Sheldon Rhodes had had enough. After 40 years of children’s ministry he was tired of people mistaking his home and Jest Kidding headquarters in Nashville, MI as some kind of daycare center.
Something had to change. Something about his property needed to proclaim God and his glory, needed to show anyone and everyone driving by what he, his wife, Vicky, and their ministry were all about.
The seed had been planted years ago. While visiting a church in Niagara Falls, New York, Sheldon and Vicky became aware that the church was doing a live nativity display. In years to come they watched this display become a beacon drawing people from miles around to come and see the Christmas story as they’d never seen it before.
A dream was lodged in their hearts, a vision to someday use their home and ministry headquarters to declare God’s glory not just at Christmas but all the year through.
On a December afternoon in 2013 Sheldon received a call from yet another person inquiring after his supposed daycare center. It was the last straw and perhaps a providential one.
A few days later on Christmas Eve he went to bed but couldn’t sleep. His mind kept thinking of ideas, of ways he could transform his home, his yard, his driveway into an epic nativity. He thought of lights, music, and scripture readings. He pictured Christmas brought to life and a drive-thru village that would tell the story from beginning to end of Jesus Christ and His love.
He saw his home and property as an empty canvas and with all his heart he wanted to use it to paint a masterpiece for God.
But how? And when? And where would they get the tools, the resources, the help they would need to make their dream a reality? It was all a little crazy wasn’t it? Could God really be in this?
On the day after Christmas Sheldon and Vicky got in their van and drove to Frakenmuth, MI home of the world’s largest Christmas store. For an entire day they roamed the aisles searching for ideas, dreaming of possibilities.
In January Sheldon shared his vision with his board of directors, and with their input and support a yearlong journey was launched.
It was a monumental task. There were setbacks, fears, and doubts but Sheldon and Vicky knew that God was with them, helping them, guiding them, supporting their plans.
Little by little God provided in many amazing ways. Expensive patterns and materials for a life-size nativity set were donated to the cause. Volunteers came in late July to prepare the grounds and other materials. Gifted painters helped to transform mere pieces of plywood into beautiful works of art.
Almost a year to date from the beginning of their venture, Sheldon and Vicky added the last piece of their nativity to their front lawn. With only days left until Christmas their vision had become a reality.
It was the end of yearlong project but it was also a beginning. With plans to keep adding to their nativity and ideas for other holidays Sheldon and Vicky can’t wait to see what God has in store.
If you were to take a drive to Nashville, MI, headed East off Hwy 66, traveling down State Rd, you’d be sure to see the Rhodes’ home and a lavish display of God’s love. It’s just what Sheldon wanted, it’s a testament to God and His glory, and it’s also a reminder to us.
It’s a reminder that our lives, our resources, and the gifts we’ve been given are all empty canvases on which we can paint a display of God and His glory, a declaration of His love.
Seeds are planted all the time, dreams and visions of what could be. When we’re faithful with those seeds, as Sheldon has been faithful with his, there’s no limit to what God can do.
What stirs your soul? What keeps you awake when you dare to let your mind wander, when you dare to let your heart dream? Is it a life-size nativity display, a blog post, a business plan? Is it righting a wrong or fighting injustice? Is it a Saturday feeding the homeless or a home cooked meal for a tired mom?
Whatever comprises your canvas, make no mistake God is there. He’s in your vision, He’s in your dreams. He’s in your plans, your pursuits, your wonder.
Look close and you’ll see it, every time. When you step out in faith, when you work for His glory, His fingerprints, there on your canvas.
The colorful strokes of His glory turning plywood into art.
Turning everything all around into beacons of His story. Your heart, your vision, the work of your hands into the masterpiece of His love.
For more information on Sheldon’s nativity and/or Jest Kidding ministries please visit www.jestkidding.com.
Sheldon’s nativity will be on display 24/7 throughout the holiday season. Sheldon and Vicky welcome you to load up your family, take a drive, and see their display located at 10230 E. State Road, Nashville, MI, 49073.