As I posted earlier, we had a chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial yesterday, which was one of the most emotionally moving experiences of my life. I have been blessed enough to travel throughout my life, and I know full and well what a tourist site looks like. The 9/11 Memorial is completely different. Hardly anybody talks. Kids aren’t running around. The mood there was more somber than a Good Friday service, as we remember the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans.
One of the most impacting parts of our trip there was that Majors Ruthberg, who were the Salvation Army pastors in Times Square during 9/11, were our tour guides. They were some of the first people from the Army to be at ground zero, working countless hours side-by-side with other New Yorkers. Hearing first-hand from somebody who experienced that aftermath was incredible.
One of the things Major Ruthberg talked about was the teamwork attitude of New York City as a whole. You would think that when violence and destruction like that happen, most people would want to flee from the site and head for the hills for safety. When 9/11 struck, however, everybody wanted to be there. Everybody who was able wanted to race towards ground zero to help with the rescue efforts. Major Ruthberg shared that there were steel workers to literally refused to leave the site. They would work days in a row without any sort of break. Suddenly, a city that seemed to have the attitude “every man for himself” turned into a city of “let’s rebuild together!” It was an incredible story to hear.
As I took time to walk around the memorial, I began reading each of the names of those who had passed away during 9/11. I was on the south side of the pool when I found the single most devastating name to see:
I couldn’t help but cry as I read that name. ”Renee A. May and her unborn child.” Suddenly, I started thinking all of those thoughts we think in the midst of tragedy.
How could God let this happen?
Where’s the good in this, God?
I looked up from reading that name, and God gave me an immediate answer. As I stared across the memorial pool, I saw a single rainbow in the waterfall on the other side. My thoughts changed from questioning God to remembering his faithfulness in the flood. I’m sure that when the flood happened, Noah had tons of friends who weren’t on the boat. He probably had old coworkers or distant cousins who perished in the flood. The devastation he experienced would have been horrendous. And yet, as the flood waters dried up, God have him a single sign of his faithfulness: a rainbow. We’re told in Genesis 9 that whenever we see a rainbow, we are to, “…remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
God’s faithfulness and providence still prevailed even in the midst of a tragedy like 9/11. Certainly, it was one of the most devastating times our country has ever had. But God’s faithfulness prevailed. Amen.
The rest of the afternoon was spent working with the after-school program at the Salvation Army Harlem Corp, which was once again an incredible experience. Seeing the joy on those children’s faces as we spend quality time with them is amazing. They really love having a group of college students there to play with them and do something as simple as helping them with their homework.
Last night, we got to participate in something called “Canteen Ministry,” which is when the Salvation Army heads out onto the streets of Harlem and serves a hot meal to anybody who needs it.
As a part of that ministry, I found myself talking to a 30-year-old man named Mr. Chapman, a homeless man living on disability paychecks, without ever getting to see his family. As we talked, he shared the stuggles of living homeless on the streets of New York, and said that all he really wants in life is to have a stable place to live again. After he was finished with his meal, I took a moment to pray with him, thanked him for coming out, and sent him on his way.
Later on in the night, as I was walking the streets telling people where they could get a free meal, I ran into Mr. Chapman again. He said to me, “Patrick, thank you for everything. The hot dog, for praying for me, for talking to me. Thank you. God bless.” And suddenly, I realized that the impact the Salvation Army really has in an area like Harlem. Just handing out something as simple as a hot dog can really change the course of their night.
It’s a blessing and an honor to be a part of the kingdom impact that the Army is having in this place.