There’s a lonely 11 year old girl, named Emily, who is cold.
Sitting in her room alone, she begins to believe that no one cares for her….that all hope is lost. Her mom’s bad decisions in life have her and her sister living with her Aunt in Wisconsin. Her Aunt is sick and poor. Worse still, she’s not seen her Dad in nearly two years.
Emily has no winter coat and tomorrow, in the middle of winter, the high temperature is going to be 15 degrees. She has to walk to the bus stop and sometimes she’s outside for 20 or 30 minutes in the cold. Last year she got really sick and missed a lot of school because she didn’t have a coat to keep her warm.
Someone knocks on the door.
It’s Mrs. Lewis with The Coats for Kids Club. She reaches out and hands little Emily a brand new, thick wool coat. Someone in the community knew she needed one, word got out and The Coats for Kids club sent one right over.
She’ll never know the volunteers that helped make her coat a reality.
She’ll never know the sheep that gave of its wool so she could stay warm.
She’ll never know the kind shepherd that kept the sheep safe that year.
Emily will be warm this winter, she’ll miss less classes than last year, she won’t fall behind on her school work…she will learn. This winter she’ll discover that math is her favorite subject. Emily will go on to do well in school, she’ll go to college and later, as an adult, will write math textbooks and help make learning easier and more fun for kids. Her life will impact hundreds of thousands of children all over the world.
….because she got a coat on a cold winter day.
There’s a loving shepherd, named Andrew, in a field in Uruguay.
He watches over a flock of about 100 sheep. Andrew’s sole job is to provide, protect and guide the flock.
He has a favorite place to sit and watch his sheep. It’s on top of a tall hill that overlooks his area, which is about the size of 8 or 10 football fields. The land he oversees for his sheep is hilly and there are spots where he can’t see all of them at one time.
During the day when the sheep wander into a little valley where Andrew can’t see them, he counts the number of minutes they are out of sight and listens for their steps toward or away from him. Just like a dog can smell the mayonnaise and pickles on a hamburger, the shepherd can hear every step the sheep makes, so much so, that he even knows what direction the sheep is headed based on each of their steps onto the grass. When they’ve been gone too long, he sometimes walks over to check on them, but it’s mainly to make them feel better.
Andrew sleeps just enough so that he can keep an eye on the sheep as much as possible. When he does sleep, he gets all the sheep into a corner of some rocks to keep them from wandering off during the night or from being devoured by wolves and bears. He lays down and places himself at the opening of the rock corner, so that any wild animal would have to come through him.
When it’s too hot for the sheep, Andrew asks the Father to send rain to cool the air. When the heat is at its worse, he reminds them to walk over and sit by the cool waters of the stream. When it gets cool in the winter, he asks his Father to make extra hair to grow on their back to keep them warm.
He takes care of the sheep. Andrew loves His sheep.
As is the custom, he has a long rod attached to his belt that he uses like a club to protect the sheep from wolves and bears. He carries another stick called a staff that is curved on one end. He uses that end to maneuver the sheep and sometimes use the crook to pull the sheep back from the edge of cliffs and other dangerous places. The other end of the staff has a shovel on it and he uses that to sometimes pull up some dirt from the ground and flick it at the sheep to get their attention….as if to say “hey Joe, the other sheep are over here….get over this way”.
The shepherd sheers the sheep twice a year and sells the wool to a local organization that turns the wool into thread. They then ship the thread off to a mill, where the mill agrees to make yards of fabric for a discounted price for a special program. The fabric is then shipped to a mission in Wisconsin where women make wool coats for little kids for an organization called The Coats for Kids Club.
When the land gets a bit dry and the grass begins to wither, the Andrew calls out to his Father for rain and it rains. When the stream overflows he runs quickly down to the water to be sure none of the sheep are caught up in the mud. That’s how they often get attacked by wolves.
When the sheep stay too long in one place and begin to eat the grass down to the roots (as sheep are known to do), Andrew gently moves them to a new place….a place where the grass is newer and greener.
There’s a sheep, named Millie, in a field in Uruguay
Despite having this powerful, attentive shepherd, Millie, the sheep mumbles to herself, maybe like us, and says:
“I sure am feeling down. I wish someone were with me. Where’s that shepherd?”
“The grass is getting thin here, I wonder what I’ll do for food tomorrow. I’m not feeling good about this. If there is a God for sheep, I wish he’d make the grass grow.”
“I wonder where we’ll sleep tonight. This valley is very dark and lonely. It’s so unsafe out here. I’m really scared.”
“I have no purpose in life; why am I here….what good is sitting around all day as a sheep?”
“I do like lying down in the comfortable grass, but the flies are terrible and the wind just stopped; I’m burning up. I wish a wind would come. I wish it were cooler. I wish I was over by the stream.”
“I wish I saw the shepherd more. Where is he? Is he lost? Did he leave me? I hear the wolves howl all the time…I know they’re there.”
“I see some rain coming, I hope I don’t get stuck in the mud and die….I hope my brother, Sam doesn’t get washed away, like I heard another sheep did last year during the rainy season.”
“I hear some big birds overhead; I wonder what they’re doing. Do they want to try and eat me?
“I know I’ve wondered around here for like 2 days and I guess no one knows where I am. I hope someone comes for me.”
“I wish my life mattered; sometimes I feel so bad I wonder if I’d be better off not being born. What’s the life of a sheep all about anyway?”
“I heard a bear last night. I wonder if that bear will kill me. I am scared to death. How will I fend for myself. I’m just a sheep. I have nobody to watch over me.”
“My brother, Sam, thinks he can kill lions by himself. I don’t think so.”
“Before my Mom died, she said I had a shepherd always looking out for me, but I have not seen him in a few days.”
“We’ve not had rain for a while; I hope it rains…..hope, hope, hope…maybe I’m not hoping hard enough. Maybe I try another field if it doesn’t rain tomorrow. I think there is a fresh field on the other side of those woods. I think I’ll head out the way I think is best. Maybe I can make it through the woods tonight….”
Sometimes in life we feel down, alone, fearful or like our life doesn’t matter.
But that’s not true.
We have a good shepherd who cares for us. He watches over us ALL the time and he even hears our steps in the grass. He gives us all we need like rain, water, food, shelter, protection and even correction, like dirt flying toward us, when we are not paying attention.
You are the sheep and Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
The little girl Emily is the unseen bounty of our life, the small things we do that no one knows about…the bounty we may not see until we get to heaven.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
“All we, like sheep, have gone astray each of us has turned to our own way and the LORD has laid on him(self) the iniquity of us all.”
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”