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Global Outreach International

The Story I Never Filmed

by Blake Wages, Marketing Specialist
"How you listen to someone may change their life and yours."

As an avid videographer and photographer, my job has taken me to several states and counties helping to share stories for clients. I’ve had the privilege to work with Eight Days of Hope, a disaster relief and recovery organization that is close to my heart. Through them, I ended up traveling to both Louisiana and Texas after several hurricanes caused significant damage to thousands of homes, disrupting the lives of ordinary people like you and I. 

As a videographer, I’d like to share with you a story I never filmed. This story shook my perspective and awareness as I finally stopped and listened to a story someone wanted to tell me. I discovered on this particular trip the importance of not just telling a story, but truly listening to one that ended up changing my life and the life of someone else.

Mass Destruction

The memory of driving through Texas still haunts me. I remember still being 100 miles away and seeing countless lines of what used to be thriving neighborhoods in ruin. All of their belongings had been tossed out in the streets and those fortunate enough had their roofs covered in tarps. Mass destruction is difficult to understand unless you see it in person. I eventually met up with the team at Eight Days of Hope, who were already hard at work preparing for over 4,000 volunteers who would come and love those in need by being the hands and feet of Jesus.

At the start of each day I would plan out routes to work sites in hopes of capturing the good work being done and hearing powerful stories. I remember riding along one day with a group from Kentucky handing out humidifiers to homes and talking with homeowners. In one of our stops, a neighbor who was listed to be helped came out to us asking when the rebuild process would start on his home. I glanced at his house and ignorantly thought to myself, this guy is fine. The outside of his home seemed untouched except for a few shingles missing.

We walked inside with him and the sight blew me away. The inside of the house had been totally destroyed. He had already tossed out all of his belongings and the only things remaining were planks of wood where walls used to be, scraped out floors, mold, and a single mattress in the corner with a few clothes. This guy had been trying to go to work every day while living in these conditions. I soon learned that this story was very common. 

Learning to Listen

On one particular day, I stopped by a house and noticed a pretty rough looking, tattoo-covered guy sitting in front. He had torn shorts, flip flops, an old hat, and a lit cigarette in his left hand. I assumed this was the homeowner and introduced myself, shook his hand, and explained what I was doing and asked if I could get some footage of work being done. He agreed, and said, “You know, I’m a tough guy, but this storm was rough.”

I acknowledged what he said, but didn’t stop to continue the conversation; I was in a hurry to do what I came there to do. After about ten minutes I went back to the car and he stopped me again.

“You know man, I’m a tough guy, and I don’t cry.”

At this moment, I realized how it must have appeared to him when I rushed by him the first time. I put down my equipment, sat beside him, and asked him about his story. He described how he was previously diagnosed with several complicated medical conditions and that the medicine negatively affected him. He was out of work for some time due to side effects and just felt weak. He then started blaming himself for being a “useless human being” that couldn’t even help some kids rebuild his own house.

He took me out to his backyard and showed me the levy that had been keeping water out of his neighborhood. During the flooding, rushing water rose nearly to the second story of his house. When Hurricane Harvey came, he and his neighbors were stranded on their roofs.

Loving Your Neighbor Starts with Listening

The next thing he said really hit me. He stated that when the flooding happened, nobody came to check on him: not his home church, no other Christians, Jews, Muslims or anyone else. He managed to find shelter at a nearby church, but he had seen reports of people in similar situations just ending it all. He began tearing up and said that he also had considered suicide: “You can’t imagine what goes through someone’s mind when they have nothing.” 

He said that he would have stayed in this dark place if not for a bunch of people from Eight Days of Hope who showed up and wanted to work on his house for free. I was also in tears at this point and shared part of my own story and how this is what hope looks like when Christians love their neighbor. I couldn’t know what he’s been through, but I was able to tell him that people love him, and I offered to pray with him.

This hour-long conversation has forever challenged my perspective on the importance of listening to people. What if I had simply kept walking and not paid him any attention, because of the “job” I was there to do?

Sometimes we need to just stop what we are doing and listen to others. We need to listen to what the Father may be telling us and the opportunities He puts before us daily. It is easy to go about our day only focused on our own concerns or our own plans. If we are willing to stop and listen, there is no telling what the Holy Spirit can do.