For most people, August is a time for vacation. Whether your long summer days are filled with running through sprinklers or reading in the hammock, most of us like to enjoy these last days of summer relaxing.
When the sun is shining and the mercury is up, the furthest thing from our minds is the cold winds of winter. But on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, Tom and Cathy Benzler are stocking up on winter items.
"I know it's hard to think about winter when you're sweating," Cathy explained. "But it won't be long before the seasons change, and after last year's cold winter, we want to be extra prepared for the needs of our local Native brothers and sisters."
The Hope House, which started as a small shed to store fresh, seasonal fruit for distribution to the Lower Elwha elders, quickly grew into a large storage barn that now accommodates the needs of multiple tribes on the Olympic Peninsula. Among the fresh fruit and canned goods, Tom and Cathy store blankets, clothes, and other items tribal members may need throughout the year.
"Sometimes it's hit or miss with these extra items," explains Tom. "We don't have room to carry all things in all sizes, but when we receive donations, we store them, knowing someone will eventually need them."
That's exactly what happened last winter.
Cathy went to the post office one day to find an unexpected package waiting for her. When she returned home and examined the contents, she found more than ten brand new, beautiful winter coats in a variety of sizes and colors. They hadn't asked for winter coats, but a church had decided they would collect them and sent them to the Hope House. Since there was no specific need for these coats at the time, Cathy packed them away in a box for the time being.
A few weeks later, after a weekly Bible study on the Lower Elwha Reservation, one woman, who regularly attended the meetings, approached Cathy and asked for prayers. This woman had recently taken over the care of multiple nieces and nephews. It was a hard situation for everyone involved, and she was trying to provide for the children as best she could. She asked if Cathy could pray about her situation.
As they were praying through the many prayers for the children and their parents, the woman asked that somehow God would provide the winter coats that the children desperately needed, as the weather had just begun to shift. Cathy was reminded of the coats that sat in the corner of the shed.
When the prayer ended, Cathy invited the woman back to Hope House to look through the box of coats. The woman was excited, but hesitant. What were the chances that this small supply of winter jackets would match up with the varying ages and genders of the children in her care?
But we know how God provides the right thing at just the right time. Within the box of unsolicited coats from an unknown church was the perfect size and color jacket for every single one of this woman's nieces and nephews.
God had answered her prayer before she even asked.
"We didn't have a coat drive," Cathy stated, still awed by the events. "But God knew she would need them and made sure they got to her! I can't tell you the joy I saw on her face when she left with her arms full of warm coats, or the joy we felt when we saw those children later that winter, bundled up and warm!"
Cathy continued, "People will often ask me, 'What do you need?' And unless we're in the middle of a specific drive, I don't know what to tell them. There are certain things we always need (please no outdated food!), but most of the time, we don't know what people will ask for. I tell individuals and groups to pray about it. God will lay a specific item on their hearts, and chances are good we'll need it. We've received some of the most random things, and within a month, someone is asking for it. God knows what he's doing!"
For now, the Hope House needs gloves and mittens. So, wipe the sweat off your brow, step into that nice, air-conditioned store, and help provide love to the Native people of the Olympic Peninsula in the shape of a glove.
Items can be shipped to:
P.O. Box 2955
Port Angeles, WA 98362
P.S. Add a pair of mittens or gloves to your back to school shopping list!