Tonight we had the awesome...though very emotional...opportunity to share with the youth group at Hot Springs Baptist Church. This is our home church, and the youth group that Hannah was a member of throughout her journey with cancer. Our youth has been doing a series called "Epic Faith" (I love that name!) and each week they have had different church members share their story of faith. We considered it an honor to be asked to speak, and have been looking forward to it.
It wasn't until we arrived tonight that it hit me how very difficult this was going to be. We've shared with lots of different groups in a variety of venues, but this was different. While we were still in the parking lot, I saw two girls walking in, both of them friends of Hannah's. My breath kind of caught in my throat for a minute, but I squared my shoulders and we walked on in. Hannah actually would have graduated out of the youth group last year, so I guess I was kind of thinking that most of her friends would be gone by now. But they were there...they were all there!
We were early, so Brad and I spent some time in one of the Sunday School classrooms, preparing and praying. We came out and took our seats right before the worship band started playing. Our youth has an awesome worship band, made up of some very talented students. And I noticed how close the stage was to the kids. We were literally going to be about five feet away from these students! I really didn't think I could do it. Over the last year and a half, I've become pretty comfortable sharing our story...but tonight, in front of THESE kids...I just didn't know if I could. At this point I was pleading with God, "Please, just get me through this!"
Finally, the band wrapped up and it was our turn to speak. And, praise God, just like always, He showed up. These kids knew Hannah's story...many of them had walked through it with us...so we really had a unique opportunity to share what God has taught us over the last couple of years. And He enabled us to share these things with clarity and with our emotions under control. Thank You, Lord! After we sat down, the emotions came. It was amazing and humbling to see a number of students coming forward and praying at the altar.
We would never, ever have chosen this path that God has placed us on. However, this is where we find ourselves, and we are determined to make the most of every opportunity we have to bring Him glory through sharing Hannah's story. There is an emotional cost every time we share, yet the blessing we receive in return is immense.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared in my "Happy Birthday, Anchor of Hope" post that a reporter from the Arkansas Baptist News Service attended one of our Anchor of Hope Cancer Ministry meetings. She had come to our meeting with the intention of writing a story about the cancer ministry. As she interviewed us about the Anchor of Hope, we shared a lot of Hannah's story, as it was such an integral part of the formation of the ministry. What was originally intended to be one story turned into two, and those stories appeared in the Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine today. I had thought the Anchor of Hope story was going to be the featured article, with just a little side story about Hannah. I was surprised to find that Hannah's story was the featured article, with a side story about the cancer ministry. They can be read online, for at least the next two weeks, at http://www.arkansasbaptist.org/. I continue to be awed by the way God has multiplied the ripples from Hannah's storm!