first Boston weekend

After four straight days of monsoon-like conditions in New England, today’s weather was stupendous. Blue sky, bright sun, 70 degrees. Amazing. We still feel like tourists in this town, like our vacation is going to end any day now. But alas, we live here now, and we’re loving it.

Our first weekend in our new home went great. I’ve already told you about Friday night. Saturday, we joined the worship gathering at Quincy Street Missional Church in Dorchester, which was started by our friends Aaron and Amy. That was an encouraging time. I’ve blogged about Quincy Street before, but here’s a reminder of how it got started: Aaron met Ma Siss, who has run a commodities closet out of an old auto repair shop for the last 30 years. She is somewhat of a matriarch in the neighborhood in which she lives and works. She asked Aaron and Amy to lead a Bible study for folks in the neighborhood (which was full of crime at the time), which they agreed to do. After the first study, those who attended asked if they could do the same thing the next Saturday. Three years later, the Bible study is now a small, neighborhood-based church that still meets at Ma Siss’s place. Each week, Ma Siss and some of the other ladies make an amazing “soul food” meal, which you are forced to smell throughout the preceding time of worship and fellowship. Aaron and Amy have had an especially significant impact on the youth of the neighborhood, forming a quasi-youth group and leadership team out of the formerly troubled teens. Chrissy and I met several of the phenomenal youths on Saturday, and We think we might try to work with them in some fashion this summer.

From QS, we went straight downtown to the Tremont Temple Baptist Church (the first integrated church in America) for the summer kickoff event of the Boston Faith and Justice Network. Aaron and Amy were instrumental in starting this network as well (they really are all over the place). I can’t even begin to express how encouraging this event was. The speaker for the evening was Bart Campolo (yes, the spawn of Tony and head of Mission Year), who gave a workshop before the main event on forming authentic relationships through barriers of race, gender, etc. If you’ve never heard Bart speak before, he is passionate, exciting, and extremely intelligent. Like his dad, I guess. After growing up in inner-city Philly and now living in inner-city Cincinnati, Bart brings amazing insight into cross-cultural communication, and offered some great tips on how to form authentic relationships with people who are different from yourself.

The real treat came during the main event, however. The praise team from a Brazilian church in town led us in worship, which was powerful (the members also happened to be students at Berklee College of Music, one of the best music schools in the northeast). Then Bart got up and gave the best speech I’ve ever heard on the connection between Christian faith and social justice. He worked from the story of the Good Samaritan, working it in a way I’ve never heard. The priest, he said, was ceremonially clean and didn’t want to stop, in the same way that many Christians don’t want to get involved in people’s lives because “it might get messy.” The Levite, he said, was a blue-collar man and didn’t want to be late for work — just as many Christians don’t help people because of the time and money it might cost. At one point, he got real flustered and asked if he could speak candidly to us. He lamented the fact that he is always asked to come motivate young people to be compassionate, saying he was frankly sick and tired of doing that. It’s not always going to be fun, it’s not always going to make me “grow spiritually,” and it’s going to be messy — in short, it’s not about me. It was a powerful moment. If you have an opportunity to hear Bart Campolo, take it. He’s great (and extremely challenging).

Today we explored our new neighborhood of East Boston some more, walking (with Damon) down the longest street in town and back. We saw so many friendly faces and were further convicted of God’s hand in bringing us to this beautifully diverse part of Boston. So many of God’s children living here from different tribes, tongues, nations. Exciting! We grabbed a slice of pizza in the North End (Italian district) this afternoon (after a bit of a nap) before going to check out where Chrissy will begin working tomorrow. She gets to sit on a pier on the Boston Harbor all summer, greeting tourists and helping kids who are coming to learn how to sail. Lucky!

We are already excited about some of the ways we can begin serving those around us here in East Boston. Being some of the first to move into the Maverick Landing townhomes, we have an amazing opportunity to be a welcoming and hospitable presence to those moving into the neighborhood. Please pray that we’ll recognize these opportunities and walk through the doors God opens.

Shalom.

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