Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Link Lovin' It

  • Andrew just became a dad. Read his thoughts on fatherhood here.
  • My buddy Eric just started blogging. He calls me a girl here.
  • Ted's blog used to inspire many of us to rethink the way we live. He hasn't blogged since October 25, 2007. For the love, Teddy!
  • Danielle is just a boring old mom. Just kidding...she's a boring old mom who happens to have some great thoughts on life. She talks about wanting more from life here.
  • Kyle consistently offers deep thoughts and insights on life from his travels and experiences.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Impact Your World/How to Save a Life/There Must Be a God


This past Sunday night in our high school ministry, Seth and I decided to take a big risk. Sunday night was our fall kickoff, and in years past we had set the precedent that the fall kickoff would involve lots of food, lots of games, and lots of fun. We knew that was what our students would be expecting once again this year, but we had a little different vision of what God might have in store for our kickoff this time around. We wanted to set a significantly different tone for this school year, and that is where the risk comes in.

What we attempted Sunday night we simply called Impact Your World. The instructions were simple, the possibilities endless. The students broke down into small groups, and each group was given one $20 bill. They were then told, "Go, and impact your world!" 

Some groups went and bought flowers and gave them to people who looked like they were having a tough day. A worker at Wal-Mart was brought to tears when she received the flowers from our students. Some students went to Chuck-E-Cheese, bought arcade tokens, and handed them out to kids (I know...kinda cool and kinda creepy all at the same time!). Another group found a stranger on the side of the road with a dead car battery and jumped it for him. Others handed out balloons, while another group ordered water at a restaurant and then left a big tip with an encouraging note for the waitress.

The following is the story of what God did with my group.


I jumped in with a group of three guys: Matt, the tough-guy Jimtown football player; Brad, the Penn fine arts standout; and Gabe, an unbeliever and first-time church visitor invited by Brad. As our group was deciding how to impact our world, Gabe was the first to speak up...

I think we should go to Hacienda, order water, eat some chips and salsa, and then leave a $20 tip.

Not a bad idea, but I didn't like the thought of us gaining something from our giving (ie. enjoying some chips and salsa from Hacienda). So I encouraged the guys to keep thinking. Matt was in my Impact Group this past year, and he remembered a time when we had gone as a group to the Homeless Shelter in South Bend and handed out food. He suggested that we head back into South Bend, buy some food with the $20, and hand it out. So we jumped into my beat up '98 Camry and took off for South Bend.

I remembered that there was a McDonald's just south of the Homeless Shelter on Michigan St., so we made that our first stop. We went through the drive-thru and ordered 19 sandwiches. The order was large enough that the drive-thru attendant asked us to pull around in front of the restaurant, and she would have someone come out to our car with the sandwiches. As we waited, a man came stumbling out of McDonald's. He looked like a mess, like he hadn't showered in a month. Dirty clothes, disheveled hair, an open and bloody wound on his hand, and a look of desperation.

Help me, man! Can you help me? I'm really messed up, man, he said.

I asked him what he needed. I asked him if he was hungry.

Yeah, man. I'm hungry. I haven't eaten in a long time, man. I'm really messed up. I lost my job, I can't get home...I need help. Can you help me, man?

I asked the guys what they wanted to do, and Matt spoke up right away. 

Let's at least give him a ride home.

The sandwiches showed up about then, and this man we soon came to know as Marcus climbed into my car, his bloody hand wiping up against the dash of the car. After refusing a sandwich more than once, we finally convinced him that we wanted to give them away, and that in fact that was what we had come to do that night. He gratefully accepted two sandwiches and began chowing down. Our conversation continued... 

Why you help me, man? he asked. I'm black, you white. We ain't prejudiced, man?

No, Marcus, we're cool, man, I told him. It was as if he couldn't understand our kindness. I couldn't help but wonder how many white people had treated him unkindly in his life.

