Love Them With the Love of Jesus

by | Nov 12, 2018

Karmen during a trip to Haiti, 2009

Wrapping up a long day at the Many Hands Market, Karmen catches a glimpse of a car pulling up outside the store. Out pops a four-year-old boy named Avery and a single-parent mother, Andrea. Karmen has gotten to know this family of two well over the past months, as they have become frequent shoppers at the store. Andrea recently left her abusive boyfriend and is working hard to be the sole-provider for her family at the local salvage yard. Because of the type of work, she tends to go through a lot of clothes and needs quality clothes at a fair price. Every time these two walk into the store, Karmen does her best to love them with the love of Jesus. On this occasion, the tables are turned. Avery, in his four-year-old way bursts through the door and has a bouquet of flowers in his hands. Earlier in the day, Andrea and Avery picked some flowers from their garden and wrapped the stems in ribbons. Handing them to Karmen, Andrea says, “Thanks for being so good to us. Thank you for caring about us.” At that moment, the reckless love of Jesus bursts through the brokenness in our world and two people feel the touch of a Savior. Karmen Brown loves people with the love of Jesus, and the ministry has been changed because of it.

“…because of this love, she impacts her world.”

I first met Karmen in 2012, as she had been going to Haiti with us through Hope Reformed Church in Spencer, IA, for the past few years. My first impression of this spunky, middle aged lady was that she oozed compassion for people. As I got to know her better and understand her story, the pieces started to fit together. Karmen has had some life-curveballs thrown at her and through this adversity, has learned to give it to Jesus and love like crazy. The verses in Romans 8:38-39 speak to the belief she demonstrates on a daily basis. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And because of this love, she impacts her world. No one is too far, too gone, or too stinky to experience and know the love of Jesus.

Karmen (Center Right) leading a team trip, 2017

Because of the way I’m wired, there have been times in my life where I see right past people. I’m not proud of this and in God’s gracious plan, He places people in my life to guide me in areas of my weakness. Karmen has taught me to see people, to understand genuine hospitality, and create a culture of appreciation. I’m challenged weekly to love people right where they are, while pointing them to Jesus. When I get ahead of myself, I have a conversation with Karmen and through her actions, she reminds me to bring the love of Jesus. I’m so thankful to call her friend and to have her as a trusted colleague to guide the ministry.

Karmen receives a donation from a group local grade school girls

Karmen was one of the original founders of the Many Hands Market and has been leading the business since April, 2014. The impact this store has had in so many lives can’t be stated in one story. But, when bringing light to darkness, there are times when the darkness can seem overwhelming. Over the past six months, the Market has been hit incredibly hard from all directions. We’ve had a long-term volunteer suddenly pass away this week, cancer wreak havoc on many different staff members, multiple health issues in key volunteers, and family crises pop up among many individuals. Operations have been much tougher, causing us to tighten our belt a bit. There is no doubt we are in an intense spiritual battle right now, as the evil one does not want us to continue to show people the love of Jesus through the store. I’m asking each of you to pray for us, pray for the staff, pray for the volunteers, and pray for Karmen. I believe God can break through darkness in incredible ways when His people pray. I love my friends and my family in Spencer and they need our prayers of encouragement, protection, and love. They have lifted so many others up, and it is now time for us to lift them up. That is what the Body of Christ is for.

Karmen serving a customer at the Many Hands Market

Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of Karmen Brown, who shows us how to love others with the love of Jesus. May God bless Karmen and give her strength to continue to be a light in our broken world. As she has told me many times, “After all, Jesus came for the lost, the dirty, the broken, and the shoplifters. We are sinners and we all need Jesus. That is what we focus on here at the Market.”

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