When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. - Matthew 9:36 (NLT)
Tomorrow is the 31st Annual Virginia Championship Chili Cook Off in downtown Roanoke.
For the past seven years, Living Water Christian Church has participated in some form.
It all started about eight years ago, when the Hatfield family was at the Cook Off and Paul said to us, "I would love for Living Water to be a part of this some year." Way to think outside of the evangelism box, right? So we started working on it, and became a fixture at the event back in 2003. For the first five years, we cooked gallons of chili to be sampled by the masses. Starting in 2005, we began providing a diaper changing station over in the Kids Fun Area where parents could find a clean changing table, free diapers, hand sanitizer and wipes - just an unexpected service to families who needed it. A few years ago, we introduced helium balloons to the Chili Cook Off. Well, last year, we couldn't find a chili cook able to take off Friday and Saturday from work to be able to cook the sheer volume of chili needed to be prepared for such an event (about 50 gallons). So, we just set up the changing table service and the balloons. Still, a great way to reach out to the community and show that we care about families (and that we're kind of fun to hang out with too).
I have come to believe very strongly in our participation in this event: we can trace three families in our church directly from the Chili Cook Off. For the cost of the helium, balloons, T-shirts, giveaways, chili ingredients and man hours all those years, we have gained three families that we can't imagine doing life without at Living Water. Three families who now know the love and grace of Jesus and are imparting that to their families, friends, co-workers and neighbors.
This weekend is a busy one for Living Water. About 10 guys are attending the Men's Retreat at Blue Ridge Christian Camp and one of my most dedicated set-up people is the point man for the retreat. A bridal shower is being held tomorrow for one of my most dedicated balloon girls. Her fiance's family has always been a big part of helping with the diaper changing station.
My daughter has two soccer games tomorrow, which I am going to miss because we aren't appropriately staffed for the event. I'm faced with a huge dilemma. Do I keep my word to Greenvale School, the organizers and beneficiaries of the Cook Off and be at the event with the two or three volunteers I can wrangle, or do I cancel the helium tank and go to my daughter's soccer games?
It's a dilemma further deepened by the knowledge that thousands of people will see our balloons, be blessed by the service to their families, and maybe consider church or Jesus for the first time. Is God telling me he is not directing us toward this event this year, or is he wanting me to overcome the challenges that have been put in my path? What should I do, friends? What should I do?