The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic. - Joseph Stalin
Daytona Beach is a battleground. Some other places, not so much.
Over Labor Day weekend I spoke with a former Amish woman and her husband at a home church in the North Country of Upstate, New York. As we sang hymns and prayed on a back porch, the men wore jackets and some of the women hung blankets over their shoulders to stay warm. The leaves there are just starting to turn. Near the end of the gathering some of us took communion.
The couple I spoke with told me that not many people in that part of the country are interested in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even with persistent economic troubles, their lives seem comfortable in a Norman Rockwell kind of way. It is almost like, ‘Who needs Jesus in such a quiet and peaceful place.’
East Central Florida is different things to different people, but few would describe it as quiet or peaceful. – Although, street signs, bumper stickers and t-shirts announce Jesus almost everywhere you go, out of the schools each year we produce a robust cohort of drug addicts and young people willing to trade their bodies for drugs. There is at least one story of a person being snatched from a public place and raped every twelve months. We even had our very own serial killer just a few years ago. – When people on the street in Daytona Beach talk about needing Jesus, they are not kidding.
We have a lot of Jesus here, because we need a lot of Jesus.
Saturday we laid-to-rest my friend’s son Garrett. He probably died from a drug overdose or at least medical complications brought on by his struggle with addiction. Tuesday, between sessions with clients, I sat in my office and wept. I hear a good share of difficult stories, but Garrett’s death hit me hard, it became personal, maybe because I have two boys and I’m afraid for them.
Jesus spent a lot of his time on earth with ‘sinners’ like addicts and prostitutes. He came to them with a heart full of love, understanding, and compassion.
Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick . . . For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:12-13
There is no doubt in my mind that people in the North Country experience heartache and have their own brand of troubles. I know Jesus is there, too. But, His presence is more overt down here in Daytona, where the battlefield is active . . . where Evil and Good both stare you in the face . . . where broken spirits are mended by a Savior who refuses to forget us.
. . . Father, we praise You for being a God who loves us. In our pain we felt Your love so acutely this last week. Thank you for the gift of Garrett, we remember worshiping You with him by our side. His love for You was so transparent and obvious. Be with us Father as we move forward, as we close ranks where Garrett once stood and continue to march forward in love and compassion for those around us. You are our God and we praise you. In Jesus name . . .