Meatballs, Mayhem, and Mrs. Amato

It was one of those awful slow-motion moments where you helplessly freeze in place, bracing yourself for the impact. I had just stumbled up the bleachers at the after-church fundraiser, balancing two plates of meatball subs and leading Claire to be seated on the second row. As soon as we sat down, I saw it coming. The volleyball was careening toward us, and there was nothing I could do to shield it.

The ball hit me directly, knocking one of the plates into the air. At Claire's shriek, the other spectators looked in horror. Red, meaty sauce covered my blouse and hair. I looked like the victim in a B horror movie. A teenage boy ran to me, apologizing profusely. I gathered he had been the one to spike the ball in our direction, so I laughed and waved him off, "No, it's fine, no big deal!" Poor Claire was frantic; I felt terrible that I couldn't pick her up, being covered in sauce, until I heard her snub, "My food! What did you do to my food!"

I sighed and headed for the bathroom to try to clean up. We were in Florida on furlough; I didn't know many people, but thankfully, a teen girl lent me a shirt for the rest of the evening.

I stuffed my stained white blouse into a grocery bag and thought, Well, that will never come out! It was one of my favorite shirts, too!

As I sat back down to finish my food, a kind-looking lady approached, "Christine, could I take your shirt home and wash it for you?" Before I could stammer a reply, she continued, "My husband is from Italy, and I have a wonderful detergent we get from there--it's perfect for removing tomato sauce stains!"

The idea of attempting to wash my shirt in the hotel room sink really wasn't appealing, so I finally surrendered the bag. "Don't worry if it doesn't come out! It's really caked in there!" I warned Mrs. Amato.

The next day, Robbie preached chapel for the Christian school's annual revival, while I entertained Claire at the hotel. He came back with an unexpected surprise: a gallon-size Ziploc bag with my favorite shirt inside, neatly pressed and folded. It was perfectly white; not a trace of sauce remained. I couldn't believe it. Mrs. Amato had also included a sweet note. I was overwhelmed by her thoughfulness.

A few months later, I would learn exactly how sacrificing Mrs. Amato and her family were. A family in our church was in need. Jose and Ismenia Rodriguez wanted to send their son Christian, one of our youth group's finest young men, to a Christian school his senior year. Since he is bilingual, they began to explore the option of sending him to the United States, where he could get a quality Christian education. Pastor Matt put them in contact with West Florida Christian Academy in Milton, Florida. It would be a perfect fit, since Christian planned to attend Pensacola Christian College after graduation. There was just one problem--where would he live?

I was thrilled when Mr. and Mrs. Amato and their son Daniel offered their home to Christian. They would care for him as their own son, giving him his own room, cooking his meals, and including him in family activities. I was relieved that he would be with such a sweet family.

We went to visit Christian on his last night in Honduras. There were many tears amid the packing, and my heart hurt for Ismenia, who was having an especially hard time. Then I remembered my encounter with Mrs. Amato, "Ismenia, let me tell you about the lady who will be taking care of Christian..." I explained to her exactly how Mrs. Amato had searched me out and kindly offered to clean my shirt, even though we barely knew each other. "That's how she is. She's very...what's the word? Maternal. Christian will be in good hands."

Ismenia's relief was evident. "Thank you for telling me that, Cristina. I am so glad that he will be taken care of!"

Christian had a wonderful year in Florida with the Amatos. He came back last week, a high school graduate. We are thrilled to have him home and ecstatic about what the Lord is doing in his life. And it was all possible because of an exceptional lady named Mrs. Amato.

See pics of Christian and his adventures in Florida with the Amatos!

2 Responses
  1. Ricky Says:

    Wow! I knew some of Christian's story, but not the part about Mrs. Amato.

    She has the gift of what Paul calls "hospitality" and that's a rare gift that is becoming rarer still. People who give cups of water to those in need are going to be the recipients of great rewards in heaven one day. This story reminds me of my own responsibility to go out of my way for others. Thanks for the gentle nudge.

  2. Kimberly Grainger Says:

    Aww, great story! The Amatos are dear to us, too, as John
    shares that Italian heritage! Seven years ago, Carol and I were regularly singing together at the Campus Church in "Adoration". Carol and I "clicked," slowing the t.v. technical rehearsals w/our banter and one-liners. When Benjamin was born, the Amatos brought us an amazing catered meal. We relished every bit of it, reveling in the attention to detail and the excuse to skip cooking. They were and are truly "givers," blessing many.

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