TRANSFORMING TRAGEDY INTO HOPE
Tragedy abounds on skid row. That’s an obvious fact to anyone who even drives by. What’s not always as obvious is that Hope also abounds on skid row. I’ve seen Hope arise out of Tragedy just these past weeks. God is in the business of fixing broken things. He focuses on finding lost things. He restores peace out of conflict, forgives sin, redeems mistakes, and turns misfortune into valuable experience. In a word, God is into… Transformation. I have seen signs of God’s transforming power in various places these past few weeks through a number of special moments: baptisms, baby dedications, personal rededications, foot washings, and graduations. Easter week at Hope Gardens, our single mother’s facility, was a Celebration of Christ. Each day we had special services to celebrate signs of transformation. I had the privilege to baptize nine women and two children. We transformed an empty landscape pond into a baptismal simply by adding water… very cold water I might add! Unfortunately, we didn’t add a heater. But freezing water didn’t detour these women from proclaiming the transforming work God has been doing in their lives since coming to Hope Gardens. As was stated, “If Jesus could die on a cross for us, we can get baptized in ice-water.”
We had eight mothers dedicate their children to the Lord. Prayers were lifted up for these mother’s to raise up their children in the ways of the Lord and for children to rise up one day and follow the Lord. Many came forward publically to proclaim their faith and for prayers of rededication. One day we focused on Jesus’ amazing demonstration of humility and service in the washing of the disciples’ feet just before going to the cross. We discussed the healthy transformation of being served to serving others. Then we demonstrated this truth by having a foot washing. The staff washed the residents feet and then the residents volunteered to wash the feet of the staff. There are signs of transformation in our graduation services. This past month we had nineteen men graduate a year-long Christian Life Discipleship program. A lot of time, effort, discipline, and discipleship have gone into a person graduating the program including personal counseling, chapels, classes, job skills training, computer learning center hours, along with full-time job therapy in one of the departments at the mission.
It’s a big deal… caps, gowns, ceremony, pomp and circumstance, honored guests, family attendance… the whole nine yards. I was honored to be the speaker and gladly took the opportunity to highlight God’s pleasure in his transforming work. Today thirteen women graduated from the Hope Gardens Christian Life program. These are men and women who still have a long way to go for sure, but when you see how far God's brought them it's overwhelming evidence that God is transforming tragedy into hope.
I've personally witnessed this on smiling faces and in electric eyes that once had no reason to smile and saw no hope that their lives could ever change. But then, they encountered God.
- Pastor Dan