The sun was well on its way to burning off the morning haze when I pulled into the GlenCastle parking lot. Six boisterous, junior-high age boys were already there and waiting, along with their counselor, Constance. This was the day they had been eagerly anticipating all summer long. They were the first participants in Fit for the Kingdom, Constance Watson's new ministry to abused children, and had been working especially hard to accumulate enough "FK dollars" to earn a day of boating and skiing at Lake Lanier. Hurricane Danny, however, had been threatening to spoil it all. For the past several days Danny had been cutting a destructive path northward from the gulf, dumping torrential rains and whipping up tornadoes along the way. Only the day before had Atlanta braced for Danny's onslaught. But this morning, the sky was nearly blue and dampened spirits were soaring once again. As we loaded towels and bags of snacks and coolers of drinks into the van, I had to prepare my young friends for some potentially bad news that could spoil our plans. It was raining up at the lake, I had been told a few minutes earlier by the folks at the marina, and no clear skies were in sight. The boys were undaunted. The Atlanta sun was shining brightly and that was good enough for them. They piled into the van, turned up the music and we headed north out of the city.
Thirty minutes into our journey the skies began to cloud over. Enthusiasm in the van diminished noticeably the darker the clouds grew. In a few miles there was mist spraying on our windshield from the wet road. Rodney, the oldest and biggest of the bunch, was first to acknowledge the impending fate. "We better pray," he said, as he ordered one of the boys to turn off the rap music. As the boys prayed for sunshine, I rehearsed in my mind an explanation I would likely have to recite why God did hear their prayers but was choosing instead to answer the prayers of other people whose lives had been torn apart by the storm.
As we neared the expressway exit ramp and the last five miles to the lake, the foreboding skies rolled darker than ever. Rodney called once again for a moment of prayer. In the silence, my mind traveled back to an earlier time in my spiritual journey when I, too, had naively asked God for personal favors: a parking place, an easy way out of a jam, and other little miracles to make my life more agreeable. These were the days before maturity had taught me that God was no cosmic errand boy in the sky waiting to respond to my every whim. Childlike times, they were, before learning that God had far more important things to tend to, like hurricane victims and people in other serious crises. Prayer, I recalled learning somewhere along the way, was designed to get us aligned with God's will rather than to get Him to perform ours. A strange sense of nostalgia welled up within me as my memory replayed some of the wonder and excitement of those earlier years before I adopted a somewhat safer Thy-will-be-done approach to praying. I recalled that my prayers were much more dynamic and intense in those days, full of drama and suspense, even euphoria, though admittedly they were sometimes a bit self-centered. Suddenly I was jolted back to the present reality by pounding rap music from the van speakers.
Things looked no better as we pulled into the marina. Leaving a set of dry clothes in the van, we loaded our provisions into the boat, buckled on our life jackets and headed down the lake to find a sandy beach area that I had hoped would be our playground for the day. It was difficult to tell whether it was spray from the boat or droplets from the sky that spit in our faces. No matter. One way or another we were all going to be soaked before long anyway. Eventually we slowed to pass under a bridge, then swung a long turn toward our sandy cove which I could now make out in the distance. As I pointed out our destination to the boys, a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds, illuminating our beach and flooding the entire cove with splendid brilliance. Spontaneous cheers erupted from the boys and I found myself laughing audibly. It would remain sunny all day long and I would go home with my worst sunburn of the summer.
Bob Lupton August 1997
P.S. I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to our many friends who gave of their resources to make our summer of ministry the best ever. The children of our community have been nurtured, their lives enriched and their spirits fed. Our staff and volunteers are winding up the summer with tired bodies and fulfilled hearts. Thank you for being our partners in service.