All for Me

by think on January 1, 2014

Questions

Our small group of pastors and ministry directors checked out a ministry in Huntsville. Their founder, Mark, gave us The Tour and a little talk before we practiced our abysmal painting skills on one of their projects. We didn’t talk as much as one would expect (for people who essentially talk for a living). We had too much on our minds.

Mark knew we wouldn’t understand where their ministry was going unless we understood where he came from. He had a violent past, with parents who threatened to kill each other and sometimes tried. He essentially raised himself in the midst of abuse, poverty, and neglect. Drugs and alcohol were constants, with crime and violence sprinkled in for entertainment. It was a vortex, and at the center was hate. They did it to him, so he’d do it to you. There was no getting out alive. His sister’s suicide proved it.

The drugs should have killed him before the crime and depression had their chance. After many overdoses, he washed down multiple tabs of LSD with vodka, and longed for the ultimate peace he thought would come at the end. The peace came, but it wasn’t the end. If there was ever a story of God chasing after a man, this was it. God was there all along, protecting the man He loved until that man ultimately surrendered.

In an LSD-induced fog, Mark attempted to kill a man he knew to be a Christian. Attempted… because he couldn’t raise his arms. They were pinned to his sides, first by the grace of God, and then by his intended victim’s embrace. The man explained the love of God in terms that Mark not only understood, but surrendered to. It was more than a promise of “heaven when you die.” It was the promise of redemption and restoration here and now.

Sometimes life change is gradual, but not this time. The effects of the LSD vanished, along with the crushing emotions of hate and vengeance. For Mark, the Kingdom of God had come. Today he is back in the neighborhood he knows so well, where children raise their mentally ill parents in crushing poverty, and skinheads will shoot you “just to see which way you’ll fall.” Now Mark is motivated by love. And grace. And he has transformed the neighborhood.

He started at the elementary school, one of the worst in Alabama. After years of slow and patient investment in relationships and infrastructure, they are now (as proven by multiple awards) one of the best. “If the kids can’t see, we get them glasses.” Mark said. “If their teeth hurt, we get them fixed. If they need medications, we get them, too. I do it for them because Jesus did it for me.”

Mark’s organization purchased and transformed the filthy, decaying homes around the school into clean, affordable housing. And not just a couple of homes… a whole neighborhood. This is what it means to pray “Thy Kingdom Come” and then work to make it happen. It is an indelible illustration of the way things ought to be, of what God intended (and intends) to happen.

Mark ended his talk with a standard closer: “Does anyone have any questions?”

Silence.

“Questions?” I mumbled. “Yes, I have questions. But they’re all for me.”

When someone grasps a truth to the point where it compels them to take action, it’s worth noticing. When someone is driven by passion… by compassion… that results in the Kingdom of God being made visible on earth, it’s worth emulating. When my life, by comparison, is passionless, unexamined, and unfocussed, it’s worth questioning.

Yes, I have questions. But they’re all for me. Over the next few weeks, Ill share a few that keep me up at night.

Got questions? What are you wrestling with? What drives you to examine your life?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dedra Herod January 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Thanks for your words.. this is a perfect recap of what it means to learn about Lincoln Village and Mark Stearns. Praying that the baton is picked up for Madison Village and future partnerships..

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