This past Tuesday, our FISH (Feeding Individuals & Sharing Hope) added on a new site for their ministry. The FISH ministry hands out sacked meals and sometimes clothes and toys for families every Thursday evening behind our local K-Mart.
Since I wasn’t part of the brainstorming and visioning and prayer process with FISH, I’m assuming that through their service, they felt that they can do more. Our Emergency Winter Shelter in our Valley is only open for a few months throughout the year, and it closed its doors earlier this month. That means that many more people don’t have a place to eat or sleep during the nights. Since there would be more hungry people, FISH decided that they would go to a different part of our Valley (away from K-Mart) where they felt they can engage a good number of people, and not just families (like on Thursday evenings).
I got to tag along with them on their first excursion out to the Newhall area. When we first arrived, there was no one around the area. Perhaps it was because no one there really knew what we were up to or why we were in their neighborhood, even though the people of FISH had already sent out fliers and let a few people know that we would be in that area on Tuesdays. And it also wouldn’t be a reach to think many didn’t quite trust our presence there. (We were later told that on our fliers, not only should we mention that it’s free but also that no information or identification would be required or asked for. Too many people, we were told, have been rejected services and food because they couldn’t provide the right information, with some even being reported to authorities.)
A small group of us split up to survey the area a bit more. We walked around the neighborhood and you could just tell (and feel) that this was a complete different beat from “AwesomeTown” (our nickname…).
As we turned the corner, I saw a “For Sale” sign for a house that seemed to be right at the heart of this particular neighborhood. I took a moment to survey the homes. They were close together, small… humble, perhaps located in not the best part of town.
And I just heard a voice in my heart say, “If you really want to put your money where your mouth is, you would move into this type of neighborhood.” And I knew immediately that this was going to be a whisper that I’ll try to ignore with all that I am… so much so, that if this was truly God’s will, God would have to beat me into submission…
But I couldn’t help but think that’s how you truly transform a neighborhood – by being a constant presence of God for the people there. Inviting the neighbors into your home. Being invited into theirs. Playing with their kids. Helping one another out. Being in community with them. Allow them to transform us. Being equal, sharing a mutual trust and dependence on one another.
Ugh. But this is what kills me. I. Just. Don’t. Know… if I have the courage. To. Do. This.
Immediately, my mind goes towards the idea of safety. Would I want my kids to grow up in such a neighborhood… to then my mind races towards at the shame of that very thought. Why would my kids be any better than the kids already living here? What makes me worry about my unborn children’s safety more than those who are already living there? What makes my family’s wellbeing better? All because of God’s grace that I can afford to live in an apartment far removed from Newhall?
I’ve had this post on draft for a whole day, debating whether to post it or not. I think my biggest hesitation is that I didn’t want anyone to hold me accountable of this post and make me go and do this.. or let me know that they’re expecting me to do this…
The other side to that was, I realize that I’m, more often than not, critical at others for missing the point and it would only be fair to share how I am purposefully rationalizing myself away from this huge discomfort… how I’m purposefully trying my damndest to “miss the point.”
In my recent devotions, I read the story of the Good Samaritan and kept getting hung up on the Lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?”
At first, I thought about how one of these days, I’d love to serve at a church in the midst of an urban setting and hold a banquet/feast for the neighbors. I thought about how the church can be a real, strong presence for that neighborhood… a moral compass, a source of hope and love and grace, a place of refuge and rest… a presence that is always there in that neighborhood, not just once a week or so. A church that truly serves their neighbors and lives in midst of those very neighbors.
But after Tuesday, the question, “who is my neighbor?” is more daunting than ever.
It seems to be easier to hide behind a church – to say that the church should be a presence that is always there in that neighborhood – because it’s much harder to say that I should be that consistent presence in such a neighborhood.
In all honesty, this could very well be a whisper that I heard in passing and will be all but forgotten.
Or, this could be start of something.. transforming. It very well could be a moment I look back on as a starting point of something.
Either way, I’m scared s***less.