Have you ever had a moment come along during your life when you were completely and utterly broken? A moment that wrecked you to the very core of your being, and reduced you to nothing but a pile of smoldering ashes? Something that didn’t just gently tug at your heart strings, but ripped them from the shell of human dust you were created from? These moments can be devastating but life altering in the same breath. I believe these are moments that God uses to show us things in life we may either be ignoring, or just innocently unaware of.
I experienced one such moment about three years ago.
We had just recently moved to Charlotte to volunteer with the inner city youth ministry called One7 that I frequently write about on this blog. I won’t go into all the details about the ministry here in this post. Check out the One7 link at the top of the page. I was asked if I wanted to visit a handful of apartments where some of our younger soccer players lived. We would go there and see if they needed anything like food, furniture, etc. I am a completely different person now than I was back then. Now, I wouldn’t think twice about it. Heck, I would even drive the van to get there. Back then, I was a little hesitant, but I agreed to go.
There were five of us that went. I can’t remember what my wife was doing, but she wasn’t there with us. I really had no idea what to expect once we started knocking on doors. It was nearly dark, twilight had begun to overtake the skyline of Charlotte. Long shadows cast curious, and somewhat frightening shapes on the streets and neighboring buildings as we stepped out into the cool air. I had just moved from Johnson City, TN where the closest thing to gang violence was a group of preschoolers jumping on a teacher. I had no experience whatsoever with an inner city area like what we were stepping into. We had been helping out at One7, but just at the main meeting place, and that was only twice a week.
I had yet to truly step out of my comfort zone and open my eyes to a hurting community all around me.
When we arrived at the apartment complex and climbed out of the vehicle, I immediately felt as if I was in a third world country. The people we passed on the stairwells and the sidewalks were all from other parts of the world. I didn’t see one Caucasian anywhere in the vicinity. I began to wonder how we would communicate with the people if they didn’t speak English. I knew the kids that came to One7 could speak the language, but what if their parents couldn’t? How would we truly know what their needs were?
It didn’t take long to realize words wouldn’t have to be spoken to see what these families lacked. We entered the first apartment, after taking off our shoes in respect for their culture, and I looked around, shocked. At One7, I had witnessed smiling faces of kids who laughed and played with everyone else as if they had no cares in the world. Now, standing inside an apartment with the family, I wondered how they could act like that. Roaches were everywhere, not only in the kitchen. There was barely any furniture. Makeshift beds were scattered in different rooms on the floor. Younger siblings were walking around barely clothed.
My first thought was how could anyone be living like this in America. Sure, I had watched enough TV to know people suffered all around the world in these conditions, but right here? In my own backyard? I couldn’t comprehend that. I had heard stories of people in suffering, but I was experiencing it first hand, and it started to hurt. With every minute we spent looking around the apartment, checking the kitchen for food, and visiting with the families, a little more of my heart began to break. Every place we visited had barely any food in the kitchen, if any at all. We discovered mostly scavenging roaches, and even they were finding it difficult to come up with anything.
After leaving each apartment, it took more and more self control not to start crying. Each living situation told the same story. When we were finished, I returned to my car and started home. I couldn’t hold back any longer. I wept all the way back to our house. There were several emotions that formed the root cause of my tears. Empathy. Shock. Despair. Guilt. Those are a few. I say guilt because I started thinking about all the things I complained about, and I nearly vomited. These kids have lived through, and are still enduring, hardships in their young lives that I will never have to face in my entire lifespan.
That was a moment in my life I will never forget. We went back the next day and delivered food to all the families. It was such an amazing feeling being able to do that. God continues to bring people to our doorstep who are in desperate need of help. The broken. The hurting. The lost. The homeless. The fatherless. He uses us in small ways to slowly start the seeding process of Christ in these young lives. We are called to go into the world and make disciples. It’s not a responsibility we take lightly or for granted. God puts people in our lives for a reason.
The moment we forget there are others all around us who are suffering, is the moment we turn our backs on love.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook by clicking on the appropriate link to the right. Thanks!
Have a blessed day