During a lunch appointment with two fellow co-laborers in Christ we were talking about how to dignify the culture of service for a group of youth who wanted to serve people in need in their community.
We bounced around a few ideas and talked about the importance of keeping the numbers low, serving with dignity, entering with a posture of humility and other things that needs to be addressed so that missions trips don’t turn out looking like a trip to the zoo to see the poor people and the way they live.
We then began to dream about what it would look like to do something radical with the way we serve. I suggested taking a group of youth into a suburban neighborhood with manicured lawns and praying for the needs that lie hidden under the immaculate looking houses.
Then I sensed the Spirit say to take it to the next level, what if we went and invited some of my homeless friends in our community to come with me and my friend Malcolm to pray in a more affluent area in the city.
As with all things, the idea sounded good, but would this really happen? I left lunch and made a few phone calls to a couple of trusted people to make sure I wasn’t out of my mind.
I then drove to the Wendy’s where our friends hang out and explained what I was thinking. I asked them for their help to pray for a more affluent neighborhood in Atlanta.
After clarifying what we are doing, we drove to Powers Ferry Road and stopped in the parking lot next to the OK Café. We got out and prayed over the needs of the community. We did it in a sensitive way as not to draw attention to ourselves and commit the same mistakes that many do when they come into our community to help. The next time we go we hope to meet some people to know how to best pray for them.
After we got done praying, one of our friends, named Larry, started to walk towards the grocery store. I called out and asked Larry where he was going. He responded, “I’m going to shop for souls Pastor.”
We all have needs. The more I live and work among people who are struggling, the more I realize that maybe God has me here for my own salvation? Maybe I am the one that needs salvation from my longing for security and attachment to things?
Dignity Serves says, “The goal of Christian service should never be about solving problems. It should always be about inspiring servant‐ness: an active receptivity to the love of God, through which we learn to properly love ourselves.”
The more I work for Polis and press into this idea of not trying to solve people’s issues and only invite people to help, the more I see God’s hand change their lives and mine as well.
Do my homeless friends need to “get their lives together”? Yes, probably.
But, guess what? So do people who live in extreme comfort and are obsessed with their possession. I am one of them.
We all need to get out lives together. And this is why we need the gospel every single day. We are all a mess in need of the grace of Christ.
On the way back to the community our friends talked about how good it felt to be able to help and give another community. Far to often they are only on the receiving of being helped. One friend commented that this was the first time in three years that he has been outside of the neighborhood.
Maybe when we begin to stop “helping” people and learn to share in Dignified Interdependent relationships can both parties experience the grace and love of Christ and be healed?