At the Elders' Meeting Monday evening the kids in the youth group and the sponsors who went to New Orleans reported on their trip. They each spoke about their experience and related a specific story or impression from the trip. Some of the stories recounted interactions with adults or children and the hope they displayed; some were of the overwhelming devastation that remains nearly a year later; many expressed how greatful they are for their homes and families; all conveyed that the experience would remain with them and shape their lives.
As I listened to their stories a number of thoughts ran through my head. First, was that I am proud of our kids for giving not only a week of their summer, but their hearts in service to others. I am thankful for the adults that went with them, and especially so that Dwight went. What an example and blessing for those kids to spend a week with their preacher in that setting. It can't help but give them a different perspective on Sunday mornings.
I was struck by the observation that so many of the kids told of the sense of hope that was expressed by so many of the people they interacted with. I wondered if I would be hopeful in the same situation. I also wondered whether it would take the loss of home, livelihood, or even family to make me recognize that when I put my hope anywhere but in God, I am trusting in sinking sand and drifting wind.
A final thought was that I don't have to go to New Orleans to see people who have suffered or are suffering through their own devasting events, who are struggling, who need the hope that comes only from God. They are all around if I can only learn to see them.