This may sound obvious, but the best part of my job as the High School Pastor here at Church of the Open Door is seeing students trust in Jesus Christ and learn to walk in Him throughout their teenage years and beyond.
I love seeing how their faith starts to take shape and manifest itself in their words, actions, and decision-making. Our students truly are leaders in our church who model to the rest of us what it looks like to follow and serve Jesus. It is such a privilege to have a front row seat to what God is doing in and through them. I am profoundly impacted by each of them and am always looking for ways to showcase them to everyone else!
One of our awesome high school students, Lukas Czarnota, wrote about something he and his family experienced recently. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did and are uplifted by his story!
MY MOM’S GIFT
by Lukas Czarnota
(Lukas Czarnota is a member of the COD high school student ministry and a junior at Glendora High School. He likes the Green Bay Packers, working out, and spending time with his family.)
I can still remember it vividly. Standing there in my parents’ room as my mom told us how she was going to give away her kidney. How she would have major surgery, have to be pretty much laying down and resting 24/7 for four to six weeks afterward, how she would now only have one kidney to rely on for the rest of her life.
My initial question was, well, who needs this kidney? Who could possibly be SO important that you are willing to go through a ton of pain and suffering just so this person could get it?
My mom’s answer was simple: it was one of my brother’s kindergarten classmate’s grandpa. Wait, what?!? This for a random person that my mom had never even seen before and probably never would?
It took a second to sink in. Major surgery. For someone she had never met.
Later that day, my mom asked if I had any questions, if I was surprised that she was doing something like this. Yes, of course I was surprised that she was having major surgery for someone she had never met.
This question would continue to hinder me throughout the entire process of my mom giving away her kidney.
It was indeed a long process. But finally, after what felt like years, the day arrived. It was on a Wednesday. I hung out at my grandparents’ house for the day.
While trying to focus on calculus homework, my mind wandered right back to that question of whether or not I was surprised my mom was doing something like this.
My thoughts took me back to my old house. I grew up in La Verne, mostly in a cozy little house by the University of La Verne. I remembered days when my mother’s siblings used to live with us. Two of my mother’s three sisters lived in that house for an extended period of time.
No matter what had happened in the past between the siblings, my mom accepted the fact that they were family and opened up her home to them. Even though it probably cost my parents a lot more than just letting them live on their own, they did it anyway. Interesting.
Eventually, I did get that calculus homework done, and my mind wandered again, back to when this whole COVID situation began. One of my mom’s brothers is in the army, and when the entire country was shut down, he was forced to stay inside of his Wisconsin apartment, all by himself, away from his family.
Instead of just leaving my uncle to deal with this by himself, my mom organized Zoom meetings within the family to make sure he wasn’t boring himself to death. Sometimes the only people that could make it would be my mom and my uncle, but that didn’t stop her from spending hours on end just talking with him. She could have been doing anything else, but instead she just sat and talked with her brother.
Then I remembered one more thing. My mom has only two kids (my brother and me), but she has given birth four times. She has been a surrogate mother twice.
In that moment, it all came together for me. No, I wasn’t surprised that my mom was donating her kidney.
She has been willing to do the nice thing no matter the cost pretty much her entire life. This is because she has the Holy Spirit inside of her. She started being the radically kind person she is today once she trusted Christ, which was when she joined Church of the Open Door over ten years ago.
So, what did I learn from this experience?
Nothing I didn’t already know, but just something that I had maybe forgotten about. My mom is awesome – don’t get me wrong – but the reason she is able to do all of those nice things is because she has the Holy Spirit inside of her.
Tiffany Czarnota is just an example of what we should all be striving for, that Jesus-like kindness.
As I was basking in this truth while waiting for news of my mom’s surgery, I didn’t notice that Round Table pizza had arrived and everybody had already gotten their food and begun eating. Not even the humiliation from that plus the snarky comment from my uncle asking me while I was sitting there grinning to myself could ruin the mood I was in.
I wouldn’t see my mom that day, but the next day I would. And as I saw her walking in, needing help from dad, looking weak and frail, I didn’t see her as that.
I saw her as who she is – the strongest person I know.
We all need to hear encouraging stories like this these days – stories of radical kindness, tested faith, and revived trust. As we all continue to adjust to the various challenges and trials that this pandemic brings, I hope you keep searching for what the Holy Spirit is doing in the midst of it all. It just might surprise you what you find out.
Thank you Lukas for sharing this encouraging story with us!
High School Pastor