Saturday, March 28, 2015

Don't Try to Change Lives

By Gabe Barrett, Executive Director of M25 Mission Camps

When I was living in Los Angeles, there was a moment when my entire perspective on missions changed. I was working in a homeless shelter, and I had been to Skid Row which is basically the mecca of homelessness in our country. I had met people in heartbreaking situations. I had smelled the rundown hotels and sidewalks where they slept. I had seen people passed out in the gutter. I had heard story after gut wrenching story of pain and loss and brokenness.

And I've got to be honest, the weight of those burdens was killing me.

A friend took me up to a high hill close to his house, and we looked out over the city. I could see the Hollywood sign. I could see the ocean and the beaches. I could see the airplanes as they circled the area and came in to land. I could see Santa Monica to Inglewood to Compton to Long Beach to everything in between. And I thought about how many millions and millions of people were in just the area I could see.

I wondered how many of them were struggling with some terrible situation. I wondered how many of them were hurting. I wondered how many of them were broken. I wondered how many of them were in desperate need of Jesus. And then I wondered how someone like me could ever hope to make an impact. Even if I spent the rest of my life devoted to the city, how many people would I ever be able to talk to? How many lives could I change compared to how many were in dire need?

I remember feeling very. very. small.

But then it happened. As I looked out over the city of Angels, a quiet voice sounded in the back of my head. 

"Just change a day," it said. "I'll change lives. You just change someone's day."

My burden was immediately lifted. It wasn't up to me to change someone's life. 

That's God's business. 

He was calling me to change a person's day. To make them laugh. To encourage them. To inspire them. And to do everything in my power to help make today better than the yesterday. God would take care of the rest. And it occurred to me that if enough people changed enough days, some absolutely amazing things would happen.

So, when M25 Mission Camp was founded and I was made the director, we started on a journey to change as many days as possible in the city of Atlanta. Whether we’re at a shelter, soup kitchen, or under a bridge, we just try to make somebody’s day a little better.

A while back, I was with a group of high school students downtown. We were making pancakes and inviting all of our residentially challenged friends in to join us for brunch. 

A tall, older man named Clark came in, and two of the students found out it was his birthday. So they ran into the kitchen, made a big stack of pancakes, and scrounged around for some birthday candles. The students lit the candles and brought the pancakes out to Clark. There were about seventy people in the room, and everyone stopped and sang "happy birthday."

Tears streamed down Clark's face. He blew out the candles and everyone clapped. 

A while later, when Clark got up to leave, I stopped him at the door and asked him how old he was that day. He said 60. 

Then I asked, "When's the last time someone sang you happy birthday?” 

He thought for a little bit and said, "I think I was 15 the last time someone did that for me."

45 years.

It had been 45 years since someone had said, "Clark, it's your day. And since it's your day, we're gonna light some candles and sing you happy birthday."

45 years.

Did those birthday pancakes change Clark's life? Probably not. Did they change Clark's day?


And it all started with two high school students seeing an opportunity to love someone. That’s what M25 Mission Camp is all about.

M25 is a mission-based camp program for youth and young adults based in Atlanta, GA. At the core of M25 is realizing that service is not about pity or obligation. It’s about compassion, love, and pursuing Jesus. Check out their website for more information on camps, as well as short-term staff opportunities

Photos courtesy of M25.

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