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A while I ago, I’m not sure exactly when, I started to pray a radical prayer. I’m not sure how I came to pray this prayer. It may have been something my pastor said. It could have been a song I heard or the Holy Spirit prompting my spirit. I really can’t recall the moment or reason that I started to pray this prayer, but the prayer was a simple one. It was not a prayer that required an explanation, instructions, or even a small group to support me. It was probably one of the most simple yet most life changing prayers I have ever prayed. “Lord, break my heart with the things that break your heart.”

That was it. Nothing major. No lightning, no tongues of fire, no burning bushes,no parted seas or manna from heaven. Just a simple prayer that is changing my life.

Then it happened. He started to do it. Oh my how my heart started to break for people all around me. Then something happened that I did not expect.

The Lord called me to speak to some kids at my home church in Vandergrift, Pa and I fell in love with them. Now I’m not saying that I loved each one individually right from the start, but I knew that God was asking me to serve and love them. They had so many needs and my heart was broken yet full all at the same time.

The Lord asked me if I would be willing to make the 100 mile round trip journey to serve him in Vandergrift and I said, “yes, Lord.” I started to volunteer every other week during the Kids Praise program at Vandergrift Presbyterian church. It didn’t take long before I began to love them individually. Each time I was there, I felt that the Lord wanted me to walk the land and pray. That just meant that I would walk, pray and trust God to lead me to whoever he led me to and I would look for where he was at work. During those walks I met many wonderful people who were also sensing God’s love for the town and his desire to move in it. One of the first people I met was “Joey” Hesketh, a young business man in Vandergrift with an old spirit. We were immediate friends as we each sensed the Spirit’s work in the other and as we were able to confirm that God was moving in the town.

I don’t know him well, but we have been called to the same task, to love the people of Vandergrift.

As the weeks went by, I have continued to walk the land and pray and to volunteer at the Kid’s praise on Wednesday afternoons. I remember one day when the kids and I were praying, a little hand slip into mine. I looked down and saw the most beautiful little darling looking up at me with the biggest smile. When I said amen, she immediately said, “Will you thsit by me at dinner” with her little lisp. How could I say no.

After a few months the Lord put on my heart that we were to trust him to provide Christmas gifts for all 50 kids and their families. I mentioned it to one of the other leaders who looked at me with her eyebrows scrunched and said, “but we don’t have any money in the budget for that.” Immediately I sensed the Spirit of the Lord assure me and I said, “We don’t need any money. The Lord will provide.”

Over the next month, none of us could believe what the Lord brought to us. Thousands of dollars worth of brand new items. More than enough for all of the kids to choose for their family for Christmas. On the 18th of December all of the kids were able to “shop”, wrap, and take an entire box full of gifts home to their family for Christmas. They were so excited and proud to take those beautiful things home. What a blessing to witness God’s love going out to the families through these children. Our prayer has been that those gifts would be a tangible representation of God’s love to each person who received them.

Just days before Christmas, all of the remaining items were boxed up and taken to the Vandergrift Salvation Army for other families in Vandergrift who were in need.

But then… just days after Christmas, the unthinkable happened. A devastating fire ripped through several homes on Burns Street at the edge of town. I laid in my bed here in Grove City, listening to the scanner on the internet, following the reports and posts both by the news channels and on Facebook. I laid here in my bed praying for the families, the firemen and the people on that street. “Oh Lord, what are you doing? The people in this town are already stretched. Why couldn’t you stop this drunken idiot from burning down his street. Why can’t you make the water flow out of the hydrant? I know you can do it Lord, but why aren’t you moving. How will you use this stupid man’s choices for good?” And then the Lord said, “Trust me my child. I work all things together for good for those who love me and who have been called according to my purpose.”

And then I witnessed it. An outpouring of love, compassion and giving like I have never seen before in this little town. Ordinary people giving whatever they have to help these families. “Joey” Hesketh and his friends are using their resources and connections to centralize the donation drop offs. They are using Facebook to organize a benefit dinner. The people are coming alongside each other and caring for one another and it is good. A miracle really. An Inspirational story of a community coming together.

I don’t know why bad things like this have to happen, but I know that sin is very real and people make bad choices because they have free-will to do so. Someone made a bad and selfish choice that hurt and endangered many others lives. But out of it, God takes these things and he works them together for good. And He draws people to Himself. God works and moves in mysterious ways through ordinary people who are willing to be used.

I have been so blessed by what God is doing in Vandergrift. He has a good plan for the people in this town. I am in awe of what I have seen and I am bummed that I am far away and not able to be more helpful during this crisis, but what I can do is shine light on this story so that others will be encouraged to trust the Lord to work and move where they are. So that YOU will be encouraged that God can and is working where YOU are! Oh what God can do! Let us praise his holy name! If you are ready to see God move in your life like never before. Pray this simple prayer. “Lord, break my heart with the things that break your heart.” Then hold on tight.

Vanderrift fire