Two news stories this week got my attention and broke my heart.
The first was a story about a boy in Denver, Colorado. Jamel Myles was nine years old this summer when he announced to his family that he was gay. Jamel didn’t want to make a big deal of it, but he decided he wasn’t going to hide who he was when he went back to school. Jamel started the fourth grade this week. For four days he endured tormen at the hands of his peers, some of whom told him that he should kill himself. After four days of bullying, he did.
The second was a story out of Greece. On the island of Lesbos there is a desperately overcrowded refugee camp. The camp, which was intended to temporarily house up to 2,000 people, is now a sort of indefinite home to more than 8,000 Kurdish, Syrian, and Afghan refugees. People spend all day in line just hoping to get some food, and there are around 70 people per toilet. Children suffer from skin diseases caused by poor hygiene, and they also suffer from lung diseases caused by tear gas. This week charity workers announced that children are suffering so much that they are seeing frequent suicide attempts by children as young as ten years old.
These two stories got me thinking about just what an inhospitable place this world can be. So many children are told in so many ways, “You’re not welcome here. There’s no place for you. The world doesn’t need you.” So many children are hearing that message and taking it to heart. The New York Times reports that the suicide rate in America has increased twenty-five percent in the last twenty years. Middle schoolers are now as likely to die from suicide as they are from a car crash.
These stories and statistics reveal just how vitally important God’s work at Court Street Church truly is. If we were to do nothing but offer people a welcoming word and warm hospitality, that alone would be reason enough to keep the doors of the church open. This world needs places and people who say, “You are welcome here. I will make a place for you. This world needs you.” Greeting one another, learning people’s names, going out of our way to make room for children and people with special needs - this is the work God has given us. This is how we save people’s lives. This is how we save the world.
Thank you for being here. You are important. You matter. If you need someone to talk to, we are here for you.
Your servant in Christ,