I’ve had two weeks to process what happened during Blanket Appalachia (other than the Just As I Am incident) and I figured if I don’t write it down, it is quickly going to get swallowed up in my brain.
I’ve never been that close to that much devastation wrought by drugs. There is a distinct difference between seeing some pictures on a website and standing close enough to smell the smoky breath of a guy who fried his brain on years of abusing drugs. It was an eye-opening experience.
I could dwell all day on the bad news from my time in Manchester, KY. But then, like the news media, I’d miss the real story. God is at work there. He is “restoring what the locust has eaten” (check out Joel 1 and 2). Friday night we met an amazing pastor of the First Baptist Church in town and he told us the story of he and a Pentacostal pastor in town getting together to pray once a week for the city. Over the course of a year those two pastors meeting to pray became 150 pastors and laypeople meeting to pray for their community. Through that prayer meeting they formed a march against drugs that would eventually lead to even high-ranking local government officials being carted off to jail in FBI handcuffs. All because God’s people prayed.
The best part about that pastor’s story was the end, when (like a master artist) he painted us into the story. Some yuppie North Carolina college students, campus ministers, and church people fit right into this story. We were directly answers to prayers of those pastors and laypeople. He told us how God was going to use us the next day to bring people into His kingdom. Not only had they had a political and social renewal and overhaul in Clay county, KY—they were ripe for a spiritual renewal. And God had brought us in to love the people well, to challenge them with the gospel of grace, and to take a few giant leaps of faith with them.
I don’t know if I would have appreciated what I was doing all day Saturday had I not been painted into the bigger picture. Sharing my faith with strangers without a bigger picture is exhausting. Joining God in what he is doing, on the other hand, is exhilirating. We got the chance to see 26 people trust Christ the next day, and 1300 people left with jackets, blankets, socks, and Bibles. We initiated spiritual conversations with every person that walked through the door. Some of them had all of their teeth rotted out of their head from several months of meth abuse. Some of them couldn’t complete sentences because they were still blitzed from the night before (at 9 AM). I talked to one guy who was about my age and said he had never had a job of any kind, but instead just made and sold drugs for a living. And he didn’t even look alive.
Some of our students who had never gotten up the guts to have a spiritual conversation ended up initiating conversations by the end of the day with ease, and got to see multiple people trust Christ. In the midst of the devastation, we saw God planting flowers. Restoring. Bringing new life.
I marvel at the bigger story I am a part of. What bigger story are you helping to write, whether you know it or not?