Thursday, March 1, 2012
Well, today was not what I expected. This morning, I was joined by two friends to head over to Chardon to set up a Prayer Station, hoping to somehow be used by God to minister to this hurting community. We set up at the square in town where all the vigils have been held and where a memorial has been established at the gazebo. News trucks were all over. A steady flow of people were coming and going to the gazebo to read some of the letters and poems left there. Others were going to grieve and reflect.
We were there for about two hours or so. Many people walked by, including some of the high school students. Many tracts were gladly received. In fact, I can only think of two people who would not take one. The pain on everyone's faces was evident. Each had their own story of how they were impacted by Monday's shooting. One woman shared how she lived just a few houses away from where the shooter was caught by the police, and how that impacted her. Probably the most emotional conversation was when we met the uncle of one of the boys who had been killed. Most people did not want to stop and talk. I can understand that. However, as they took tracts, the also gave a sincere thanks that we were out there for them.
Since getting home, I have been surprised at how this has impacted me. My heart breaks for what this community has endured. I wasn't sure how things would go today. It was possible that we wouldn't interact with a single person. We just felt like God had put on our hearts to just be there and be available. I believe He worked through us. My prayer is that we were only to offer the hope of the Christ and minister some comfort to someone. But I know I left there personally touched. These people have faced one of the worst tragedies a person could face. I guess I needed to be there at "ground zero" to see the very real pain on their faces. Maybe I needed a reminder of what ministry is about. It is about people. They are not cold, nameless faces. They are real people facing real pain and needing the fullness of the Gospel. And this is not just true of the people of Chardon. This is any number of people I pass on a daily basis. Granted, not facing the same level of pain as those in Chardon. But pain nonetheless. The pain of a broken marriage. The pain of the loss of a job. The pain of a nasty divorce. And the list goes on.
Today it was easy to remember the need for gentleness and compassion. But later this summer, maybe while at Rockin' on the River, I will be face to face with people. Real people with real pain and in real need of the fullness of the Gospel. I couldn't imagine being cold and detached in Chardon today. I don't want to be cold and detached later, either. While I am not a fan of "friendship evangelism," that doesn't mean I have to embrace heartless and cold evangelism, either. I want to share with them the clear and uncompromised message of Jesus, but I also want to take the extra time to hear their story. Their questions. Their pain.
There are two old sayings:
-"Proclaim the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."
-"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
These quotes sound great, but are riddled with problems. For me, I don't want to show them love then eventually tell them about Jesus. I also don't want to tell them about Jesus and eventually think about showing them love. I want to tell them about Jesus while showing them love and gentleness. The people of Chardon needed that today. I think I meet more people like that than I realize.
Please pray for the people of Chardon. Please pray for all those in all places who do not know Christ.