[I] started serving at Mary’s Kitchen about 3 or 4 years ago.  The exact timeframe escapes me but the indelible imprint Mary’s has had on my life is permanently embedded.  I’ve been a Christian my whole life, albeit not a very good one at times.  Most times, probably.  In fact, there were times when I was a miserable self-involved wretch when I think about it.

We’re all sinners.  Really?  There was a point in my life when I thought that label was reserved just for me.  I owe it to my wife, Paula, who accepted and even married this broken down “mess” of a Christian and got me re-introduced to Jesus Christ through Yorba Linda Friends Church (YLFC).  I always thought to myself, how could God love someone like me?  Yeah, he’s got a special place for me alright!

I am forever in gratitude to Paula, and Mike Deming, who put his arm around me at a YLFC Men’s Retreat and told me it was okay.  Mike held me while I knelt on my knees in front of a makeshift cross and cried like a baby admitting my helplessness.  Then God spoke to me loud and clear.  I wasn’t abnormal, nor should I continue to persecute myself over my sins because He has forgiven me.  Imagine that?  It took me over 45+ years to finally get that concept and God hit me right between the eyes with it.  Such a simple concept, yet so incredibly powerful.

Bless the Lord…who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.

PSALM 103:2-3

So I took to the newness of being forgiven with vigor and got involved in many different aspects of the church.  Paula always accuses me of not being able to do anything in moderation.  Guilty as charged!  It is all or nothing with me so I dove in.  Bible Study, Evangelism Classes, KidVenture, Men’s Retreats, and more.  It all felt good and I was involved, but over time I grew weary and there was something missing.  Ah-oh.  There I go again.  It’s all about me and my feelings, right?

Wrong.  The Lord wasn’t going to let me slip.  Not this time.  As I sat one Sunday morning reading the YLFC Church Service Bulletin, I saw an announcement from Jay Hoff, YLFC Missions Pastor.  He was calling for medical volunteers to serve on a mission trip to India.  I don’t have any medical skills whatsoever, other then maybe quickly ripping a band-aid off the arm of one of my kids (one of my favorite home medical procedures!), but God was definitely telling me in very clear terms that I needed to go.  He needed brains which the nurses and doctors would bring, but He also needed arms and legs to help out wherever needed.  Arms and legs I have, so off I went on my first mission trip.

To say India was a life changing event is a drastic understatement.  The human suffering and oppression is almost beyond description.  Gut wrenching poverty and homelessness is rampant, but I witnessed firsthand the work of the Lord and the transformations He is leading.  Villages once saturated with hunger and disease are transforming with hope because of the simple touch of a few caring hands.  I came home a changed man.  I knew that I had found God’s calling and that was to serve others much less fortunate then me.

I shed off a lot of what I’ll call the window dressing of my Christian activeness. India will do that to you. Poverty will do that too you. Makes you get down to what really matters.  Pulls the band-aid off, so to speak.  I’ve completed a few more India trips, but since they are now bi-annual events I was feeling a lot of emptiness between trips.  I prayed and asked God what to do.  I don’t always listen, as Paula (and God) will attest, but this time I did.  A family friend of ours, Diane Mallory, had already been serving at Mary’s for a few months and urged Paula and I to get involved there.  Mary’s sounded like a perfect opportunity, so off we went to Mary’s Kitchen.  I met Scott Denton, Dan Stoner, and David and Susan Hashimoto.  They welcomed me with open arms.  David showed us the kitchen where the food is prepared, and the tables where the sack lunches were made, and the seating area where the homeless gathered to eat.  I liked what I saw. We helped make sack lunches and I drove with David and Susan down to Santa Ana to deliver them.  I knew exactly when I got there that I was in a special place.  I’ve been hooked on Mary’s and Santa Ana ever since.

Mary’s and all its wonderment is now the fabric of who I am.  The relationships I have with those who serve and with those who are less fortunate are precious gifts from God.  Although I have somewhat of a gruff exterior, so I’ve been told (Security, at your service!), deep down inside I cherish each and every one of those relationships.  The memories of India come and go, but the human suffering of people is all around us.  God has blessed me with the opportunity to serve them, both here and afar.  He has offered up one of his earthly homes to me each Saturday and I humbly accept, for it is truly a privilege and an honor to be in the grace of God and serving all his children.

I have called you friends.

JOHN 15:15