Monday, April 22, 2013

urban mission trip revisited

Two months out and I'm finally ready to recap my urban mission trip experience. :) Speaking about the experience at church on Sunday gave me the push to put pen to paper and capture the thoughts swirling 'round my brain since experiencing our city in a whole new way.

Since it's been so long, here's the recap, though if you really want a refresher here's the link to the series I did preceding the trip.
  • I've wanted to go on a mission trip ever since my parents began leading teams down to the Dominican Republic   
  • The trip was three days - Friday evening to Sunday afternoon
  • It was in the city next to ours which equaled 15 minutes from home
  • It was $150
  • It was clear there was no reason to not go
  • To prepare for the trip, we were required to attend an urban poverty seminar where we learned about the differing perspectives between the lower and middle classes and the daily challenges faced by the urban poor  
our bunks

Here's what I did...

Friday: After choosing our bunks at the mission house, we ate dinner and play games with teen girls who were refugees from Liberia followed by a discussion about the future of urban missions

Saturday: Work day. There were several projects available. I had the opportunity to bake with and read to children in the city's worst neighborhood and learn how that ministry was lifting up the community in so many ways. That afternoon I helped sort clothes for a homeless ministry - a ministry that began with bringing spaghetti to homeless people in the downtown area. After dinner, we learned more about refugees, immigrants, student visas and the "undocumented and discussed the challenges generally faced by any non-English speaking person trying to integrate into American life.

Sunday: We worshiped at an urban church, had lunch and then learned about an Arabic ministry out of the nonprofit which partnered with the church for the mission trip.

baking cupcakes for the kids to take home to their mothers

Throughout the trip, we worshiped, prayed and sought God's heart for the city. It was a whirlwind of a trip and I would have loved to spend a much longer time working among the poor and foreigners among us. And perhaps some day I will.

But for now, while motherhood is my full time ministry, I'm asking God to continue pressing upon me the lessons He's been teaching me for months now and used the urban mission trip to solidify. And it's this:

I used to content myself with giving money or my stuff and thinking that satisfied God's call to help those in need.

But it doesn't go far enough.

clothes stacked and sorted for the homeless ministry

Yes, it will feed the hungry and clothe the naked - for a while. But it doesn't address why they were hungry or naked to begin with. And it does nothing for me either.

Because I believe that God asks us to minister to the "least of these" not just to meet their needs, but to meet our needs to. I believe He loves us so much He wants to see us changed for the better spiritually as much as He desires circumstances of the poor  improved physically.

I have witnessed this change in myself and I've seen God's glory in new ways and the good news of the Gospel has become that much clearer.

And here's the interesting thing and something I learned in the urban poverty seminar: relationships - the giving of our selves - are the very thing the poor value most.

Relationships are the currency of the poor.

So all of us have this amazing opportunity in our own backyards. Not only can we feed the hungry and clothe the poor, but we can build relationships with them. And when we do this "extra-mile" giving, our lives can become as transformed as the ones we serve.

If you feel the tug on your heart to explore urban ministry opportunities and are not sure where to begin, leave a comment with your email and I'd be happy to help you find resources to get you started.


Sharon Claassen said...

Wonderful insights! Urban ministry really does require a different approach. I also love the truth that you pointed out that giving money isn't the only solution. It helps with a temporary fix and it is definitely a response of compassion, but it doesn't give a permanent solution.

Courtney said...

You made me think of Jesus - He was all about relationships, wasn't he? He actually reached out and touched the poor, talked to them, ate with them, cared for them. He didn't just drop money in the basket.

Thank you for sharing your experiences and motivating me to do more. Hugs to you!