02 Nov Day 25
Alex and the Apple Tree
By their fruit you will recognize them. . . Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Matthew 7:16, 17
“They’re here! They’re here!” All interest in homemade pizza was lost as the boys ran to meet the truck that held their new, solid wood armoires. Who’d think that teenage boys would get so excited about closets? But these were special. Handmade by graduate Alex Dioniso, class of 2000, these were built to withstand the occasional door slamming or rough housing that’s bound to happen. No pressed wood or cheap hinges in these babies. Marconi, class of 2004 and our Director of Maintenance for the Mountain, stayed late to make sure all were properly secured to the walls.
The boys returned to dinner – which coincidentally, had been made by Geraldo, professional baker, class of 2012, who lives with his wife and two girls in the shadow of the mountain. He works full time as the head baker at a bakery in town, but drops by twice a week to voluntarily make bread for our breakfasts. He also makes special cakes for our birthday celebrations.
Since Alex and Geraldo were both there, we asked the boys to thank them, resulting in a long applause and prompting Alex and Geraldo to respond. “Anything for my little brothers!” the gregarious Alex said with his beaming smile. Geraldo just turned red and smiled. Alex went on to share, “Value each moment you are here. Learn what you can. Appreciate the discipline.” He had to pause occasionally until the thundering summer rain beating on our aluminum roof subsided. His own two year-old, Emanuel, sitting next to me in his mother’s arms, spontaneously started a round of applause.
As I looked around the cafeteria, it was cozy. The rain was slowing to a pitter patter, and the boys, interspersed with graduates, ribbed each other while they ate. There was Maicon, class of 2008, just arrived for his night monitor shift, watching over things so the house parents can get a good night’s sleep. Maicon’s going to be a daddy again this winter, but still comes on his days off to play soccer with the boys.
Sitting next to him was Rai, class of 2017. He worked as a technician converting vehicles to run on natural gas, but volunteered his time as an auxiliary house parent while he was furloughed for thee months during COVID. He led kids to the Lord, helped with KP duties, and like any Good Shepherd, went after the occasional run away.
After another pause for the rain to subside, Alex wrapped up his spontaneous comments. “So none of you forget this. God brought each one of you here for a purpose. This is my family tree. My roots start here.”
We all know the popular saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” But what if you have no tree? According to Alex, Hope Unlimited became his family tree. His life leaves little question that he really is a product of our tree. And now – like Geraldo, Marconi, Maicon and Rai — he has become a part of that tree, helping to produce new fruit.
Dear Lord, help us – as individuals and as a ministry – to have the actions, words, and wisdom necessary to bear good fruit. May the things we think, the things we say, and the deeds we do show other people the love of Christ.