Two weeks ago, I was in hot and humid Honduras. This week, I’m in hot (but not as bad as most IMPACTS) and humid Tennessee. Two weeks ago, I was camping in a bunk house with 9 other men watching Fred run from a scorpion. This week, I’m living large in a 12X20 dorm room with Jill and Hudson, grateful that we are in the part of the dorm with working AC. Two weeks ago, I spent 8 hours a day in the hot sun laying brick to build a house for a lady and her children who had no home of their own. This week, I’m watching more than 2,000 teens build on their faith in God through powerful worship and challenging lessons. Two weeks ago, I ate my meals in an open-aired dining area on top of a mountain with a group of worn out workers. This week, I eat my meals in a multi-million dollar facility packed to the gills with young people who are completely excited to be there with each other.
On the surface, the two weeks couldn’t be more contrasting. Our time in Honduras was in response to the fact that it is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and in turn is filled with great need that most who live in USA cannot fathom. Think about this: The average worker in Honduras will earn approximately $10-$15 per day with many making less. For IMPACT, our teens pay over $200 for the week to live in cramped dorms. What a privilege! Many children in Honduras spend the day working hard in jobs that are dirty and dangerous just to bring money home for their family’s survival. At IMPACT, our teens have free time in the afternoons to play games, and nightly entertainment that is designed to make us laugh and have a good time in a clean and safe environment. The two worlds look very different.
So, what’s my point? Is it to make us feel guilty for going to spend time and money at IMPACT rather than building houses? Is it to try to make a statement out of wealth and privilege? It’s none of those things. While I could go on and on with the contrasts of these two events, I’d rather take a minute and talk about one big point that these two events hold in common: God is present. In both places, there is darkness that God is inserting Himself into to bring light and reconciliation. And what’s even more powerful is realizing that God has decided to let me be part of His plan!
God called His people out to provide for the needy, lonely, hurting, and homeless in Honduras and so Mission Lazarus (ML) was started. It’s not just because Jarrod Brown is a great person, but because God moved in him to be passionate about bringing Jesus’ presence to the middle of darkness and hurt. The lives of orphans are given hope through ML. Families are receiving homes. The sick are being healed. Hungry people are being fed. Some people who are saddled with poverty are even employed or trained for better jobs through ML. But more importantly, lives are being changed because the people of Honduras are seeing the presence of God and have a chance to give their lives to Jesus. A light is shining in a dark place because people are reflecting Christ.
But, what about IMPACT? We definitely didn’t build any houses in Nashville. If I had shown up with a hammer and trowel to any of the $500,000 homes around Lipscomb, I would have had a little explaining to do when the Nashville PD arrived. So, what is the darkness here? What is the need? I think it’s this: there is a campus full of teenagers who are growing up in a culture that wants to teach them lesson after lesson that flies in the face of everything that Jesus stands for. Here are just a few of those teachings from our culture:
· It’s my (or mom and dad’s) money, I’ll spend it on me!
· If it feels good, do it
· The only reason it’s rated R is for violence. It doesn’t hurt me to watch that.
· Respect for authority is stupid
· I can wear what I want to wear
· My value is judged by how I look
· My value is judged by how much I have
· The world revolves around me
I could go on and on. You could even make your own list that might look different than mine. But, the bottom line is that we are in a dark culture filled with values very different from God’s own heart. Some of those notions are even rooted in the “American Way.” Misconceptions like having plenty is always a blessing, or long-held religious practices must be correct. The sad part is that these values are soaking into the core of who our young people are and forming their attitudes about themselves, faith, and the world. God wants to tear those bad teachings apart. He wants to tear away the blinders and let his light pour in! For many years, I’ve seen IMPACT used as a tool for God’s presence to come in and change teens through the worship and teaching. I’ve seen teens gain confidence as they learn that identity isn’t based on who they are, but on whose they are. I’ve seen teens challenged to not look at what they have as something to be used just on their own desires, but to share with others who have need. I’ve witnessed girls decide to dress more modestly and guys make convictions to throw away certain video games and turn off things they shouldn’t be watching. We also learn how to have fun as Christians and laugh at things that aren’t laced with profanity or depending on mocking God. IMPACT has been on this mission for years. It’s not just because the people who run it are great people. Rather, it’s because God put a passion in their hearts to bring His light into a culture filled with darkness. Teens’ lives are being changed.
So, what is the point? Go to IMPACT (most Christian universities actually have adult programs in the summer that are really good as well!) and Honduras next year so you can see God? Well, maybe. Both are great experiences and could change you! But, before that, I’d like for you to think about what immediate areas of darkness God might be calling you to bring His Light into. The cliché answer is “everywhere.” And that’s true. But, where might God be calling you to specifically be an ambassador for His Kingdom? Is it someone in your neighborhood who needs you to take a weekend and do their yard work because they can’t? Is there someone at your work going through a family crisis who needs support? What classmate in your school is being left out or bullied? Is there a problem like hunger, homelessness, or slavery in the world that God is calling you to interject His presence and hope? What sins in your own life need to be swept out and replaced by the light of God? Are your finances a dark place because you spend money only on selfish things? Is there something about Southeastern that needs to be awakened or changed by a fresh invitation of God’s presence in the place of religious tradition?
God will find a way to present His light into dark places! The question is: Will we be part of the delivery system? I sure hope so. Now, GO SHINE!