The Bible tells us that hearing the angel’s news of great joy, the shepherds were inspired to leave their fields and go to Bethlehem to see the joy of the Christ-child firsthand. People of faith have been inspired to bear witness in the midst of their day-to-day lives, sharing that joy with others ever since.
Every day United Church Homes shares such joy with over 3,500 aging adults. Gene, a faithful supporter of our mission, experienced this when he entrusted “the most precious person in his life,” his mother Helen, to the care of Fairhaven Community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. What makes Gene’s story unique is that it begins with an ad many years ago that read “a boy child, small for his age.” Helen saw the article and knew: “We have to go find him.”
Orphaned at the age of three, Gene had moved in temporarily with a foster family. He remembers bringing only his Mackinaw coat, six toy blocks and a rubber truck. Gene slept in the dark attic alone. He ate in the basement, sharing his dish with the family’s dog. The only time he recalls drinking milk, having clean clothes, or eating at the table was when the “orphan lady,” the local child services social worker, came to visit.
Two years passed and the social worker started bringing a woman named Helen along on her visits. Gene would sit on her lap and remembers her motherly affection for him. This experience of love changed his life.
Soon, Helen and her husband Happy adopted Gene. Upon seeing the cellar door in his new home, Gene asked if that is where he had to eat. “When mom told me, no, that I would eat at the table with them,” he remembers, “It was like stepping into heaven. I had a lamp, clean clothes and all the milk I wanted.”
He attended Sunday school where he learned about Jesus. He had parents and siblings who were very religious, honest and hardworking. “I am so blessed that I had a mom and dad who loved me and gave me a home,” says Gene, now 82. “Light has been shining on me ever since.”
After going overseas to serve in the Korean War, Gene returned home to Upper Sandusky to his mother and soon married his sweetheart, Dorothy. Together, they raised their family in their home town, where they continued to be involved with Fairhaven Community as they visited family and friends who stayed there.
Just as Gene experienced “heaven” in a loving home with good food, shared love, clean clothes and a safe place to sleep, so did Helen, as she lived out her later years at Fairhaven Community. “God made this good life for me, I didn’t make it,” says Gene emphatically. This is why he and Dorothy prayerfully support Fairhaven Community and United Church Homes.
The Christmas story inspires us to see the Good News at work around us. We are thankful for God’s grace and the blessings of life and home and family, as well as for opportunities to express joy and provide hope—a little bit of heaven here on earth. The Christmas appeal is a tradition where we invite friends to partner with United Church Homes in our ministry.
In Christ’s Service,
Rev. Kenneth V. Daniel
President and CEO
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