Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Through the Eyes of an Intern

I have been in Tacoma for a little over a month now, and the idea of trying to put into words what God has shown me through this church plant is overwhelming. There is brokenness, lostness, and confusion like I’ve never seen before. But the thing is, in the midst of that heartbreak, there is also grace, life-change, and genuine love for Jesus like I’ve never seen before.

Let me begin by telling you what Tacoma, specifically the Hilltop district, looks like from my limited and southern perspective. There are several things I was unaware of coming into this summer as an intern for The Pathway.

  • First, the ignorance and confusion of the city. I do not mean that in an offensive sense at all. It’s simply that many of the people of this city haven’t been told, or rather, have been told wrong. They don’t know that Jesus is the Son of God. They don’t know that Jesus is The Way. They don’t know that His grace covers us and that He is the one that brings restoration and redemption. They don’t know that being a Christ follower is a faith and a relationship and not simply a religion. It’s heartbreaking.

  • Second, I was completely ignorant to the brokenness of the people of this city. Homelessness, prostitution, isolation, lack of resources, joblessness, poverty, mental disabilities, and health issues are all prevalent in this city to an extent and magnitude that I didn’t even know existed in the United States.

  • Third, grace and love are difficult for them to comprehend. I have to be honest, it’s often difficult for me to understand as well, but I was blessed with a home and a foundation that showed me what it was to love. I don’t know why the Lord gave me such a different life than some of the people here, but so many people have seen the exact opposite of love and grace from the people around them and have no way to grasp what love and grace is from a Heavenly Father.

The wonderful thing about these painful truths is that God provides redemption. I’m seeing it in action in some of the lives here. Because of the faithfulness and obedience of the people of The Pathway, truth is being spoken into the lives of the people who have been misled. Restoration is coming to those who hurt and struggle because of their circumstances. Love of Jesus, love that’s unconditional and perfect, is becoming something that people experience and depend on because the Holy Spirit has shown it to them. The Holy Spirit is infiltrating the hearts of the people of Tacoma.

Perhaps the most prevalent thing that I’ve learned since I’ve been here is how completely inadequate I am. My family and close friends can tell you that my giftedness is not with children. Of course, one of the tasks Ashley (the other girl intern) and I were given upon arriving is to help with Kids Ave., the children’s ministry. The cool thing is though, the Holy Spirit has equipped us and provided in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Not that I’m doing great at it or am an expert on talking to kids now. It’s just that there are times when the Holy Spirit just grabs ahold of their hearts and provides focus and understanding for them. They ask questions and say the most insightful and thought-provoking things. I'm even enjoying it. I’m inadequate. The Holy Spirit is not.

Last week there was a mission team here from Universal City, Texas. God provided a team that was so sensitive to the Spirit and that were simply awesome at taking initiative in loving on the people in this area. Through an impromptu Vacation Bible School at the Summertree Park Apartments that the mission team provided, we met a seven-year-old girl named Grace. There were only eight or so children there, but every bit of effort and money was worth it. The Holy Spirit grabbed ahold of her heart, and that precious girl accepted Jesus. Grace experienced grace. Praise Jesus :) The Holy Spirit is working.

The church is the body of Christ, the people, not the building or the bible study or the ministry or any sort of event. We are the church, and The Pathway has begun to show me what that looks like. We are a community of believers, which means that we share burdens, whether financial, emotional, or spiritual. We share our stuff as if we truly believe that they are just things that God blessed us with as one more way to glorify Him. We encourage one another, pray for and with one another, we point each other to scripture. We help each other in practical ways and in ways that make no sense to the outside world. It is messy and painful, but it is genuine and grace-filled. In John 13, Jesus tells us to love one another, and “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” We proclaim the gospel with our words and with our actions. If we allow unbelievers to experience the love of Jesus through a true community of believers, it’s difficult to deny the love of Jesus. The Holy Spirit works in and through us.

