As you may know, we had our 3rd annual Elevate Spring Break Camp last week. I’ll write more in the future, but I at least wanted to give you 10 representative photos from the week.
Besides a little bit of bad weather (rainy 1 day, and cold for 1.5 days) and a bit of illness (including an apparent stomach virus in our family), it was a great week. We averaged about 55 kids per day, plus a dozen teenagers, plus another dozen adults. It was a great week of physical activity, fun games, arts, team-building, and more!
We are thankful for the adults, teens, and children who participated in this camp, and for the financial and other resources that were donated.
The following football play occurred in September 2012, but it was so amazing, I remember it like it was yesterday. If you’re a football fan, you’ll enjoy this description. If not, hang with me, and I’ll tie it all back in.
The ball was snapped. Immediately the nose tackle (on defense, for your non-football folks) engaged the center (an offensive lineman) and drove him back two yards into the backfield. The quarterback handed the ball to the running back, who ran towards the sideline, trying to elude the defense.
The nose tackle recognized the play, and reacted. He disengaged from the offensive lineman who was (unsuccessfully) trying to block him, and ran towards the running back. He chased him down, and tackled him for a one-yard gain.
Do you see how amazing this play was? This player was strong enough to drive back another lineman two full yards, smart enough to recognize the play, and then fast enough to pursue (and catch) the ball carrier.
Drive. Recognize. Pursue. And this guy has been living like this for longer than I’ve known him.
We are in the middle of our Elevate Spring Break Camp, so I’m not going to write too much. I figured this was a good time to share my thoughts from Operation We Care Allendale, and a few photos from the day.
Some other leaders and I talked during and after this day, and we agreed that this was a great event! I truly believe it had a better “feel” than I had experienced in other years, for 2 reasons:
- There was a great number of local volunteers. By my count there were almost 90 volunteers from Allendale County, and about that many from outside of the county.
- Many of the out-of-town volunteers seemed to have a mindset that they wanted build and continue relationships, as opposed to a one-and-done experience.
I am thankful for everyone who took part, and worked so hard to make Allendale a better place!
Finally, I’m concluding this series. As I wrote over 2000 words in these 3 posts, I’m amazed that I was able to share all of this in 12 minutes at CBC – Savannah. I could be an auctioneer.
In the last two posts, I explained the Context for Hopelessness in Allendale and then how we can engage that hopelessness through true hospitality and incarnation. I will conclude this topic with a quick explanation of missions done well, then a few examples of “random” opportunities to teach, and then some additional inspiration for you.
Missions Done Well
For missions and being missional, the goal must never be the event or the project or the program. Those are good things, but life change doesn’t happen by a project or program all by itself.
The primary means of missions is engaging others in meaningful relationships, for the purpose of helping others worship God. Life change always happens best in the context of community.
When it comes to “missions” programs, most churches use the relationship as the means to get the project done. They connect with certain people, get the team there and back home, and then they are happy. But this is wrong, and often harmful in the long-run.
In this three-part series, I am letting you know what I shared with the congregation of Community Bible Church (in Savannah, GA) a couple of months ago. I was asked to share our story of living in Allendale, as a part of their teaching on James 1:26-27 (regarding looking after the vulnerable of our society).
Here is the second part of my talk.
Last time, I set the context of Allendale, with respects to its demographics. Then, I focused on the issue of how generational poverty involves a lack of hope. When our “neighbors” don’t have a hope that life can or will change for the better, what do we need to do?
We need to be the body of Christ, and share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Your Presence, Not Your Presents
A lasting hope does not come by writing a check, or donating your used clothes, or by telling people, “You need to work harder and get an education,” or even by teaching a Bible story and doing an altar call. Yes, those things may be needed, but you can’t start (or stop) there.
What is needed is for the body of Christ to come alongside and to show love. People need your presence more than they need your presents.
A couple of months ago, I was asked to share part of our story at Community Bible Church (in Savannah, GA). As you may remember, this church has been a part of our ministry in Allendale, helping with summer activities in 2012 and 2013. I was glad (but nervous) to have this opportunity, but I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, since I was the one who asked for opportunities to speak to others.
I had 12-15 minutes to talk, and here is the core of what I shared. (I know it’s a lot. Good thing I talk quickly.)
Context of This Community
We moved to Allendale (SC) three years ago. There’s a bunch to that story, but let’s just say that God forced our hand, since moving here was not what we ever imagined ourselves ever doing. But we are so thankful that He did.
I don’t want to talk about all the negative stats about Allendale (although my scientist and pessimistic natures want me to do just that). But here is an overview, so you understand the context of what we are doing:
- In 2010, Allendale was listed as the 10th most impoverished county in the US.
- About 75% of the population is African-American, so my family is in the minority.
- Most white families, and some black, don’t have their children in the local schools.
- Over 70% of children are growing up in single parent households. (For more about this, see my posts about the Fatherless Generation, with respect to boys and girls.)
- About 12% of the population of Allendale is incarcerated.
- There are over 100 churches, but there is mostly a famine of God’s word.
Again, I’m not focusing on the negative aspects, because the rest of this talk will be on the great things that we’ve seen. I just wanted to set the context for how we have worked with children in this community, in our after school programs, day camps, coaching, and more.
Three years ago, we barely understood poverty. We (like most of you) saw poverty as a lack of money. Now, we see it more as broken relationships – broken relationships with God, others, the world, and ourselves. In that context, we are all experiencing poverty.
We can talk a lot about poverty and all the effects of it, but I want to focus on one word: HOPE. Poverty involves a lack or imbalance of opportunity, and even a lack of awareness that there are opportunities.
Besides general prayers for family, friends, ministries, and myself, I also keep a list of specific prayer requests for all those groups. Sometimes those prayers are answered immediately, and sometimes I keep praying for years. And sometimes those prayers are granted, and sometimes God says “no.” I’ve learned that no matter the timing or the answer, God shows His mercy and grace.
I have been praying for two things for a few years now: 1) to go on a mission trip (I haven’t been on one since I went to Kenya in late 2007), and 2) closer community with other men.
Through my recent mission trip to Eleuthera (Bahamas), God answered these two desires with a resounding “yes.”