This past week, two of us on our LUTC team were given the opportunity to attend a week-long camping retreat for about 60 men in Seattle's Union Gospel Mission's recovery program. The retreat was at Camp Delaney in the middle of the high desert plains of Eastern Washington. The camp is designed to get the men out of the city, a place where they have many distractions, which might be detrimental in their recovery process. It is also a way for them to get out into open spaces and into creation spending time fishing, tubing on a lake, hiking and building relationships with one another and simply rediscovering that fun can be had while sober.
I was asked to lead worship, which honestly made me a little hesitant at first. I lead worship for a presbyterian church, where hymns (traditional, rearranged and new) make up about 95 percent of our song rotation. I wondered if they would be able to connect with this "style" of worship? Forgetting that it is really not my job to decide if a style of music will resonate, but rather just facilitate worship and let the Spirit handle the rest. I started off the first night with a hymn from Fanny Crosby called "Redeemed". This particular arrangement leans to more of an up-tempo, gospel feel. The men connected with the song and the simple theological themes of redemption "by the blood of the Lamb" rang true with their current status of redemption from the streets, from addiction and a reminder of their incredible value as a child of God. The song kind of became our theme song for the rest of the week.
During the week, what struck a chord with me is that these guys were living into their rawness, into their struggle and into their desire to know there is indeed a redemption story that God has for each of them. Their response to worship was extremely worshipful for me and was a further reminder that God uses the broken and the bruised to highlight His desire to make things new- just as He's doing throughout all creation by the work on the Cross.
It was a reminder that the person panhandling on the street, sleeping in the doorway or under the freeway, or strung-out on a park bench, are all potential stories of redemption. It is not always easy to know how to engage, but simply saying "hello" can be a start. Who knows? Maybe they will discover for themselves the depth, width and breadth of Christ's love and grace, through a simple gesture.
"Redeemed! Redeemed! Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb
Redeemed! Redeemed! His child and forever I am" - Fanny Crosby
"And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
-Nathan A. Ryan
photos provided by Chris Peppler and Nathan A. Ryan