día numero uno

This morning was completely God-orchestrated. Ever have one of those mornings?

Jim (director, Christian Service Center) hasn’t returned from his ski trip, but he told me that I would be observing some interviews with “neighbors” who come asking for assistance. The CSC interviews everyone who comes through its doors to get to know their physical and spiritual needs, collect some information from them to use in future visits, etc. All I knew was that I would be partnered with an interviewer named Darrell.

Darrell turned out to be the father of a friend of mine from college, Joanna. His wife (her mom) passed away in March after a long bout with cancer, but Darrell seems to be doing very well. He has a warm, fatherly spirit, which comes out in his interactions with the neighbors he interviewed. It also turns out (not coincidentally) that Darrell, a member at Highland, is also very interested in the simple/house church movement and even has two that he meets with currently. He meets with a group of men, including my professor and mentor Kent Smith, every monday at a local Mexican joint to talk about the kingdom of God. He too has a city-wide vision for reaching Abilenians with the gospel of Jesus in the most effective, reproduceable way possible. We had an exciting conversation about the kingdom of God. This all, of course, was a big coincidence:)

We met with some hurting, broken people today. One 29-year-old woman is raising two rowdy and emotionally challenged boys by herself and recently had to quit her job, cutting off her only source of income, because one of her sons suffers from chronic asthma and needs constant attention. Another young woman came to Abilene to escape an abusive boyfriend, and she plans to move again to start Job Corps. She described herself as “lost” in Abilene. She said she doesn’t even “know herself.” Perhaps the saddest story was the couple who had to move to Abilene from San Antonio after their apartment was burglarized, leaving them with just the clothes on their backs and a mattress (literally). They are making a new start in Abilene, waiting tables at a local restaurant, but frustrated because they are making half the tips that they made at the Olive Garden in San Antonio. Through it all, the couple maintains a glad spirit and smiling faces.

Such pain. Such need. But through it all, I heard over and over again a crying out for God. Whether through a request for a Bible, the desire to study the Bible with someone, or one woman’s New Year’s resolution to “have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” our needy neighbors are crying out for something meaningful. They have lost their hope and trust in humans (something I heard from at least two of the five neighbors we interviewed today), because they have been betrayed over and over and over again. Their hope that material things will satisfy has often been shattered. Food and clothing may be what they are asking for immediately, but their overarching need is much larger. It isn’t a friend, though the right kind of friend might point them to their biggest need. It isn’t family, except a spiritual family that will point them to their biggest need.

They need to realize that they are living in a story that is much bigger than themselves, in a position that is not foreign to their Savior. Christ was born into a poor family. He grew up poor. He had no place to lay his head when he got older. Our neighbors at the Christian Service Center have a brother who “made himself nothing” and can empathize with their hunger and need. My prayer is that as I get to know these neighbors this semester, I may take every opportunity to point them to their brother Jesus and model the Christ-life for them. This is their only hope for survival.

“Lord of the Harvest, raise up harvesters for your harvest fields.”

PS… Just as an aside, let me say this: I’m sure there are those who scam the system and hit up all the agencies in town, but they weren’t at the CSC today. These were hard-working folks with genuine needs and tough lives, and I am more than happy to give them a “cup of cold water” in Jesus’ name as they get back on their feet.

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