This summer I got to participate in a lot of ministry. But if I only ‘did’ ministry and didn’t listen and learn, then I would be doing it wrong. In this series, ‘Summer School’ I present some of the lessons God taught me.
Summer School Lesson 4: Are you Happy to Wake Up in the Morning?
We were deep in the devastated ninth ward of New Orleans. I was with my team of high school missionaries, working at a Community Garden- a bright spot of hope in a place that had lost everything to Katrina. About an hour into our work, we had a visitor from the community. He was an older gentleman- a patriarch of the community- who had heard our team was there and stopped by to see us. He spoke to us for over an hour, prodding our comfortable minds with questions about philosophy and sociology and Katrina. He was interesting and intimidating. He began by asking us this: “How are you kids doing today, are you happy to be alive this morning?”
When our team responded positively and enthusiastically, he challenged us. “Why?” he asked. “Do you believe that when you die, you will go to a better place? Then why would you be happy to wake up and still be here?”
Some of the kids answered a bit, but this gentleman- an old and practiced philosopher- pressed every challenge down with the same basic response: if you believe you will go to a better place, then why would you be happy to be here?
Finally, I gave my answer: “If I woke up here this morning, then God is not done with me here. If He is not done with me here, then I am happy to be where He wants me to be.”
The old philosopher did not like this answer. “Let’s leave God out of it. Then we can talk on mutual ground.”
I smiled (it was a powerful, but not antagonistic conversation) and told him the truth. I could not leave God out of it. His is the lens through which I view the entire world.
The philosopher considered this, but then changed topics and went on to challenge us on other things.
It was just the next day that we met another gentleman, Brett, who gave us some perspective on it. He was a graduating resident of the Timothy House, a New Orleans ministry that looks to restore people enslaved by drugs, alcohol, and despair. They describe themselves in their website: In this world of multitudes of therapies, costly hospital treatments, and rip-off quick fixes, we are honored at the opportunity to share with you what we have found in Jesus Christ — the answer.
Brett told us a jaw-dropping tale about his life as a supervising floor nurse. He told us about riding out Katrina and the aftermath on duty in a flooded hospital. He told us about the decisions that had to be made when the power and generators quit and life support machines failed. It was truly a hell that I could hardly bear to hear, much less envision actually experiencing. He told us about the psychological toll it took and how he eventually turned to drugs to escape, if just for a moment, the hell in his head. There is much more to his story that I cannot do justice to here. He told us of reaching a point of total loss and desperation, and finding himself at the Timothy House. He told us about finding hope again. He grabbed that hope, found in the blood of Christ, and did not let go. He got clean, literally and spiritually. Now he is about to graduate, but is not leaving. He has decided to stay behind as a counselor, to give hope to others.
Then, with no knowledge of what we had heard the day before, he told us this: ‘I had lost hope and any reason to get up every morning. Now I love getting up every morning to do this work of God, and to see what He will do.’ That’s why Brett is happy to get up every morning and see another day.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lam 3:22-23.