Finding Hope, Seeing Beauty.

Hold fast like an anchor in the storm
For your love, we will rise and overcome
Through the fire
Hold fast my people and sing
Through peace and through suffering
All for the joy that it brings, to be free
It’s gonna cost us everything
To follow one Lord and King
True love endure everything
To be free
Hold fast, like an anchor in the storm
We will not be moved

"Hold fast, like an anchor in the storm"... this is exactly what our team has been working at the past two weeks.  Our team is constantly learning to work together through our frustrations, differences and struggles and how to exactly "rise and overcome".  Each of us are being stretched this summer, and we knew facing pain was inevitable.  On top of everything that we are learning here, many of us are working through some personal issues and relationships that were left back home.  But God is faithfully opening my eyes through these struggles and showing me more about dependency on Christ, the grace I've received, accepting things that I cannot change, and remembering that God's will is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Lately, the Lord has really been teaching me more about hope and finding the beauty in God’s will.

Every day I walk the streets in Athens to find young gypsy children playing instruments (mostly the accordion) for money.  The looks on their faces are lonely and hopeless.  This "normality" in Europe has been especially heart-wrenching to me since the beginning of the trip.  I was told that there is not much anyone can do for the children, that most of them are being exploited and trying to help can often only hurt them worse.  One day a little girl came up to me, playing her accordion and asking for money.  Because I was told not to give, I didn’t, but she kept following, asking desperately.  It was then that I broke.  I was angry that I could not help her… I could not free her.  Any time I saw a gypsy child, a homeless person with no where to go, a drug addict lying on the street near death, a prostitute selling herself on a corner, a refugee who was looked down upon, the litter that pollutes the streets,  I felt the hopelessness of all these situations.  I want things to change and for all of these people to somehow be free from suffering, to somehow come to know Christ as their Savior... but at the time, it all seemed hopeless.  I could not find the beauty in God’s plan when I could only see the pain and suffering of these people and the lack of hope because no one reaches out to them.

But my eyes were opened to that beauty last week when we were given the opportunity to serve meals at a homeless shelter in Omonia.  There were nearly 200 people there, but only a handful of women.  As I searched for a woman to talk to, I finally noticed a lady in the back corner who was alone.  I asked if I could sit by her.  The most infectious smile crossed her face and she immediately began chattering away in Greek.  I started talking with her with the little Greek I had learned, and found out her name is Rosie, she is Bulgarian, she has lived in Greece for five years, and is a single mother of a 15 year-old son.  The rest of the conversation was like playing charades!  But I finally saw beauty in that homeless shelter.  The way Rosie warmly welcomed me to sit with her as if she had known me for years.  The way she smiled and laughed and hugged and kissed me...  I forgot she was homeless.  Rosie was ministering more to me than I was to her.  At some point, the realization came to me that people don’t touch the homeless.  They are ignored... not embraced.  She probably never gets loved on, when that’s really what she seemed to care most about.  I wasn’t going to let the smell turn me away.  I am called to love the poor, the homeless, and the needy.  I am called to wash their feet any way I can.

I kept seeing a beauty in that shelter that I sometimes never even see in church.  After we led worship and shared a few testimonies, there was a call to the altar.  In all honesty, I did not expect anyone to come up and even then doubted the sincerity of anyone’s plea for Christ.  I was that hopeless.  More than 15 people came up to profess Christ as their Savior.  And then I saw Rosie walk up beside me trembling, completely broken and desperate, crying out to God.  She knew she had no hope apart from God, and I remembered when that was me.  I knew her heart was sincere…that the Holy Spirit was making her new.  I saw the sweet love of Christ and an answer to prayer.  And holding her during that time was absolutely beautiful.  I no longer saw a homeless woman.  I didn't smell the stench of dirty clothes.  I didn't see someone who had nothing.  I saw a friend, a mother, a fellow heir to Christ.  I saw a beautiful Rosie.  Rosie had nothing, yet showed such joy regardless of her circumstances.

I am having to remember that it is okay to admit to God that I am struggling, that sometimes it hurts and accepting His will is not always fun nor easy.  I have to ask for strength to endure.  I have to find joy in suffering in Gods will, with the knowledge of His promise that our suffering in this present world is worth it.  Our God is faithful and will not leave us in our sufferings.  He will bring us onto dry and solid ground.  True love endures everything, and the fight of endurance is truly beautiful.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

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