I asked Marcus if he knew of anybody else who might need a sandwich. He assured us that he knew of a small community that would appreciate the remaining 17 sandwiches. So I drove as Marcus directed us to the ghetto of all ghettos, a run-down government-subsidized apartment complex on the west side. The security guard there didn't want to let us in, but we gave him the sandwiches to pass out to some of Marcus' friends there.

We continued on our journey to the east side of South Bend. Marcus actually lives on 29th St. in River Park, merely four streets away from the house I just bought in the same neighborhood. As we were taking him home, I asked him about his family. He confessed that he is an alcoholic, and that that had cost him his job and his family. He was currently living with his ex-wife's sister's family. He was almost constantly on the verge of tears as we drove, telling the high school guys that he loved them and that we were such a blessing. Angels, he called us.

He told us about the poverty that he was living in, that basic necessities of life such as food were scarce. So we stopped at a store on the way back to his house and got him some groceries. He said they needed meat and bread. When we had purchased that, he got a little more bold.

What about some ice cream...and some candy for the kids?

Sure, Marcus. 

Every man has the right to a bowl of ice cream from time to time, right?

After some quick comic relief in which Marcus called out a preppie white kid in a Jeep with his cool shades and spiky hair for listening to rap music that Marcus found offensive as a black man and which the kid didn't know nothin' 'bout, we loaded up the few bags of groceries and continued heading toward 29th St.

We pulled up in front of an old dilapidated house, and although we were already late in getting back to the church, we sat and listened as Marcus began to share...

My life's a mess. I need to change, man. I've lost everything. I've gotta change.

I laid my hands on Marcus and began to pray for him. I prayed that God would make him the man that he's called to be. I prayed for victory and freedom from alcoholism. I prayed for change.

As I finished praying, Marcus began to get choked up. He looked at me, tears in his eyes...

I made up my mind, man. Tonight...I was gonna jump off the bridge. I was gonna take my life. I had nothing to live for. You guys are a blessing. You guys gave me a second chance. You guys saved my life.

As Marcus stumbled out of the car, the groceries clearly too much for his small frame to handle, the four of us guys sat in stunned silence. Nearly the entire drive back to the church we sat like that, no one saying a word. Finally, as we were all processing the gravity of what God had done through us that night, Gabe, the non-Christian first-time visitor, spoke up.

I think that was a little better than eating chips and salsa at Hacienda.

The tension in the car released as we let out a collective laugh, realizing what we might have missed if we had chosen differently that night. Everyone, Gabe included, recognized that God had graced us with His presence that night.


Believe it or not, the story doesn't stop there. Brad had been trying for over a year to get Gabe to come to youth group with him. When they got back to Brad's house, Gabe asked if he could start coming to church with Brad. Gabe's response to all that he had seen and heard that night...

There must be a God!

That's right, Gabe. There is a God, and He is good. And He is still in the business of doing miracles. He is still in the business of transforming lives.

Gabe's life...changed.

Brad's life...changed.

Matt's life...changed.

My life...changed.

Marcus' life...CHANGED!

And all God's people said...Amen.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fall Calendars

Our Student Ministries Fall Calendars have officially hit the printer. Mad props to Seth for not only designing both the Middle School and High School calendars but also for staying in the office late last night to finish the calendars before our volunteer retreat this weekend. Nice work, Seth!

Check 'em out...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Taking the Day Off

Fridays are my day off from work. Sometimes I just chill, but more often than not I find lots of things to do to make myself busy. After a full week of going, going, going, I decided to force myself to relax today and do some things that I enjoy. Here's what I've been up to:
  • slept in a little this morning
  • watched ESPN analysts babble on and on about Brett Favre and MLB trades on SportsCenter (and loved every minute of it)
  • played guitar
  • played piano (a new hobby I've recently picked up and am enjoying)
  • started boxing up my stuff for the big move in two weeks!
  • Read a few more chapters in this book...

All in all, it's shaping up to be a great day off!!!