I expected to be in Atlanta from the end of May till the beginning of August. I had a job with an organization called YouthWorks, which provides teenageers with missions experiences in cities and towns all over the country. I got to stay in a church with three other staff members for the summer and provide meals, service projects, activities, and other programming for a different group of churches each week. It was like nothing I had ever experienced, and I was so excited.
The first six weeks just about met my expectations. They were fun, challenging, tiring, and eye-opening. Unfortunately, those six weeks were the only ones I got to experience. To make a long story short, my boss informed me that this wasn’t going to work out, and before I knew it I was on a bus back home. I was devastated. I hadn’t finished what I started in Atlanta. I looked back at the list of personal goals I had set for myself at the beginning of the summer and realized I had not accomplished a single one of them.
Then I read Job 37, which ends with these words, “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power, in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. Therefore, men revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?” I could not question why God had sent me to Atlanta and then brought me back to Delaware before I was “finished.” I have no doubt that God is both sovereign and loving. His plan for me was different from my own, but he was still working for my good through it all. I can think of several lessons that I learned in Atlanta, and it may be that those lessons alone were the purpose of those six weeks, while the next six weeks are for the purpose of implementing them here at home.
First of all, I learned a lot about community. It was a theme that arose in so many different ways. I got to work with a lot of interesting non-profits in Atlanta, and what impressed me was not how they were meeting physical needs (although they certainly did that as well) but how they were meeting the relational needs of those in poverty and other disadvantaged situations. The minstries that stood out to me were those that touched lives through community. I realized that this could be the greatest need anyone could have.
People can be happy without money in the bank or a roof over their heads if they are living life together. I’m not sure it’s possible to be happy without living with people you love and who love you. As I found from living and working with the other staff members, community takes work. It’s easier to live as an individual than it is to compromise and communicate with others. Although I am no longer with the communinity I started out in this summer, I want to work at developing my primary community, my family.
Although loneliness and lack of community is a problem in any area, in Atlanta, my heart was moved by the brokennes of the inner city. I met a man whose body was slowly fading from lack of nourishment. Furthermore, his spirit was broken by the dignity that the world had denied him. It was a small taste of the horrors of poverty and homelessness I had been ignorant of and yet I know are prevalent all over the world. I now know how wrong it would be to ignore these issues and want to find ways to fight homelessness in my own area.
Although my experience with YouthWorks was cut short, God’s work in my heart continues. And I’m so grateful for the six weeks I had.