I’m one of those people who wrote out my bucket list years ago, on plain old notebook paper, and stuck it in a journal. Its full of things that I imagined, with my small little mind, would make an adventurous, worthwhile life. But its recently become clear there was a large oversight when making that list.
I didn’t put “live in the hood” anywhere on it.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55
Folks, that is gospel truth. So, yes, “live in the hood” is now somewhere near the top of the list …. but I’m getting ahead of the story.
People have asked how God led me here, and that’s a long story that only God knows all the details of, but here are the highlights.
Started volunteer work at the local pregnancy care center, not because I was particularly drawn to that field (if we are going to be brutally honest) but because I was looking for ways to share the Light. I remember one of my first times there, I saw a girl walking by on the street with bleach blond hair and hard empty eyes. My heart tightened knowing that I would soon be in a counseling room with her or one of her friends having no idea what to say or how to relate. But at least I noticed her. That was new. That was progress.
This place ended up changing the way I see people like her entirely. Cut to a year later: precious friendships, baby showers, laughing with, crying with and learning how to love people the way God loves.
At a Set Apart girl conference in Colorado, I heard the miraculous testimony of a rescued street girl from South Korea and it sunk deep down into my heart that God doesn’t just see 142 million orphans. He sees one. And another one. And another one. He sees the girl named Ayushi, begging at a rickshaw on the streets of New Dehli. He sees Nicole, beaten by an alcoholic husband every night. And He cares so much. He plans to rescue some of them. And He uses His hands and feet, His representatives here on the earth to go pick them up out of the dust and brush them off and make His love real to them.\n\nMuch like the story of the little boy with the starfish, each life was beginning to be important and worth rescuing to me as well. In the massive scope of suffering, its easy to change the channel and look away. Not always from a cold heart, but from a lack of knowing how to make any difference at all. But making a difference in one life at a time is how our personal God works. And that’s how we’re called to work as well.
Verses like Isaiah 58:6-11 and Luke 14:12-14 started to jump off the page. God was giving me a glimpse of His hearts and through tears, I started praying prayers like, “God, if there are people out there that You want to rescue, I would consider it a privilege to be the one to take them by the hand and lead them to safety. Please send someone to rescue them. Send me.”
The gap between my comfy life and volunteering once a week at the pregnancy care center was becoming wider and wider. It didn’t feel right anymore. How could I truly love the people that God had so clearly drawn my heart to when I kept them at such a distance?
Then I connected with an old friend, Lori, who told stories of Christians (herself included) that had just prayed that God would show them people to love and then moved right next door to them in the rough part of town. I had no idea that Christians could just… do that. They called it Christian Community Development and there were associations and conferences and everything.
That made so much sense. That’s what Jesus did with us. He came, Incarnate, God With Us, and stayed. He came into close proximity with the ones He loved, to rescue them and redeem them. When He finished the redemption work, He went to heaven, sent His Holy Spirit and now gives us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
From that day forward, knowing how much Jesus loves the poor, the least of these, the broken, the castaways… and knowing how much He loves me, I knew it was time to connect the dots and just go live with these people and make His love real to them.
All that was left to do was find a ‘hood, right?