14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, New International Version).
In the summer of 1996, I attended my first U.M. ARMY camp. For those who don’t know about U.M. ARMY, the name is an acronym standing for, “United Methodist Action Reach-Outreach Ministry by Youth.” The camp lasts for a week. High school youth (and some leaders or other adults from their church) travel to another community, spend all day out in the heat repairing or building or painting or cleaning or doing yard work. When they came in they afternoon they would head to a local school to get a shower. The food, particularly breakfast and dinner were really good. Lunch was usually just sandwiches. The early evening was games and social times. We finished the day off with worship at about 10:00. Then it was time to head off to bed. They sleep on the floor of a gym or Sunday school rooms. All that, and everyone paid their own way and part of those expenses could get expensive. Not only did they pay to be there, many youth delayed the beginning of summer jobs to attend U.M. ARMY. It cost youth and adults the fees for camp and for the youth it was a week’s pay.
The first job on Monday morning was for a lady who owned the home and had her adult son living with her. Just a few months before had a cancerous brain tumor removed. His prognosis didn’t sound good.
We got the cold shoulder, up until they stopped for lunch. One of the girls looks around and everything is back like it should be. We asked them to join us and they did. The conversation moved in a positive direction.
At the end of the day the owner came back out. First, she thanked me for the work we had done. Then we went into her son’s story. She told me the story of the cancer and the destruction. Then she shared her story with the kids. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
The homeowner talked then about their struggles since her son’s diagnosis. She said he required surgery. While he was hospital, local teenagers broke into her home and stole some of her few valuables. When they didn’t get much, the poured gasoline all over her truck and set it on fire. It was a total loss.
She said that in the past she had difficulties with some local kids. When she learned kids were coming to do the repairs knew it would be trouble. She was wrong.
The lady told us when she saw the willingness on the part of the kids to do needed work it changed her opinion of teenagers. This group treated her son and her with respect and empathy.
The witness of this group of teenagers totally changed the lady’s opinion of youth after a very bad experience. It was their witness that changed everything. The kids brought a lunch to her and her son and then invited them to join in their devotional time. The lady experienced none of that with the local youth.
What we say and what we do matter. That is our witness to the world. One group displayed negative behavior. A different group displayed a positive witness and it spoke to a lady in a positive way.
We can learn from the kids. We need to be responsive in positive ways. It is one of the reasons it bothers me when we post things without checking them and making appropriate decisions that can make a difference. Those things can make a difference to us and to others. What Christians say and do make a difference.
Seeking the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved