A few months ago, I was worshiping at a particular African-American church. I know a few people who are members there and have connected with the pastor, so I visit on occasion. It’s a pleasure to worship there when I can; since this church is full of loving people, and is involved in the community.
Towards the end, it was time to collect the offering. Years ago, in situations like this, I would also feel obligated to give something, but being a visitor, I knew that I could just sit and pass the plate without putting money in.
To my surprise, a grandmother in front of me saw that I was not getting out money, so she turned around and slipped me a dollar. I tried to refuse it, but she insisted.
OK, I thought. No big deal. She wants me to give, so I’ll put this in the offering plate when it comes my way. No big deal.
But what I didn’t expect how much I personally would have gotten out of the weekend. Truth be told, I was excited just knowing how good the retreat experience would be for the guys I brought.
On Saturday morning, during my solitude time, I was directed to pray for myself. I asked God what He had for me that weekend. I expected him to speak to the guys, but perhaps He had something for me.
God answered my prayer in an unforgetful way.
Try to put yourself in these guys’ shoes. For the most part, (with the partial exception of the two guys who came on this retreat last year), everything about the weekend would be a new experience for them. Have you ever been completely out of your comfort zone like them?
Here were 5 teenage black guys who had never seen so many white people in one place at one time, especially when the population was 96% Caucasian. They’ve never been to the mountains. They’ve never been to a church event like this (two of the guys hadn’t even been to church in over a year).
Despite my best efforts to encourage them, can you image how difficult and uncomfortable this was for them?
From A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glory of God’s Love (Milton Vincent):
Like nothing else could ever do, the gospel instills in me a heart for the downcast, the poverty-stricken, and those in need of physical mercies, especially when such persons are of the household of faith.
When I see persons who are materially poor, I instantly feel a kinship with them, for they are physically what I was spiritually when my heart was closed to Christ. Perhaps some of them are in their condition because of sin, but so was I. Perhaps they are unkind when I try to help them; but I, too, have been spiteful to God when He has sought to help me. Perhaps they are thankless and even abuse the kindness I show them, but how many times have I been thankless and used what God has given me to serve selfish ends?
Perhaps a poverty-stricken person will be blessed and changed as a result of some kindness I show them. If so, God be praised for His grace through me. But if the person walks away unchanged by my kindness, then I still rejoice over the opportunity to love as God loves. Perhaps the person will repent in time; but for now, my heart is chastened and made wiser by the tangible depiction of what I myself have done to God on numerous occasions.
The gospel reminds me daily of the spiritual poverty into which I was born and also of the staggering generosity of Christ towards me. Such reminders instill in me both a felt connection to the poor and a desire to show them the same generosity that has been lavished on me. When ministering to the poor with these motivations, I not only preach the gospel to them through word and deed, but I reenact the gospel to my own benefit as well.
In a previous post about When Helping Hurts, I summarized the definition of, effects of, and solutions to poverty. As I continued reading from this book, I realize that I need to be able to determine what solutions are truly needed.
Chapter 4 of When Helping Hurts is titled, Not All Poverty Is Created Equal. Corbett and Fikkert advise, “A helpful first step in thinking about working with the poor in any context is to discern where the situation calls for relief, rehabilitation, or development. In fact, the failure to distinguish among these situations is one of the most common reasons that poverty-alleviation efforts often do harm.”
Thanks to my friend Mitch Miller for allowing me to guest post on his blog. The article is called Suffering Like a Prophet, and is based on some thoughts from reading through the book of Ezekiel recently.
Here are excerpts from the opening and closing:
“Do you ever feel like you are suffering for the sake of the Lord? You probably don’t encounter major issues, like physical harm or losing your livelihood. For me, it’s the little inconveniences in life that get me frustrated.”
“And then I read that my light and momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:17), That’s how amazing God’s grace is. It’s not just those who suffer deeply that will be rewarded; God even rewards my faithfulness through minor inconveniences.”
Read the full article here.
“In the midst of her sadness and wandering,
Jerusalem remembers her ancient splendor.”
Have you ever talked with someone who grew up in Allendale? Someone who is at least 35 years old, and preferably in their 60′s or 70′s? Do you know what they talk about? They reminisce about how great Allendale was, about the activities and joys and all the flourishing business.
One lady told me that she lived in nearby Estill, but that her dad would take the family into Allendale every Sunday, to get ice cream from the Howard Johnson. Allendale was also where he entertained his business clients.
At the Salkehatchie Arts Center, one room contains old photographs of the community, with its department stores, multiple hotels, over a dozen fillin’ stations, and cars bustling about.
But now, those hotels are defunct, and the department stores have been abandoned or torn down.
July 18, 2011.
We were leading a summer camp at the Boys & Girls Club. As the kids were eating breakfast, I shared that it was a special day for us. “Twelve years earlier,” I explained, “I asked Mrs Joanna to marry me, and she said, ‘Yes,’ of course.”
One 9 year old boy raised his hand. “Mr. Joey, I have a question.” Sure, go ahead. “If she had told you ‘no,’ would you have kicked her out of the house?”
It took me a second to realize that he was being serious. But he was staring right at me. I looked all around the room. I noticed 30+ pairs of eyes were waiting expectantly. Without saying a word, I knew that kids and leaders alike were awaiting my response.
Since moving to Allendale I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about short-term mission trips. Are they useful, or a waste of resources? What should be their primary focus? How do we know if they are a success?
These questions have come to mind more recently, especially since I’ve been reading Toxic Charity (and an article I linked to in that post), and since we had multiple weeks of groups staying and serving in this community — various families, and different student groups from Grace Church and Community Bible Church (Savannah).
I’m thankful for Jeremy Myers allowing me to write a guest post on his blog, Till He Comes. I love how he writes about connecting deep theology with everyday life.
I wrote Change Is a God Thing for his blog. In this post, I share my struggles with change, but how God uses those transitional seasons to help me learn to trust in Him more. He is active and involved in the world, bringing change:
- Inside me personally
- In my family
- In the church
- In the culture
God is not about making me, my family, the church, or the culture better. He is about making all things new.
Want to hear more? Be sure to check out the full post.