A burden for my friends - furnace

Bill purchased his first home in his late 30's, after years of living with his two brothers. He'd been restoring the old home with is brother's help, and still hadn't furnished it. Bill was a friendly, but meek man who hid behind the piano at church. The type of person who would do anything for you and give you the shirt off his back if you asked for it, but he had difficulty receiving the same from others. He didn't say much, and when he did, it was always others focused; never about himself and most certainly not about his difficulties. He kept those concealed.

God had given me a heavy burden for this man's furnace. For three years, especially during the winter months, I had a dreadful, almost haunting feeling of something bad happening to him. Why was I having this feeling? How strange to be so concerned about someone else's furnace, of all things. I pushed it aside each year, but the feeling increased with the coming of fall every year, even more than the previous year. I said, "What am I supposed to do about it, Lord? You know my friend is a very private man. I am not the type of person to invade someone's privacy or help them against their will, not even a close friend."

I sold an investment property just before the housing market went bust in 2008. Having walked away from the settlement table with $200,000, I already decided $20,000 of that money was the Lord’s, and I would use every cent to help others in His name. I knew people who needed help. I wasn't going to send that money to help people through organizations that already have funding. I would give aid to those I know who have no assistance. When I had the money from the sale of the property in August 2008, I knew exactly what to do. At the top of that list in my heart and in my mind was a dear friend and brother in Christ, named Bill. He was in his early 50's, single and working, but the company he worked for had been bought out and there were pay cuts.

God emboldened me and I couldn’t resist anymore. I hadn't spoken to Bills twin sister in over a decade, but I contacted her and asked for her help. I imagined she thought I was crazy or perhaps I had dishonest intentions. "I have a very bad feeling," I told her. I asked her to get Bills spare house key from their older brothers who lived close by and meet me at Bills house. A couple months passed as it took a few phone conversations to convince her I was for real. Then she followed through and without her brother knowing it, we went into his home while he was at work.

My fears were understood the moment we entered Bills home. Depression oozed out of the walls, which hadn't been washed or painted in years. Piles of unpaid bills were lined up by the month on the refinished hardwood floor along one wall in the living room. The basement was filled with bundled stacks of news papers, bags of aluminum cans and bottles, several big bags of used cat litter from two cats he no longer had. The kitchen was sad and the bathroom was worse. Upstairs was a cot where he slept. The refrigerator was almost bare and a can of coffee was in the cabinet, but not much else. The thermostat was set at 50 degrees. I went against my inclination and started looking through his mail. All I cared to see was his mortgage and utility bills. The water bill, which is due once every six months hadn't been paid in two years. There were turn off notices for electric and he was behind on others. He was paying the mortgage on time, but that was it. She was mortified because he never let on that he was having financial difficulties.

Bills sister and I cleaned like two women, obsessed. We started at the ceiling and washed all the walls. It looked like we'd painted! We washed the floors, but we didn't get to the basement. After some reflection, she did share with me while we worked together cleaning the floors, that he used to invite them in for coffee and they'd sit and chat at the kitchen table, but he'd become very distant and closed-off for the past two years. She and her other brother hadn't been in his home in a very long time. I got the information I needed from the furnace so I could tell the heating / AC company what they would be inspecting.

I took each of the most recent overdue bills home and paid them in full. Then I paid his mortgage 3 months ahead. I called the furnace company who maintains my furnace and asked if they service Bills area. To my shock and awe, if my friends house were across the street from where it is, it would be out of their area. Wow!

When Bill returned home at the end of the day to a spotless house, he called his sister. He said to her in total amazement, "A tornado went through my home! It's spotless!" She confessed that she and I had cleaned. Normally, he would have been embarrassed and insulted, but he said something that surprised us both, when she called me later to tell me this. He said, "Thank you. Can you do some more?" He didn't know about the bills or my plans to have his furnace inspected. He only knew we'd cleaned. She asked about the things in the basement and he agreed they should go to the landfill or recycling.

It was the first week in January, 2009. My friends sister and I met at his house with the servicemen who would evaluate the furnace. As they worked, we loaded my pick-up truck with the contents of the basement and I maid 4 trips to the landfill. The technicians diagnosed the "patient". It was the original furnace and was leaking carbon monoxide into the home. They condemned it on the spot. In fact, they made it inoperable. I remember Bills sister standing there as I talked with the technician. Without hesitation I asked, "What will it cost to install a new furnace and how soon can it be done?" The man said $5,000 and we can do it next week. Her mouth dropped open because realized I was for real. We were done and gone before Bill returned home from work. He didn't know we were there, except that the basement was clean.

furnace old

We had the warmest first half of January I could remember, which was good because Bill had no idea he had no heat. The new furnace was installed, and the workmen were cleaning up when Bill arrived home at 4:30 p.m. He must have noticed the heating/AC company van in his driveway because he entered and rushed to the basement, almost in shock. I watched him as the technician explained. "Had you kept the heat above 50 degrees, you would probably have died in your sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning." My friend sunk to his knees, weeping, his hands clasped in his lap. I hugged him and apologized for intruding, which I would never do, except God insisted and I had to obey. He understood. I added, "Plus, you don't make it easy to anyone to help you, so that's why I had to do it behind your back. You are always helping others, but when you don't accept their help, you rob them of a blessing. It was an honor to be asked by God to help you."

Furnace new

I asked one of Bills other brothers if he would consider offering to move in with Bill to share expenses. He though it was a good idea and it worked out for them both. Their sister called me a few months later thinking me for having his furnace replaced, but also for helping the family get close again. I paid the maintenance contract for the furnace for two years and then God said I was finished.

I share this story with you because I wish to encourage you. At some point, God may ask you to do something outside your comfort zone, and perhaps inconsistent with your personality. It may even be unpopular or thought of as possibly unethical, on the surface. God knows your heart is true and trustworthy. He gives you strength and resources, and uses them to help others. We are called at times to be our brothers keeper.

If you are someone who does for others but don't feel comfortable accepting help, understand you are robbing them of a blessing.

It’s not enough to give money. Get in the ditch with people who are hurting and in need. Be Gods hands, knees, elbows and feet. Get dirty and exhaust yourself in His service. When He lays a burden on your heart, have no limits. I'm not suggesting you don't already do this. I'm simply sharing with you my experience and how powerful it was, not only for me, but for Bill and his family. We never know how far reaching the service we do impacts the lives of others. God is the ultimate multi-talker. I've learned that His plans are immense and He never does just one thing at a time. Had I ignored God’s voice, my friend Bill may not be here now. We have a responsibility to be there for others. God never ceases to amaze me.

I will warn you, however, to expect to crash. Just like Elijah had a victory over the 400 prophets of Baal and was flying high. Then he had to come down. Next we see him in the dessert, under a bush asking for death. Nature is about balance and with every high, a low follows. Expect it, and don’t let it derail you. Keep moving forward, focusing on and doing the next thing.