The following week a small ladies group from a local Baptist church reached out and came to clean and paint the entire inside of the home. I really knew God was all over this outreach when we had both the Methodist and the Baptist churchs’ blessing it! Our friend in the electrical business came out and took care of our lighting needs. Our friend in the HVAC business came and got the heater and air conditioning system working. And we still had $82 in the bank …
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I love you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” JOHN 15:5
Remember the watermelon growing on the front porch? It was God’s sign that HE was guiding me — He was the vine, I am the branches, and we will bear much fruit. HE wanted this place to be a food pantry.
The first church that had come to do work called us a couple of weeks after they had left and said: “Hey, our church family has been collecting food to stock the pantry and we wanted to know if you were there. We’re sending a loaded truck over.” After I hung up I thought, well what a nice gesture — they collected a pickup full of food for us. But in a few minutes, I heard this “beep beep beep” coming from outside. I looked out the front door and this huge 24- foot long truck was backing up in our drive! I began to cry.
Since our beginning, we have provided thousands of pounds of food to thousands of families who have come in great need of assistance. God has truly been true to His promise to continue to be our vine. The vine that provides life to our little pantry, life to the people it serves, and life to the people that remain in Him and serve faithfully to His glory.