It had seemed like a good idea to display at this event, as we get so many contacts from teens and their parents. It seemed to be going well, while setting up the display as usual, until the youth and the youth leaders showed up. The looks of shock and humor were blatantly obvious as they streamed by our booth.
I took my son with me to keep me company on the four-hour drive and two-night stay. I knew he would like a trip with his dad, and I could make it fun for us. We would enjoy each other’s company, and he had helped me work a display on such a trip to the Southern Baptist convention about five years earlier. We had a similar response from many pastors that year, as one woman gave our brochure back to him once she read the display.
A few stopped and got information, but didn’t know what to say or ask. My son thought it was odd that I wasn’t bringing videos to sell, only to give away. I wanted to be there to help youth and youth pastors. One young man said, “I never knew there was such a ministry or that there were people who didn’t want to be that way.” I found that to be a sad sign of the times. Nevertheless, during our stay I did not have one meaningful conversation.
The first night, after manning the booth all day, I was depressed. “Why am I here?!” I kept telling myself that maybe a struggling teen would see the website and contact us later. Maybe they’d see hope, when they had no hope before. That’s what I was holding onto and that’s still my hope, as I’m back home wondering what the purpose of that trip was. It wasn’t free, I had to pay three hundred dollars to display, plus the cost of the hotel rooms, meals, and gas, not to mention almost taking three days in the middle of my holiday break.
Realizing I was struggling with depression, I sent a text to my wife and several friends asking for prayer and telling a brief synopsis. I also went to the gym to run. I ran a fast 5k. Seth lost the room key, so I had to walk covered in sweat, through the mass of kids, to the front desk. Fun times! The next day wasn’t any better, but my attitude was different. I had my time with the Lord reading His Word and a devotional early while Seth slept. I was determined it was going to be a good day.
I decided to pack it in about two hours early. Everyone had seen our display over and over, since we were in the heart of their activities. Seth had been good, being patient, so I decided to reward him with a trip to ice skate in downtown Atlanta. He had asked for that and for dinner at Hard Rock Cafe. As we drove home I told him I wasn’t sure why we went on that trip but if anything it was good time alone with him.
It reminds me that often we don’t understand life’s circumstances. Still, our hope is in the Lord and His ability to take our efforts and infuse them with His power and grace. It’s true of all our efforts at Hope for Wholeness; apart from the Lord’s help they are nothing.