“How was it?” This question often comes upon returning home after a week of camp or a mission trip. Since the end of Restoration Week I’ve probably been asked this question 100 times. But after a week like Restoration Week this question is almost impossible to answer because I don’t know how to boil down all of the wonderful things that I experienced with my students during the week into an answer that even begins to do justice to what Restoration Week really was.
I guess I could answer the question by talking about how one of our service crews had the opportunity to get to know a neighbor who lives in pretty deep poverty. As our students asked her what they could do for her she was very hesitant and resistant to share any of her needs. Finally after our students persisted that they would love to bless her in some way she admitted that she would love a pair of red shoes. As she shared this desire our students noticed that the shoes she was wearing at the time didn’t match and were quite worn out. So, the crew left her house and went to a shoe store where they purchased a pair of red shoes and also a pair of tennis shoes as well. They then went back to see the lady at her house. When she came to the door and the students handed her the shoes she took them and quickly stepped behind the door out of view from our students. Our crew stood there wondering what she was doing when the woman emerged with tears running down her face. As she wept she hugged each of the students and said “This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.” Such a simple act that made a big difference for one of our neighbors.
Or, I could answer by sharing about our crews participating in a “reverse offering.” The idea of a reverse offering is to give our students the opportunity to practice listening for the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We give the crew $50 and we ask them to spend at least 30 minutes in prayer asking God to lead them to someone to bless that day with the money that they have. One afternoon in particular a crew discerned that they should go to the hospital to bless some of the patients there. On the way they stopped by a local flower shop to buy some roses to share with patients that they would meet. The store owner, after hearing what the students were up to, donated 25 roses for them to use. The crew then made their way to Hendrick Medical Center. They weren’t even sure if they’d be able to get in to see any patients because after all they were a random group of 10 or so teenagers. But to their delight the people at the front desk of the hospital sent them to a specific wing to visit with patients. Our students then went door to door passing out roses and praying with the people that they met in those hospital rooms. After they had given away almost all of their roses they ended up near the hospice wing of the hospital. As they were standing there deciding what to do next they spoke to a woman who was outside of the room of her dying mother. She asked what they were doing there and when they told her she said that she could see the love of Christ on their faces and she knew that they were there as a blessing for others. The woman then proceeded to invite our crew to come into the room with her family even though, up until that point they had only allowed family to come in. Our students laid a rose on the bed with the dying woman and then gathered around and prayed with the family gathered at the bedside. Our students got to share in one of the most intimate moments that we experience here on earth with some strangers because they were willing to give up their spring break to practice being good neighbors. Glory to God.
I could share that we knocked on almost 4000 doors that represent an even larger number of neighbors. I could talk about the 317 prayer requests that we received and prayed over throughout the week. Or I could share about the students completing 84 service projects for our neighbors in the name of Jesus. I could list name after name of neighbors that we met and came to love as we heard their stories. I could talk about the hard work and commitment of the more than 75 adult volunteers who gave up their time during the week to serve alongside of our students.
Most of all, I could describe the transformation that I witnessed in the lives of the 80+ middle school, high school, and college students that chose to sacrifice their spring breaks for the sake of their neighbors. They grew in love for the people that they met in our community but they also grew in their love and respect for one another. Most importantly they grew in their faith that our God is who he says he is and that he loves each of us more than we can possibly imagine.
We said from the beginning that Restoration Week would be practice. It was practice being good neighbors to the people around Highland, Grace Fellowship and Freedom Fellowship. We practice “Loving God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength” and “Loving our neighbors as ourselves.” Through our practice we learned how to be better neighbors and how to love others with the love of Jesus during the other 51 weeks of the year.
So how was it? The only way for you to get a real answer to that questions is to experience it for yourself. So, will you come out next year and experience it with us?