I sat on my porch tonight trying to write a concise post about the all the feelings I’ve had about the neighborhood over the last few weeks. As I started and quickly abandoned a handful of posts, all I could do was cry.
Cry for five years of work, play, joy and sorrow all sown into this neighborhood.
Cry for kids growing up.
Cry for the kids who are changing when I had all but given up hope.
Cry for the kids I had all the hope in the world for who are digging in their heels.
Cry for a million other things that I don’t know how to express.
Crying tears of joy and sadness all at the same time.
This summer has been immensely refreshing for me. Being in Glenwood for 5 years now, I have experienced significant seasons of spiritual drought. But this summer, particularly during and after camp, I have come to know a joy and lightheartedness I never thought I’d get back. As hard as things are in Glenwood, the last month in this neighborhood has pure joy, and that’s something I haven’t been able to say for the last few years.
What has made the difference? I’m not 100% sure. Things haven’t significantly changed in Glenwood. All of the same problems are still here. BUT, I feel like I’m looking through a new lens. God has brought significant emotional healing to me recently, which has given me a greater hope for our friends in the neighborhood. He’s also been teaching me to release control to him (in a number of way), because the truth is, he knows what he’s doing and he’ll always speak when necessary. It’s funny how placing our hope and dependence in Christ can shift our outlook so significantly.
By shifting my hope and dependence back to Christ, I am experiencing the rest my spirit so desperately needs…and out of that rest comes joy unspeakable.
Wednesday night a few folks in Glenwood had a meeting with Grace’s mission pastor, Will Dungee, to do a “status check” of sorts. It was nice to sit with him and just talk about how the neighborhood is doing, how we’re feeling, what our vision is, etc. Diane shared that one of her missionary friends came to visit recently and made the comment that our house (and other believers’ in the neighborhood) was truly a beacon in the neighborhood. I have definitely seen this to be true on a variety of levels, the most important one being that people always know where to come when they need something — be it food or a friendly face. This rang true for me this week.
I saw a good friend Thursday night while on my way to UNCG for an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meeting I was speaking at. My topic for the night was Dependence on God (more on this later), and I was definitely reminded of that during my conversation with my friend. While driving, my friend flagged me down. We made small talk for a few moments, then he turned to leave. As I started to pull off, he came back. He asked if I had heard about the woman who got shot in the head at the hat shop recently. I told him that I hadn’t, and he informed me that it was his sister, the last one he had left. I asked him how he was doing, and he immediately responded, “Oh, uh, yeah. I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.” Then switched gears to how he wanted to tune up my car. It breaks my heart that he lost his sister, but even moreso to know that he’s not depending on God to help him through it. The “I’m okay, no worries” response is one I know all to well, one that basically means “I’m just going to pretend that it didn’t happen because it’s easier that way.” So, instead of depending on the one who can truly love and support him through a time like this, Jesus, my guess is that he’ll turn to alcohol.
Lord, I pray that you would bless my friend. You know him, and you know the pain he’s in. Help him to mourn, and to turn to you when it seems unbarable. Help me know how to support him, and place some men in his life who can speak love and life into him.