Since we got back from Camp Grace, I've been going downtown a couple times a week and helping out with several of the ministries that brought kids up to camp. I'm sharing this fact not to "toot my own horn" so to speak, but to tell you a little bit about how blessed I've been through serving. The Lord continually teaches me, stretches me, and blesses me with overflowing joy each time I go serve in the projects and share love with some deserving kids.
I am struck each time I drive downtown by the poverty that surrounds me. Boarded-over windows, barbed wire, broken-down cars and trash litter and line the streets. When we pull up to Herndon Homes (the largest project in Atlanta) it looks nicer than I expected, it is not until Jeremy points out the drug dealers on the corner and the "dime bags" that once held crack all over the ground that I realize I've entered a whole different world, one I've never before experienced or imagined.
My heart breaks with fear and pain as I watch two year olds waddle around in nothing more than a diaper, drinking grape soda from a can, mindless of the minefield of broken glass that his little feet navigate fearlessly.
At children's church this Sunday, a beautiful young girl asks me to pray for her mom - when I ask for details she says she can't tell in front of so many people - when i ask if she wants to whisper in my ear, she nods vigorously before informing me that her mom's in jail and she has been separated from her brothers and sisters and is living with her aunt. Tears well in her eyes (and mine) as I do the only thing I know how to: pray earnestly that the Lord will show us a way out, and that he will rescue her from her circumstances.
Later, a polite and helpful young man who often helps us with our ministry reveals that he has been suspended for misbehaving in school. His mom adds that he has threatened to re-open a DFCS case on her, and he protests strongly when his mother says she's trying to get his father to pay child support (he argues that his father shouldn't be to blame)
I cannot help but wonder how any of these kids can be expected to rise above their circumstances . . .we are quick to label them lazy and "bad" from the comfort of our four bedroom homes with big yards and full fridges - but how will they know a different way to live unless WE show them. They desperately need to know that they're worth it, that they deserve more than they have been dealt, and that their heavenly Father cares infinitely more about them than their earthly fathers seem to . . .
I am excited every time I get to go downtown and spend time with these kids, knowing that in them I encounter the Lord, who became the poor and hurting as He died on the cross. . . Never before has my faith felt as vibrant and real as it does when i am serving these kids.
"The Lord of Hosts says this: "Render true justice. Show faithful love and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the stranger or the poor. . ." Zachariah 7:9-10a