Living Above the Noise

Dear Friends,

I just experienced my first “Black Friday.”

Every fall for the past 20 years, I have celebrated Thanksgiving with the JV team in Central and Eastern Europe. This year my wife and I happened to be in Chicago for this special holiday and the unusual Friday that follows.

From my wide-eyed expression you might have thought I was a foreigner as I tried to fight my way through the crowd on Michigan Avenue. Every store advertised once-in-a-lifetime deals. Long lines stretched behind every available cash register, and the packs of people pressing through the aisles reminded me of a rugby scrum. I’d never seen stores so full in my life.

The noise of the crowd waiting for the “walk” signal at the next intersection made it hard for me to think. Still above it all I could hear the voice of a beggar with a plastic cup yelling over and over again, “Can anyone help? Can anyone help?”

The crowd ignored him and walked briskly to the other side as soon as the light changed. Two men stood beside an iron fence: one holding a large sign with John 3:16 written in all caps, the other with a megaphone. “You all are going to die someday,” he said forcefully. “Do you know that your sins have been forgiven? Are you prepared to stand before God?”

The crowd ignored him and pressed on. A tall lady in a mink coat thrust a brochure into my hand. “There is a really great sale you don’t want to miss,” she said, smiling broadly as she tried to catch my eye. I walked on.

It struck me that the two voices most ignored were the ones speaking the most important words. “Can anyone help?” the beggar cried, wanting a handout but needing a redeemer. “Are you ready to die?” questioned the brash corner preacher warning of doom when people were just looking for a discount.

It made me thankful you are not just getting swept along with the crowd. You have heard the voices of Central and Eastern European young people who are calling out for help. You have given so that we can tell them how their sins can be forgiven. After experiencing Black Friday with you, I am again aware of the fight you engage in to stay focused on what is really important.

Thank you.

A fellow foreigner,

Dave Patty President, Josiah Venture