These were the unspoken words floating through our minds as our team ascended the stairs of the grand, red brick home.
Bold black letters contrasting the brightness of a yellow caution sign, ’Safe Place’; this building screamed the word ‘beacon’ as a lighthouse for the weary.
“The Relatives”, a place called to rescue Charlotte’s children, was a hub of social workers and lost parents. Children with children, children with bruises, children with reserve, the place was light but filled with darkness.
Once we walked through the doors we had no time to waste, because “let’s celebrate all the children by throwing them a surprise birthday party”, meant hurry. Streamers up here, balloons along the floor, candy and ice cream over there, turn the music up. We worked fast and efficiently to decorate the dining room while putting care and heart into something we knew could change their day. It felt like the significance of their existence was hanging in the balance.
When the children walked in, it appeared as if someone had turned the white balance of the room up. Starting out small and shy, smiles danced across everyone’s faces. Ice cream was being thrown out in ginormous scoops of love, the toppings sprinkled on like tiny kisses.
“Uno! I win!”, was shouted to the ceilings. Manicures, basketball, and dancing, this party was a party only found in the sweetest of teenaged dreams. We had 3 hours to show the love of Father, and we were determined to make the most of it.
“Wait, I thought there was 10 children, there’s only 9?”
He walked through the room ignoring all invitations to join. His posture spoke curiosity, but his heart spoke fear. “Hey CJ, don't you want to hangout?”, a timid whisper asked, only to be met by an increase of music from headphones, leaving listening ears disappointed. The pause in the commotion was felt like a shock wave. Everyone’s eyes looked to the lone stranger in the kitchen but pleading eyes were not met. Deciding to continue on, the tempo gradually picked back up, but never quite hit its high. CJ’s obvious absence was felt, he was missing.
As the ice cream began it’s second tour around the table, and the girls began showcasing their fresh nails, a shaky long hand reached for a bowl. The room secretly shifted its face to the boy who rebelled against his fear.
“Anytime there’s food around, I’m there.”
Embraced by strangers, CJ opened his heart. He allowed us to see a peek into the mystery that once surrounded his lonely soul, which revealed a small boy in need of radical love.
“It’s present time!”
Passing them around, you could hear the excitement ringing through the rattling of wrapping paper hitting the floor. Toys, shirts, sunglasses, everyone received something they not only wanted, but needed. It was if the love of the Father had swooped down and held them.
Joy began to outburst.
“I have a team now, thats there for me.” A ‘Love Them Well’ shirt had never been held up more proudly than when being clutched in the hands of someone who had been loved well.
The stone of a mistrusting face had melted and shaped into a new form, the form of a glistening smile, CJ’s smile.
“I have a family.”
His wall had come tumbling down. In short moments shared over ice cream and games, CJ had experienced a love that could override and heal any pain felt from life past. A love that conquers any and all circumstances, issues, and scars. CJ had come face to face with Father, his heavenly Father. A Father whose love had overflowed from us onto his sweet heart, refreshing and renewing like a rushing river. CJ did have a family, we were his family, and he knew it.
This year we returned to one of our favorite spots across America. The King’s Kitchen—a restaurant that is innovative in using their five star restaurant experience to benefit the poor in the surrounding community.
King's provides the experience straight out of Matthew - bring in the poor and broken and invite them in to have a banquet feast. Seven years ago, our first event was providing a feast like meal to over 500 homeless in downtown Charlotte. King's Kitchen, is our way of re-creating that event during out tour this summer.
"When we met Chester, he felt like a man of quiet strength, security, and even peace. He looked like a retired basketball coach, at over 6.5'. Missing a few teeth did not deter from the joy in his eyes. We made conversation with him, and asked him if he would join us. Throughout the meal, the wisdom that came out of him, had us all surprised to say the least. He taught us about over-looking offense, and not letting negative circumstances make you a victim. He assured us his place in eternity was secured, and that everyday was a gift." - Briauna Hoyt (Founder of Two Cents)