The room was filled with teenagers. They talked and laughed and whispered. Some of the girls flirted with some of the boys. If it wasn't for the fact that they spoke a different language, you could have easily mistook them for the kids in your neighborhood.
But they aren't.
I sat in the back of the room and tried hard to watch the movie projected on the wall. It was difficult because, though the movie was in English, it was dubbed in Russian. But I had seen this movie before. The Blind Side. A true story about a kid from the hood in Memphis who was abandoned by one family, but loved by another. People who were total strangers found him, took him into their home, made him feel important, and showed him love like he had not seen...ever.
In one scene, this Mom in this family (Sandra Bullock) is moving Big Mike from the couch to a bedroom, a step that would make him more 'family' than 'guest'. In this scene, Big Mike is standing there, lost in a gaze.
She asks him, "What's wrong?"
He says to her, "I've never had one before."
She asks, "You mean your own room?"
He looks at her, embarrassed, "No. A bed."
Slowly, she realizes that she can make a difference - a real difference. At one point, she's having lunch with some other ladies and one says, "You're really changing his life!" But she replies, "You've got it all wrong. He's changing mine."
That's what God wanted to do with me on this trip. He wanted to change my life so that I could up the ante on changing others.
I sit and watch from the back of the room, fighting hard not to cry, but knowing that God was breaking my heart again - in a good way. I've needed to see and know and experience the heart of God and how His heart breaks for the forgotten, the disenfranchised, the poor, the orphans.
I began to see that not all of us are called or able to invite a stranger into our home or adopt a kid, like happened in the movie. And not everyone is able or called to travel to Tanzania or Belize or Moldova. Many of us may not even be called or able to go and feed the homeless in Richmond.
But we are all called to help in some way. We are all called to remember. We are all called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
When we fund the mission work that PCC has so carefully investigated and vetted, we are giving these kids the bed they never had. We're literally giving them the clothes on their backs. We're not just talking a good talk, we're living what we say we believe: That God gives us resources so that we can change people's lives in Jesus' name.
Like never before, I see now that we do. We do change lives. Not just in Powhatan, but all over the world. Before I came here, I couldn't fully connect the dots. But I can now.
We change lives through benevolence grants PCC gives to help people in our area who have no heat or food.
We change lives every Saturday because we support Backpacks of Love. Through our partnership with them, kids in Powhatan eat on the weekends who would otherwise go hungry. That's not an exaggeration. It's the truth.
We change lives because we support Together for Tanzania. Through our partnership, people in that country have access to medicine, food, education and mosquito nets. People are alive today because we helped.
We change lives right now through our work in Belize. We are revitalizing the community by rebuilding the church and funding the only youth center around. That church would not be standing today, growing and reaching people if we had not responded.
We change lives through CERI Moldova and the Transitional Care program here. There are kids sitting 5 feet from me right now who would have quickly spiraled into another nameless, faceless statistic if we had not helped. And we did more than just delay the inevitable...we offered them the chance to change their lives in a sustainable way forever. Forever!
Because we - the people of God - stepped up and became the hands and feet of God, people's lives will never be the same.
We give to these causes out of the offerings and donations we receive every week. When you give to PCC, you are making life changing things happen in our community and around the world. You may never travel where your giving impacts, but that doesn't mean your giving isn't potent. It is. Powerfully so.
I'm convicted that we can and should do more. A lot more. We're going to send more people and give more money. We're going to feed more people, clothe more people, lead more people to Jesus Christ and change more lives for this life and for the next.
I don't always listen well to the voice of God. I'm sorry to say that I don't always obey when I hear Him speak. But this time I did, and I'm so glad. He's moved in me and taught me and shown me things that have changed me, and I will never be the same.