A chance reading in a Christian book became an all-out God-call for one South Carolina United Methodist. And now, his church is reaching out to the community by constructing beds for children in need.
Art Justice, a Florence attorney and active member of Central United Methodist Church, read Adam Hamilton's "Final Words from the Cross" and found one paragraph kept coming back to him: how Hamilton's Kansas church does a beds ministry for area children, many of whom are forced to sleep on the floor, with a parent or several to a bed because their families cannot afford to buy an additional bed.
But when he finished the book, Justice said, "I couldn't get the thought of a beds ministry out of my mind."
|Many of the volunteers prayed as they worked and signed the beds with love messages.
He soon learned God wanted him to start that ministry, and there was absolutely nothing that would stand in His way.
And when Justice learned from teachers and guidance counselors that hundreds of school children in his community needed a bed, his willingness to follow God became a full-fledged passion.
"While everyone knows a good breakfast is important to optimal performance in school, I believe a good night's sleep is even more critical," Justice told the Advocate. "I was shocked to learn how many young children are sleeping multi-children in one small bed, sleeping with adults, sleeping on chairs or couches or even on the floor."
Justice even knew of one teenage boy who slept nightly on an air mattress under the kitchen table.
The "beds" in BEDS Ministry stands for Better Education Demands Sleep. Justice said Courtney, a young mother in the church who has since passed away, came up with the acronym, and he said he knows she's smiling down at them, pleased to know a project she helped launch has now come to fruition.
After nearly two years researching the project, lining up lumber and a mattress supplier, finessing the bed design and gearing up the congregation, 55 members of Central UMC gathered in October for a "build day," assembling 26 beds for local children. They distributed the beds Dec. 19, 2015, just in time for Christmas.
"I was showing a young mother a bed frame and she just started crying, said, 'We're just so blessed. My daughter is 8 years old, and she's getting the first bed she's ever had,'" Justice said.
BEDS Ministry team member Bobby Floyd said knowing these young children are so tremendously helped by something most people take for granted—simple mattress, frame and box spring—breaks his heart.
"They can't do for themselves, and we have to do for them," Floyd said. "These children who grow up in these austere environments have no prospects. They don't even know how to dream. It's a foreign concept."
But because of this ministry, Floyd and Justice said, they can begin to dream—and they can feel the love of God through the people of Central UMC.
Justice said Central has been blessed by the BEDS Ministry and especially by learning the power of God's will at work in the world.
"Over a dozen times we seemed to hit a snag, prayed about it and, within days and sometimes hours, our prayers were answered. It's just absolutely blown me away," Justice said. "God clearly wanted this ministry to happen at Central. It was His will that it be done."
excerpt from a story by Jessica Brodie, editor, South Carolina United Methodist Advocate newspaper
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