The past two years of ministry in Springfield, Ohio have been filled with ups and downs for my wife and me. We have had the great opportunity to get to know the children who attend our church’s weekly children’s programs. We have also transitioned out of some of the ministries that we started with while we were still in college. But I am so grateful for the our time here.
Bekah and I stayed in Springfield after college because we both found work and could stay in our existing church community. It has been a great place for us to grow in our first two years of marriage. Our church also provided a great example of what it look like to love the urban population as Jesus loves. Both the church programs and the actions of the church members are an expression of love to those around the church.
Two years around these examples have shaped the way I view people whom I would otherwise overlook. I want to thank Pastor Sim specifically for the love I’ve seen him show so many people while striving to stay true to the word of God. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s not a perfect pastor, but I want to thank him for his dedication and the example that he sets in everything he does. Before I move on, I want to share a few lessons I’ve learned while serving alongside others in ministry.
All people are valuable to God
The bible is clear that all people are valued to God, beginning with humanity being created in God’s image, through Jesus’s example loving those rejected by society. Despite my intentions to follow this example, I have too often discounted people who don’t look or act like myself. However, living in our community has allowed me to get exposure to many new people and see the value they have in God’s eyes.
I’ve met people who were changed by the relationship of Christians who loved them like Christ would. I’ve children leaders display patience and unconditional love to unruly kids, knowing it may be a representation of the child’s broken family. I’ve seen Christians never give up on loving those who constantly reject them. Being around loving Christians who reach out to all sorts of people has helped me recognize how greatly God loves each of us right where we are.
People are as much a product of their environment as of their choices
It’s convenient to blame people’s problems on their choices. But as I became exposed to people in less than ideal environments, I began to see that choice and environment were intertwined. Many of the children who come to our church don’t live in an environment where they are taught what is the right decision. Many of the people I meet at church meals are stuck between a rock and a hard place. While people’s choices may keep them trapped, their environment often set’s them up for failure. Without an ally to broaden their perspective, people’s choices won’t change.
The Church cannot wait for people to come
Growing up, I felt very little responsibility to help others discover a relationship with Christ. It was easy to just assume that someone didn’t think they needed Jesus. I failed to recognise all that God had done for me to show me I needed him. So the first time I participated in a prayer ministry on the streets of Springfield, this kind of “meet people where they are” Christianity felt foreign.
However, God calls us to more than waiting around for people to start seeking God on their own. The goal is more significant than getting people to sit through a Sunday sermon. We are to be a catalyst for change in people’s lives. We should regard the good news of the Gospel as something to be shared. My experience in Springfield have shown me that people all around us may know that they need God but also need help taking the next step. People need to be reminded of God’s truth, people need to be encouraged, and God has already called us come alongside of others to support them on their journey.
What do we hope to learn in Denver?
While Bekah and I have grown so much living in Ohio, we believe that God has given us a great opportunity in Denver. My wife will be joining a fellowship at a non-profit called CrossPurpose. Here she will have an important role in the organization while being mentored and educated in how to combat the issues in urban communities holistically.
We seek to abolish relational, economic, and spiritual poverty through the power of redemptive relationships. CrossPurpose is a nonprofit ministry dedicated to the idea of neighborhoods without poverty. – crosspurpose.org
I intend to be actively involved in the work of CrossPurpose and Providence Bible Church, which is associated with CrossPurpose. I am excited to see another organization’s perspective on ministry as I seek where God wants to use me. I will be working from home in Denver, and I intend to invest the hour and a half I normally spend in the car into more productive activities. For example, I’ll be looking to see if I can be involved in the uprise program which is designed to help people living paycheck-to-paycheck find sustainable $15/hour jobs through skills training and personal partnerships.
Bekah and I also hope to learn much more about reaching out to the neighbors around us. While our apartment in Springfield was just a block from our church, we struggled to build many relationships with those around us. Two of CrossPurpose’s values are “Expensive Love” and “Relational Weave” and we hope to grow in our understanding of how to use relationships to bless others.
Expensive love means messy relationships, hard words, and invading personal space with intentionality. What is expensive love? It’s the picture of Christ on the cross: “Greater love has no one than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.” – CrossPurpose Values
We know that the next two years will be challenging but we also know that God will use those challenges to teach us and help us grow as followers of Him. Our marriage, finances, and faith will be stretched, but we hope to grow into the roles God puts in front of us.
If you would like to learn the ways you can support us, checkout Bekah’s blog where she has written more about the fellowship at 1co619.wordpress.com.
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