Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Anything Broken? - Remembering 9/11

Well, here we go again, another year, another surreal remembrance of the the day that I will never forget.

It’s been several years since I first posted this article, it is also one of the first ones I wrote in the Lesson Learned series as well. I’ve written a bunch more since then, so I thought I’d post it again as a glimpse into one of the most amazing ministry times in my life that came through the most incredibly tragic times of my life and the lives of the families I worked with.

Here it is…”Anything Broken?” Remembering 9/11…

This morning (9/11/07) was kind of surreal for me, as I join the rest of the world in remembering the 6th anniversary of 9/11. It really hit me kind of hard as I recalled what happened that fateful day, and how I found out…I was sitting in my office getting ready for one of the four bands that we had booked to do a concert on 9/14 to arrive.

We were hosting a huge concert that upcoming Friday with Five Iron Frenzy and Relient K head lining the show.

I was up to my neck in details that needed to be finalized before they arrived. We were the first stop on their fall tour and made a deal with them to give them all access to our facilities for 3 days to set up their lights, sound, and staging, and there was a ton of stuff my team and I had to do to make that happen.

As I was getting my plan together, the phone rang, it was my wife. She said in a panic filled voice “A plane just ran into the World Trade Center!” I said “what did you say?” and she repeated it.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Now you need to understand something, we lived about an hour north of NYC, and many of the students who were in our ministry had parents, aunts, uncles, and extended family members who worked in NYC and some at the WTC in particular.

My mind immediately went from detail mode to “what now Lord?” I hung up the phone with my wife and just sat their in stunned silence, when the phone rang again, this time it was one of my youth leaders who said “did you hear about the planes hitting the towers?” I said what do you mean planes?” She said “a second plane just flew into the other tower, we’re under attack!”

I was even more stunned and scared and bewildered than just a few minutes earlier. Many questions were flying through my mind…What was happening in our world? What was happening in our city? What was happening in our church? What were we going to do about it with our students? To list a few.

As I was talking with her, another call came in so I put her on hold. It was a call from the manager of Five Iron Frenzy, the headlining band that we were expecting to arrive later that day. They were getting ready to leave Denver and were sent back because all the flights in the US were canceled due to the attack.

In a matter of about 30 minutes my day went from bad to worse as I sat there wondering what we were going to do. The manager said, hey don’t worry about the show, the guys and I talked and we want to be there with you guys and minister to the kids…we’re going to rent a bus and drive straight through – we’ll see you tomorrow!”

I remember hanging up the phone and thinking “now there is a band who is in it for the right reasons.” As soon as I hung up with him I heard a scream from down the hall, it was our secretary who had just heard that the first tower had just collapsed!

The rest of the day was a blur, as I fielded calls from parents, students, bands, concert ticket holders, and newspaper reporters.

I was hit head on with a decision that was the furthest from my mind when I first got the news of the attacks…The decision of “should we cancel the concert or not?”

It seemed like the more I fielded calls, the more irate people got when I answered their question with an honest “of course were going to have the concert.”

If you recall there was a period of time shortly after the attacks where everyone was canceling everything. I mean the Yankees, Mets, Giants & Jets all canceled games (in fact the Super bowl used to be the last Sunday in January but is now in February because they canceled football games).

I was finding out how big of a deal it was for us to go forward with the concert. I got nasty calls, e-mails & conversations from people who couldn’t believe that we were still going forward with the show in light of the tragic events that had just taken place.

Over the next two days the bands, roadies, and equipment all arrived by bus (not tour bus, not the Madden Cruiser…Yellow Cheese school bus!).

I couldn’t believe it…as soon as the crew arrived I told them about all of the hate filled input we were getting. The guys couldn’t believe it either.

Then Reese (the lead singer of FIF) asked “do you think there will be kids in the audience who were directly affected by the attacks?” We were expecting about 1100 kids at the concert and based on the connections in my own ministry and the feedback I’d gotten from our network of Youth Pastors I knew there would be a large portion of the attendees who either had a relative, friend, or neighbor that was directly affected by the attacks.

So I said “yep, they’ll be out in force!”

What he said next totally ramped my respect for him and the other bands through the roof…He said “well then, lets turn this rock show into a church service and minister to the needs of these hurting kids!”.

That is exactly what they did. A normal concert usually lasts about 3 hours and consists of some ear piercing music, some cool technology, and you go home. This particular concert saw each band play their hearts out for sure, but also share their hurts with the kids and share the solutions they’ve found in Jesus with them as well.

Now you might be saying, isn’t that what they are supposed to do? That is a good question, and in my observation many Christian rock musicians don’t share verbally any more, they let their music do the talking…ok, I can usually buy that but on this fateful night the kids needed more than music to meet their needs.

They needed real life examples of faith and victory from their “heroes”, and that’s exactly what they got. It was so awesome to see how each band member was so vulnerable in their testimonies that the real HERO of Jesus Christ came through loud and clear!

Matt Thiessen from Relient K shared his personal faith story and some tough stuff he’d gone through, and each band member did the same. Their new album had just come out that week and they played a song from it that really spoke volumes to the kids. The chorus says…

“never underestimate my Jesus, you’re telling me that there’s no hope, I’m telling you you’re wrong. Never underestimate my Jesus, when the world around you crumbles, He will be strong, He will be strong!”

After that various members from FIF shared how God had been there for them and how He was going to see them trough this as well.

Then for the next hour and a half, Reese had all the bands come out on stage, put down their instruments, turn down the lights and the fog machine and just sit down among the students as he proceeded to tell his story of faith, and trust and ups and downs with the Lord. It was incredible!

I have seen these bands in concert many times over the years, but never have I witnessed such an out pouring of love and truth from these guys to an audience filled with hurting kids who had just 3 days earlier experienced a life rocking, potentially faith shattering experience of losing a loved one in a terrorist attack!

The concert started at 7pm and by the time I finally locked the building and went home and laid my head on the pillow it was 4:30am!

The band members hung out, prayed, cried, hugged and ministered Christ’s love to over 1100 kids who had recently found out what it meant to know pain, hurt, questions and doubts.

Because a group of pesky Christian rockers weighed the priority of canceling a show because every thing in the entire country (airlines, Broadway, football and baseball) was canceling, or taking the heat so they could minister the love of Jesus to some hurting kids, we were able to see hundreds and hundreds of lives changed that night through the ministry of the Word, prayer, life change and a few songs.

The next morning as I walked into the church building I was asked THE question that usually faced me the day after any huge event we did in our ministry “was anything broken?”

This time I was able to give an answer that to this day is one of my favorites.

I said “YES, all kinds of things were broken…but because we had the concert many of them were fixed before they got home.”

As I remember the 6th anniversary of the terror attacks on 9/11, and every anniversary that is to come…I choose to focus on the truth that God is in control and He calls on each of us to share with others how He has been faithful to us in our lives. 

He’s in the business of fixing broken lives, and nothing is going to stop that!

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