People are apt to pay a stranger's bill at the coffee shop, cover the gas for the next car at the pump or pay for another's prescription at the pharmacy.
Simple acts of kindness have become more common in Bastrop, La., since Grace Baptist began its "Grace Gives Back" outreach on Aug. 23, when church members were challenged to bless someone in the community with $4,000 the church distributed in different amounts in envelopes that day.
Perhaps most notably, the $50 that cosmetologist Debora Hindmon received grew to about $10,000 in dental work for a co-worker, Debra Ham, who'd been praying intensely nearly three years for badly needed teeth she couldn't afford.
"I probably would not have done this if had not given us the money and challenged us" to put it to work for God's Kingdom, Hindmon said.
With the help of friends, Hindmon chronicled the experience in her journal, "Grace Gives Back," and in a DVD aired at Grace Baptist.
Jim Ingram, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bastrop, incorporated the DVD into his December sermon series; April Sistrunk, who cried as she contributed to the cause and asked others for help, is planning to show the DVD to her Bible study group at North Bastrop Church of God. Others have said they also will tell the story, Hindmon said.
In responding to her pastor's call, Hindmon's first challenge was to decide what to do with her envelope. Before opening it, she pledged to triple whatever was inside.
"I don't know who, or what will be done, but give me something big," Hindmon prayed to God.
She opened the envelope later that evening, discovering the $50, which she tripled to $150 with her own money.
"Monday morning, I sat straight up in the bed and looked at Dan and said, 'Dan, I'm going to buy Debra Ham a set of teeth,'" Hindmon said, recounting the conversation with her husband. "He looked at me and said, 'That's a wonderful idea, but do you know what you are getting into and how much money you are going to have to have?'"
Her husband doubled his $20 envelope, adding $40 to Hindmon's collection. That was just the beginning.
That very Monday, Hindmon's collection rose to $870, just by sharing her story with those she encountered on her daily errands.
"I didn't have to work hard to get the money. It took like two days to get the big money," Hindmon said. "I just prayed every day, however this was going to happen, just let it happen."
One of Hindmon's customers at the Cuttin' Up & Co. salon, a 17-year-old who had just collected $170 in gifts on her birthday, kept just $10 for herself and gave the rest to Hindmon.
"If I had a daughter, that is the kind of heart I would want her to have," Hindmon recorded in her journal. "She is only 17 years old and only keeps $10 to buy her some supper."
At the suggestion of a friend, Hindmon shared her quest on Tuesday morning with Dr. Chad Gardner, who specializes in cosmetic and implant dentistry, and he offered to do the work for free. Hindmon would only need to pay for the lab work.
"They said they'd never heard of a church giving out $4,000 to people in the community," Hindmon said of Gardner and his wife. "They wanted to be a part of it. They didn't want to be left out. They said this is going to be big for our community and they wanted to get in on it."
"Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus" was Ham's immediate exclamation. She had only seven teeth. Years of suffering from acid reflux had eaten away her tooth enamel, setting her up for dental decay and tooth loss.
"When you don't have teeth you can't do a lot of things and it messes up your stomach," Ham said. "You can't eat because you can't chew."
Ham also suffered emotionally over the years, working in a very public position as a hairdresser at the salon. "I had gotten very self-conscious about it. I'm kind of a shy person anyway," she said.
Ham's first appointment with Gardner was Sept. 14. Upon examination, Gardner discovered Ham needed two implants and oral surgery, in addition to the teeth extractions and dentures. He did most of the work Oct.19, giving Ham a full set of teeth -- and a witnessing opportunity throughout Bastrop.
"There's been a lot of comments in the community," Ham said. "I have witnessed and told my story to different people and they have all been amazed at what has happened."
First Baptist's Ingram, as one of Hindmon's salon customers, learned of the cause and began supporting it, seeing great blessings in Hindmon's story, especially that she chronicled the details.
"I've seen it before , but I've never seen it so well-documented," Ingram said. "I think and other churches that become committed to reaching outside the church and going into the community are positioning themselves to see what God can do with limited resources.
"When we do respond the way God calls us to do, then we can see what God can do," Ingram said. "We become more aware of how much he wants to establish His Kingdom."
Ham certainly sees that.
"It certainly shows what the Lord can do with the small, one talent," Ham said. "I tell everybody I'm a lighthouse for the Lord."
Diana Chandler is a freelance writer and member of Irish Channel Christian Fellowship in New Orleans. This article first appeared in the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
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