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Adam Mearse comes from Chicago, with loveI’m driving a bus full of teens heading south on I-35. As usual, they are loud. In fact, this group is perhaps the loudest I’ve spent time with in 16 years of youth and children’s ministry – which is really saying something.
As we make our way into Moore, a blanket of silence falls over them, as though the air had been instantly sucked from the vehicle. We pull off the freeway into the neighborhood where we’ll be working. The silence looms over the group, now accompanied by quiet tears.
Kayla has light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. She’s wearing a fluffy pink-and-white checkered dress, and pink flip-flops adorned with tiny plastic gemstones. She gives me a hug the moment we meet, then takes my hand. Together, we walk across the street dodging nails, shards of glass, and splintered pieces of wood.
As we walk up to what remains of her house, she drops my hand and excitedly runs to meet and hug our youth group kids who are coated in dust and insulation.
We’ve literally been tearing Kayla’s house apart, stripping it down to nothing but studs and a tarp-patched roof. On May 20, she lost everything she owned in less than a minute’s time. A month later, she is a picture of innocence and optimism set on a backdrop of mind-blowing destruction and loss.
This is our story. It’s God’s story. Creation, destruction, pain and joy woven tightly together in the same spaces.
But, just when it seems like things are at their worst, we see – sometimes we even are – the presence of God’s love, mercy, and comfort.
It’s a story of redemption defeating sin, and restoration happening right in the heart of brokenness. Destruction is at work, but Christ is on the move as well, and it’s only a matter of time until restoration wins the day.
For 30 teens from Chicago, the week we spent in Oklahoma changed the way they saw the world. It opened their eyes to new levels of tragedy and destruction and made them appreciate their own lives in fresh ways.
Much more importantly, they learned firsthand that this is the work of God’s people. We step into the places of pain, offering our hands and resources freely. We come in the name of Jesus, as his agents, bearing his hope and his love.
We cannot do it all, but we faithfully do all we can.
By Adam Mearse (97)
Youth Minister, Naperville Church of Christ, Naperville, Illinois