It all began with Peanut Butter Cookies, when my husband took a missionary trip to Haiti with a few other ministers. During their stay they visited a school in one of the local villages, bringing with them dozens of Peanut Butter Cookies, and when they began to pass them out to the children (there were approximately 30) their eyes lit up with excitement, as this is not something they get very often, if at all. As my husband shares the story he explains that the people live in extreme poverty, living in huts with holes dug in the ground as their toilets covered with a piece of cardboard. And if they were able to afford such delicacy’s, it would take them hours to travel on foot down the mountain of which they live.
After sharing the cookies with the children my husband went off alone to sit on a rock, and as he thought about the immense Joy these children expressed, he began to weep.
Many years later I had a similar experience, only, I was not in another country. It happened not far from our home in Arizona while driving my car on the expressway. We had always “talked” about helping others, but never took our discussions seriously enough to actually “do” something about it, other than Christmastime when one of my favorite things to do was take our children to the Mall and shop with them to purchase toys for children in need. In the Mall stood a very large Christmas tree decorated with paper angels as ornaments, and on each angel, were the names of children, along with a short list of toys they hoped to receive. This brought me great Joy, but nothing compared to what happened to me a few years later.
During my drive on the expressway I heard on the radio of a local shelter asking for New clothes and toys for children and their mothers. As my hands gripped the wheel, I had a shuddering thought: What if that were me? Would I want someone there for me and my children? And my immediate response was—Yes!
As I continued on the road I noticed the Guadalupe exit coming up as there was a local Walmart there. As I entered the store I grabbed a cart and headed for the clothing department and picked out a number of items for children, both girls and boys of different ages and sizes and did the same for the mothers as well. Then I made my way to the Toy isle. It was also Christmastime and so the isles were busier than usual. As I began to pick out toys and add them to my cart, I began to weep, only my tears were not tears of sadnesses but of Joy. This Joy was nothing like any other I had ever experienced before in my entire Life!
As I stood at the register, placing the clothing and toys on the conveyer, I thought, “What is this Joy?!” Later that year after the Lord led us back into ministry, and moved us back to Michigan, I was reading John chapter 15 where Jesus teaches us to obey His commandment to Love, and as I read, I came to the verse that says, “My Joy will be in you, and your Joy will be Full.” And upon reading His Words the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “Do you remember the Joy you had in Walmart that day?” I responded, “Yes.” Jesus continued and said, “That was My Joy!”
That explained everything! I literally felt True Joy; it was The Joy of the Lord! A Joy we can all partake of when we obey Jesus command to Love others as He Loves us.
It was during this time, that the Lord spoke to my husband and led him to Matthew 25:31-46, and said, “This is not a parable, this is not a story, this is going to happen one day” and as he read Jesus words, he said, “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink, naked and you clothed me, homeless and you gave me a room, sick and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. If you’ve done it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me…” (KJV & MSG)
When my husband shared his divine experience with me, everything made sense. Jesus was teaching us the True meaning of what it means to Love our neighbor. (Also read James 1:27, and James chapter 2)
Less than a few years later the Lord led us to Florida, and when we moved into our home, my husband was walking on the beach and the Lord spoke to him and said, “There are no churches in this town, start one.” And in 2003 our family pioneered the first church in the history of Ponce Inlet: Ponce Church. A few years later we began a food drive of canned goods and jars of peanut butter that we would deliver to a ministry in Daytona Beach that cared for the poor. Not long after that the Lord opened a door for us to feed the homeless and local families in need every Saturday, and since 2014 we have served over 30,000 meals.
Recently we launched the Vision of TABITHA’S HOUSE, providing safe housing, an abundance of Love and Mentorship for adult women; what the Bible refers to as widows, that have been homeless and living on the streets and sleeping in bushes in and around our local cities and towns. To learn more visit, PonceVillage.com
We also provide housing for age out foster girls and soon housing for boys. Visit: LegacyHousingProject.org
We invite you to read our books: The Main Thing by Rick Tidwell and Love Awakens by Nina Tidwell (LoveAwakens.org) both available on Paperback and Kindle at Amazon.com