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For the least of these…

Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:40

He did tell us to get ready. He reminded us that the harvest was plentiful, and that as we went out – we’d reap it.

A couple of months ago, a group from our church, ( a motley crew of all ages and background if ever I saw one) connected with an apartment block near our church. Just across from our church is a sprawl of never ending apartment complexes, the most densely populated part of the state. Economically deprived communities, they house many of the forgotten, refugees, ex offenders, people relocated from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. We were connected with one apartment block by Lutheran Social Services, and began to think of ways to serve. We started with a free BBQ and crafts for the kids, and the offer of prayer to anyone who wanted it.

I remember driving into the apartment complex for the first time, with my kids in the back. This was a complex housing refugees from many different countries. I saw the playground, broken glass in the sand, and a metal play set – impossible to play on in 100 degree heat. Next to the boundary walls of the complex ran a telephone wire, with a solitary pair of sneakers hanging from them, marking gang and drug territory. “Welcome to America” I muttered, and pulled my kids out of the car to join in with the festivities.

It was a hot day, but over the next two hours we connected with loads of families. Most were Bhutanese. We did lots of kid’s crafts and resolved to use only chicken hot dogs in future, because people looked at the meat really suspiciously. We offered prayed and tried hard to communicate with hand signals and odd words. And it doesn’t matter how loud you speak, or how slowly, another language is another language. But somehow by the end of the time – we made a connection, a God connection. And we knew we would return.

I had conflicting emotions as I drove home that day. I was angry. Where is the church I demanded, somewhat judgmentally. How are people supposed to live like this? How is this a  place for them to raise their kids. These were refugees; it’s not like is been an easy life to begin with. And now they’re dumped in the ghetto? Why aren’t we doing  something, anything? And where are these gangs and dealers anyway? What are we doing about them. I felt embarrassed at our own ineffectiveness; I felt foolish for the times I’d debated about worship songs, or how to do church, and wondered how often I am distracted from The Great Commission. I think sometimes God lets me get provoked and ask these questions and then lets me hear the silence. In the silence ( well not complete silence because the girls are chatting in the back about My Little Ponies) I remember exactly how you live like this – you just do. In the silence, I remember the impact of Christian urban missionaries who moved into our lives like an unstoppable force of love, compassion and the power of the Spirit. My heart was set on fire and my life was changed. Forever. And to His silence, I responded with my own. Which meant: I get it, I know what you’re saying . Bring it.

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