Life is filled with encounters that shape our future and alter the course of our lives. As I reflect on the seasons that we have weathered and triumphed, I see many situations which undoubtedly paved the way for our traveling journey. One of the events…which left an imprint on our hearts…and drastically altered our way of thinking, was the loss of our friends’ child. Looking back, I see how the Lord positioned our family in a place of connection and love, so that we could witness His goodness and faithfulness in the most difficult of circumstances.
This blog post, my recollections if you will, have been a long time coming. I have often wanted to sit still and collect my thoughts for future reflection, yet have never been able to finish the task…until now. This past fall, our family was discussing a school project…and this is well, part of the outcome.
First, let me start at the beginning:
Mason’s Story, through our eyes
It was September of 2014 and I was embarking upon my second year of homeschooling. My children were thriving in a Classical Conversations homeschool community in our town. We were making new friends and growing relationships with families in the area who were also pursuing the same style of home education. There was one family who especially seemed to click with us. We had known each other for a year and the Lord was deepening this friendship, both with the children and the adults. It seemed that every time we were together, our friendship grew deeper. On this particular week, we had the opportunity to hang out four different times. Each time we parted, my children pleaded for us to calendar another visit. Friday night, September 26th, we had plans to join our friends for dinner at their home.
That evening was lovely. We enjoyed friendship and food. Our children giggled and ran around, jumping on the trampoline, and playing every game imaginable. They really only paused when it was time to eat homemade ice cream. We had been studying the state of Vermont in our school memory work that week and my friend, Stephanie, discovered that a popular Vermont treat was “sugar on snow.” That night she recreated this harvest-time delight by pouring maple syrup on home-churned ice-cream and served it with sour pickles. We laughed about this funny tradition and managed to snap a photo.
A moment later, the kids were off playing and we were delighted to witness their fun as we dug deep into conversation. It was such a sweet evening, where we all got lost in fellowship. We lost track of the time and the next thing we knew, it was well after ten o’clock. The parents scrambled as we realized that the kids had soccer the next morning. We drove away that night…and I remember thinking…”that was so much fun!…and how sweet that God has but this family in our lives and grown this friendship.” That night was truly a party.
We were unaware, but those giggles, would be the last before six year old Mason was taken home to his Heavenly Father. The next morning, Stephanie texted me, explaining that Mason was sick and possibly had the stomach flu or food poisoning. Over the next several hours, it became apparent that this was something more. Eventually Mason had an apendectomy and ended up transferring to two additional hospitals. On Sunday morning, our friends watched their son leave this world. What followed in the days, weeks and now…two years and six months, was one of the most remarkable things I have witnessed in my life. I watched two parents, in the most fragile of state, maintain their trust in God. Not only did they testify to His greatness when they did not understand, they inspired thousands in the midst of their grief by clinging to their faith in Jesus in the hardest of times.
My eyes well up with tears as I read my own thoughts on this screen. My heart continues to break for this sweet family, a family whom I love so dearly. How can these humans be so strong and inspiring through all of this? I can’t tell you how often I think of the Naimo family…and how the memory of that night is fixed in my mind…and how I am always reminded of their faith in our Lord. The faith of this family has touched the core of our family and has left an indelible mark on us. Not only does it cause us to examine our own faith, but it encourages us to minister to others. As we roam this country, I have shared this story countless times. Yes, Mason Naimo did personify joy. Yes, he was bold at such a young age…from the way he spoke to the mohawk he sported. Yes, this story does remind us to seize the moment and enjoy each day with our children, for only God knows how long we have with them. Yes, this family helps to encourage us as they rely on the Lord for their strength in their greatest pain and suffering. But there is more…this family allowed God to work in their grief and not only has it touched the medical staff that served Mason in the hospital, but neighbors, strangers, a community, friends of friends on Facebook…and now almost two hundred orphans in India. Countless lives all touched because they chose to honor God, to trust in His promises and to see the good that is worked out through their grief and loss.
My friend Stephanie…she has such a way with words. I continue to be astounded by the words that she pens. Here is an excerpt from her blog titled, In Memory of Mason:
“When we named Mason, we picked Andrew for his middle name because of John chapter 1″….”The picture of Andrew being known as the one who brought others to Christ was what we desired for Mason’s life. That he would bring people to Jesus….A few days after he died, I found myself reading John chapter 1 and God very clearly reminded me of this. That over 6 years ago, we trusted that the Lord would use our child to bring people to Jesus. And God showed me at that moment that he would indeed use Mason’s life, and his death, to bring others to Him.”
Wow, right? This leaves me speechless every time.
