So, it’s a Tuesday in September of 2001 and the Staff and Sanctuary Bible Church is gathered in the brand new youth center watching one of the brand new televisions as fear and sadness fills the country, the room and our hearts. With the Towers still smoking on live TV we talked about the preparations for the weekend. We had a blow-out-the-doors celebration planned; community speakers, CHS cheerleader performance, CBA general director, former pastors, current pastors, the whole shebang. But as we sat there on Tuesday, nobody felt like celebrating. We talked about how all of a sudden our Sunday celebration somehow seemed important, defiant even. It was no longer only a celebration of God’s elaborate provision, it was an opportunity to speak into the climate of fear and sadness; to proclaim that despite the tension that everyone felt, the uncertainty that seemed to fill spots that were filled with confidence just the day before, that we served a God bigger than tragedy, more able than evil men, a God that even this week could fill us with Hope. Even as we dedicated the “Hope Youth Center.” That Sunday one of the speakers prayed that God would allow the new facility to be “worn out” in ministry over the years to come. “Amen, may we wear this place out as people are filled with Hope.”
That Sunday we began the service with solemn prayer but ended the worship time with the Happy Song… “If only I could see your face, to see You smiling over us, as unseen angels celebrate, that JOY is in this place.” Hope and Joy. Those were the marching order from day one. That this church would be a place where students found Hope and that we would welcome them to the Joy of knowing Jesus.
I suppose it sounds trite to say that time has flown by, after all, that’s all time ever does. In the midst of the flying time of the last fourteen years, however, there has been moment after moment where the gravity of the moment caused it to be indelibly etched into my heart. I have been honored to watch youth workers dedicate year after year to students here. I have seen dozens of kids begin lives of faith. I have watched God grow people from students to friends to co-laborers in the work of the gospel. I have gotten to know the generations that God is growing behind mine and knowing them has filled me with Hope and Joy.
In some ways things have changed so much since that first year. People have come and gone, scores of military families have left their mark on our church’s culture, my family has grown from 3 to 6. But really things are very much the same. The world is still dark and filled with fear and this is still a place committed to proclaiming the GOOD NEWS that there is another way to live. Youth aged people are still hearing that no matter what the world tells you, it is possible to live a life with Christ that is full of Hope and Joy .
I have been trained in Hope and Joy by Sanctuary Bible Church. I have experienced way more than my fair share of Hope and Joy here. I have seen Hope and Joy grow in hearts, lives and in this youth group. I have heard it sung by children, youth, and adults and I’ve witnessed it lived out in ways that has changed me.
There are so many things that I’m thankful for in this season of transition. I am filled with so much gratitude for my call to here and my launching from here. I am not only filled with Hope and Joy but I am being sent by you, once again, into the world with the Story of Hope and Joy to see how the God who is able to do far more than we can imagine flood the darkness with light.
So thank you again for your love for my family and thank you for the chance to serve alongside you. Thank you for sending me out with grace and love and thank you for being my family. May God continue do what He has always done here and may He do it in Seaside too. May He call us to be people who look into the culture and smile, because we know the truth, that there is GOOD NEWS and that we have an invitation to the world that offers them Hope and Joy.
*November 1st Pastor Grant will begin his ministry as lead pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Seaside.