Choices of Discipleship

Dear Friends,
 

The front page of the local paper, The Beaumont Enterprise

As I write this I am in the small southeastern Texas town of Orange. A wonderful congregation of the Southern Baptist Convention has opened it’s doors for our group to live in and minister out of this whole week. Our brothers and sisters in Christ at the North Orange Baptist Church have been gracious and welcoming of our group. They have taken good care of us so far and have been sharing with us some heart-wrenching stories of how they were impacted directly, endured, and recovered from Hurricanes and Tropical Storms like Harvey, Ike, and Rita. Oh, and they’ve fed us, too! We love our new friends from the Texas Baptist Men disaster relief organization! Here is a powerful video testimony of the work they do throughout Texas, the country, and our world. Their stories and the children’s stories have been powerfully profound as they’ve described mass feeding, rescue, and water purification efforts. Imagine hearing 6-10 year year old children talk matter-of-factly and intelligently to you about flood insurance, FEMA, and disaster relief. These children, because of the flood from Harvey, have had to grow up quickly. They are left with much trauma to process. That is why we are here. They also are ready and willing to open up and talk about their fears, their worries, their difficult memories – like spending nights in their attic while waiting to be rescued and climbing on top of their kitchen tables and counters to escape the flood waters rushing into their homes in the middle of the night.
 
Camp Noah is a ministry of Lutheran Social Services, based in Minneapolis, and has designed a week-long curriculum we are using, based on the biblical story of Noah and the flood. Through fun, funny, and sometimes very serious and direct conversation with a character dressed up as Noah (and others as his family), the children learn that, like Noah, they too can survive the flood and see the blessings that may have come about as a result. Early in the week each of the children are given a hand-tied fleece blanket our group had made and brought with us, as a symbol of love, hope, and comfort.
 
The children at Camp Noah really need symbols and items of love, hope, and comfort when one realizes how much they lost in the flood. Part of Camp Noah’s curriculum includes the children creating bricks to build a “Wall of Memories” with. On these “bricks” they are invited to draw pictures of or write down what some of the items were that were lost in the flood. Here are some pictures of what they’ve shared so far:
 

The Wall of Memories

Gabby lost her house

Shannon lost “my grandpa”

Annabelle says, “I miss Joy, my hamster. She died.”

Madilynne shared, “I lost my doll that my dad gave me for Christmas.

Trace shares his story

 
Another part of Camp Noah’s curriculum encourages the children to think about a “safe place” that they can go to when they are sad. Our group helps them and encourages them to discover that safe place if they have difficulty doing so. Many of them knew right away where their “safe place” was, and this one particular little boy’s safe place brought joy to my heart.
 

His safe place – a baseball field

 
As you can see, it’s been powerful, and a privilege, for our group serve among these children this week and to learn of and observe the similarities between the story of Noah and these children’s stories. We are grateful to be here and thankful for the ways God is using us to listen, learn, and love. Two local news outlets have done stories on our group and our mission. One in the local Beaumont Enterprise newspaper and one on the nightly Fox news channel, KFDM.
 
I’ll have much more to say about my experiences when I see you. In the meantime I am also preparing my sermon to share in worship this Sunday, July 15. The preaching text is an odd one (assigned by the revised common lectionary). It is found in Mark 6:14-29, and unlike most of Mark’s stories where he gets right to the point, he offers a lengthy, detailed account of the death (beheading) of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. This account is not one of our favorites to recall, but it has an important lesson in it for us to pay attention to. I would encourage you read the text before Sunday and reflect on what it might be saying to you at this time and place in your life. In light of the text, I will be talking about choices of discipleship and how sacrifices are sometimes needed to be made when following Jesus. Reflect on what those sacrifices might look like in your own lives and how you do or do not choose the path of discipleship in order to stand up for what is right. John, in this text, spoke the truth, and offended many, ultimately leading to his death. As did, Jesus.
 
I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday as we hand out this year’s scholarships and lift up our cemetery for this month’s Mission Sunday!
 
See you in Church!
 
Pastor Dale

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