Last week I had the privilege of hanging out with sixteen other individuals, mostly teenagers in downtown Atlanta. We had the privilege of serving some amazing people who are going through a difficult season of life. Each night we returned to our rooms to take a shower and sleep in a bed (or on an air mattress). But many of those we served had neither a warm shower nor a safe place to lay their head. I thought of that as I went to sleep each night. I gave thanks as I was welcomed home by my wife and sons at the end of that week. The world of the homeless and impoverished is a different world than my own on most every level I can imagine.
Seeing poverty’s face upclose and personal made it more than a mission trip. A child waits for a hug. A homeless man waits for hope. A refugee looks for home. Fear chases their hearts. They keep running. What will they do?
And then comes Christ. Yes Christ comes to them – in the form of a 13-year-old girl. She has freckles, braces, shorts that are too short and a little bit of a diva in her. She gets out of the van and sees a moment of opportunity to love someone. She opens her heart and reaches out to the child. She talks to him as another teenager paints a balloon on his face. She laughs with him as he jumps in the bounce house. He exits and the chase is on, giggling as he goes and his friend closes in to tackle him to the ground. She picks him up and he wraps his arms around her neck. For this short moment, he is valued. His heart feels joy. He has trusted someone to be his friend. She has been faithful to do so. His mother stands at a distance and watches thankful for a few minutes that she can talk with an adult about solutions to their dilemma.
For this brief moment, despair is pushed away. Light shines in their darkness. Hope has a chance to rise up. A new day has come. And they will sleep that night in the confidence that something magical happened that day. He saw Jesus. She did too.
(Thanks to The Dream Center Atlanta for the opportunity to serve alongside them.)