- The Nicaragua Mission team leaves Friday night. Pray for us!
- Our next worship gathering is June 18 at 6:30. (We will probably gather in a home. Stay tuned!)
Down Town Out: How does missional engagement get going? We’re learning. I’m not sure I know what I’m doing, but that may be okay. And I’m encouraged because we aren’t the first to try this sort of thing. For example…
“On the Sabbath Day, we went outside the gate to a riverside where we supposed there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.” (Acts 16:13)
Acts 16 explains the story of how Paul, Silas, and some friends (including a guy named Luke) began their mission work in Europe. While the story will eventually unfold dramatically, it begins so simply: A small group of disciples went to a place to which they felt the Lord led them and talked to some people who gathered there. That’s it. Let me restate:
- They prayed.
- The Lord led them to a place.
- They go there and the sabbath rolls around, so they go a place where people gather.
- They talk to some of those people.
Hmm. I wonder what was said. The only clue we get comes a few verses later. Lydia responded to what was being said and was baptized. So whatever it was, it was something people could respond favorably to Jesus.
There’s a little more worth noting here. The women who gathered by the river feared God. They went there because there was no synagogue in Philippi. There weren’t many Jewish men in Philippi and we know this because you had to have 12 Jewish men to have a synagogue. So Jews and other “God-fearers” who worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would gather near the river. That’s why the apostles went to the river.
But here’s what’s instructive for us, I think. They went and talked with people, and were pretty open in terms of talking about Jesus.
And here’s something encouraging – and maybe speculative, too. I don’t think Paul, Silas, and company really knew exactly what they were doing. They weren’t clueless, but the weren’t following a manual on how to do this – because there was no manual. They were just going where God sent them, meeting and talking with people, and trusting God with the rest.
So Daniel, Becca, Heather, Micah and I have made several visits to Hemming Plaza aka Hemming Park in downtown, Jacksonville. We’ve prayed, observed, played a bit, and said “hi”. We feel like God is leading us to be there, and the reason we’re there has something to do with homelessness, and we want understand what God is up to so we can join in. And we all know that we need to start building relationships with some of the folks who hang out there on Sunday mornings. But we don’t know exactly what we’re doing.
Side bar: I’m an introvert. I’m pretty good with people but takes a lot out of me. Getting to know new people has never been natural for me. But after 50 years, I know I can, I know how, and I know it’s worth the effort. So I just need to get over it.
Well, we went again this past Sunday, this time armed with bubbles and juice. That provided us with “something to facilitate relationship”. Toys and refreshments break down barriers. Well, it was Jazz Festival weekend so there was quite a bit of activity at the park. We hung out, played with bubbles, listened to music, and tried to strike up a conversation with a lady who was near us. She wasn’t too interested in engaging. And the next thing we knew the time was gone. So we started heading back to the church (First Pres Jax) but decided to offer some of the bubbles to the one kid we saw at the park. He was sitting with a bunch of men – homeless men, I think. We got permission from someone who looked parent-like to give juice and bubbles to the kid. He was happy and they seemed grateful. One of us (I don’t remember who) offered juice to the men, and then we found out how easy it is to give away juice and bubbles.
On the way back to the church, we all agreed we should have started there, and we talked about what we’d do next time.
Next time, we said we’ll bring cold water – and bubbles.
Next time, maybe, just maybe we’ll have a conversations.
Next time, maybe we’ll let someone know that we feel that God led us there and that we have good news: that the Kingdom of God is near.
Pray for us. I feel like we’re stumbling along in the right direction. And it is a joy to follow Jesus with people I love.