Sitting at my kitchen table this morning, preparing for this mission trip, I found myself first of all, in awe. This is actually happening! Somehow, miraculously, God pulled together a mission trip in 8 days! TWENTY youth and adultswill leave WNY today and head to NJ to serve others in Jesus’ Name after the devastating Hurricane that went through that area a few weeks ago. Since this opportunity presented itself, God has been reminding me, again and again that this isn’t just about restoring homes in Keansburg, but also restoring hope… not just hope that things will eventually get better or hope that it doesn’t happen again, but hope found alone in Jesus.
Also as I sat there this morning, planning a team devotion for tonight, I was reminded of the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. He was on a similar mission. The city of Jerusalem was in a pile of rubble and destruction and the people there didn’t even really have the motivation to try to rebuild. They were in despair … they were hopeless…. the task was just too big. Nehemiah stepped in and led the people to rebuild the entire city wall in just 52 DAYS… a remarkable task, especially since many of those days they were threatened with attacks by the people surrounding the city.
Some of my favorite verses in this book come near the completion of the wall. In Nehemiah 8:10 we hear him tell the people,
“… the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
The word “strength” here is the same word that is often translated other places as “refuge” or stronghold. Thinking of the hurricane that went through the east coast and the devastation and despair that is followed, it was so great that I’m sure “joyful” is not something many of those residents would have used to describe themselves. But we see here that we find refuge and strength even in the midst of destruction, when we find our joy in the Lord. No matter how long it takes to restore these homes, I pray that by us coming this weekend we can at least renew their joy … restore their hope.
I also love this verse which comes right at the completion of restoring Jerusalem’s walls:
“… they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” (6:16)
I pray this as well… that because of what happens in Keansburg, NJ tomorrow and all the days that follow, the people there, and beyond, would know that the restoration only happened by the hand of our God!
“And on that day… the joy of Jerusalem [Keansburg, NJ] was heard far away!” (Nehemiah 12:43)