All the Columbia team members came together late last night and reorganized to head back to Anchorage, bright and early in the morning. When I said bright and early, I mean the cargo van with Kent and Ken left with all of our gear at 6am. The rest of us followed in the blue van within a half hour after. We arrived in Anchorage just before lunch and once again regeared, regrouped and planned the day’s outing. And here is today’s story…
By now, most of us have heard the cliche “You are the only Bible that some will ever read”. This became very evident to 5 of our team members as we were walking down G street in downtown Anchorage. I was in this small group who were slower than the greater group because of the extensive window shopping that was happening. I got slightly ahead of this group by just a few feet, but it brought me close to a table where two gentlemen sat. The younger of two asked me who my mother had been with to give me a Korean brother. I looked at him and instantly realized that he mistook our small group as a family, thinking Sharon was my mom and Grand my brother. I corrected him kindly and told him that Grand was Chinese and that we were not a biological family, but a group. He instantly stated, “You’re a Christian.” This started a heart aching and heart warm conversation with Gary and his Uncle Melvin.
Gary’s story started with a proclaimation that he was a Christian, but he has fallen away from God recently. He shared a story that included a lot of old pain and some very fresh hurts. He shared his Uncle’s story as well. Their stories had so many close relations who have ended their own lives because of alcohol and other hardship “of the North”. There was hurt of a divorce, hurt of a strained parent-child relationship, and confusion over where God is leading.
What did we have to offer in a world of such hurt? A prayer. Gary with his tear stained face and Melvin in his intoxicated state joined us for prayer. A prayer for restored relationships and guidance for what was to come in their lives. What did we have to offer in a time of discomfort? A motherly hug and act of kindness which Sharon offered so freely that it allowed our conversation to reach greater depths. What did we have to offer to those who feel unheard? Ken, Grand, Emma, Sharon, and I just listened. What did we have to offer a lost sheep? Hope. We talked about the prodigal son and how the loving father, like our own Lord, waits with open arms to restore our relationship. We talked about how God has made us for a purpose and Gary’s purpose is to be revealed yet, that is why he is still among us.
BUT what was left to be offered came from Gary. Gary shared that his favorite book of the Bible is John. Wow what a book! He didn’t stop there. He began reciting the book of John, adding his joy of each verse. We together recited John 3:16. The tears of hurt began to subside and joy and hope began to reign on his face. Our conversation went deeper and Gary shared with us his love for Jesus.