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Faith

One Man’s Generosity to Camp Fire Survivors in California Has Inspired a Community

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It’s impossible to imagine what goes into the recovery process for the average person, having to sift through the rubble of your home, your workplace, replacing what you can and mourning for what, or who, you can’t.

Although the deadly Camp Fire was recently declared 100% contained and under control, the members of the devastated communities ravaged by the blaze have the monumental task of rebuilding ahead of them.

While the feat of rebuilding a whole town from scratch seems near-impossible, glimmers of hope have been arriving in the form of heartfelt assistance from neighbors near and far and continue to bless the lives of those affected by the fires.

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One particularly generous soul was found in one Bob Wilson, an executive living in San Diego who donated over $1.1 million to the students and staff of Paradise High School.

“They weren’t going to the prom. They weren’t going to be able to hang out with their friends or whatever they were supposed to be doing, and I said, ‘I’m going to help them,’” Wilson said of his gift of $1,000 to each of the 980 students and 105 staff members of PHS.

“I’m really appreciative because we can put it towards moving on,” one student named Arianna Harris shared with CBS13 Sacramento. “We hit bottom so we can only progress and get better.”

While $1,000 may not solve every problem for every person in the aftermath of such a destructive fire, it’s a greatly appreciated leg-up to put toward resources or relocation. “I decided to put it toward rent. Like getting a new house,” Harris added.

As for what Wilson expects to get from his generous gesture, he said, “If they take away from this, ‘some guy 600 miles away thought enough to come up here and give them a check,’ that’s all the compensation I want out of it.”

“If they see this and decide, ‘hey I can do something,’” Wilson explains, “gee, what a great thing that would be.”

And his generosity certainly has had an impact on the students of Paradise.

“It’s incredible to think that someone could be so kindhearted,” said James Clery, an 11th grader at PHS.

“I do hope that that man knows that I’m very thankful,” Harris said.

A truly incredible and inspiring gesture!

If you’d like to join the ranks of Bob Wilson and the many others who are helping the Camp Fire survivors, check out some of these boots-on-the-ground relief organizations lending aid to the survivors.

 

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Faith

God’s Incredible Truth About Special Needs Adoption

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Making room in your home, and in your heart, for a child who is not biologically yours is an amazing reflection of God’s grace and adoption of sinners, but it is not without its hardships and struggles.

Adopting a child with special needs can increase the tension in an already difficult process, and so many of these precious children end up without families because of what their care would entail.

When God adopted us into His kingdom, however, he didn’t hesitate for our flaws and imperfections, and the adoptive family who mirrors this finds such an immense reward.

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In a heartwarming piece for Relevant Magazine, author Scarlet Hiltibidal shares her amazing experience with adopting a little girl from China with special needs and the lessons God taught her through it all.

Ya Zhu was almost four, but she couldn’t walk and wasn’t potty trained. There were concerns about her cognitive development.

Many doctors and specialists said we ought to proceed with ‘great hesitation.’ One told us not to move forward at all. They all agreed there must be something else very wrong with Ya Zhu because her delays were so significant.

But my husband and I managed to stay mostly peaceful. We didn’t know if Ya Zhu would heal and recover. We didn’t know how hard things would be. We didn’t know if she’d be a joyful child, but we decided to rename her ‘Joy.’ We hoped and prayed adopting her would give her hope and a future.

While embarking on the journey of adoption and knowing full well you are in for a challenge can surely cause a healthy degree of apprehension, Hiltibidal says she and her husband, by God’s grace, were able to proceed without an ounce of fear in their hearts.

God was leading us to Joy, and He was with us. He had come through in so many ways: checks from strangers to cover adoption fees at exactly the right time, comforting words from the Bible, people who moved our anxious hearts toward rest, doors opening and closing and freelance jobs falling out of the sky exactly as our adoption agency was asking for another payment. God was with us. He kept proving He was in the process and supporting it and leading it. We weren’t afraid.

In a moment of raw, authentic honesty, Hiltibidal reveals that it wasn’t until she actually met her new daughter that fear crept in.

We were convinced Joy would never walk, never learn, never leave diapers. I wondered if our family would ever laugh again. If we’d ever have an easy Saturday at the park. I wondered how much wheelchairs cost and what my other children would miss out on because of this decision we’d made.

