It was electrifying. My good friend Charles was leading the gathered young people in an acoustic version of “Jesus Christ is Waiting” and on cue between verses I offered a prayer and a brief reflection on the gifts that Jesus might be waiting for us to use. After a couple more verses, I asked if any of the youth would like to share. What followed was nothing short of completely inspiring. Young people were not only sharing their readily apparent gifts, but other gifts “outside their box.” Like the athlete who is also a poet, the mathematician who is also good with animals, and the musician who also loves to build.
All-a-glow as the youth headed to their next activity, I checked my phone to see if I had any emails or other messages, and my heart sank as I saw for the first time the tragedy that had taken place in Charleston. It was such an incredibly stark contrast from the Spirit-filled reality I was living in. And as I began to learn more of the details – that this, too, was a warm, welcoming faith community – I felt a deep sense of loss. I felt this loss for the victims, their families, their faith family, all of our faith communities, and for the young man who had inflicted such atrocities.
Amidst the ongoing activities of the youth I was with, I could not stop thinking about what had taken place, especially about the young man who had committed such a violent act. This only became magnified when I learned that he was discovered relatively close to where I was.
Here I am surrounded by over a hundred young people, all of whom have their own stories of joys and tragedies. All have been warmly welcomed into a very intentional safe community; a space where they are loved and affirmed, and are given multiple opportunities to lay down their burdens and to seek healing from those places of brokenness in their lives. And all I can think about is how I wish the young man who brought such pain to a faith community would have connected with one that would have provided him a place of love and healing.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37)
Dear friends, we live in a needful world. Needful of the basics such as food, shelter, and a place to use our gifts. Yet also needful of love, compassion, and affirmation that we are all children of God, and as such, due the respect of our dignity.
Please continue to pray for Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Please continue to pray for young Dylann Roof. Please pray for all our faith communities that we may be safe, loving spaces that affirm the dignity of every human being.