Sunday, May 7, 2017

My Next Journey, Part 2: Community Building

She was timid when I met her, obviously worn down from the darkness she had walked through. She was new to town, alone and without housing, support, or hope. She was expecting her third child, and she told me she planned to walk to the hospital when it was time to deliver her baby. She was prepared to fight for her little family, and I immediately noticed how deeply she loved her children. Over the next several months, I connected with her and started walking alongside her in establishing a home and new life for her family. Over the next year, she would become a friend. We are from two different worlds, but she changed me, and our worlds started to meld together in unlikely friendship.
In my 3 1/2 years with Safe Families, I have met a lot of single moms in crisis. I have scrambled to assemble resources, to place kiddos with host families, to help patch together families deeply affected by poverty, homelessness, and mental illness. But in the last year, a question has weighed heavily on my heart. How do we help families long term? How do we do more than just temporarily patch together families facing hardships? How do we love and pursue these precious souls once we get them through the initial crisis? Poverty is, of course, a hugely complex and multifaceted issue that requires an equally complex and multifaceted solution. However, I began to see a piece of the puzzle emerge:

Community. Relationship.

We all face crises over the course of a lifetime. Hardship is an inevitable part of life in a broken world. How do we respond in the midst of the challenges of life that arise? I know that for me, I would never survive without the community God has given me. A family that loves me, friends who have opened their homes and lives to me, a church community where I can know and be known. God created us for relationship with one another, and we need community.

Many people in our world do not have community, though. In the past several years, I have watched how this lack affects families and generations of families. I have also had a front row seat to the beautiful journey that unfolds when someone chooses to enter into the messiness of relationship with someone who has never experienced the love of Jesus in community.

It is hard. It is costly. It is exhausting. It is demanding.

But it is also transforming. And it is necessary to seeing brokenness restored.

As I have processed all this and watched it play out in my own friendships with women through Safe Families, I have developed a desire to learn how to create places where marginalized people can experience safe community. To learn from those who are practicing the art of moving into poverty-ridden neighborhoods and loving hard. I have been so convicted by how insulated my life can be, and I want to practice throwing the door wide open and stepping into the hard, costly, exhausting, demanding, yet transformative ministry of relationship-building.
There are so many incredible pieces to this story, ways God has moved and provided and directed. I have shared with you the hard of it all, but there has also been so much good on this journey. I would not be walking this out if I wasn't assured beyond the shadows of all my doubts that this is where God is leading me. So. I'm jumping off a cliff and following Jesus into the unknown, with the full assurance that I never walk alone and this really is what God is calling me to in this next season of life.

At the end of this summer, I will be leaving my hometown and family and all I've ever known to venture out West. I have the opportunity to learn from some folks who are doing these things--missional, incarnational living and community building for those marginalized by society and church culture. Yes, it is hard (as I have shared previously). But I am also excited and ready to learn and use God-given gifts and passions. I am being intentionally vague in this online space, but I would love to share more over a cup of coffee if you are interested in knowing more specific details.
My sweet friend and her three babies have changed me. Just this week, I stopped by to drop off some diapers and was greeted by the delighted squeal of her little boy and a toothy grin from the baby, now crawling all over the place. I have learned so much from this friend, about persistence in the face of hardship, joy in pain, and the simplicity of just being together. I wonder where both of us would be had we never met. I don't know where this journey will take me, but I think about her each step of the way. I pray that men and women like her will find hope and healing in loving community and relationship with a God who loves them more than they will ever know. I pray that God will continue to shape and transform my heart and life as I learn from the beautiful people who enter it.