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The Mission Field in Your Backyard

Is it just me or is it difficult to feel like we’re ever really making a difference in this world? I have lived under the idea for a long time now that unless you’re traveling the world, saving thousands of orphans or speaking to large groups of people, you’re not really doing much for the Kingdom. This has been a self-inflicted idea, more because of my own pride and misunderstanding than anything the Word actually says about Jesus.

I believe this is a common misconception for many Christians, and one that unfortunately keeps us from doing mighty things for Christ right where we’re at. However, in recent months I have had my eyes opened to a whole new side, and more correct version, of the King we serve every day. I attribute this change to the job I have found myself in over the past many months.

I spend most of my days in the basement of an inner-city, predominantly not-white, underprivileged high school in one of the least churched cities in one of the least churched states in America. Despite this, Roosevelt High School in Portland, Ore., has opened their doors and provided a space for my co-worker, Heather Huggitt, and I to work on a daily basis. We work for SouthLake Church, a suburban, predominantly white church in West Linn, Ore. This opportunity certainly did not just happen overnight. This relationship has progressed over the past three and a half years due to the simple act of service. What began as a clean-up day almost four summers ago has now become a full-time presence inside of the school where we run a teen clothes closet, food pantry, community clothes closet and, most importantly, a place to build relationships with some of the greatest kids I’ve ever met.

What most people find the most amazing about this relationship when they hear about us is that a church and a school work so closely together. What I find even more amazing than that, though, is that more people aren’t doing it. Thankfully word is getting out now, but the fact of the matter is all it took was people reaching out to others in their own backyard and simply saying, “What can we do to help?” What is beginning to happen is the act of relationship becoming the first priority, not politics.

My favorite thing about this relationship between Roosevelt High School and SouthLake is that anyone can be involved. We have hundreds of people who simply show up to sporting events just to show them we care. We have people who have a passion for sports come and help coach, those who have a passion to see kids succeed come out and help tutor for college, those who are experienced in hair and makeup come bless these girls for dances by doing hair and makeup for free when they would never have a chance to have these things done. We have people who give to the clothes closet continuously, small groups who do laundry for the loads of donations we get every week and so much more. There is a place for everyone to serve.

I am now a firm believer in the power of the mission field of our own backyard. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the amazing things people give to all over the world. I am still as involved in those things as I can be, but that is not an excuse to overlook what our mission is here at home. Sometimes we don’t see a physical need and it becomes hard to know how to give, but something I’ve learned is that coming alongside just one person and showing them they are valued and loved is changing one precious life at a time. Jesus went after that one lost sheep after all. It’s not about quantity; it’s about showing the value of one life. That’s what changed yours and mine, isn’t it? How can you give value to just one other life around you?

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We have kids come into our room who are under the influence of drugs, those who have bad attitudes, those who are talking about all of the things they did last weekend that break my heart. We recently had a 15-year-old girl come in to announce her unwanted pregnancy that thankfully she decided to keep. Amidst these circumstances, sometimes it’s easy to think we’re not really making a difference, but then I remember the most important thing: that they’re coming at all. They’re seeking relationship and some validation of their life. So we listen, we give; day by day, sometimes minute by minute, calling on the wisdom and strength of the one who listens and gives to us continually no matter what state we come to Him in. All it takes is being aware of those around you at any given time and listening to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. And this, I’ve come to fully embrace, is one of the greatest and grandest acts that we can do for the Kingdom.

Four years ago, a homeless woman in San Francisco said something to me that I have never been able to forget, and am now finally realizing the significance of: “People say that drastic times call for drastic measures, but I don’t believe that’s always true. People just want to be loved, they just want to know they matter, that they’re seen. I don’t see anything drastic about that.”

When we start to do the possible in our everyday circumstances, we will begin to see impossible things happening. Maybe in 20 years it will no longer be so shocking for church and state to work hand in hand. The Portland public school district has actually begun to ask for church partners in their other schools. If this can happen in our city, it can happen anywhere. Doing the non-drastic act of love can cause drastic effects in our world as a whole. Can you imagine how far the Holy Spirit could take a whole new movement of Christians? Who needs help around you? If you don’t know, just ask. But be willing to go wherever it takes you once you put that question out there. God will use it to His glory.

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