On June 15-22, six youth from my church travelled with another chaperone and myself to Washington, D.C. to work with CSM (www.CSM.org) learning about urban poverty and God’s heart for the city. During the week we served at six different ministries and spent time conversing with the homeless and other residents of the city. There are dozens of stories we have from our time there that we will share with our congregation, but in the immediate aftermath, here are a few ideas we ended up discussing again and again.
Unlearning Distance -- This was CSM’s theme for the summer, based on 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. The passage includes the words we have on our bulletin every week -- “God reconciled us to himself in Christ Jesus and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” -- and we discussed how things like wealth, ethnicity, gender, and politics create divisions in our society, but God’s desire is to break down the barriers between us and build connections. In one example, we sat and talked with a homeless man in a park for an hour and a half in a conversation many kids named as one of their favorite parts of the trip. The lesson: When we break down barriers, we often find the distance is not as great as we thought.
Give Dignity, Not Just Food -- One of the stories that stuck with our students was of a CSM director who stopped to talk with a man asking for change outside a store. When he did, the man started crying and shared he was the first person all day to even acknowledge he was there. We experienced the same in people who were just as grateful for company or a smile as they were for food or clothing. One student summed up the lesson by saying, “I learned giving someone dignity is more important than giving them food.”
Start Small -- At least two of the ministries we served with didn’t start with a plan to become what they are today, or even to be a regular ministry at all. They started when a homeless man asked for a cup of coffee and when someone tried to find furniture for a neighbor. Today they are helping hundreds of thousands of people in the D.C. area. The lesson: Not everything has to be planned out in advance or start on a large scale; offer love when you can, as you can and trust the Holy Spirit to do something with it.
These simple lessons are probably not new to many of us, but they are often forgotten in our daily activities or the rush of life, but they are profound and powerful. 2 Corinthians 5 also says that “we are ambassadors for Christ” in our lives and simple lessons like these give power to that work.
Standing in the Gray,
“I’m an apostrophe. I’m just a symbol to remind you that there’s more to see.” -Imagine Dragons, “Whatever It Takes”