But right there, in the middle of the scariest moment of the entire process, God reached down and touched Hiltibidal’s heart to remind her of one of His deepest truths.

He reminded me that I was, and so often still am, a child with special needs who doesn’t know how to rest in the love of her adoptive Parent. He reminded me that I am the little girl with broken ears and broken eyes and my hands clenched around everything I can grab, and yet He walked into this broken world so He could adopt me into His family.

Hiltibidal draws us back to Romans 8:15, which says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Emboldened to follow the clear path God had set before her, no matter the challenges, Hiltibidal began to see His faithfulness and power in their new lives with Joy.

Joy is five now. She’s more than doubled in size since her adoption, is fluent in sign language and actually advanced in communication according to an evaluation from her school. With a hearing aid, she can hear and understand English, and after a year of physical therapy, her therapist suggested we discontinue her services because Joy no longer needs the extra help.

Life with Joy has become such an amazing blessing for her family. Not only does she enrich their lives with all the love, hugs, and learning experiences a child comes with, her special needs point the Hiltibidals to the Gospel on a daily basis.

In my life, God has used the world of special needs to make me stop depending on my life plans and my strength. Instead, He’s offered me His plan and His strength. When Joy’s special needs caused her to depend on me, I had no choice but to take my weakness to God.

I’m not strong. I’m not powerful. I’m not ‘normal.’ I’m as dependent as my special needs daughter. We are all dependent on the power of God for our next breath. Resting in that reality is what can give you and me the ability to look around and reach out and meet the needs of others, the way God reached down from Heaven to meet ours.

God has this wonderful way of structuring our lives such that we endure challenges designed specifically to draw us closer to Him and to teach us to be like Him. When those challenges involve our children, what a wonderful insight we gain into the heart of our Father in Heaven.

 

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Faith

All It Took Was $6, A Thunderstorm, And A “God Thing” To Launch This Country Star’s Career

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Did you know that every single detail in your life is a thread in an intricate tapestry woven together by the Master? Where you’re born, the friends you’ll make, who you’ll marry, the jobs you land, the ministries you serve, that’s all God’s beautiful orchestration.  

He has a perfect will, and try as we might, we’re his creatures and we can’t rush Him or outrun Him. It’s not our time to shine until God says so.

That’s the incredible lesson fledgling country star Russell Dickerson had to learn the hard way.

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Dickerson, a Belmont University grad, had tried to make waves in the country music scene for years. He’d landed a record deal way back in 2010, but it had “definitely been a slow journey,” he shared with Fox News, describing the trials he went through trying to “get big” before it was truly his time.

“We had no money, no budget, no nothing and we had been turned down, turned down, turned down,” the singer recalled.

“The biggest first step was our music video [that] my wife shot,” Dickerson said, retelling the frustrated moments that led up to his big break.

Dickerson and his wife, Kailey, finally had enough and decided to try their hand at recording a music video: “We’re like, alright, we’re going to do this on our own.”

“So we shot this music video for ‘Yours’ and if you watch it on YouTube,” the singer explains, “it’s just me walking down a road and my wife is in my SUV just shooting out of the back and it just starts raining and there’s lightning everywhere.”

What might of seemed like the end result of years of failure and frustration to the Dickersons was really just God’s perfect timing, all the way down to the thunderstorm that gave the video such an exciting vibe.

“It was this God moment, totally,” he said.

God wasn’t done with the Dickersons yet, though. Not long after the video, which cost just six dollars to film (possibly the gas for the SUV?), an industry exec reached out to Dickerson and the following events just “snowballed into this perfect storm” that finally gave his career wings.

Ultimately, Dickerson says, if God gave him this dream, God was going to be the one to make it a reality.

“I feel like God’s given me this dream of being on stage and writing a song, even of getting a tour bus…All of these dreams he put into my mind and into my heart are finally coming to fruition.”

The good, the bad, the frustrating, the hopeless, the glorious, every part of our lives is in God’s hands, and we don’t believe in a God who can fail. The next time you find yourself, like Dickerson, struggling against the waves, stop, turn to God, and watch His perfect timing unfold.

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