Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stuff that Makes My Heart Hurt

A few weeks ago I wrested myself away from the desk and the church and (alas) the family in order to go overnight to the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s Worship Summit for Church Music Leaders. I needed the time away not so much for the content of the workshops, but just to decompress. A couple of my Music Minister friends were there, and we played hooky from 2 or 3 of the workshops just to catch up and exchange war stories. That part of the experience was really good, but this wasn’t:

The conference was also for volunteers working in Music Ministry, so White Oak’s lodging facilities were all full by the time I figured out how to make the time to get away. I ended up staying in a motel about 25 minutes away, as did a number of others attending the conference. It was close to 11:00pm, maybe even a little after, by the time I got there. Several church vans were already in the parking lot, and the little lobby was full with people standing around outside. I stood in line with the others as a harried desk clerk tried desperately to get everyone checked in. She was competent, but overwhelmed; and there were some problems with reservations that only her night manager (who was 15 minutes late by that time) could correct.

Then the phone rang (again). It had already rung several times while I waited in line -- mostly people needing something for their rooms. It was her son calling this time … and obviously not for the first time that evening. He was apparently in his late teens or early twenties, and in some kind of bad situation and needing help. I watched an anguished mother’s face as she pleaded with him to stay where he was, and not to do anything [stupid], and that she would be there to get him as soon as she could possibly get off, but the night manager wasn’t there yet so she couldn’t leave. When the night manager got there, they had to finish checking everybody in and go through procedures before she could leave. Her son called again before I was checked in, and her anxiety just got worse. I hated to leave with that going on, but I was an outsider.

A few minutes later I went back down to the desk to get the A/C turned on in my room. They were still going through procedures, and the clerk was on the phone having that same fearful conversation with her son yet again. I waited a moment until she was off the phone, called her name and quietly said, “I’m praying for your son.” She thanked me. Her facial expression said that my words had helped some, but I felt about as clueless and powerless as I ever have.

Though I have continued to pray for her and for her son, the whole situation has bothered me ever since. I didn’t know any of the others staying there; but there we were: a bunch of church people – followers of Christ with a definite human need playing out right in front of us – and none of us had a clue what to do … or at least none of us did anything much about it. As far as I can tell, the hands and the feet of the body of Christ did almost nothing ... and I participated.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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