What Matters Most?

One evangelism survey tool I've employed while church planting is simply to knock on doors and interact with people in public spaces and ask them just one simple probing question: "What matters most to you?" Far and above, whether in the newly constructed neighborhoods in the South, or in the established communities of the Northeast; the top answer was always: "family," or "a good job." No one ever started with "my car," or "my big screen tv"  as number one, but still it was surprising how very few respondents would ever place "God," "my faith," or "my church family" at the top of list. That is, until something shifted and overwhelmingly changed the way people responded to our surveys following November of 2012... and no, its not what you think.   

Superstorm Sandy hit New York City on October 29th, 2012. It was a storm of tremendous size, although by the time it hit NYC and it's outlying boroughs, it was "only" a Category 2 Hurricane, its damage was catastrophic. According to NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, in a typical large hurricane, tropical storm-force winds would only reach out 300 miles from a storm's centre. Prior to making landfall, hurricane-force winds (sustained speed of 74mph and above) and tropical storm-force winds of Hurricane Sandy (sustained speed of 39-73mph) extended 175 miles and 485 miles from the center of the storm respectively.

Disaster Relief teams representing churches from our local Frontier Baptist Association in partnership with Baptist Convention of New York were called out immediately, and within just a couple days I found myself on a Jet Blue commuter flight headed into the city, nervous and uncertain of what I might be getting myself into when I landed in LaGuardia. We didn't have a vehicle, we didn't have any heavy equipment, we didn't really know what we were doing, but we had instructions from our friends Mike and Bev piloting the Incident Command Center as to where to go... so we went. The image above was of a neighborhood park turned into a giant garbage pile. I took this picture, then dropped my pack on a family's back porch. There I donned on an N85 mask, and went underground for the next 5 days. 

The work was backbreaking, and the days were long. We cleared basements full of people's life storage and passed them off the homeowners at the top of the stairwell. They sorted out small handfuls of keepsakes, then handed off to team members who dragged the remaining contents to the street before the sewage and growing mold could contaminate the rest of the house. Travel to and from the worksite(s) proved to be particularly frustrating covered in a layer of mud on the fragmented remaining network of subway trains that weren't submerged underwater, after an exhausting 10-12 hour shift. But it was all worth it, because we were being the very hands and feet of Jesus Christ. We were being a tangible representation of the Gospel in ways many of our new friends had never experienced. 

With chaplains coming through every worksite every day, they tallied the number of family members accounted for, the number of meals distributed, and the number of hours worked. But most importantly they accounted for the hundreds of people who gave their life to Christ during the relief efforts. You see, all of sudden, rushing in like the storm surge they had just experienced, they came face to face with what truly matters most! It wasn't their possessions, their livelihood, or their status in the community. No, It was where they would spent eternity before God, and whether their friends and family would be with them in Glory!   

I've never forgotten that mission trip. God pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me to trust Him more. You know what else? While I voted absentee before I left Buffalo and WNY, it was in NYC with a few thousand of my closest friends that I found out the results of the 2012 Presidential Election. I visited Time Square super late on election night, (it truly is the city that never sleeps) and watched some of the tv coverage only a few feet from the live broadcast. It was just so weird to be there, to see the electoral count climbing a jumbo screen up the side of a 30 story building, while standing in workboots still covered in the sludge of people's broken memories I had been moving out of the cellar all day. It all seemed so surreal. 

In the end, someone won the election that night, and someone lost. But you know what? It didn't matter that much. Do you know why? Because I suddenly knew what mattered most. Or let me say it this way; I was reminded of what I supposedly already knew anyway. Gods only Son provides everlasting life. That's it. That's what matters. It's all about the Gospel! And every once in a while, when I start watching the headlines, and when I start watching the political maneuvering; I need to reminded to not lose sight of what matters most. Don't you?

I am the bread that gives life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35

- Pastor Milo


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