Beauty Instead of Ashes

This has already been a whirlwind summer for our family. My two oldest have been to Ireland on a mission trip to a town called Craigavon. It’s in Northern Ireland. It’s a town that has been written off as a failure. It’s the town that Celebration Church in Florida decided to impact with the love of Christ by planting a church there. The people of Craigavon need hope. My daughter spent a week in New York City working with the ministers at the Dream Center to spread the love of Christ to those who so despirately need Him there. Our whole family will leave this Saturday to help pull off a youth conference in Daytona, Florida, called Bigstuf, where thousands of kids from all over our nation will come to worship, hear great ministers lead them into deeper relationships with Christ and each other, and have fun in the sun. This conference is one of the highlights of our year.

It’s been a crazy few days since our kids all got back home from their mission trips. We haven’t yet really had time to sit down and hear everything that happened in them and through them on their journeys. We will. These are stories I don’t want to miss out on.

They have already shared one story from Ireland that I found really compelling. There’s not a lot for the young people of Craigavon to do there so they tend to congregate beneath bridges. I guess all teenagers everywhere like to “hang out”. Apparently nothing much happens in Craigavon. The kids on the mission trip soon discovered a couple of these hangouts and were saddened to see what had been written on the walls by the usual inhabitants. On the walls were written words of futility, desperation, anger, and apathy. These are the byproducts of a life without hope.

Our kids brought sidewalk chalk and Sharpie markers and began to write over the words the Craigavon kids had written. They began to cover anger with love. apathy with enthusiasm, futility with hope. They brought their Bibles and began to write scripture on the walls, replacing lies from the enemy with truth.

Then one day they were able to hang out underneath one of the bridges with the very kids who so despirately needed to know that even in Craigavon, there is hope. That God loves them and that they matter. Some of these kids have since connected with ours on Facebook, so the ministry will continue. If you want to join in on showing Craigavon some love, you can send them messages on Twitter using the hashtag #LoveCraigavon.

“  …and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:3

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’m going to share some with you taken by my son, Landon.

So what do you think?

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