Saturday, October 25, 2008

From Gangs to God and Making a Difference

This past week, I spent too much time in meetings. Two days in a row I had to drive an hour out to South Lancaster to sit for more than 9 hours, then drive home, eat supper, go to a board meeting and sit for another 2+ hours. The third day, I didn’t have the board meeting, and I got out an hour earlier, but I still spent a lot of time sitting in meetings. It didn’t help, either, that I was missing the first three days of what I found out on Thursday afternoon (when I could see and hear for myself) was an amazing Week of Prayer here at school.

I had been disappointed to be missing it from the beginning because the young man who was doing the music portion of each day is a former student of mine. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that another former student, now a pastor, was giving the devotionals each morning for my meetings! I knew then that I was still in for a treat.

This young man is a gifted writer (could it be he had a great English teacher in Academy?!!! Or maybe it’s because his aunt was my own high school English teacher. Either way, he’s made his own way since he left us nearly 10 years ago, writing a book, Waiting at the Altar, and editing and publishing a beautiful magazine, New England Pastor. He’s also published a book of his photographs of New England.). He is also a gifted communicator, so you can well imagine that I was blessed each morning, that, in fact, his inspiration made the trip worth it each day. He talked about how God is waiting for us to respond to His love in the way that He has responded towards us. “Will you just look to Me, my Cross? Will you just consider me?” He asks. “If you do, that Love will compel you to once and for all say Yes to me and live a life of happiness forever and ever.”

Tuesday morning, we had the privilege of attending Atlantic Union College’s Education Day Chapel. The speaker was another inspiration, this time because she challenged us to make a difference in others’ lives. Of course since this was an Education Day, she particularly emphasized the difference teachers can make. She had us think about a favorite teacher and then share with the person next to us why that teacher had made a difference in our lives. In a somewhat surprising coincidence, my sharing partner’s favorite teacher was also one of mine: an English professor from our graduate school days. Even though we were not at the university together, we both had the same experience with “Mother Merlene” in that she was firm but loving, challenging but down-to-earth. She made a difference to so many of her students and, in a way, she is reaching out to my students now because of the influence she had on me.

Back at school on Thursday afternoon, I had the chance to talk with my young musician friend. We reminisced about the people we had in common who influenced our lives. We talked about the summer we were on tour to South Africa, Egypt, Israel and Jordan with the college choir and New England Youth Ensemble (he in the choir, me in the orchestra). We talked about the two directors and the impact they made on us. He talked about the plans God has for his life, witnessing to others through his music. We both acknowledged that we’ve seen God working in our lives, sometimes giving us things to do that weren’t initially part of our life plans, but clearly part of His. Part of God’s plan has been to give us the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s lives. The huge side benefit of this is the blessing they’ve been to us.

Our speaker for the week was a former gang member, well on his way to becoming its leader. He lived a life of extreme violence before his conversion. Friday night, he shared that story. It was a horrific yet amazing account of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. I’ve heard and read a lot of incredible conversion stories, but this one, for some reason, was different. It brought most listeners, young and older alike, to tears as we all realized the significance of God’s incredible grace. Even now, a day later, I remain overwhelmed (in a good way) about it all…

1 comment:

Heidi said...'ve been busy. That's a lot of meetings...and a lot of good messages.