I had the pleasure of helping with Convoy of Hope this past summer, and I was inspired to do so by my very own daughter, Cassidy. The church she attends was and still is the host church in Wichita for Convoy of Hope. They have a strong youth group and their eagerness to pitch in is heartening. Read Cassidy’s take right here: Cassidy’s Blog.
Convoy of Hope is a national mission that is carried out locally. It reaches families who are preparing their children for school and need a boost. It generally coincides with the beginning of a school year and attempts to provide school supplies, shoes, food, haircuts, job-finding assistance to both the children and the parents. Dignity and grace suffuse the day – because everyone deserves dignity and love. We thank THEM for coming to bless us.
In the pre-dawn hours of that day, I rode with Cassidy to the church grounds upon which the Convoy of Hope would take place. Many pavilion-sized tents had been set up, a sound stage had been set up, bathrooms had been placed, pallets of foodstuffs had been arranged for dispersal. It was probably at least 10 acres in use for all of this. The organizers expected 10,000 people to visit. What they didn’t expect was severe weather to strike right at the time they wanted to put the final touches on it all. It all happened, it was just delayed about an hour.
The volunteer start times had already been set, though, so it was early, around 6 am, when we arrived in a downpour. Heavy rain lashed the tents. Classic Great Plains thunderstorms energetically bragged right over us as we walked to the volunteer gathering spot. We decided to walk on over to the spot rather than stay in the car to wait out the storm because the radar indicated 45 minutes or so of this level of weather. I am still not convinced it was a smart move, but it doesn’t matter now, we turned out fine. There was not one weather-related injury this day, for the record. It’s very hard to say if that is coincidence or mercy.
Cassidy and I shared my umbrella as we walked. We walked for between 5 and 10 minutes to get to the right place, and all the while lightning crackled all around us. Heavy rain battered my “Amsterdam” umbrella (I actually bought it in Amsterdam for 10 Euros from a cart on the street – it was raining and we needed to stay dry). Of course my shoes were immediately wet as were the bottoms of my pants. Cassidy wore rain boots. In order to fit under the umbrella, I put my right arm tightly over her shoulder, and clutched the umbrella in my left hand. We walked with a determined stride, but it was peaceful; not afraid or desperate or worried. Lightning split a tree about 400 yards away. It sounded as if the sky ripped. Like canvas rips – heavy. I wonder if the temple veil sounded like that when torn in two?
Have you ever come upon a wild animal that hasn’t noticed your presence? An animal that continues to sip at a brook, or nibble at a leaf, or peck at a bush? Think, now, of how you act in that moment of discovery. It turns quickly into a game of ‘freeze tag’. Don’t move, don’t inhale or exhale sharply, do NOT make eye contact. Observe through semi-slitted eyes, open wide enough to record, but not so wide as to reflect light and startle your subject. Your senses go into hyperdrive so as to remember everything about it; to not miss a thing. Aerosmith, anyone?
My time with Cassidy was like that. In fact, Angie and I catch ourselves glancing at each other more and more often as we watch our kids do the amazing things that make them special to the world and to us. (We always chuckle later about “catching them in their natural habitat”, and say “Don’t make eye contact!!”) I was walking right next to my daughter with my arm around her – we were bonding! I didn’t dare say anything, lest we get self-conscious and step apart. I pretended it was merely for the practicality of the weather that we were pulled so close. She knew. We both played it cool, but we knew. We will always have that morning.
Being in the middle of that thunderstorm also helped me understand the meaning of “the aegis of God”, or the ‘cloak of protection’ He puts around us. What the Bible says about judgment, “God dispenses or withholds His justice at His pleasure”. We have zero say in the matter. That day, God’s mighty lightning struck where it would, and we were merely bits of protoplasm existing within the confines of this physical earth. I found myself comforted once I realized that I was powerless to control what happened with the lightning. Yes, I prayed for safe passage. Perhaps it was granted, but perhaps it was mere meteorology, too. It is very hard to say. The lesson was more than ‘the rain falls on the just and the unjust’, even though that truth was also on display.
As time passes, I realize more and more that the display contained both His grandeur (in the storm) and His intimate love (to pass peace to me and my little-tiny-baby-daughter-who-is-somehow-a-grown-woman-now).
Priceless moments. Holy moments.