Imagine you are at the end of your rope and barely hanging on. Life has not been fair to you and you’ve lived it whichever way you thought you needed to, to survive. You’ve come to realize that something needs to change, and that something is within you. It’s not a glamorous process. It’s the furthest thing from easy. The harshness of the world continues to expose your every flaw, every weakness, despite your best efforts to recover. You are on display as the lowest of the low, a representation to the world of what not to become – and you have absolutely no control over this. You only have control over your very next move, the next choice you will make for your own wellness, because, without this step, you will never begin to regain the approval of the world. Even still, you may never be able to. The odds are stacked against you, you are completely alone, and even though you want healing, that old life keeps calling you back.
Now imagine, in the midst of your struggle, that another human being takes a moment out of the whiz and whirl of his day to acknowledge your humanity. You tell him your story, your journey from near death to now 2 days sober and still trying. This stranger listens with intent, and even though he doesn’t know you, he says, “I’m proud of you.” While the rest of the world wants nothing to do with you, this one man sees you for who you truly are.
Jonathan Defino, pastor of New Life Fellowship and a board member of Wear Gloves, Inc., is one of those strangers who chose to listen. And this story is a true one, of a man at the end of his rope and of another delivering a message of hope. After an awkward silence, that man responded to Jonathan with tears in his eyes, “It’s been a long time since anyone has said that.” And that is just one of the many reasons Jonathan has stayed involved with the Wear Gloves ministry since inception. Here’s a little more of his story and his answer to #WhyWearGloves…
M: So how did you get hooked up with the Kebrdles and the Wear Gloves, Inc. ministry?
J: I’ve known the Kebrdles for about 15 years. We came to know each other through many years of teaching Sunday School together. I remember Ken and Wendy feeling called by God to be ready to follow Him wherever He wanted them to go, to be mobile; and so they left. Their faith was and still is inspiring to me. When they returned to Ocala, we reconnected and began taking what they learned, over the course of their travels around the U.S., to the streets here. We started meeting up and having coffee with the homeless down at Tuscawilla Park. That’s pretty much how things got started.
M: Can you recall the moment when it “clicked” for you as to why serving through Wear Gloves was important?
J: Absolutely. So, when Ken and Wendy came back to Ocala, they began offering a class called, ‘Dignity Serves’, to churches citywide. I took that class 3 times and on the third go around, it started to sink in. But the pinnacle moment was when I was serving coffee at Tuscawilla and had the opportunity to speak with Daniel. He was 2 days sober and I told him that I was proud of him. His reaction was not what I expected at all and it clicked for me at that moment that this is an unbelievably real human being who doesn’t need my help – he just needs to know that he is loved by God & loved by me. For the most part, people are accepted by God where they are at.
It clicked for me at that moment that this is an unbelievably real human being who doesn’t need my help – he just needs to know that he is loved by God & loved by me.
M: Wow. So, what has life looked like for you since getting involved with Wear Gloves and have gained new perspective on poverty & homelessness?
J: A lot of my story is about giving up my pride and learning what it is to truly help someone else. From when I first began work in ministry to when I was led to become a pastor, each step along the way has been a process of exposing my longing for acceptance and approval, laying that before God, and trusting Him. I’ve watched Ken and Wendy walk in this kind of faith and trust in God, and being a part of their journey has been eye-opening for me.
We all long for people to see us for who we are and to be accepted where we are at. Personally, I’ve been able to see that anytime I’m trying to DO something for someone else, I’m trying to become their god. And when we are constantly trying to “help” others, we may actually just be enabling them to do the very thing they hate about themselves. My friend Daniel didn’t use to live on the streets. He used to get drunk and fall asleep on the street and people just assumed he was homeless and would give him money. Eventually, because of his addictions to drugs and alcohol, he lost his job and became homeless. Because people just gave him money, he never felt a need to do anything different with his life. Giving him money didn’t help him recover from his addictions, didn’t give him any sense of dignity, and didn’t solve the issue of homelessness.
We all long for people to see us for who we are and to be accepted where we are at…when we are constantly trying to “help” others, we may actually just be enabling them to do the very thing they hate about themselves.
M: There is so much insight there and I know you have so much more that you could share with us about your life, experience, and what you’ve learned along the way. With that being said, if someone were to ask you why you serve with Wear Gloves, what would you say?
J: I serve with Wear Gloves because I’m passionate about the Gospel. Knowing God is like meeting the coolest person in the world and wanting to introduce everyone to him. It’s in the dark places, where there is little to no hope, where the light of the Gospel shines the brightest. We want people to know that God loves them. We want people to know that we’re proud of them.
Do you have a story to share about how Wear Gloves, Inc. has made an impact on your life?
Share your story with us! When you share a photo on Instagram, or make any other post on Facebook, Twitter, etc. about your involvement or the impression this ministry has made on your life and those around you, add the hashtag #WhyWearGloves to your post. It’s just one small way we can connect and share in the joy of serving God together!