What Do You Hope For?

The men from Judah said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
— Nehemiah 1:3-4

As I begin to meet with church members and community members, listening to their stories of living in Kona, their family dynamics, work environment, and social relationships, I have a few questions that help guide our conversations.  One of the most important questions I ask is one of the simplest questions.  What do you hope for; what do you dream to see happen in this community?

The question almost always gets at a deep desire within a person.  This question helps me see their passion.  I'm convinced the majority of people are not as apathetic as they may first appear; rather, there is a latent hidden passion within all of us.  We all care about something.  We all would give up a certain amount of time or money to be able to do something we care deeply about.  In many cases, we already do this.  A mom values her child's education so chooses to volunteer in the local school.  A dad values both bodily health and time with his son, so he takes him surfing once a week- carving out time from work to make it happen.  We spend time and money on that which we value.  

But the question can also point toward that which gives us pain.  In other words, asking for what we ultimately hope can give us insight into what is worth weeping over.  When Nehemiah heard about the plight of the Jewish refugees, his heart was broken, so broken that he spent days fasting and praying.  He assumed the brokenness of his fellow brothers and wept.  Asking for what we hope is the optimistic way of asking, "What makes you weep?"  When you look out over your city and community, does your heart break for those living there?  Do we know our communities and neighbors well enough to allow this to happen?  Or, are our hearts so hardened to the Spirit that we would rather ignore and bypass communal suffering?  Only a church willing to weep over the wounds of the community will approach that community in the humility that engenders transformation and healing.

When we read through Nehemiah we see that his grief cultivated a renewed spirit of work.  His grief was channeled into a type of prophetic energy that led to the transformation and peace of the city of Jerusalem.  His weeping turned into a hopeful practice of rebuilding the city walls.  If someone were to ask Nehemiah what he hoped for, we could intuit his answer stemming from his grief of a city in disrepair.  The King asks Nehemiah, "Why do you look sad, what do you want?"  In other words, what will turn your sadness into Joy (Neh. 2)?  And he grants Nehemiah safe passage back to Jerusalem, the resources to build the walls, and the time necessary to do it well.  

As I encounter those on the Kona Coast, my eyes and ears are being tuned to weeping and hoping. My prayer is that we as a community may be granted the resources and time to bring about the kind of redemptive change that stems from such tears.