Posted by: Aaron Padgett | August 3, 2008

August 2008 Newsletter – Reflect

Dear family, friends, and church community,

I recently started reading a book about a guy and his friend that decided that they needed to have a time of restoration in their lives, to just take a few months away from the daily grind and go out into the world to discover light, God, and beauty on the open road. The book is called Through Painted Deserts, and on leaving his normal life behind, author Donald Miller says “It’s interesting how you sometimes have to leave home before you can ask difficult questions, how the questions never come up in the room you grew up in, in the town in which you were born. It’s funny how you can’t ask difficult questions in a familiar place, how you have to stand back a few feet and see things in a new way before you realize nothing that is happening to you is normal.”

When I was entering the HOPE program back in late May, I never questioned myself about how much I thought God was going to change me over the course of the summer. I didn’t have any idea that it was going to take an experience like this to truly challenge my faith, stir me to ask questions, and grow deeper in my relationship with Christ.

But now I’m on the other side of the hill, with less than three weeks to go.  This has been a complete whirlwind. It has been encouraging, trying, sometimes uncomfortable, very fun, and always real. Something that God has been showing me in a big way this summer is how truly awesome he is, but that the level of his awesomeness, love, and mercy is so great that I can’t even begin to understand it. I mean, we throw around the word “awesome” a lot. But really think about what that means… he is worthy of our awe. We can stand back, struck with wonder and admiration at the awesome power of our God. God is awesome.

He’s been showing me how he does such great and mighty things, yet  through small situations and small people. He’s been showing me that there really is hope for the hopeless. He revealed this to me through my friend Artie that was stuck in an ongoing struggle with alcoholism. His struggle with alcohol became a struggle for me and my team, too, as he would come to us almost daily confessing to us how he had fallen once again into the temptation of drunkenness.

Finally one day he pulled me aside and completely unloaded his grief on me, telling me about how he couldn’t handle living that lifestyle anymore. He told me that there was a guy on his way to pick him up and take him to rehab. I sat there not knowing what to say, completely stunned, and at a loss for words, so I just asked him if we could pray together. So there we stood in the hallway in a huddle with our eyes closed, praying to God and praising him. And Artie didn’t even care that there were people all around that probably thought we looked stupid praying in the middle of the hallway. He had given up the fight to resist what God had planned for him. He didn’t care about things like that anymore, and neither did I.

We went outside so that Artie could have a smoke as we waited for the person that was coming to take him to recovery. His friend Caleb, who also struggles with an alcohol addiction, came up to me to talk for a little while. He started out by saying “Thank you so much for coming into Artie’s life. You saved him, and I’m thankful for that because God gave up on me. I’m just glad he has a chance now”

I quickly rebounded with his statement saying “Well, Caleb, I am not the one who saved Artie’s life, and I certainly don’t believe God gave up on you.”

At this he just gave me a reluctant, “Thanks for your concern for me, but I don’t need any preaching.” We went on to have a good conversation for a few minutes about God and about our lives.

A truck rolled up a few minutes later, and it turned out that it was the guy that was there to take Artie to rehab. Artie fumbled around for a minute or two, gathering his stuff as his friend Caleb told him goodbye. The guy that came to pick Artie up seemed to realize that Caleb had alcohol problems, too, and suddenly butted in saying, “You know what? You need to get your life straightened out, as well. Grab your bike and put it in the back of the truck. You’re coming, too.”

At this Caleb stood for a moment, and then just began weeping. As he cried, Caleb steered his bicycle around the truck and lifted it into the back, and looked at me from the other side of the truck. He quickly came to embrace me with one of the biggest and most sincere hugs I have ever had from anyone with tears flowing down his face. He looked into my eyes and said, “Thank God for you, Aaron. I don’t care what you say, you are a great man. Every day, you smiled at me and showed me you cared and that’s all it took. Thank you so much.”

I really had no idea what in the world was going on. It seemed like all of a sudden, God was showing me what can happen when you take the time to be intentional in people’s lives, show them that they are valuable through something as simple as a smile, get to know them and their story a little bit, and then talk to them about how much Jesus values them. And I really tried to stress to them that it was totally not me that came into their lives and gave them motivation to change, but that all credit was due to God.

I couldn’t think of much to say back to Caleb because I was so overwhelmed. As we stood there hugging, I just told him, “See, I told you God hasn’t given up on you.” He wiped some tears from his cheek and turned toward the truck to climb in the passenger side door. I stood there waving as they drove away, watching them sail off to a new beginning.

God still performs miracles. He is moving in the lives of people at Jefferson Street Baptist Center. He’s moving in the lives of the homeless, the residents that live here, the volunteers, the full-time staff, and the HOPE team. The ministry here has provided a way for many people to come closer to knowing Jesus. It has opened doorways for members of the body of Christ to have the opportunity to come into contact with pain and suffering first-hand and to show those that are afflicted by society that there is still hope for them, that there is a Creator that cares for them.

I’m now nearing the end of this experience and that has really given me time to reflect on all the ways you have helped. I want to thank you with all the complete sincerity I can muster for all the overwhelming support I have received from you. You sent me letters, called me on the phone, came to visit me, gave to this ministry financially, and prayed for me and my team. Whether you realize it or not, you have played a large role in what goes on here at Jeff Street and in all that we have seen unfold over the summer. I’d really encourage you to continue to give to this ministry even after I have completed the HOPE program for the sake of future HOPE teams and so that Jeff Street can continue to serve and love the homeless.

There’s a lyric by a favorite band of mine called Life in Your Way that says “I’m learning to live the way I should. I’m learning to love the way You would.”

That lyric spells out what I have been trying to do this summer – love people and follow Jesus. I’m just another goofed up human being like anyone else, but I’m trying to see Jesus in the midst of all our mess. Thank you again for everything you’ve done to help.

In peace,

Aaron Padgett

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Responses

  1. Hi Aaron,
    Your story about Artie and Caleb gave me goose bumps! I hope you won’t mind that I shared that story with my Sunday school class today (via a weekly e-mail I send out); it fit perfectly with our lesson this morning about God receiving all the glory. While it’s true that God is the only one who saves; I believe He uses us as his hands and feet. You and the other HOPE team members have certainly been those hands and feet this summer. I have the utmost respect for each of you and I can’t begin to tell you how touched I’ve been by every blog. It was a pleasure to meet you on “Come See Day” and I look forward to seeing you at Georgetown in the future! May God continue to bless you as you serve Him. ~Betty

  2. Aaron, I’m blessed to call you my brother, man! I thank God for your friendship and your love for Him and people, especially our homeless friends. Thanks for your letter; it glorifies our Lord, and it’s a huge encouragement to me.
    I hope you and Coran are having a great time at Jeff Street this week. Take each moment for all that it’s worth.

    Cameron


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