Saturday was an over-crowded, exhausting, and stressful day that began with a two-year-old with an ear infection, included a 2 1/2 hour musical rehearsal and four cups of coffee (one thanks to my sweet friend Sara who knew how much I needed it), and ended with some of the most beautiful Christmas memories.
The community where we placed our focus this Christmas season is a very crowded mobile home park with a community building that sits in the middle of the neighborhood. This common gathering site is dirty and covered in profanity. And it was the location God chose to work on Saturday afternoon.
When I opened the door, I saw our dream realized. Christmas decorations were scattered around the room, and busy and enthusiastic volunteers were spilling out of the building. We had people cleaning the building, fixing plumbing, replacing light bulbs, setting up tables and chairs, and decorating – and all before 1:00!
And then the people began to arrive. Men, women, and children timidly walking in the door – is this the place? Come in! Make yourself welcome! Do you want a cookie?
We made ornaments together, ate cookies and drank hot chocolate, sang songs, and heard the message of Christmas. Children from middle and upper class neighborhoods played with children who live in poverty. Games of “Santa Says” don’t require a certain income level – just a free spirit. We learned a little bit about one another, and hopefully, we broke down a few barriers.
God had orchestrated this day, not us. We were unsure that we would be allowed to rent this building, but God changed the hearts of the management. We didn’t know if we would have any volunteers, and God sent over 50 people to join with us – people with just the right talents and abilities.
God used this day to open our eyes and hearts to a community that needs Him and that needs us to be His hands and feet.
Here’s the reality – in 2010, 18.9% of Kentuckians reported living in poverty. Kentucky is also the 5th highest in the United States for food insecurity – not knowing where the next meal will come from.
And here’s another reality – only 14.4% of Daviess County, Kentucky (where I live) residents report attending church on a regular basis.
If we who claim the name of Christ do not find ways to address these facts, the church will be irrelevant within a generation.
As we have gotten to know a little about Colony, we have heard more than one story of people who either did not know if they would be welcome to attend our church, or who felt like they were already unwelcome. This must change. All people must know that the grace offered at the table is for them, and not just for a select few who know the dress code and understand the rituals.
If we are God’s people, we must take care of all of his creation, including the crowning glory of all He has made – men and women, boys and girls.
For the past few days, the nation has been overwhelmed with the news from Connecticut. How could one young man take so many lives, including his own? What brought him to the place where he thought this was the answer to his problems?
At the same time, we are wrapped up in Christmas preparations. I recently saw a Facebook conversation about how much people are spending on their kids – some claiming to spend $300 or more per child, some talking about their children having as many as 15 gifts each. Really? Honestly, these posts made me feel sick and saddened for our loss of perspective.
How have we come to the place where we can shake our heads in disbelief over the Connecticut tragedy, and yet rationalize hoarding more and more for ourselves rather than sharing the great wealth that we have with those who have nothing?
Community ministry cannot just be about Christmas. It must be about every day finding someone in need and sharing some of my excess with them. It has to be about putting others before myself. It has to be about getting my head out of the sand, looking outside of my family and close friends, and reaching out to someone who needs a helping hand.
What’s next? I’m not sure yet. I’m asking God to give us a passion for 2013. Will you join me?