The thing that blows my mind is that somehow all of these things are so beautifully interwoven. The confusion and brokenness of the city, our inadequacy, the incomprehensible faith of a child, grace experienced in a community of believers, all point back to the gospel and the fact Jesus is the one that provides restoration. In each situation, the Holy Spirit continues to move. There is heartbreak, yes, but God will be the victor. I can’t explain how grateful I am that God let me, a completely inadequate and insignificant girl from Oklahoma, experience His love through allowing me to serve at The Pathway for an entire summer.

Please pray for this community of believers that speaks truth and seeks Jesus. Pray for them as they hurt and struggle, as they celebrate and praise Jesus.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I can't fix it

I've never been a Mr. fix-it. My dad has that "manly" ability to trouble shoot, make repairs and fix almost anything around the house. Apparently that gift is not hereditary! Of course, it's ultimately not that big a deal. It just means I have to call my land lord more often, call my friendly neighborhood Mr. Fix-it, Scott Ignacio, a few houses down, and of course it means a bigger to-do list for my pops when he comes to visit from Texas. But really, it's just stuff around the house. Fix or no fix, it's just not a life altering thing.

Last night I was reminded of something else that I can't fix and it bothers me in the depths of my soul. I can't fix the brokenness of humanity. I can't fix broken souls, I can't fix broken families and I can't fix broken lives. While I do take comfort in the reality that I don't save sinners (including myself), that's God's job, when I see people, specifically kids and teenagers, whose lives are falling apart around them and there's nothing I can do to fix it, I struggle. I get mad, I get sad, and ultimately I have to put my faith in the sovereign God who "works all things together for the good of those who love him and who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

Last night we moved a family with multiple teenagers out of their apartment from which they were being evicted. The dad was there for part of the time but then he left... who knows where? I left 2 of the teens in their apartment, alone, electricity already shut off, praying that their dad, whom I had just spoken with on the phone, was really on his way home and had a place for the teens to stay last night. I told them if he never came or if they didn't really have a place to stay to call me and we would find them a place. I kept checking my phone as I lay in bed, making sure I didn't miss their call.

Sleep eventually came and a call from the teens did not. I guess they made it to their dad's arranged place to stay? I hope. This is one example. This is one situation of many that I have seen on a regular basis in my time here in Tacoma. If you're reading this though and you are thinking how sad things are in Tacoma, think again. These same things are happening all over this country every day. We all need to open our eyes and begin facing the reality that we live in a broken world. We can't fix it. We have to know that and accept it. But we can't ignore it.
What we can do is love these people... even when they don't deserve it. We can give them the tangible help we have but most importantly we can offer them eternal hope in Jesus Christ. That's the most important thing because even though we can provide material blessings to some, there are some whose lives will never get easier, will never get "better." Their only hope is in eternity and we can introduce them to our friend, our Savior, our Lord... Jesus.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lots Happening!

Wow! Talk about a lot going on! This is going to be a quick post but I wanted to make sure that all of you who faithfully follow and pray for what God is doing here in Tacoma know how to pray this week.

1) My son Jagen has been having a lot of health issues and we're hoping today will provide a strong first step toward some answers. Pray for Jagen this morning as he has a throat scope and biopsy to find out what kind of allergies he may be dealing with.

2) Salvation!!! God is so amazing and he is always doing supernatural things. We have a teenager named Daniel in our church who very recently told us he felt he needed a sign before he could really put his faith in Jesus. We told him about the story of Thomas and that Jesus can give us "proof" but he loves it when we follow him with out "seeing." We told Daniel we would pray for a sign if that's what he needed. Yesterday Daniel told me God spoke to him in a dream and showed him a picture of what his life would look like as a follower of Jesus, sharing his faith boldly. He told me he that he got his sign and he was giving Jesus his life! Praise the Lord!

3) A church that plants churches. We've been praying from the beginning of our church plant that we would be able to send out missionaries to plant more churches. The time has come. Tom Abbott has been with us since the church's inception and he just graduated with his degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington. He will be leaving Tacoma in a the next month or so to plant a church on the campus of the University of Washington Seattle. We are so excited not to be losing Tom, but to be sending him out to plant the gospel in Seattle's U-district.

4) We have our first mission team of the summer coming in this Friday. Please pray that God would do more than we can imagine!

Thanks for keeping these things in your prayers!