This past week I had the opportunity to travel with our church’s youth group to Nashville, TN on a mission trip. After years and years of leading these kinds of trips, this was the first one I wasn’t in charge of, and thus had some more time on my hands to simply observe and enjoy. We worked with an organization called Y.E.S. (Youth Encouragment Services) which has three different locations spread throughout the poorer areas of Nashville. The closest thing I could compare it to is a Boys and Girls club, but I think the comparison might do injustice.
Y.E.S. serves kids from ages 4 to seniors in high school. All in the same gym. Now, everything I have ever been taught about working with kids told me a step like this would never work. How on God’s green earth would a four year old be able to effectively interface with a senior in high school? Wouldn’t the senior think playing with a four year old as something stupid and not worth the time?
Well, as you might think – I was wrong. I am a lot, actually. Immediately, we were struck by the simplicity and beauty of this organization. The main leader, David simply had to blow his whistle once and all of the kids lined up and got quiet to hear him share what they were going to do today. Really. 80 kids got quiet at the sound of one whistle. And, it isn’t what you think. This guy wasn’t a drill sergeant or an intimidator. Those kids simply respected and trusted him.
This was a top-down thing, actually. I believe the reason these little kids trusted and respected the leader so much was because the oldest kids in the room trusted him first. The high school students stopped and listened when he blew the whistle. So, the little kids did too. Really, I had never seen anything like it.
Many of these kids had complete crap for a home life. Outside of this place, there was chaos. But here, they had someone to trust and respect. At Y.E.S. there was food, shelter, safety, fun, relationships. Inside those walls, the chaos from the outside had no place.
When reading through the passages for this week (which by the way have been my favorite in a while), the last section of Psalms 65 got me thinking about my Nashville experience:
You take care of the earth and water it,
making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
for you have ordered it so.
You drench the plowed ground with rain,
melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
and bless its abundant crops.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy!
My hometown is Wichita Falls, TX – which has made national news due to an extended drought which has all but drained their water supply. It is a barren and thirsty place that is screaming for what is written in these scriptures. So, naturally when I read this I think about my hometown.
But, I also think about places like Y.E.S. and their impact on communities. My question is, what if Y.E.S. was not in that neighborhood? Would it survive? Probably. But, think about what life would look like for that community if there were not places actively seeking ways to bring the light of Jesus in? I think about places like Y.E.S. bringing the kind of life that is talked about in this passage.
This is what Jesus brings to the dry and barren places of our world. When followers of Jesus gather and serve in His name, it is like a hard rain on a parched land. Where there was once cracked earth comes a lush pasture. Hardened earth becomes soft and yields a bountiful harvest.
So, the question is – are you part of something like this? Is your community bringing these things into the barren areas in your scope of influence? Is your community trustworthy, known as people to respect, or even a place of refuge from hardship? From the top-down, can people see the fingerprints of Christ?
Let’s talk, folks. I want to hear what you think about this. Comment responsibly below!