As I sit here with tears streaming down my face, heart broken that another young man in my neighborhood lost his life to street violence this weekend and wondering when people are going to start getting angry about this, when people are going to start fighting for our babies, for our young men, for our young girls I can’t shake the thought of the word that’s been pressed into my heart lately, Hope. I am frustrated that this is the word I feel God has given me to meditate on for days, when I see people all around me losing hope. I wonder where hope can be found in the midst of this chaos? I wonder where hope can be found when young people are dying in our streets everyday, I wonder where hope can be found when houses all around me are being raided for drugs, for guns, when my kids are getting removed from their homes and taken away from the only place they’ve ever known. I wonder where hope can be found when there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of my friends who don’t have a place to call home, I wonder where hope can be found when I drive down that street and make eye contact with THAT girl, you know the one who’s selling her body because that’s all she knows right now. For me it’s easy to know that my hope comes from Jesus, I know for a fact that I am living this life and walking this journey because of the hope I have found in Jesus.
But lately I have been overwhelmingly reminded of hope all around me… a few weeks ago I was standing in front of a room full of kids waiting for me to explain to them the meaning of Christmas, as I looked out at their beautiful faces there was one that stood out among them, the face of a boy who’s classified on the streets as trouble, the face of a boy who can’t leave his home after 7 p.m. or before 6 a.m., but has been granted special permission to come and learn about Jesus every Wednesday night. Every Wednesday night I pick up the phone, I call and confirm he is with me and reassure the person on the other end that someone will walk him home at the end of the night, and I will call back and let them know he’s home, why do I do this because for weeks he’s begged and pleaded with me to come to Kids Club, he has BEGGED me to get him permission to come to church on Wednesday nights and learn about Jesus. I don’t know about YOU, but I see HOPE right there in that child! I stood before these sweet kids and explained a Gospel lesson to them using M&M’s several times throughout the night we reviewed the lesson and EVERY single time this boy raised his hand and shouted out the answers. That’s hope… I am constantly reminded that in a world where people have given up on him, where people believe there is no hope for him, I can remind him on an almost daily basis that there is hope for him, and that his hope can be found in Jesus, I can plant seeds and I can pray that someday those seeds will flourish and he too will realize that there is hope for him in this world.
I am reminded of hope when I get up at 6 a.m. a few times a week to drive to a local meth clinic, so that I can spend time with a woman I met on the streets in a homeless park a few weeks ago, I am reminded of this hope when I look deep into her tear filled eyes and she shares with me her struggles, and her desire to change her life. I am reminded of hope when I drive to her spot on Sunday morning because she promises she’s coming to church… and SHE DOES! I am reminded of hope as I drive her home and she asks questions relating to the stories the Elders of our church shared that day, I am reminded of hope when she looks at me and asks me if God can still love her, when she’s addicted to drugs, when she’s choosing the life she’s living, and as I am able to reassure her that not only does God still love her, but I love her, and I believe in her, and I want to walk this journey to a better life with her. Even bigger I am reminded of hope when she leans across the car pulls me close to her hugs me and reminds me that I too am loved by God and many others.
I am reminded of hope as I sit one dark cold early morning in a “ghetto” McDonalds with this same woman hashing through scripture, answering questions and digging deep into the promises that God has for her, and our circle grows, a homeless man joins us, a McDonalds employee on her break joins, a few girls wander in from a long night on the streets and join us, and in that circle I get to hold hands with people of different cultural backgrounds, different ages, with many different journeys and I get to pray blessings over each one of their lives, I get to hug them at the end of our time together and remind them that Jesus loves them and that as we approach the Christmas season he was born and died for them! What a reminder of hope, and as I am walking out the door that day I am stopped by the morning manager of this McDonalds he hands me a gift card and tells me that next time my Jesus sharing breakfast is on him and that I am welcome to bring as many homeless people, street girls and any one else who crosses my path into his McDonalds any time I want.
And finally I am gently reminded of hope when I get to spend Christmas Eve with one of my kids and his mom, when I get to experience a special evening with them, when I get to share my story, my heart and how much I love them. So as much as I am struggling with the word Hope tonight, I know that God has given me this word to meditate on because He wanted me to think about all the examples of Hope he has blessed me with over the past few weeks…
I leave you with one of the verses about hope that I have been meditating on, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer,” Romans 12:12. Tonight I am rejoicing in the hope I have found in Jesus, finding patience in my trials and frustrations right now, and finding myself in constant prayer for those around me who are losing hope. I encourage you to take a step back and find hope in your world this week, whether through scripture, through your own experience or through someone else’s experience and hope.