We have so much to celebrate and to be thankful for, that it almost seems wrong to bring up what I'm about to bring up. However, it is the reality of our context and in the midst of the celebrations, there was one that was conspicuous by his absence. What follows is a post that I was going to put on Facebook, but then I remembered, "Oh hey, you've got a blog for this stuff."
In the midst of all of the celebrations this week at Grace I also feel that I need to share something that we learned this week that wasn't so great. We had a young man who had become a fixture at Grace; if our doors were open he was there and when it was time to close the doors we would have to chase him out. He would interrupt me in the middle of a sermon on Sunday mornings to let me know that he had to check in at home and we loved him for it. He was a constant reminder to keep things in perspective and to receive the children as Jesus did. He also came from the single worst situation I've witnessed since arriving in South Louisville.
Some time ago he came to me and asked if he could do work around the church. I told him that he could help us clean up on Friday nights and he could help at special events. His response was that he didn't want to be paid in money, but that he wanted to be paid in Legos. The kid had nothing and I think that he knew if he had money it would be quickly taken from him and he would still have nothing. At least if he had Legos, he had something that was of no value to anyone but him.
In regards to his family, we marshaled additional help from the Salvation Army (clothes), the LMPD 4th Division (toys for Christmas), and the Oakdale Neighborhood Association (food).
The young man worked hard for us over Derby weekend; when he left we told him that he would receive his Legos on Friday after Family Night. Rickelle and I went and purchased him a large Lego set for a job well done and we have not see him again. When he didn't show, I went and checked at his house, no answer. I continued to do this over the coming weeks; looking for him in the neighborhood as I would drive through. Nothing. We would hear occasional reports that someone had seen him, but I never did.
This week, I promised a couple of our team members that I would stop by his house again despite feeling that the house had been abandoned. This time, after knocking, I caught one of the neighbors outside, "They took off in the middle of the night a while back."
This phenomenon is not unique to us at Grace; we were warned in the very beginning that it is the reality of urban ministry. I can say that to this point, it is the only thing that I don't LOVE about urban ministry; the thought and now reality that our people could seemingly disappear without a trace.
The victories in this first year have been immense and beyond my wildest dreams. I have been reminded over and over that God is so much bigger than I can imagine. Just when you think that things cannot possibly get any better, God says, "Watch this." I like to think that He is having at least as much fun there as I am, but goodness, stuff like this stings and it hurts. I would ask that you join us in prayer for this young man and his family.