Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My World Changed in mid-April

I remember the day well, although many days in mid-April in Western New York start off or stay much like this one did. It was a bit on the chilly side and rainy. I had lived in New York now for almost four years, having moved from the desert and barren wasteland known as Northwestern Nevada.

I don't remember exactly why but I didn't have school that day. Maybe it was Easter break. I remember my dad was off from work at that time, and he felt the need to spend some time with me.

We went to see a movie: A Goofie Movie in fact. We must have caught a matinee because what I remember next was early afternoon.

My dad loved to torture me with news and talk radio, and when he turned the ignition and the radio came on we both heard something along the lines of "News coming out of Oklahoma City is that the bomb was detonated shortly after 9 am Central time...". I had never seen my dad so white in the face. I didn't even have a clue as to what was going on, I only knew really one thing about Oklahoma City to that point: my grandparents lived there.

In April of 1995 I was just barely 11 years old. I didn't have much of a concept of the world. When I had seen on the news that our president was saying "Mr. Gorbecev, tear down this wall" I had no idea what that meant. When I asked my dad why there were soldiers going to some country that sort of looked like Nevada he said "Well, because some idiot is trying to start a fight and our soldiers are trying to stop him." A couple years later I saw on the news a building that was on fire in a place called Waco and there were tanks moving closer to the building. And inside that building there was a man claiming to be Jesus. I had no idea what was going on. I don't think I was sheltered as a child necessarily, but I think my parents wanted to preserve my innocence of the world as long as they could. Even my concept of a sinner was limited to someone who smoked, drank alcohol, and went to the casino (every little town in Nevada had a casino).

But there was no hiding, no shelter to be had from this. For the first time in my life I had a sense that someone I loved could be hurt by someone else who only wanted to create fear and terror. A little over a month later my dad, my sister, and I went to Oklahoma City to visit with my grandparents. They were safe, though they lived a little over three and a half miles from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and we went to go see the debris from the blast. Pieces of the building still stood but most of it was demolished at that point.

At that time I saw something very interesting. In the midst of the destruction due to someone's anger, there were notes attached to the chain link fence, and stuffed animals with messages of hope, and peace, and prayers that were offered up on behalf of the victims, their families, and everyone who was affected by this tragic event. At that time I learned that despite how evil someone could be, love was that much more powerful.

Over the next few years I would learn about the evils that had been done, but also learn that it was never left to go unchallenged. In 1998 I saw first hand the horrors of the Holocaust in a little known but very brutal camp just outside of Antwerp, Belgium called "Fort Breendonk." As I took the tour I saw a carving of a cross and words which I think said "I forgive you." Not quite a year later two students outside of Denver, Colorado decided they were going to take vengeance on their fellow schoolmates and ended up taking their own lives.

Then, as my senior year of high school was just beginning, and I was getting my book out for consumer mathematics class, my teacher Mrs. Conrad walked in and said "A plane just flew into the World Trade Center". We didn't have consumer math that day.

The evil that has gone on in this world since then is nearly too numerous to tell, but it's sobering to remember the time in your life when your view of evil was someone picking on you a little bit in the schoolyard, and one event that hits close to home changes everything. Suddenly the evil seems overwhelming. But God's love is greater.

I may just be the pastor of a church that looks like it belongs in a Norman Rockwell painting, interestingly enough a painter who seemed to capture a whimsical, idealistic America on pieces of canvas. My mark on this world may not be all that significant. I may never even meet some of the people who might get something out of these writings or hear the sermons I post and be touched by them. But the message I proclaim is one that is aimed at combating the evil that exists in this world, and I know I am not alone in proclaiming that message. I am in good company with the saints and martyrs throughout time, place, and history who have been subjected to evil because they dared to proclaim the gospel message. I join with those currently who dream of a day when the pain and suffering inflicted on those in Boston today, and those who are subjected to evil on a daily basis, because Jesus promises that such a day is coming.

Until that day I will not be deterred in proclaiming that Jesus subjected Himself to the deeds of evil men in order that we may know peace through Him.

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