We are realizing real quick that this journey is for both the lost and for our personal walks as we learn more about who God is in the mist of a broken world. In Albany, we learned more than we served. We worked with Redemption Outreach Center and several other churches in the area. They were all working together to put on a crusade. The focus of the crusade was to knock down the walls of addiction, religion, racism, and bondage. We prayed with them in the evenings and served in small ways as we were needed.
What we learned: Our hearts in reaching the lost are not denomination specific. We understand that the Lord is going to place us with a variety of churches. We have non-negotionable beliefs (The Trinity, Jesus' death and resurrection, the path to salvation, etc..). We do not agree with some of the things that the more "charismatic" churches believe and we will not negotiate or sacrifice our beliefs. We will seek to correct them where they are wrong and also be in a position to be corrected where we are wrong...in hope of being of the same mind...the same biblical, spirit led, effort to reach the lost. Within the past month we have worked with the typical "conservative" churches who have beautiful hearts and are so solid in what they believe biblically. They teach and disciple the way Jesus told them they ought to. With compassion and knowledge. It is so so beautiful. However, their desire to reach the lost and to step outside of the building is sometimes not a priority. Though the churches in Albany are lacking some in their discipleship and teachings, they are actively reaching the lost with the same gospel message...Jesus died and rose again, to save the lost because he loves us all. They have devoted their lives to finding the lost and leading them to the cross. It is so so beautiful. It has been a long time since we have seen a church so heavy for their community. They are determined to see God's spirit save the lost and free the bound. Surely, somewhere between the more conservative church's knowledge of the bible and the charismatic love for the lost there is a place where we can all find the absolute truth...both in our knowledge of scripture and through our actions.
Not every church has it right. Paul was constantly correcting churches as they sought to be more like Christ. "Standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel...Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind" Philippians 1:27b-2:2. We are in this fight together and for the sake of the gospel we will go where the Spirit leads regardless of denomination.
Anyways, we spent the majority of our time in Hammond. We chilled at a little skate park in the area. We brought the kids gatorade and gave them high-fives for doing cool tricks. We were there everyday right after all the kids got out of school. We did not hear one happy story. These kids are hurting so deep and are struggling everyday to control the anger that is built up inside of them. We met a kid who physically fights with his dad often. He said "My dad is missing his teeth and I prolly knocked out 3 or 4 of em." His dad does pills and acts "Stupid." We met a guy who smokes weed and considers himself to be a good kid because he is not doing the same drugs that the rest of his family does...like crack.
A kid, Jordan, told us that he doesn't believe in God because he had watched a video on youtube that attempted to disprove God. We gave him Indescribable by Louie Giglio and made him pinky promise us he would watch it. We watched his video and realized how easy it is for kids to believe anything...but Jesus sometimes. Jordan avoided us for the rest of the week. We met a kid named Brooke. She was super sweet and excited to hear about the Gospel. We gave her a bible and she pinky promised that she would read it. We met a girl named Angie. That girl be so crazy and energetic. We love with our whole hearts. After an awkward approach...given by Stacie Hooks naturally...we learned that she shares the same story as Stacie. Our hearts broke. We hung out with her as often as we could. At the end of our stay we were compelled by love to tell her the greatest story ever told. Kids were talking about drugs and sex and cussed every other word the entire time we were there. They seek so hard to find meaning in all of the wrong places. We sat as a group of kids started lighting up some "legal weed." Though we do not have much to offer, we gave all of these skater kids what we knew...love. We tried to love them through gatorade, through talking, through listening, and through sharing the story of Jesus. We prayed for them everyday and will continue to pray for them every night. We are learning more and more everyday what it means to be broken for the things that break the heart of God. Though we struggled to find opportunity to share the story of Jesus with Angie, we literally could not help ourselves. We love her too much. We love them all too much.
The darkness that we, as a church so often talk about, runs deeper in this world than we ever imagined. It is more than just a thin layer that covers the planet. It is a deep hurt that controls the lives of so many individuals. But :) we serve a God who is bigger and deeper and wider and brighter than all of this pain. "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:4-5.