“What does Chazak mean to you?” The question took me so off guard that I stumbled around for a bit before I finally came up with something I thought was meaningful. It is a question that digs deep into what I have been doing and learning for the past year and a half. The truth is, I have a hard time articulating what I have learned because it goes so much deeper than emergency management and disaster response. Chazak Academy is not to be praised for being great in and of itself; it is merely an instrument to bring God glory. So, what does Chazak mean to me?
One of the women on the Advance Team has spoken into the aspect of serving in Chazak Rescue as a woman so I would like to speak to how Chazak has developed me as a man. It is easy to think that all the challenging wilderness and medical training would make us hardened, callous men. In the physical sense, that is true. I have never been stronger and endured more as I have in Chazak Academy. What may come as a surprise is that I have also had my feet washed by servant leaders, my heart broken by the pain in the world, and my emotions softened by children who need love. Few experiences have impacted me more than being invited in for a meal by refugees in Greece who had no place to call home, limited food supplies, and years of traumatic events leading them to a small island in the Aegean Sea. So, no. Hardened and callous seems to me to be foreign to my development as a man emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.
I’ve received a lot of training during my time in Chazak Academy which has given me competencies in ropes, medical, and water rescue, emergency management, international travel and living, and the list could go on. This is what gives me the tools I need to be an effective international first responder but I find this job description desperately lacking meaning. When I look at the life of Jesus and see him suffering on a cross to bring true life to people around the world, I cannot help but seek meaning beyond physical rescue.
Now, back to the question, “What does Chazak mean to you?” Two words: purpose and love. What has been hard for me to accept is that purpose and love are two of the most painful things to live out of in our broken world. Think about it. If I live a life of purpose, everything I do matters… even my mistakes. If I love people in this world enough to put my life on the line to share true life and light with them, I will suddenly find myself face to face with death, disaster, and destruction. Now, am I suggesting that we disregard and even avoid purpose and love? Well, that depends. Do we want to live a life where anything goes and our eyes are blind to people dying without hope, women and children being taken advantage of, evil given freedom to do its work, and the list goes on? Or do we want to live a life devoted to a loving God in the midst of all the pain on this earth? Living a life of purpose and love means that we take responsibility for everything in our spheres of influence even if it costs us. This is a sacrificial idea. If we pray for God to give us purpose we need to understand the implications of that prayer. Praying that prayer means that we are willing to, “take up [our] cross daily and follow [Jesus]” (Luke 9:23, ESV).
Please hear me. I am not trying to say that Chazak has all the answers to the pain and evil in the world. What I am suggesting, however, is that if we learn to live out what we read and study in the Bible every day, beautiful things will happen in a broken world. I do not think everyone should go through Chazak Academy. Chazak Academy has merely pointed me in the right direction: bringing God glory. I need no other vision, conviction, or pursuit.
My final question is this: How are our lives giving glory to God?