“CJ and I prayed for a long time asking God to reveal where He wanted us to serve,” shares Dana. “We knew He wanted us to serve somewhere we could use our gifts and talents to serve Him and grow in community. We were just waiting on Him to answer.”
“As soon as I read the letter that fell out of our newspaper, I knew this was the answer we were waiting for,” says Dana. “It was from Nashville Rescue Mission asking us to help the homeless on Thanksgiving. I couldn’t wait for CJ to get home so I could show him the letter.” After much prayer, Dana and CJ signed up to volunteer.
“We volunteered during Thanksgiving, but made a commitment to help on more than just one day,” recalls Dana. “It’s been two years now and I can’t imagine our lives without being a part of the Mission. We’re there several times throughout the week and whenever they need us.”
Volunteering at the Mission has had a ripple effect, touching the lives around Dana and her family wherever they go. “I can’t help but tell other people about the blessings we’ve received through serving,” says Dana. “Not only is there great joy in helping people in need, but we’ve made new friends—who are as close to us now as our own family.” It’s this passion for sharing God’s love that allowed CJ and Dana’s path to cross with Billy and Becky, who’s son-in-law, Josh, attends church with Dana’s family.
“My son-in-law knows how much I love to grill,” says Billy. “Every time he would volunteer at the Mission, he would come back and tell me about this huge grill they used on special occasions and specifically this couple from Romania that Becky and I should meet. One day, I decided to go.”
Billy, who just retired from NES after 36 years, had driven by Nashville Rescue Mission many times over the years. “I remember shopping in the Mission’s building when it was a Sears department store,” recalls Billy. “I had no idea all the things the Mission does besides helping the homeless. If it weren’t for my son-in-law tempting me with cooking on a huge grill I would never have known about the extraordinary life change taking place there.”
All it took was volunteering one time and Billy was hooked. “This is one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” shares Billy. “Every time I’m there, I meet people, I hear their stories and I’m inspired. You start to realize it’s about community—doing life together. You can’t do it without leaving marks on each other.”
This Thanksgiving, Billy is looking forward to having his family which includes his wife Becky, four children and four grand children join Dana, CJ and their daughter Allie and son Nick in cooking during the Tracy Lawrence Turkey Fry. “Our families have become the best of friends,” says Dana. “CJ and Billy both love to fish, so they spend a lot of time together fishing. This is one of the many blessings of being a part of a community.”
Serving others has always played an important part in Billy’s life and the lives of his children. “My kids have been on mission trips over the years,” he says. “We’re blessed and it is a blessing to be able to give back. But I like being able to serve close to home. Nashville Rescue Mission is right in my back yard. I can see the impact they are having right before my eyes. The more I learn about the Mission, the more I see God transforming lives.”
“God is weaving our stories together,” says Billy. “Whether it’s the friends we’ve made, like Dana and CJ or the men, women and children we meet while serving at the Mission, God makes sure we bump into each other. It’s the ripple effect. It’s a beautiful thing to be a small part of it.”