It has been an incredible 24 hours.
It began last night at our group for young adults, FLIGHT 1939. After enjoying some pizza, Kevin McCormick gave a powerful testimony. He said he had been so busy working to build his farm that he never felt he could go on a mission trip. Then recently when his farm was struck by a tornado, some 70 people showed up at first light the next day to help his family. He didn’t even know many of their names. He was overcome with the thought, “I’ve never gone on a mission trip. But now the mission trip has come to me.”
Kevin recalled the various devotions over the last few meetings of FLIGHT 1939, and spoke of how they all came together to challenge him to be more intentional in sharing his faith. He spoke of one young man to whom he had tried to minister, but said “that was a total failure.” The young man had suffered through a bleak childhood under an abusive father. When Kevin tried to offer words of kindness in the Lord’s name, the young man said, “I don’t think there is a God, and if there is I don’t want anything to do with him.” Our hearts broke for the pain behind those words. We committed to pray for that young man, wherever he may be now, that the love of his heavenly Father would overwhelm the tormented cruelty of his earthly father.
Then we had a time of prayer. We have a covenant of confidentiality, so I will not give details. I will only say that the matters of prayer were deeply personal and moving. They involved the agony of loved ones who seem trapped in dissolute lives or patterns of self-destructive behaviors that alienate us from the very people and from the God who love us best. Those who were not in tears were on the verge as we bore one another’s sorrows.
When the meeting ended, no one seemed in a hurry to leave. It was as if this time had been sacred and we all sensed it. Indeed, I learned later that one member of the group had just gotten a new job. When I asked why she had not shared it with the group so that we could all celebrate, she responded that she had been so caught up in what others were saying, that it had not even occurred to her. In short, it was a holy moment. I said at lunch today that last night was the kind of moment for which I took up ministry.
Which brings me to the rest of the story.
I was sitting at lunch with Debi and David, Bob and Kaye Pattillo and Dan Brown, our student pastor. I was recounting the incredible experience from last night.
At the end of lunch, Kaye, who was looking toward the entrance, said, “What beautiful flowers.” We looked to see a lady carrying a lovely bouquet, then realized she was headed right toward us. To our surprise, she presented the flowers to Kaye. She said she had overheard our conversation and was so moved that she felt she had to come speak to us.
She sat down and told us a bit of her life’s story. It involved the same kinds of heart-wrenching issues we had been discussing. Bad decisions and the long shadows of consequence. Family dysfunction. Hurt for loved ones. Hurt from loved ones. The shame for things done. The despair of not knowing what to do now.
I asked if she had ever come to a point of surrender when she realized that only the Lord could offer her forgiveness and peace, cleansing and a new beginning. She said that she had faith, but had never really given her life over to the Lord in that way. She wanted to try to clean up her act a bit more before she presented herself to the Lord. So I was happy to tell her that the Lord wanted her to come now and let Him do the cleaning up. In the words of the hymn Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy, “If you tarry ’til you’re better, you will never come at all.” And we prayed with her and for her as she sweetly gave her soul into God’s care.
God’s peace to my new sister.