I usually woke early way before the others who would serve that day. My essentials gathered : coffee, devotional and bible. I sat between the rising sun and the setting moon. I needed to meet with God to try to make sense of what I was feeling and seeing. Try reconcile old with new and allow God’s presence to refresh my already weary soul.
The old wooden pew retrieved from some now obscure church sat facing what is basically an open field with a volleyball net strung between two poles, setting beside it a barrel for trash. Off to the left side a swing set made of wood in bad need of repair. To the right four worn-out trailer homes gutted; three made into bunkhouses for the campers to stay in, one a makeshift storage area. Several handmade wooden benches sat at various places throughout to offer some seating for campers taking a break from activities. All around this a fence placed there to protect the most precious packages contained therein. The fence leaning against the onslaught of the trees that surrounded the forlorn looking playground and camping areas.
So many things needing to be done to make this a safe place, a good place for them to come. A place of refuge and hope. A place they can be a kid, eat and sleep in peace. So many things to do and yet the ONE permeating thought is the ONE thing He wants the most from me is for His love to show through and let His light push back the dark.
The area looked different and yet so many things the same. A large part of the businesses were gone. Homes gone and not too many new ones to take their place. The old down town being engulfed in kudzu and weeds. The school or what’s left of it preserved and used for community events.
Families come and go. Some have lived there decades and continue to do so. Etching out an existence in the vast open corridor of Northwest Oklahoma. Not much in the way of industry, jobs, or potential happens there. It’s not uncommon for people to drive upwards of an hour for schooling or work each day.
Spending part of my middle, teen and young adult days growing there I did not see it then the way I do now. I experienced a small home, family and friends who played together. Who worked together, and supported each other. Kids played outside. Families had gardens and shared. There were the usual weird people with mental illness and dangerous pedophiles. Everyone knew where they lived and who they were and watched them.
Now I see the same town, some of the same families; but I see it differently. Maybe it is because I am older more cynical. Drug and alcohol addiction are open and plain for the world to see and judge. You know who the weird and crazy ones are but no one watches as they ravage the young or go homeless and without. Families fall apart and no one steps in to help. What little sense of community is left is about dancing, gambling or gossip.
Later that same evening as the moon rose and the sun set…I saw her there in the service setting beside her friends. Deep brown eyes searching; hidden secrets she never spoke of covered by long shiny brown hair. No one noticed her tears quietly slipping down her face as testimonies were given. Finally her heart could not hold back the well of deep pain she kept hidden for the most part and she gave way; bent over sobbing into her lap. These kids; unseen, forgotten, used, made to feel unworthy. Their homes filled with drugs, alcohol, violence and people who take advantage of their innocence only seek a place of refuge; A place to belong and be safe. Some have never been kids; raising siblings as if they were the adult, rarely able to play with the free abandon of a child.
Longing to be treasured. Noticed. Adored.
There are those from when I grew up that try to carry on tradition but are so weary from the burden they burn out, give up and join the world. It seems as if a cloud of poverty and despair blanket the area. There are churches there attempting to offer hope. Only God knows how difficult the task is reaching into the community. The kids that come to the camp come from some of the same homes and churches. I can’t help but think there needs to be more. An outreach to the families, revive a true sense of community. Pour into them the love and hope of Jesus before during and after camp. Bring the area churches together in unity and shared vision to reach the lost, restore family, and hope.
Unity is defined as: the state of being united or joined as a whole. It also means…an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting. I think however I like the last definition as found in Aristotle’s Poetics, that states, “each of the three dramatic principles requiring limitation of the supposed time of a drama to that occupied in acting it or to a single day ( unity of time ), use of one scene throughout ( unity of place ), and concentration on the development of a single plot ( unity of action ).”
That is what a true sense of community is. It is unity among people in time, in this place with one action – LOVE. It is not seeing the difference in economic status or skin color or what denomination you attend. It isn’t seeing the addiction or shame. Its seeing with HIS eyes, Loving with HIS heart and helping with HIS hands. Its taking back families, towns, cities. Its running evil out on its last leg and slamming the gates and fortifying it with His protective hedge. Its bringing in the light and pushing back the dark.
That was attempted by our group in this time, in this place and through our action. Some were given love, some patience, some hope. Whatever we gave we were given back exponentially. From groundhogs to grocery store runs and everything in between. Our hearts will forever be changed.