This past weekend, our church was involved in a youth retreat called Disciple Now. Students stay in host homes, and a special speaker is brought in who leads worship and teaching services throughout the weekend. If you've followed our story from the very beginning, you may remember that it was at a D-Now event that Hannah heard a speaker talk about how God uses storms in our lives to bring us closer to Him, and to allow others to see His glory through our storms. It was at that event that Hannah prayed that God would bring a storm into her life so that she could bring Him glory. A few months later, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Now, I don't believe that God inflicted cancer upon her simply because she prayed that prayer...but I do believe that He was preparing her heart for the storm that was already on its way.
Bethany was a part of the D-Now event this past weekend, along with about 300 other students from four or five other churches in our area. Over the course of the weekend, there were 22 salvations, and 14 rededications. Awesome, huh? The event culminated in the worship service at our church on Sunday morning, with about 100 students representing our church filling the choir loft and stage area to overflowing. As I sat down in the pew and looked at all those kids, I thought to myself...."Uh oh, this could be an emotional service." You know how you have those conversations with yourself. (Or maybe it's just me.) So I told myself, "No...this doesn't have to be an emotional service. Hannah wouldn't have been a part of D-Now this year. She wouldn't have been up there in that group. She would have been too old for D-Now." And so I squared my shoulders, settled into my seat, and I was okay for a few minutes. But then I caught sight of someone up there on the stage...sitting so far back behind all the kids that I could barely see her...Hannah's best friend, Brittany, who is now a student at Ouachita Baptist University. She and Hannah had always planned to be roommates at OBU...now Brittany is there, and Hannah is not. Brittany was involved with D-Now as a student leader; kind of like a "camp counselor" for the weekend. And it hit me out of the blue (I really don't know why I didn't think of it earlier in the weekend)...Yes, Hannah would have been up there! She would have been up there as a student leader, sitting next to Brittany! She would have really enjoyed leading those younger kids in devotionals and discussions. She would have been so good at that. The tears began to flow as the youth band started to play, and I felt her absence so deeply.
As some of the students began to share their testimonies of how God had worked in their lives that weekend, the tears continued to flow...but the reason for them changed. Two of the girls who spoke were friends of Hannah's, just a year younger than her, and I know their lives had been profoundly impacted by her life and death two years ago. And as I looked around that crowded platform, I thought about how many more of those kids had been influenced spiritually by Hannah's storm. And I wondered...Was God more glorified in this past D-Now weekend by Hannah's absence than He would have been by her presence? I believe He was.
Snow is anticipated for tomorrow...See my last post for the significance of that!