millers

Rob & Rayonna Miller

Walking into my favorite coffee hangout place in Lititz I noticed that one of the employees was leaving the store. She looked upset. No wonder. She had a sling over her shoulder and seemed to be in a lot of pain. I tried to say something but she was having none of it.

A few days later she saw me in the store and apologized for being “rude” to me. I knew that, like me, she rode a motorcycle and I had heard in that previous exchange the clang of metal and the crushing of bones. I had been there. The canticle of a cracked clavicle. Ouch! She was trying to come back to work too soon. My gesture of mercy came at the wrong time. Even compassion has to be timed right!

“No need to apologize,” I said, then I was right back to the business of mercy. “Is there anything I can do to help?” She said, “Not really.” I asked where the bike was. She said, “Still in the parking lot of Rita’s ice cream. They’ve been nice enough to let me park there. I don’t have a way to get it to my house.”

Long story short. I offered to help. She said, “Are you sure? How?” I said, “Don’t worry. I have friends in low places.” One phone call was all it took and early Saturday morning, the very next day, my friend David Rice joined me in the parking lot of Rita’s ice cream. He brought his trailer and we loaded the little blue Kawasaki into it. Mission accomplished.

My friend was totally flabbergasted that I would offer to help. “So, you have friends in low places, uh?”, she would say later. And I explained it to her. I don’t have a lot of friends in high places, unless of course you’re talking about the Big Guy way up in heaven’s penthouse. But I have lots of friends in ‘low places.’ The ones who get under the hood of cars, get their hands dirty with oil, climb roofs, enter crevasses, bake a million cookies, due the heavy lifting, hold babies, cry with strangers, etc., etc. These friends, as far as I am concerned, give me reasons not to lose hope in humanity.

Rob Miller is one of those friends in “low places.” He drives a truck for a milk company. He was one of my go-to persons when I lived in Ohio and we had to put our hands to the plow on behalf of “the least of these.” I saw this man show up after a hard shift at work and help load trucks with food destined to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I saw this man in action in Africa — holding little baby orphans and crying over the deplorable conditions under which they lived. I was there when he got underneath cars of people he didn’t know to provide free oil change to people in our community. And the best part — Rob never cared about receiving praise. He always pointed back to Jesus. He was a “friend in low places” who also would rather not be seen. (The invisible friend in low places, who could ask for more? Thanks, Rob!)

Then Rob married Rayonna, another long time friend whose heart bursts generosity with every throbbing artery. Now I knew Rob was doomed. I mean in a good way. In a “watch out NASA, train your satellites. There will be an explosive combustion of compassion visible from outer space at 40.720200 latitude and -81.874237 longitude” kind of way.

Rob and Rayonna prayed that this Christmas more than ever their hearts would reflect the eternal values of God’s Kingdom, not the ephemeral value of material things. I will let Rayonna tell the rest of the story from here. Don’t quit now. Your heart is about to be warmed in a strange way:

This is the story of Cheri and her “friends in low places.”

“I met Cheri through my friend Kelly. I friend-requested her on FB, not knowing what to expect. I learned quickly that Cheri is a single mom with a very, very full plate, raising three boys on her own.

One day I asked Cheri what I could specifically pray for her. She laughed and said, “Pray for a van.” You see, her 18 year old son has a condition that in the event he would have an episode in the car, it could become very dangerous for Cheri driving. I know she thought I was completely crazy but I started praying. I prayed for a van for her but more importantly I prayed that Cheri would see and feel the love Jesus has for her.

About three weeks after I started praying for her, Rob and I were hanging out with some friends. I picked up my phone and my friend Kim had texted me, “Hey, do you know anyone who could be blessed with a mini van?” Seriously, I almost fainted.

I told Kim my story and she explained that her friends were buying a new van and rather than trade theirs in, they wanted to bless someone.

After weeks of praying that God would orchestrate the delivery of the van, and that His will would be done, yesterday it happened.

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But the story does not end there. Another one of my besties, Lena, texted me the night before and asked me, as she often does, “Tell me the best part of your day.” I explained to her, in confidence, what was about to happen. Lena, who owns her own clothing line wanted in on it. She wanted to deck Cheri out in some new clothes and jewelry. Also, our friend, Barb, didn’t hesitate to jump on board to offer Cheri a whole new look. I emailed Mark at Pro-Touch, in Wooster, and he offered to do a complete detailing on the van, inside and out!

Cheri had no idea. I told her I had a little Christmas present to drop off to her to make sure she was home.

Not only did God answer our prayer for a van, a really nice one, completely free of any payments for her, she also got to see Jesus in action.

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I picked her up, we headed to the title office, another friend covered all the fees and yet another covered insurance. Then down to the salon, Cheri hadn’t had her hair cut in five years (that’s what happens when you put others before yourself!) Finally, off to Farmhouse Frocks for her pick of fabulous clothes and a photo shoot. Cheri came home with new hair, make up, jewelry, hair products, clothes, a new van for her family and most importantly several new friends.” (Rayonna Miller, published with permission.)cheri-friend-3

Rayonna goes on to say that Cheri was able to clearly see that God is still in the business of doing miracles today. And may I add something? Cheri also experienced firsthand how God blesses Christ’s other friends through our “friends in low places.”

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Rob and Rayonna would be terribly embarrassed to be thought of as some kind of heroes. They would just say that they are mere instruments in God’s hands, doing the best they can to live like Christ in a world where pain often cries out on our streets. They would say they often get things wrong, but like those Japanese dolls that never stay down, they always get up and try again. And if I had to guess, I would say that if there is a “secret” is that they are always up to to engage in some kind of a “spur of the moment” conspiracy of kindness, a la Proverbs 14:22 (“devise to do good.”) They plunge into it with gusto and trust God with the results. And the world is much better for people like them.

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The “New” Cheri

My guess is that every follower of Christ has the potential of being a “friend in low places” to someone. This time of the year, more than any other, is the ideal time to do something tangible, acting like the hands and feet of Jesus to someone in need. And the reason to do it shouldn’t be solely because people are in need; it should be first and foremost because we love Jesus and are indebted to Him — and He expects us to live this way. No other motivation needed.

“… and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10).

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade
Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

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