My ministry’s American headquarters is in Paris. Paris, Texas, that is. I think it’s pretty funny that the headquarters for a European ministry should be in Paris. But this was just where our US-based corporate secretary lives. Since Laurie receives mail for the organization, it needed to be somewhere convenient for her.
Once a year, we have a corporate meeting, which means that I come to Texas and visit Laurie. She has been a dear friend since our oldest sons were toddlers, when we lived next door to each other in a suburb of Dallas.
Laurie, like me, like Sally, and Allegra, has a passion for Jesus, and for reaching Europe. From the time she heard that I had started this ministry, Laurie has been enthusiastic about being a part of it: first as a prayer partner, then as our corporate secretary.
I arrived in Paris today after two days of driving from North Carolina. After treating me to a Tex-Mex lunch, she took me to the local homeless shelter run by a local Ministry. They are about to open a thrift shop, and Laurie had been cleaning out her closets. We took her donations, and met Delia, the director of the shelter.
Delia was very encouraged to receive Laurie’s items, and offered to take us on a tour of the shelter, primarily a women’s shelter. The place is quite big, with 52 beds—32 of which are currently occupied. She explained that before being accepted into the shelter, all applicants must pass a drug test. They must also be willing to do chores in order to keep the place clean and in order. There are family bedrooms, single parent and child bedrooms, and shared rooms for single women. There is a separate hall for single men. And a big communal kitchen and dining room. Residents are free to use the kitchen facilities for breakfast and lunch, and there is a shared dinner.
The whole place was very clean and tidy, with everything in good working order. The next room Delia showed us was the key to keeping the place so nice, and she was especially excited to show it to us: the incentives shop. Residents are encouraged to pitch-in and help out around the place. In return they earn incentives that they may spend in the incentives shop. There was a rack of new clothes donated by Cato. Delia explained that while many clothing stores shred or burn their unsold stock, Cato donates it to the shelter on the stipulation that the clothing will not be sold. The incentives shop also had scented soap, shampoo, hand lotion, and perfume, nice notebooks, and men’s new underwear donated by someone else. I realized that if I found myself in a shelter, I would want a notebook in which to write my thoughts and feelings.
All of this was very inspiring, so when the tour was over, I handed Delia a donation. She was so excited that it moved her to tears. She asked me how I wanted the money spent. I told her that at her own discretion was fine with me. A big smile spread across Delia’s face and she said, “Then I would like to go shopping at the Dollar store for more items for the incentives shop. The ladies need hose to wear to church, and I’d like to get them some.”
Back in the car, Laurie said that she needed to get some dog food, explaining the problems that her little dog was having with the switch from dry food to wet food. He’s an old dog, and he can’t handle the kibble any more, no matter how small. The pet store was in the same area as the Dollar store, so Laurie pulled up in front of the Dollar store, saying, “Let’s take a look in here for those pantyhose.” We went on a little shopping spree, buying items for men, children, and of course, the women’s hose. Then we returned to the shelter just as Delia was pulling out of the parking lot. We stopped her and gave her our purchases—again she was moved to tears.
When we got back to her house, Laurie said, “You know what! We forgot to get dog food!” Yes, in all the fun, we completely forgot to go to the pet store. As we laughed at the oversight, she said, “I guess we’ll get some later.”
While this is not something I do all the time, the joy of having helped and encouraged someone is something I am blessed to feel every day. Today Laurie got to share in that blessing, too! God is good!
 I don’t normally plug businesses, but Cato deserves some applause here.