And forgive us our trespasses…

Our first adventure in Belle Glade happened before we could even see the town. To get our attention, God used one of the most powerful forces in the known universe: a dozen bored teenage boys seeking amusement.
We spent our first night at Wellington Presbyterian Church, about 30 miles from our destination. The next morning, after a very brief (and very cold) shower and a shave, I returned to find a couple of them playing with the classroom intercom. They’d push the button that paged the office, then they’d listen to the beep and the system kicking on and then back off.

I’m sure there were more amusing things in the building than that, but at 8 in the morning they hadn’t found it.

One of the kids started pushing the button rapidly and stumbled onto an emergency code. Soon, every speaker in the building was beeping, followed by our room number in an electronic voice reminiscent of a Speak-and-Spell: Two. Two. Nine.

Our host had no idea how to turn the alarm off. It didn’t take long for it to get really annoying.

We gathered in another classroom for breakfast. One of the trip leaders gave a stern lecture about being good guests to our hosts. One of the kids in my group (figures) confessed to pushing the button.

“Well then, Matthew, you lead us in prayer for this meal,” she said.

So Matt lead us in prayer. He started off by saying (in prayer) that he’d pushed the button and he was sorry. Then he thanked God for our hosts and for the meal, and asked Him to bless it.

The electronic voice stopped. Immediately.

With that distraction out of the way, everyone got a little more philosophical. Someone suggested we look up chapter 2, verse 29 in every book of the Bible and see what it said.

We didn’t have time for that. But that afternoon, it dawned on someone that the name of the guy who pushed the button was Matthew, so she looked up Matthew 2:29. There is no Matthew 2:29. So she turned to Matthew 22:9. Want to take a guess what it says?

“Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.”

Much of our work that week was centered around a soup kitchen, from serving breakfast every morning (no questions asked, to anyone who came in) to putting on a Vacation Bible School for the neighborhood kids to painting it in the afternoon and prayer-walking the neighborhood around it.

And as we would soon learn, in that part of Belle Glade, people congregate on street corners.

Matthew 22:9 became the theme of the week.

We told the owner/director of the soup kitchen the story. It moved him to tears.

Matthew 22:9 became the theme of the soup kitchen.

3 thoughts on “And forgive us our trespasses…

  • June 27, 2002 at 12:09 pm
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    Dave that’s absolutely amazing. He works in amazing ways I’m discovering.

    Thank you for sharing :o) I love it.

  • June 27, 2002 at 2:05 pm
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    I remember growing up in Mexico…our family used to host groups of young people on their mission trips. Dad would use that time to teach us, always on a mission trip, how to share and all that fun stuff, haha. It was something else.

    The “kids” were there to make a difference by sharing their faith and resources with the less fortunate. One group in particular, I remember it well, was quite different. They came to serve us. For some reason I found that amazing. Most of the time we would be the ones cleaning and cooking and so on, but this group, from the moment they walked in, they wanted to know what they could do not just for those they came to help but for us as well. Come to think of it, they came to help us too.

    People can sense the heart of the person doing the work – it shows up through scripture, a smile, a sincere apology. My hat’s off to you for working with young people. Thanks!

  • June 27, 2002 at 5:18 pm
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    I led a group of six; three teenagers and three adults (including me). The changes I saw in the teenagers, especially the boys, were remarkable. I’ll bet they all matured a year in that week.

    I had to learn a lot that week too. I never had any patience for teenagers, even when I was one myself.

    I’m looking forward to when we can go again. We were a bunch of raw recruits when we left, but by about Thursday we were an inseperable team. I think what impressed me the most about them was their willingness and ability to learn from mistakes (as illustrated by this story). We all made lots of mistakes down there, but I don’t think anyone ever made the same mistake more than once.

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