It’s the last week of this summer of Mission Immersion, and on this Tuesday night after program, this group was heading to the Marble Slab to grab some ice cream, and invited my fellow Intern Will, and myself to join. When we walked into the ice cream shop, our adult leader decided to cover the entire group and then the other four people in front of us in line. The first of these was a young man, whom appeared to be in his late teens, early twenties. He had just purchased a cone, and then once he found out it was covered, asked if he could get some ice cream to accompany it, as he only had enough money to get the cone. After receiving his cup of butter pecan, he took a seat at a table under a window, and a few of our youth and an adult sat down and started chatting with him.
As I started to lick the last drops off of my ice cream cone, the adult who had been sitting with the young man came over to Will and I asking if we had pen or paper, and things we could write down where Harry* could find resources. He had just arrived to Asheville about 2 weeks prior, was 21 years old, and living with Bipolar disorder, and had been kicked out by his family. Fortunately, I had just put a notebook and pen in my backpack that morning, and Will sat down and I stood as we talked through where Harry could go. As we listed off places such as Haywood Street Congregation, 12 Baskets Cafe, A Hope Day Shelter, along with street names, services, times, and people for Harry, he continuously pointed up and said “You did this” to God, and consistently thanked us and God for putting us all in the same place at the same time. But there was one thing he said that stuck out for me.
“You know, I haven’t been very good at praying or reading the Bible, but God is still here.”
I’m not going to lie, in that very moment I started sobbing. God loved Harry so much, that he put all of us in each others lives, so we could learn and grow from each other. If there is anything I have learned this summer, it is that there is NOTHING someone can do that can make them undeserving of love, from God or the community.
On Wednesday Night in program, we talk about Psalm 139, in which David talks about how well God knows him. We prompt the kids with a question about how it feels that God knows you so well. A slew of answers comes back with everything from scary to comforting, and I personally identify with the comforting side. The fact that God knows everything about us, yet he still loves us, makes it comforting to know that no matter what you do, God understands and forgives. Harry said it best, that even though he hasn’t always practiced his faith, he still knows and feels that God is with him and loves him. From the time we could talk, we are taught the classic song, “Jesus Loves Me” but it wasn’t until recently that I fully understand the extent to which that love reaches, or the fact that its a two way. God’s love has been visible in so many ways for me this summer. I feel God sitting in song at the bible study with youth after we finish the Free Food Market at the senior opportunity center, in the joy of the children from Children First as they run through a game of sharks and minnows, and in the face of community members as they slurp down a popsicle. But now its our turn to share this love.
I had a conversation with a community member recently, in which she told me how much it means to have some immediately greet her by name when she walks in a room. Something that small could make her feel loved. Its our duty, as God’s children, to make sure everyone feeling his love, and I think that the work that YMCo does is doing just that.