Tuesday, April 26, 2011

People Are Hurting

There I sat a few days ago in our church’s meeting room. I was there to learn about our soon adventure coming this fall of hosting a student from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. I sat waiting for the meeting to start. A friend walked in. At first glance she saw me and laughed, “Oh, I should have known you would be here,” she said. “You’re taking in another one?”

I am taken aback by the implications of her tone. But I smile anyway and say, “Yep.” Because she doesn’t yet know what I know. I know what God has opened my eyes up to over the past year. The helplessness, the injustices, the exploitations, the utter darkness…all played out in the lives of humans. And I can’t ignore it. I can’t ignore the tugs at my heart. I know God can use me if I just have open arms and an open front door to the situations that He brings. And recently, Rosebud hosting was what He brought. Jake and I know nothing about Native Americans, and nothing about life on ‘The Rez’. But we will learn. I sit through the meeting. I hear about the hopelessness on the reservation. The alcoholism, the drug use, the sexual abuse, the high rate of teen pregnancy, suicides, and school drop outs, the gang pressure….the cycles of generations and generations that continue on. There seems to be no escape from their dreadful inheritance of family bondage. And I hear God’s whisper.

People are hurting. Do something.

The informational meeting ends. I look at my friend. With tears in her eyes she says, “I don’t know if I can do this.”

“What’s holding you back?” I say.


“Fear of the unknown? Like what sort of child/situation you would get?”

“No.” Silence. And she gazes ahead.

“Fear that you are inadequate?”

She smiles through her tears and looks at me. “Yes.”

“You are inadequate,” I say. “We all are. But God can still use us. He will equip you to accomplish His work, but it won’t be comfortable. And it won’t be easy.”

We talk some more, and then head home.

* * *

Our empty downstairs bedroom hasn’t been empty now for about 4 weeks. A young man who needed a second chance at life sought out Jake for help to get back on track. He’ll be staying with us until the end of summer. Jake committed to helping him with one stipulation - If you’re serious about changing, come live with us. Get out of the environment you are in, and start over. And he did. Another young man, another wake-up call. More pain, more rough situations, more sad stories - played out in the life of a human. My eyes are peeled back more. I hear you Lord.

People are hurting. Do something.

For 20 years of his life, this young man has not known the love of a family. Yes his family was around, sort of. But now they are not accessible. He began following down their same path but then something inside of him sparked and he realized he didn’t have to live that way. He didn’t have to follow in their footsteps. He could create a different path for himself. A different life. And he is ready to change. The problem, though, is that his heart has been damaged. He’s lived the consequences of his family’s poor decisions and a few of his. And it’s hard. It’s hard when you want a second chance, but people don’t believe in you. It’s hard when you need help but have no where to turn. It’s hard when people look at you and judge you for what they see on the outside, especially when they don’t understand the torment you are going through on the inside.

People are hurting. Do something.

“Would you believe that none of my family ever came to any of my basketball games? Not one. They were never there to watch me play,” he says.

People are hurting. Do something.

“Do you think I could have all of this someday?” he asks Jake. “A house, a wife, a good job, kids?”

“Why couldn’t you?” Jake answers.

“Where I’m from, this is pretty uncommon,” he replies.

He’s nervous for 3 days straight as Easter weekend approaches. He knows he will be spending a lot of time in a family setting. He’s timid, unsure what a day at my great-grandparent’s house will entail. He makes it through lunch. He gets sadder and sadder as the day goes on. Dinner comes. He heads outside. It’s too much for him. The laughter, the teasing, the jokes, the stories at the table, the time spent together. It’s all a reminder to him. A reminder of what he didn’t have growing up.

People are hurting. Do something.

Hours later Easter Sunday is over and we head to the car. My grandma and grandpa stand on the back step and wave as they watch Jake and I try to corral everyone to load up into the car. JJ has a crying attack as he discovers that he left his brand new shoes in the house. He jumps out of the car and sprints back inside. Sam and Tyran argue with each other over who is going to sit where in the car, and neither of them will get in. I get Jayla buckled in. She turns and says to me, “Mommy, I have to go potty.” We watch as my grandma and grandpa giggle at the pure chaos of the simple task at hand - just getting in the car.

I turn to him and say, “They just love this - my grandpa and grandma. Look at the smiles on their faces.”

He watches intently and says thoughtfully, “That must be so crazy for your grandpa to get to watch his grand-daughter grow up and have children…..he gets to know his great-grandkids.” The quietness in his voice burdens my heart.

People are hurting. Do something.

He’s silent on the way home. “What’s the hardest part of all this?” Jake asks.

“I’m uncomfortable. Everything I am doing is hard.”

