For those who don't follow me on Facebook, you might not know that after Day 19 in New Jersey (last Sunday), I began the two day trip home. After visiting with friends over night, I finally arrived home on Day 21 at 5pm (the Tuesday before Thanksgiving) and proceeded to prepare my home for my wonderful in-laws and the Thanksgiving holiday (along with squeezing in time with my wife and son). Now a week later, I have been able to snatch snippets of rest and to reflect on the time the Lord allowed me to have and the service He allowed me to be a part of in NJ. There are two things I would like to impart that I feel are relevant for us all.
First, I was entirely blessed by being a part of the efforts there, but more importantly- I was blessed by seeing God's faithfulness in action from beginning to end. Risk-taking, in part, is a great way to experience God's work in your life first hand. As Christians, we should be willing to jump into the unknown (within reason, and sometimes beyond reason) so we can give full testimony to those around us that God truly is in control of our lives and that we have relinquished our own selfish desires, foibles, and concerns in order to more fully trust Him and do what we feel the Holy Spirit is driving us to do.
Second is for all of us who tend to fall back on the "live out my faith to draw people into asking why I am doing what I do" concept of evangelism. Let me put it bluntly... we MUST be more than this school of thought. There are plenty of nice people out there (there are roughly 7.1 Billion people on the planet) many of whom do outstanding service to others, that look out for the emotional and physical needs of others, with no need for compensation or thanks, who also have no working knowledge of the gospel or even blatantly deny Christ. Those of us who think we can simply live a life of service that will draw people near to Christ... we are being lost amid the ever growing throng of people who do good because it is "the right thing to do", plain and simple. Don't get me wrong... Of the non-Christians, 0% will make it into heaven, even with all their great deeds. I just don't want us lumping non-Christians into some vilified category that makes them unpleasant to the people around them. Let's not fool ourselves, Christians do not have the patent on being nice, or being pleasing, or even being a "blessing" to others (though we are the only ones who can give the only true blessing).
We MUST be more in order to clearly glorify our Lord, Jesus Christ, in every situation we are in. There is no cookie cutter quick fix answer to how we should change so we can standout. We must be willing to get dirty, work hard, and look to every corner of our existence to figure out how we can take the next step to furthering God's fame in all aspects of our lives. Louie Giglio said it best when he said that the gospel can be offensive, but we don't have to be. This isn't going to be easy to figure out, but where in the Bible does Christ promise easy? However, once we have prayed, thought about, and have been directed by the Holy Spirit about what the next steps to take are, then we must TAKE THAT RISK to follow through with them. That's when we will have something to talk about.
Romans 10:17 "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ." (HCSB)
Well, day 15 has drawn to a close and I am going to say it was bitter sweet. For those who don't follow me on Facebook, I have transitioned to the Recovery unit (demolition and sanitation), having left inventory in Hammonton. I am serving on Long Beach Island in New Jersey. The devastation here is significant.
Boats piled up where they shouldn't be, homes uplifted and rammed into other homes, people displaced with no place to live, vacation homes left unchecked for two weeks and their owners thinking they can clean up in a weekend. Only one business is open on this 1x18 mile island- a 7-11, for anything else you need to leave and come back. Many homes have electricity back but most don't have gas or drinkable water. Along with sand, sea water, heating oil, and debris, the flood waters also had sewage in it. Then there is also the age of the homes to consider and the likelihood of asbestos in floor tiles and such.
That last example was the case on our first assignment today and we had to evacuate this 84 year old man's home. His disabled wife was upstairs, the cat was nowhere to be found, it was a mess.
Then there was the news that independent contractors had come on to the island in droves to take advantage of these poor people- charging ridiculous rates to get things cleaned up and rebuilt.
The topper was our second assignment of the day. After doing half of the work on her home, it became questionable whether or not this was her primary residence (we don't work on second homes). Some are taking advantage of our policies and Christian nature to manipulate the scenario to work in their favor.
So, after taking several showers, saying goodbye to some on our team, and getting a warm meal served by the Red Cross, the remainder of the men here settled into the church where we are staying (Grace Calvary) to relax and have some fellowship. Some even shared the gospel with folks we have met here.
I'm not sure I have a point in telling you all this other than to give you a glimpse of what it is like here, ask you to pray for diligence on my part, and to remind all of us that though vultures may circle, the hope of Christ endures.
Lots of little things happen when you are on a project this big. Forklifts that stall in the most inconvient places, having way too many green beans, needing to stop what you're doing in a moments notice, almost having a trailer repossessed with food still in it, forgetting your sweatshirt in your room, and getting a hole in your glove.
There have been many opportunities for my leadership skills to come into focus while I've been here. But most of all, I have been reminded about what Jesus had to say about leadership: "but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:26-28 NASB)
Could you please continue to pray for me that I may continue to seek out being a servant to all. If you ever have a chance to serve in a leadership capacity, may you too be a servant leader. One who isn't afraid to get their hands dirty or get a hole in their glove.
We have all been created by God to do good works that He prepared in advance for us to do. Today, for me, in 12 hours, included inventorying and organizing 7 tractor trailers, helping prepare thousands of meals, shuffling and repacking a 100 or so pallets of food, and getting 1 splinter. For others it was a day of clearing out mud, chopping up fallen trees, late night showers, and leading people to Christ. At this last point, the person said that seeing 3 led to The Lord "made the whole trip worth it" for him.
It was a great reminder that attitude helps make a difference in what we do. Certainly, being out amongst the people getting to help as a direct point of contact and sharing the gospel is more exhillerating and I hope to get to some of that next week. But in its own way, so is helping behind the scenes. What makes a difference is if you consider what you do is really for an audience of One.
May we be creations that are pleasing to Christ.
Well, just a short post for today. We prepped to create some thousands of meals tomorrow. Numbers have been slinging around wildly and range anywhere from 28,000 to 45,000. There is a huge amount of infrastructure that I would never have guessed at before.
More importantly, I am touched by the diligence of everyone here. It is great when the family of God gets together to live for Him. May you all get an opportunity to serve like this soon.
Serving through love and laughter is a great way to live.