The Two Greatest Commandments


Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Graces is older now and a little bit wiser.  Pretty experienced with circumstances that face our neighbors and certainly more humble. We’ve learned the hard way that simple is best, that we do the one thing (or the 10 things) that the Lord asks of us and not a step more. But when we get together as a group, sometimes it’s still very hard, because the desire to ‘fix’ something is so strong, especially when there’s a child involved.  Graces is evolving now, moving to a new focus on our children, reviewing every program we offer with fresh eyes, trying to discern God’s heart’s desire as we change.  We are going to need you more than ever, to love your neighbor as yourself.  One of my greatest fears, and please don’t take this wrong, is that Graces not turn into a ministry that makes middle class America feel better about itself.  Our deepest prayer is that Graces be a ministry where people connect: across social and economic lines, geographic, educational, racial, you name it, lines. And don’t think for a minute it is easy because it is not.  I think about CS Lewis’ line in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe where Susan asks: “Is He safe?” and the response “He’s not safe, but He’s Good”. There is nothing about this connecting that’s safe, but it is good.  And in fact, it’s great, because it is what we are designed for.

Jacob’s Ladder-  there has not been a program or ministry we’ve started that has brought more joy or hope than Jacob’s Ladder.  This is mentoring program following boys from Middle School through High School. We’ve been able to provide tutoring and counseling, Bible study and just fun times together in a safe setting.  We have two young men in desperate need of mentors. This requires a twice a month commitment which can be a variety of things from a phone call to going to one of their games and we try to provide an opportunity to get together as a group at least once a month.  This is a 5 year commitment and it doesn’t do anyone any good for me to pretend otherwise. But before that scares you away, let me say: after the first meeting, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Jacob’s Ladder, Part 2- we are going to open this up to girls as well. We need mentors for 5 girls, in 7th or 8thgrade.  The outline is the same and especially with the girls, I could see how this would work for a small church group, with women alternating their time.  Please consider stepping into a young woman’s life, providing the mentorship and guidance so many of our kids need to navigate the next few years. These girls are smart and fun and vulnerable and need you desperately.

Van- We are so excited to have our van!  Thank you again to Beth Brooks, Frank Williams and Zach Penney!  This van is much needed, and will be used to get kids to Dr’s appts, sports practice, resources and opportunities in HSV as well as Jacob’s Ladder.  What a blessing!

Bags of Blessings-  Every Friday, loving volunteers provide ‘easy to access’ food to last some of our kids over the weekend and school breaks.  Without this program, many of them would have little to no access to food during that time. As you might imagine, this is an expensive ministry but foundational:  a child cannot learn when hungry. If you would like to donate any amount, please go to our website at and select Bags of Blessings under Giving. 100% of any donation goes to whatever program you select, including Bags of Blessings!

Prayer/Food Box Program-  Under Ginny, Bill and Bonita’s amazing stewardship, we’re digging  little deeper. If you are a sponsor, expect to start seeing more information from your family about how you can pray for them, what they’re experiencing and praises as a result of your faithfulness to cover them in prayer every day.  And food scarcity is a very real challenge here in Gurley so if you would like to sponsor a food box for a local family once a month and can commit to covering them in prayer, please let me know. This program has made such a difference in so many people’s lives.  Thank you!!

And finally and very importantly:  Please be in prayer over a new ministry we have started praying through:  The Refuge. We are praying through the possibility of opening a home-like place for kids after school and Saturdays where they can be safe, feel loved, get a hot meal, help with homework, take a shower and just relax and have fun.  This is a HUGE step for us, requiring more of everything: more volunteers, more money, a bigger board, more bold and audaciousness. It is alternatively scary and exciting but mostly scary so we covet your prayers. And suggestions, thoughts, ideas:  whatever the Lord brings you.

Each one of these initiatives above represents one person prayerfully stopping, identifying a need and stepping into the gap to serve.  You have a gift we need. In fact, we’re not complete, our joy is not complete, without you here. There are so many people I want to tell you about:  the mom that travels from Madison to Gurley once a week to specifically help one child she’s gotten to know, the former educator that puts everything on hold to have a child in need stay with her when she’s needed, the civic leader that drives a family back and forth from Birmingham and back when a child’s in the hospital, the family that helps an elderly man with groceries and transportation every week.  These are my neighbors. We need you here and you need us too: we’re fun, we’re smart and we walk in the shadow of the Lord. Please come join us

Ephesians 3:14-19  “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

I am so very thankful to be walking through this life with you all.  

Sweet blessings, Sue

Emily Matthews