The emotions of the day hit him. The tears come. And there’s no stopping them.

“It’s supposed to be uncomfortable,” Jake says. “Living for Christ isn’t easy. Just ask his disciples.”

“Sure, you can say that. You have a family to fall back on. You have the joy of coming home to your kids and your wife. I don’t have a family.”

“But you do. You’re in the car with them. God knew that you needed a family. And he gave you one.” The conversation continues and then ends. Jake turns the music up.

Something here is wrong, there are children without homes, but we just move along to take care of our own, there's so much suffering just outside our door, a cry so deafening, we just can't ignore…

The lyrics read my mind. People are hurting. Do something.

My heart cries out for this young man. But I know something He doesn’t. I know the past CAN be overcome. I am living proof. He doesn’t know what the family sitting there enjoying Easter dinner has overcome. My mom and I know what it is like to be left all alone. We were there many years ago. We know. And my grandpa that he was encouraged by? He knows too. His mom up and left he and his sister at a very young age. Shortly after, his dad was gone too. He was raised by his aunt and grandma. He knows the pain. The reality of our world is that human relationships fail. We treat each other imperfectly because we sin. We have broken relationships and broken families because we live in a fallen world. But the past does not define us, nor are we enslaved to it. My very own family is overcoming the chains of brokenness. We have found freedom. How?

Because there is One who can be trusted because He has said He will NEVER leave us or forsake us. There is One who loves us unconditionally, no matter the circumstances, no matter our mistakes and poor choices. There is One in whom we can take refuge until the storm passes. There is One who provides a relationship that gives ultimate peace, ultimate fulfillment, and ultimate hope. This is the God I serve. The God of second chances. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). The God who seeks out the lost. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10). The God who brings new life. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). The God who makes all things new. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). And this is why I will say yes to God again, and again, and again. Yes, God, I will open my home to those you bring. Yes, Lord, I will bring outsiders in and treat them like family….like they are my own flesh and blood. I hear you Lord.

People are hurting. Do something.

I will say yes because of what I know – there are more young men and women out there like he who is living in our spare bedroom. And there are more Sam’s and more Justice’s. More and more and more. And they don't need a beautifully decorated bedroom in my middle-income family home. They don’t need elaborate meals. They don’t need perfect parents who know exactly how to respond to every situation that comes up. They don’t need every word spoken to be beautifully arranged with advice and wisdom. And they don’t need someone who is going to love them only if they change or get their act together. No. They need a relationship with their Heavenly Father. And in the meantime, they need to know that someone cares. They need someone to love them for who they are today….not for who they could become, but for who they are right now. I know because I’ve been there. I know because I serve a great God who transforms lives and sets the captives free. I've experienced His power. And I want to continue to experience it. Again, and again, and again.


Dillinger Family said...

You constantly amaze me. You have such a powerful way with words, but more importantly you have the actions to back them up. You are an inspiration and definitely an amazing role model of how to walk with Christ.

us said...

This was a really well done post. It encouraged me. Mrs Y.

tori said...

Thanks for listening and obeying, Janel. Because of your obedience, God is speaking clearly through you. I love this post because it is so full of Him. Keep doing something. You are building His Kingdom.

Tiffany DeBoef said...

This may be one of my favorite posts yet- thank you for listening to God, and then obeying what you hear! Through him you are challenging me and so many other people to "get off the couch" and start taking action! It is exactly what I needed to hear! :)

Christy said...

I agree with Tiffany, maybe one of your bests posts yet. So much truth in here. And I am so encouraged that you guys are hosting a Rosebud student! I can't wait to hear more!

Matthew said...

So powerful, Janel. I totally understand the feelings of your heart and we just so enjoyed our Thursday morning visiting with you about adoption and God's calling to care for the orphan and widow, whether in Iowa or Africa or anywhere in between. You are a blessing in our lives, carving a road that we too feel called to follow. We truly love you guys! God bless you and the fam ~ Jenny Pitkin

Ryan & Lisa said...

Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

Man, right stinking on. We are all family from the greatest to the least and Its just so awesome to see you guys living that out taking what you do and don't have and giving it to a person who may or may not appreciate it. Its so not about our satisfaction of giving but of how much our giving helps that Justice, or Sam or any other youth or person. Its about how they will always remember where they met Christ and who Christ sent them to lead the way to salvation. Thank you so much for giving in sis. For saying yes to Dad over and over and over again. Awesome

Tamara B said...

Janel, your words are so encouraging. I've been praying for our family to open our home to people who are hurting. I know they're out there and I'm praying for God to give me the opportunity to say yes like you have :)

tamara b