Mercy Way Back in the Cove

Mercy Way Back in the Cove

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

My 1968 Ford rattled across the rickety bridge deep in the hollows of Kentucky, literally driving on a wing and a prayer. Rounding the bend, the scent hit me before I even caught sight of the Caudhills’s place.

The old weathered house stood on a hill. On the porch and throughout the yard were piles and piles of old clothes that well-meaning people had donated to the family. Unfortunately, no one had bothered to sort through them—a task that bewildered the Caudhills. And so, the piles just sat there—crumpled, wet, and moldy.

As I arrived, Jim, a handsome tow-headed boy of ten, ran down to greet “Miss Cindy.” Every day I took him to the nearby hollow where I directed a recreation enrichment program for the mountain children. Jim was beautiful and bright—a ray of hope amid the squalor. He lived with his mother, aunt, and uncle—all of whom had intellectual disabilities. They stood tall and formidable on the porch waving goodbye. I often wondered what they thought about my taking Jim away each day.

I was here partly due to Catherine Marshall’s Christy—a fictional tribute to the author’s mother, which I had already read three times. I wanted to be just like my heroine, Christy—to serve the rural poor with Christ’s love, to bring them hope and a better life. Renting a small room from an old widow, I learned how to quilt, clear fields, wash my hair in rainwater buckets (we had no running water), use an outhouse, endure being teased as an old maid, and eat biscuits three times a day.

In that summer of my twentieth year I traipsed around Kentucky in my cutoff overalls and long braids, determined to save the world—or at least this tiny part of it in the Eastern Kentucky mountains. By the time I had returned to university in the fall to finish up my senior year, God had planted precious seeds of mercy in my heart and mind.

Their world had changed me.

God’s grace stepped in and redeemed my efforts that summer. He took a young, privileged, sheltered student and opened my eyes to a world of need, softened my heart to hear His voice, and brought me to the end of myself so that I might allow God to work mercy through me.

At the beginning of my third decade, I slowly began to embrace what the Lord asks of all his people in Micah 6:8, “To do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

But how do I continue to extend mercy daily to widows, orphans, and the less fortunate (which is most of the world) every day? I must admit, this question haunts me. You too?

I believe it begins by noticing, right where we are. If we follow God’s lead and walk through the open doors (no matter how scary), He will put people and situations in our path that demand a response.

At the height of the Rwandan genocide, the US Department of Justice loaned one of their young lawyers to the United Nations to direct a team gathering evidence against the perpetrators. This Harvard graduate named Gary Haugen was so changed by this experience that he founded the International Justice Mission. The mercy that stirred his heart compelled him to dedicate all his efforts to bringing immediate relief to victims of violence and oppression around the world and to pursuing prosecution of perpetrators who abuse power to violate and suppress the weak—“the least of these.”

Mercy costs us. What will it cost you and me today to show mercy and kindness to one another?

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

excerpted from Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell 

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