Thank goodness that God created us in such a way that we are able to form our own opinions and impressions, and not dwell in what other people predict our journey to look like, because from the very first step I took inside of Crane Creek Baptist Church on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I've never felt more love and been more blessed to be in the middle of nowhere in my entire life.
It's a feeling like no other, really. When you can just see God's hand move all around the area, and know that His plan for you is perfect, yes, that's right, perfect.
And then there's a completely and totally different feeling that overwhelms you at times, the feeling of the presence of evil, the presence of Satan, and one thing I've learned this summer is Satan is a genius, and he knows what he's doing. And boy did our team feel the weight of Satan, on a daily basis, but God is more powerful than any force of evil that will ever cross this earth.
Before I began this summer, my constant prayer was for God to reveal one thing that He wanted to show me in my life this summer, and the very first week I knew what it was, God wanted me to see how much love He has for me, and for others, but in a more physical way than I've ever been able to comprehend.
Let me tell you about my friend Bob, Bob is a man who can cook but more importantly He loves God more than anything else I've ever noticed, oh and one other thing, Bob doesn't give a rat's behind about any material things that he possesses, yeah that's right, ANY material things he possesses.
During week 2, the team and I tackled Bob's house, which wasn't a huge project, but a project none the less that involved re-roofing his roof that was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina, and God really couldn't have chosen a better group to repair Bob's roof, they were fast, compassionate, and joyful in the work that they were doing for Bob, but more importantly for the Lord. And on Thursday of that week, they left satisfied and Bob was elated to see that his house was coming into fruition because of his roof.
And then, God humbled me more than I've ever been humbled in my life, and it didn't even directly affect me. The very next day, Mississippi encountered an awful thunderstorm, complete with hail, and high speed winds, and the tarp that was once protecting Bob's roof, was blown off due to the wind and the roof came crashing down which caused the ceiling to crash down, which in turn caused Bob's whole house to cave in and collapse on him, leaving him speechless but saying "that was worse than Katrina". What? Worse than Katrina, the Hurricane that took your whole city off the map? I couldn't even fathom the immensity of the thunderstorm that destroyed Bob's newly remodeled house, and one thing I will never forget is walking into his house the next day, and not being able to move around because of the insulation and ceiling and wall that was in what was his living room, and the water that soaked through His daughter's letter from her deceased mother, and the insulation that drowned the clothes that they had on their backs the day before, all I could do was go back to the church and weep, and I cried out to God, "why do You bless me with so much? When they now have nothing!" His response, "do you now see how much I love you?"
Bob reacted like Christ to the destruction of his house, I never saw him frown, the next week our team went to his house and rebuilt the roof, and cleaned up inside the house the whole time Bob asked how we were doing, and if he could cook anything for us, and saying what he always says best "God bless you and I love you". The last day of the week we went up to the roof to finish the tar paper, and it started raining again, because of the heart that our whole team possesses, we wanted to finish the roof before we got down because of the rain, as the last nail was driven into the tarp, I was about to make my way down to the ladder to get off the roof, and then I blacked out, the next thing I remember is waking up with people all around me and not being able to feel my left leg. Bob came running out, and the team surrounded me with compassion and drove me to the hospital, where I found out that I had a dislocated knee, and I messed up my ankle a little bit more.
I don't see it as a coincidence that I fell off in the rain, more importantly in the rain at Bob's house. The setting in which Bob was the most humbled, and in which Bob's life made a complete 180 was because of his roof during a storm, and the moment that God humbled me the most through the physical suffering that I went through was on Bob's roof, during a thunderstorm.
Friends, God always knows what He's doing, no matter how much you doubt Him.
By the grace of God, I was able to keep on keepin on, as we welcomed the next group into Hancock County, and we danced and we sang together the first night in beautiful harmony. A couple of hours later my competitive side kicked in and I played soccer with some of the kids, I was running down with the ball and then, pop...I've never fallen harder to the ground before in my life, and I felt that I didn't have an ankle anymore, after going to the hospital the ER doctor walked in and said "buddy, I'm sure you've done great work around here, but your summer is over, you're going to have to have surgery as soon as possible".
God is not coincidental, everything that He does has purpose.
In a city of very few, a church population of even fewer, and the radio only playing two stations that have nothing but disdain for each other, I met Jesus Christ in the most real and physical way than I have before in my life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
As I read through my Bible tonight, I had to stop myself in John 13, when Jesus is washing His disciples feet, when Jesus is serving those whom He loves most, Jesus and Simon Peter are in a dialogue and Jesus Himself says words that completely rocked my world, "what I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand." (13:7)
You're right God, I don't understand, to be honest with you I'm confused, but Lord, help me yearn for the 'afterward' that You promise.
Another thing I've learned this summer, if you truly want to live like Christ, you're going to have to want to suffer and be okay with suffering because that's what Christ did, actually it was the crux of His ministry, and if we want to live like Christ without the desire of suffering, than we aren't really living like Christ.
Just because I'm doing what God has called me to do this summer doesn't mean that I have a "get out of suffering free" card, I may not understand what His plan is, but I do feel restful in His plan already, simply because I know it's not something I can control.
This summer, God turned my fear of the unknown into a yearning for the unknown, and I felt God more this summer than I ever have and because of it, this has been the hardest summer of my life, even though it was cut short.
I don't know what His plan is, but I do know that He loves me enough to allow me to suffer, to allow me to be able to preach His Word in Mississippi, and build incredible lifelong friendships, and love like I've never loved before.
His thoughts are not my thoughts, His ways are not my ways, His plans are not my plans.
Even though I have to leave Next Step Ministries due to another surgery and not being able to walk, God has humbled me more in this moment right here than I could ever imagine.
We must do what God has called us to do, without taking any of the credit, because the credit belongs to the Creator.
Today is my last day with Next Step for the summer, with the team around me that God picked out, and with the community that loves unconditionally, I can still say, no matter what suffering I have gone through or will go through, God is so stinkin good.
And He loves you, a love that involves pain, sacrifice, and a different agenda, I've learned that's the kind of love that I want to fall into.
Thank you, Yahweh.