I don’t know how many times I’ve driven by the house. It’s a nice house. And it’s located in a nice part of the community. Homes there aren’t known so much for the cars parked out front as they are the airplanes kept in fancy hangars in the back. This was not the kind of neighborhood where the police make routine visits to carry people away or collect evidence from some gruesome crime.
All of that changed on Monday.
Friends of the family were concerned. The man and woman had not shown up for work. When police arrived for a welfare check they found opened doors that should be closed and unlocked doors that one might expect to find bolted shut. After walking in, police discovered a man, a woman and a child. All three were dead.
As I write this, details are still coming in. Stories like this one have a way of changing between the initial news reports and the setting in of reality. What we do know is that a nearby school was not placed on lockdown. Police also stated that they were not searching for a suspect. That’s likely because this was no home invasion or robbery gone wrong. By all accounts, it was a murder suicide.
When I got the news, my mind went back to a small classroom in Louisville, Kentucky. We had spent months discussing how churches could do better at reaching out to hurting people. Most of our time was spent examining a church in Florida that had spent years successfully providing food, jobs and a fresh start for poor people.
Near the end of our time together, I had a question. So I asked our professor, Dr. T. Vaughn Walker.
“What about Peachtree City?”
Geographically, Peachtree City is very close to Atlanta, Georgia. In reality, it’s a million miles away. People in Peachtree City drive golf carts to go shopping at high end stores. The schools are good. The athletic opportunities for kids are endless. The lawns are manicured. The houses are beautiful. Which led to my question.
“What about Peachtree City? How are churches in areas like that supposed to minister to hurting people when, by all accounts, no one is hurting?”
With his usual wisdom and kindness, Dr. Walker corrected me.
“Don’t assume that just because the house looks nice on the outside that there are no problems on the inside. People in nice houses aren’t immune to cancer and divorce.”
And murder suicides.
The Church puts a big emphasis on helping hurting people. And that’s a good thing. That’s how it should be. But as we do this, we must remember that not all hurts are equally broadcasted.
Poverty is pretty easy to spot.
A broken marriage isn’t.
Poverty, at least to a certain degree, can be addressed from afar. Money can be sent. Trips can be taken. New structures can be set up.
But there is no check or summer missions trip that can adequately speak the gospel into a family that has been ravaged by adultery or cancer.
If we really care about helping hurting people, we must not forget about the crowded villages in Haiti. But we also need to remember the spacious house next door with a 3.5 car garage and an airplane parked out back.
Pain, suffering and evil pay no attention to zoning laws or tax brackets. They make their presence felt in all types of homes. And if we really want to help hurting people, we will do the same.
This summer, it could be that the most important missions trip your church could ever be a part of is the one that begins with you walking up the hill, knocking on your neighbor’s fancy door and inviting the whole family over for a meal.
Chances are, you have no idea what’s on the other side of that fancy door.
And you have no idea what an impact your presence can make.
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Isaiah 52:7 (ESV)