By Letitia Peyton
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. ~ James 1:27
On Monday nights in LeBeau, Louisiana, you will find a group of Jesus-loving women of various ages and doctrinal faiths at the pool house. They have been together in Catholic Bible study and a few book studies for the last several years. They go to WINE Conferences and gatherings in south Louisiana to strengthen their Christian sisterhood and genuine friendship. The incredible thing about these women is despite their worship in different denominational churches on Sundays; they work together to serve people as Christ calls each of us to do.
With a deep, authentic desire to serve as Christ served, they offer their time and talents to the community in which they live. The women receive prayer requests individually and spread them to the group to strengthen their prayers. When the need arises, they serve together to support families for funerals and send meals to the community’s sick. They collect money for families for unexpected emergencies or death.
One recent act of compassion still gives me pause for reflection. There was a very sick man in a nearby community. He had a severe form of cancer that was no longer treatable. His wife was a stay-at-home mom who also homeschooled their nine children, leaving her husband as the sole income provider for the family. As you can imagine, cancer took its toll, and he could no longer provide for his family in the last few months. The women prayed for his physical healing, but ultimately it was God’s will for him and not theirs or his family’s. The beloved husband and father of nine passed away in the Fall of that year.
As Christmas approached, the women began looking for an individual or family to help. They would usually collect money and send it to a family or individual. Remembering this family, they decided to help the widow and her children. However, this year it was a little more personal. The oldest daughter sent a picture of each of her siblings along with their wish list and a description of each of her siblings. The women worked together in pairs to buy gifts for the children. In some way, the children they chose had a spiritual connection to them despite being strangers; for some, it was the name, for others, the age.
Knowing that the family’s property taxes would be due shortly after Christmas, one woman helped pay their taxes. Another woman offered to buy personalized gifts for the grieving widow. Her daughter had mentioned that she lost her Miraculous Medal while working in their field. The woman who wanted to give to this widow was not Catholic but searched for the perfect Miraculous Medal to replace the one she had lost.
All the women wanted the mother to give her children gifts as if they came directly from her. There was no reaping of any of the joyful benefits of seeing the children open their gifts. It was giving without expecting anything in return. In their affliction, Jesus worked through these women to give to a grieving widow and her children.
James 1:27 tells us to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and keep oneself unstained from the world. This is a pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father. Giving in this way, which caused deep reflection and gratitude for our own lives and possessions, is why God has asked us to care for some of the most vulnerable in our society. Remember the widows and the orphans.
Call to Action
Dear Jesus, your servant, Mother Teresa said to love until it hurts. Help me to understand the true meaning of love that hurts. I open my heart to you and invite you to send those whose needs are more significant than my own, and I allow you to help them through me even though I don’t feel strong enough to bear their needs. And Jesus, I know this means any of my family members whose needs I may have turned away from out of my selfish desire. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen
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