Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Biggest Project: Chardon

On February 27, 2012 the community of Chardon was devastated by a shooting at Chardon High School.  The shooting resulted in the death of three students and serious injuries in two others.  On March 1st, three of us went to Chardon to set up a Prayer Station, seeking to minister to this hurting community.  Through a partnership with Wretched (with Todd Friel), we were able to return today for The Biggest Project.  With the help of Trish Ramos, we were sent 1,100 copies of The Biggest Question DVD to pass out in Chardon.  This is an amazing video which gives a powerful and clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Holding an outreach in Cleveland in March can be interesting.  Just a few weeks ago, on our first trip to Chardon, we nearly left with frostbite.  March usually brings more of the same, with a couple feet of snow on the ground.  Not to mention the fact that Chardon is right in the snow belt!  But God had other plans for us today, with bright, sunny skies and a temperature right around 80 degrees.

Our team planned to meet at the square in Chardon at 10:30 AM.  Three of us left together from Lighthouse Alliance Church, while the rest of the team would meet at the square.  Upon arrival, we gathered at the pavilion, which has served as a community memorial.  We spent some time in prayer together for the day.  Team members took DVDs around to hand out to those out for a walk, as well as into some of the small shops around the square.  I was blown away by the team that God had put together.  There were 11 people on site from 6 different churches!  Not to mention Chris and Rachel Chumita (from Lighthouse) who has taken the time to assemble the DVDs and get them ready for distribution.

The Biggest Team:
-Ben Adams
-Beth Morris
-Jessica Morris
-Mindi Morris
-Joy Bowman
-Ryan Muniak
-Rich Garey
-Dave Wible
-Darrell Stevens
-Joe Conkle
-Paul Yanchek

After spending almost two hours at the square, we headed over to the local Wendy's, owned by Darrell, where he provided lunch for all of us.  The, it was time to make our way over to the school.

We parked at the square and walked almost a mile to the school, as there was no public parking there and no parking on the streets.  We were almost there when Beth called me.  She had arrived before we got there.  The principal had come out and told her that we could not be there.  After hearing that we were not there to bother or intimidate the students, she seemed to back off, saying it was fine as long as we stayed off school property.  She went back inside, leaving an assistant in a car nearby to keep an eye on us.

Our main spot was at the entrance to the student parking lot, across the street from the school.  It didn't take long for a couple of cop cars to drive by.  One stopped to let us know the principal filed a complaint against us, but he assured us that we were within our rights on the public sidewalk.  We did our very best to be courteous and respectful to all that we dealt with and kind to every student, wanting to assure them that we were there out of love and support for them.  I cannot blame them for being on edge with us.  The Westboro Baptist Church people have made a couple of threats over the past couple of weeks to come and protest student funerals.  I can only assume they immediately thought we were somehow connected to that group.

I wrestled with my feelings.  The last thing I wanted to do was add any hurt to this school and this community.  I know the principal has had to have gone through an emotional roller coaster over the past few weeks.  But we reminded ourselves that there were students who certainly have been asking and wondering about eternity since the shooting.

As the students began to leave school, we had mixed reviews.  Overall, they were positive and DVDs were taken with kind words of thanks.  Some students ignored us.  Some were upset that we were there.  In the midst of the hurt these kids are facing, I cannot blame them for feeling some resentment at "outsiders" swarming their town.  One student who had taken a DVD came back with a hand-written note expressing his displeasure.  A few others shared his sentiment of "leave us alone."  Other students, though, asked what it was about and after hearing it was about the Gospel took one gladly.

At one point, a woman came up to some of the ladies in the team to talk to them.  When I saw her hug one of the team members, I assumed it wasn't an angry teacher.  It turned out to be a parent whose husband was a pastor as well as a member of the Chardon school board.  She wanted an address where she could send a thank you note to us for what we were doing.

Ben and I were set up at the exit to the parking lot, which was right across from where the school weight room was.  It was a renovated garage and the door was open.  Inside, it looked like the baseball team doing their daily workout.  With so many students right there, we agonized realizing that we could not go over to them.  Next thing you know, one of them comes out of the open garage door and runs across the street.  He asked for a DVD and wanted to take some to the other guys in the weight room.  Ben gave him a stack and he ran back, faithfully giving a DVD to his teammates.

Two students drove by and asked what the DVD was.  We said it was about the Gospel, they asked for a copy, saying, "God bless you guys!"

After being at the school for a little over an hour, realizing that any students left would be there for a while with their activities, we decided it was time to get our now sun-burnt selves on the road before rush hour got too bad.

This project was such a blessing.  To see the love and compassion from the people at Wretched - so far away from us, but whose hearts were filled with a desire to get the hope of the Gospel to this community.  I was blessed by this beautiful team of brothers and sisters in Christ from different churches coming together under the banner of the Gospel.  While there were some bumps from the higher ups and a few students (all understandable), the overall response of the students was positive.

I pray the project will prove to make a difference in many lives in Chardon.  No student will ever know who we were.  All that matters is that they hear about Jesus.  I pray that students are being drawn to put their trust in Jesus Christ this very night in response to what they see in this video.

For now, we catch our breath.  But not too long, as it will soon to time to gear up for part 2 at Baldwin Wallace College.

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