Today I write this blog in memory of a man I never knew, but of whose legacy I have learned from reading his book Mercy Without Borders and the Houston Catholic Worker newsletter we regularly receive from Casa Juan Diego as we seek to pour own own lives into a very similar work as that of Mark and Louise Zwick.
Our brother Mark, thank you for “loosing the bonds of wickedness, undoing the straps of the yoke, letting the oppressed go free, and breaking every yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the homeless poor into your house, covering the naked, and not hiding from your own flesh…pouring yourself out for the hungry, and satisfying the desire of the afflicted” (from Isaiah 58). I have no doubt that you were welcomed into glory with the words which were the overarching Scriptural basis for your nearly 40 years of refugee ministry in Houston: “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'” (Matthew 25:34-40)
Why do we desire to do this work with some of the most vulnerable people among us? Why would we give up so much for people we don’t even know and who may need far more from us than we feel capable of giving?
Because we love Jesus. And Jesus loves them. Deeply. Desperately. Longingly.
Because each one of them is Jesus in disguise.
Have we forgotten that Jesus came to earth as a poor, helpless babe, born of a virgin as an illegitimate child in the eyes of the world? His adoptive, earthly father could find no suitable place for him to be born–no place to lay his head…homeless. Then he immediately became a refugee as the angel instructed Joseph to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt because Pharaoh wanted the baby king dead.
Yes, Jesus knows what it is like to be a poor, illegitimate, homeless refugee fleeing for his life. So he tells us in the gospel of Matthew that when we care for the physical and emotional needs of such people, we truly care for him.
For a number of years now, God has been putting a home like Abba’s House on our family’s heart. Michael and I would drive by a large facility for sale and think, “Could we turn that into a home for displaced people?” He would scour the potential properties for sale in our area and wonder. I would read about Amy Carmichael, or watch a movie about Mother Teresa, and my heart would long to be in their shoes loving those the world has cast aside. And we would wonder, “Why?” Why do we feel so compelled, Lord?
This sense of compassionate calling has led us to a variety of ministries, from welcoming some of the India Children’s Choir kids to live in our home for a month, to traveling to Nepal and Africa to work in children’s homes, to fostering children of Houston street kids in our own home, to working with refugees living in Los Arcos and helping resettle new families through Refugee Services of Texas, to putting on VBS with LINC congregations, and a whole host of other ways we have felt called to work with the marginalized people of our city.
But this particular impetus to open a home for refugee women and their children would not go away no matter how many important compassion ministries into which we threw ourselves. Then, in God’s perfect timing (after what seemed like eons of waiting), God intersected our lives with those of the Wiechman family. The rest, as they say, is history. It’s a pretty short history, at that!
For the past nine months we have built a relationship with Steve and Jamie Wiechman, and their children Austin, Gabby, Josiah, and Ellie, that has become true family. In fact, our lives became so intertwined and we felt so strongly called together to this ministry venture that our two families have been living together in community since mid-August to prepare ourselves for living in community in Abba’s House, welcoming new refugee women and their children and hurting church leaders and their spouses into this place of rest, healing, and renewal. You can learn more about our “life together” on their blog Dropnets.
Welcome to the crazy fun. Welcome to life together. Welcome to Abba’s House!
In Christ’s love,
Michael, Julie, Caleb, Courtney, and Joshua