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.