This morning after a quick hotel breakfast, we loaded up and got on the road for Baltimore.
We arrived in Baltimore in time to take in lunch and tool around the Inner Harbor Area. We also visited the top of the World Trade Center, Baltimore, also known as the “Top of the World.” There were stunning views and names of those who lost their lives in the World Trade Center bombing in New York. And…there were paddle boats.
The highlight of the day, though, was our visit to the Children’s Home of Baltimore. The Home is a beautiful 44 acre residential facility for young men and women, ages 13-21, who are there for a variety of circumstances in their lives. We were warmly welcomed by their staff, who were genuinely happy we were there, though I know groups like ours probably interfere with their “routines.”
Some of our young men played basketball with some of their young men before the program. The real outcome of that match probably depends on who is doing the telling.
After our tour, we had pizza delivered and ate with them, trying to break the ice with limited success. Several of our kids expressed that it was awkward.
I struggled with getting the sound system to work. I was completely drenched in sweat, but Charles George and Pastor Tim helped me, and we reached Karl Marzolf. Between all of us, we came up with a makeshift system that sufficed for the moment. When it was time for our program, PJ read the situation well, and decided that we were going to do an impromptu version of the program – one that was abbreviated, without the skits and only some of the songs. The decision was perfect.
As the kids stood to begin, there seemed to be a bit of a racial divide in the room – black on one side, white on the other. Amongst our audience (mainly young people with very difficult life circumstances) there was some snickering, backs turned, heads down. Then we started with Anna Scott’s, rafter-shaking, unbelievable version of Old Country Church. Toes started tapping, faces looked up, and shoulders and heads moved to the music. IGNITE’s sound was the best many of us had heard as they proclaimed the gospel to these young strangers. Ashley sang What You Want. More social ice melted and more smiles broke out. Joanna and Caitlin sang One Step Away beautifully and with confidence in that circumstance, and continued to connect with those at the Home.
A young man from the facility approached Susan and told her that he would like to rap a song by the Christian artist, Lecrae. We were able to pull it up on YouTube and he got up and nervously began to rap. A little way into the song, JC got up and started to dance beside the young man. As he busted a move (you can tell I’m an old guy by that language), he and the young man smiled at each other–encouraging one another. The crowd began to REALLY engage, laughing, smiling, and clapping. When the young man finished, he received a standing ovation. His day had been made and, at least for the time, walls had come down and hearts were touched.
With inspiration, but without warning, PJ asked if I had the track to Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. I found it on my laptop. It had been a crowd pleaser at the fundraiser in the spring, and so with no recent practice they sang their hearts out. As PJ said, they “blew her hair back” with their sound. Most of the staff came out into the room and sang along as Alex and Anna Scott led the choir to a rousing rendition of that song. I like to think that those from the Children’s Home and we left that room a bit different than we went in. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for giving us those times and opportunities in which we connect with our brothers and sisters with whom we might not otherwise connect without Your power and grace.
Our drive to the beautiful Eden Resort in Lancaster, PA, was uneventful. We had a little down time, and then met in a downstairs conference room where we discussed our day and our experiences. We had an open discussion about race, breaking down barriers and forging ahead, even when things are awkward or uneasy. Kate and Lily gave us the perfect devotion before bed. Their message was that, though they (members of IGNITE) are young, by working together this week, they really can show Jesus to others.
Thank you all for continuing to pray for us and encourage us in our journey. I’m sure that PJ and my wife will have corrections when they proofread this for me tomorrow when they read it! Forgive me, for the hour is late!