I wonder if one of the most striking factors that caused Peter to stumble out on the stormy waters on the journey to be in the presence of Christ was relational to fear. The Bible describes Peter as becoming afraid as he became overcome by waves and winds. I, for one, am not sure how stable I would have felt if I was asked to step out onto water.
I believe in this story not only because its biblical and truth but I believe in the story for its value. The experience of being willing to step out of a fishing boat, to leave his fishing buddies, Peter must have been ready to risk his life. Needless to say, surely others back among the fish and nets inside the boat wondered what Peter had decided to do when he stepped out over the side. Simply sticking into the recesses of my brain are the ongoing thoughts of what conversations were held by the majority of the fishing crew when Peter took matters into his own hands. As he began his journey onto the water, knowingly, straight into the horrid potential for disaster, the rest may have laughed, screamed, or hurtled provocative insults. I am certain that I will inquire about these details if I ever get the chance to ask one day.
I think that everyone has the opportunity to take a risk at least many times throughout their existence in this world. I believe that the choice to take risks are inherently combined with God's calling on one's life. To some, a risk may include deciding on the type of $20,000 USD diamond ring to combine with the set of $8,000 USD earrings to wear while others are risking whether the market special fish of the day has spoilt to the point of endangering the lives of the family if eaten. Some people struggle to decide what pair of blue jeans to put on for the day and others risk their lives trying to get clean drinking water from the contaminated sewage runoff from the local oil refinery plant.
Risks are relative and risks are relational. Risks are certainly not equal on all levels for all people. While one can handle a torrential downpour of wind and rain, another can only handle to watch their friend jump out into the storms. God calls each person to the destiny and calling that he was created to step up for. God also talks about how He won't give us more than we can handle, which I am sure some of the guys in Peter's boat were quite thankful for.
Last Saturday night, our youth leaders definitely took their first steps out of conformity in their humble comforts and leaped into the unknown darkness ahead of them. Several of our key leaders, Jhession, Anderson, Paul, and Jordy vulnerably risked their social fame, popularity, and acceptance by leading out at the new ministry location in Las Flores de Ventanilla Alta. Among these regions were the team branched out in ministry are gang leaders, members, and drug traffic that puts tragedy into the streets everyday. Life is rampaged by global post modern thoughts while teenagers fight for their lives amongst violent ridden acts of defiance to humanity. These four leaders are gracefully attempting to bring Christ to a world of confusion among the marginalized community of Las Flores and Las Lomas. They've all gotten out of their boats and are embracing the arms of Christ.
The barriers of their prior experience had been broken through and these youth leaders have chosen new ground to walk on. As I rounded towards the building in the darkness of the alleyway, stark and bare lightbulb bore down on the corner cement patches of the gathering. The challenge of meeting in this area would be the potential for direction confrontation with opposing gangs, jealous and angry of invasion into their "zone". If I had ever previously worried about some of the youth bringing guns into youth group meetings in Las Lomas, I certainly knew that youth group in Las Flores had secured the caution. Everything was incredibly smooth as the program began. The stepping out of the boat had happened for the youth leaders as they launched the incredible new program. The place was full and over 80 youth had packed into the schoolyard patio to join in community. There were 17 new faces among the crowd and the place was happening.
Then reality hit my world hard. There were five youth in the building that had carried guns inside. I quickly began to calculate my options as I was being asked to share the message with the entire group. Words cannot express my deepest thoughts and fears as I simply, yet sadly took my eyes of Christ and began to look around. Realizing that the world we live in and the world that we serve others in is surrounded by violence, hatred, and fear, caused me to realize that my life is a passing vapor of wind. Should the risks I take for the cause of Christ lead me to lose my life, then I will choose Him.
As I made my way to the front of the auditorium to share some of my story and to share with the youth about what Christ has done in my life, I knew that it didn't matter how many guns were in the hands of youth that were milling about in the crowd. The dark places in the room grew darker as I walked towards the front of the room, and I began to worry when the "what ifs" came knocking at my door. I thought about my precious wife and my joyous little girl as I slowly turned around to face the crowd. I thought about the last time that I kissed them goodbye and thought that perhaps it would be my last, and I slowly began to realize that they were never mine to begin with, they are His. He is the giver of life and He is the one who orchestrates all. All of those incredible people that I hold so close to my heart and my mind are ultimately His and I am nothing to hold them tighter than Christ. It is for Christ that holds them tightly and I am to cling to Him.
Its not easy doing life in the ghetto and everyday presents its challenges. Needless to say that people take risks, and I knew that I was taking a big risk that evening when facing the gangs of Las Flores. It will potentially not end in the way that I would like it to end, but the ministry that Christ has called me for is of His doing and not ours. Who is willing to take risks in our post modern world of watered down Christ followers? We all state that we will do whatever Christ calls us do to? However, it seems that the majority of people who profess to do whatever it takes to follow Christ stop and buck when it starts to get uncomfortable.
Davie Wilkerson, one of the most progressive individuals that started Teen Challenge, a church in New York City, and ministered directly to gangs of New York stated it well,
"Likewise today, some Christians are content to merely exist until they die. They don't want to risk anything, to believe God, to grow or mature. They refuse to believe his Word, and have become hardened in their unbelief. Now they're living just to die."
So, I speak to the gangs of Las Flores when I share that I love each of you and I know that we can live in community to share and live the Gospel Message of Christ, to break down the walls of division among social and economic clashes, and we can change the world through Christ who changes us.
I will not live merely to exist until I die but I will live life fully until I cease to exist. My mother, when finding out that she was to battle another deathly round of cancer spoke softly to me in the car on the way home from the hospital,
"I will live until I die," Ann W. Klopp
So will I, Mom, so will I.