This photo at the top of my post…it was taken that Sunday morning after we heard about Mason’s sudden death. We were a mess, I was a mess. I was not in a position to get dressed for church, nor did I have the composure to sit still. I knew that there was one place we could find solace…at the foot of the cross. There is this amazing cross on the hill in Ventura that overlooks the coast. We piled into the car and picked up donuts and coffee and handed our grief to our Heavenly Father. Earlier that year, the Naimos had brought donuts to the beach for my birthday…it felt needed…donuts, the beach and Jesus. Looking back now, I see how every time I think of Mason, I turn to the Lord…that day, we literally leaned upon the cross. He’s still bringing me to Jesus.
Anthony and Stephanie Naimo have a heart for the children of India that goes back many years. Stephanie shared often with her kids the memories of her short-term missionary work in Calcutta, and this indeed inspired her family. Mason began to pray eagerly for the children of India and it was his dream to fly in a plane there one day. Shortly after Mason died, some friends of the family were led to establish a home for orphans in honor of Mason. Unaware of Mason’s goal to fly to India, thier hearts had been moved to bless a country where so many children are suffering.
Another confirmation that Mason’s memory will continue to be a vessel to bring others to Christ.
In January of 2016 Mason’s Place was established. It is located in Rajasthan, India and is the current home for 60 girls, 8 staff members and it includes a school with 170 students.
Under the leadership of Hope Partners International, partnering with the Church of North India, Mason’s Place is providing a refuge for children that have been orphaned, abandoned and left facing a life of victimization, enslavement, abuse and harm.
Mason’s Place is situated on more than 6 acres and has 75,000 square feet of livable space. The facilities need renovation, however the property has a lot of potential.
It is truly moving to see how lives are transforming at Mason’s Place in India.
Remember that school project that I mentioned? Well, here is where it ties in:
As we are full-time travelers, we have joined the Fulltime Families community as a way to connect with others and find resources on the road. One of the blessings of this nomadic community, is the rallies that are held. Each rally is a congregation of other families who have chosen a similar lifestyle to ours, one that enables them the opportunity to travel. A highlight of these gatherings is the Kids Entrepreneurial Fair, which we incorporate into a school project in our home. My kids have the option to create, market and sell their own items, or to work as a team with their siblings. They then get to keep the profits of their hard work. This time, Angie asked if she could donate all the proceeds from her sales to Mason’s Place. Enthusiastically we agreed and quickly my other two children were joining the cause. Chris and I are were both blessed beyond words to witness our children pouring their unique strengths and talents into this project. Not only were they able to learn further about the living conditions that many children face in India…but they were able give in their own way, inspire others and to share their own story of the place that Mason holds in their hearts.
At the last rally, Lexi made “rally Christmas ornaments” to sell, so that we could all hang on to the memory. It was a fairly successful endeavor, so we opted to repeat the idea and we made another round or rally ornaments.
Yes, we do live in a tiny house and the ornament drying process utilized our entire kitchen and every spice jar we own. (Please don’t mind the stack of drying dishes amongst the ornaments!)
Lexi created a Powerpoint Presentation for marketing and fundraising and Angie was chief ornament maker. The Entrepreneurial Fair was on February 3, 2017.
Brendan filled in where a little brother could. He partnered up with the Brewer boys and sold some yummy popcorn with all the toppings. (The sign reads “Double B’s Munchies.” The double B’s meaning Barry and Brewer family.) The boys eagerly put all of their earnings into the fund for Mason’s Place as well.
As you can see…with 84 families attending the event, it was quite a turnout.
I love how the work of one inspires others and quickly multiplies. Angie had on her heart that she wanted to raise $100 to help meet the needs at Mason’s Place. When another young girl heard this, she was inspired to donate her earnings that she had made from selling yarn necklaces and cookies.
In this photo above, Ashlyn and Angie are both beaming with the excitement of knowing how the funds of their hard work will be used.
At the end of the day, after working hard and sharing Mason’s Story with everyone they could, they earned $100…only to find out that our dear friends had decided to match whatever funds were raised. So the little “donations for Mason’s Place” bucket quickly became $200.
Now, normally I teach my children to give silently. We don’t seek the gratitude or praise of men, just the joy of serving the Lord. As this was a fundraiser, not an offering, we want to bring awareness to Mason’s Place in India and share our whole story. It is our prayer that as we remember these events and continue to pray for Mason’s Place, that others may read this and partner with us in prayer and/or support. With this in mind, here are some links if you are interested in learning more about Mason’s Place or his story:
- In Memory of Mason .com
- Hope Partners International
- Mason’s Place India Instagram
- Mason’s Place India Facebook page
Please join us in keeping Mason’s Place in prayer by lifting up the following:
- That the young girls that live here would deepen their love for the Lord and have opportunities for discipleship and mentoring.
- Sponsorship and church partnership will continue to grow.
- Continued improvements to the school.
- An expansion on the kitchen and dining area.
- That Mason’s Place would be a beacon through which the Word of God will continue to touch the people in this region and by which the lives of these young children will be saved.