Frequent readers and listeners of Breakpoint know about Max. The grandson of Chuck Colson and subject of a book called Dancing With Max, authored by Emily Colson (Chuck’s daughter and Colson Center board member), Max is a remarkable young man who has autism. The last few years have been difficult for Emily and Max, especially since the COVID lockdowns disrupted their routines and canceled their helpers. The last few years were particularly hard on full-time caretakers.
And yet, in the middle of the challenges and disruptions of the last few years, God gave Max a ministry of encouraging and blessing others, a ministry now reaching people whose lives have been disrupted by war.
Here’s how Emily Colson described this remarkable story in a recent email:
We didn’t have a plan: We had a prayer. “How can we be a blessing to others?”
More than two years later, God continues to answer that prayer beyond what we could ask or imagine, bringing hope around the world. Even into a war zone.
It was COVID shutdown 2020 when Max began to hand-paint colorful heart yard signs and deliver them around our community. Max wasn’t an artist: Autism had made fine motor a lifelong challenge. God often uses the most unlikely individuals to accomplish His purposes so that the story is unmistakably His.
Our dining room became a workspace with plastic wrap stretched across the table and paint dripping into places that won’t be found for another decade. Our home began to look as if we’d invited Jackson Pollock to dinner. It was there, in the ache and loss and isolation of shutdown, that Max would paint his joy-filled hearts.
Max has given away more than 250 heart yard signs now, and he is still painting. The hearts have made it onto note cards, 36,000 cards in circulation so far, with all proceeds going to charity. His hearts grace the front of shirts, each one packaged with a message of God’s love and the value of every life. With every shirt purchased a duplicate is given to a life-affirming charity. And a “heart exhibit” is traveling to different gallery locations, telling the story of what only God can do. Of how He can multiply blessings.
As incredible as all of that is, there’s now another chapter to this story, which began when Emily’s friend April sent her a message.
She’d been watching the war break out in Ukraine on live television. She prayed, and God pressed an idea into her heart like a hot wax seal: Send Max’s hearts to Ukraine.
Our church leapt at the idea. Our printer, Spectrum Designs, a company employing the most amazing team of individuals with autism, jumped just as quickly, printing the first 1,000 shirts. A team of highly caffeinated volunteers began folding and packaging each shirt with a message of God’s love and hope—all translated into Ukrainian.
But…where would we send these? Who would receive and distribute these shirts in Ukraine?
That answer began 50 years ago, in the brokenness of Watergate. My dad, Chuck Colson, served as Special Counsel to President Nixon… When my dad was released from prison he founded Prison Fellowship ministries, which became the largest prison ministry in the world, reaching millions of people in the darkest places around the globe with the hope and love of Jesus Christ.
Even reaching Ukraine.
The ministry he founded 50 years ago through the brokenness of Watergate would carry his grandson’s hearts, born of the brokenness of COVID, to bring hope to those in a war zone on the other side of the world.
James Ackerman, president of Prison Fellowship USA, traveled to Romania… and (with) a team of ministry leaders and volunteers carried the shirts and other supplies deep into Ukraine, delivering them to children of prisoners, and to people in a Ukrainian refugee center.
Emily received a photo of one little boy who was holding Max’s picture, and wearing a shirt printed with Max’s hearts and the words, “Beloved by God.” Both of his parents were killed in the war. As Emily said,
When I saw this little boy’s face, I cried for days… God cares. He aches for the brokenness of this world. He is close to this little boy, just as He is close to Max. God was even leaning over Max’s shoulder as he began to paint, knowing He would carry these hearts—and His hope—around the world.
You can learn how to join Max and Emily in their mission at www.heartbymax.com.
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