What If…

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What if every impoverished child living in Richmond experienced true, authentic, unconditional love?   

What if every Christ Follower actually loved like Christ and was willing to follow Christ into the margins of society in order to see Christ in the faces of the least, the lost and the forgotten?

What if the Body of Christ stopped casting stones at one another but instead united to break the bonds of generational poverty by truly becoming the hands and feet of Christ in the world?

These are the questions that came to my mind when one of the speakers from the Exponential Conference challenged us with this question “What if God really could do what God did in the New Testament?”  He then asked us to formulate “What if Questions” that reflected the heart of our ministry call.

At the heart of Embrace is a desire to help individuals escape from poverty.  As I have had the opportunity to hear the stories of dozens of homeless men and women over the years, I have found an alarming pattern.  Many of those who are trapped in homelessness are there due to wounds suffered as children.  While this is not always the case, I have seen this pattern more times than I care to count.  Those who suffer from these scars are among the hardest individuals to work with because many have never experienced unconditional love and often do not believe they are even worthy of this kind of love.  So the question I most want an answer to is “What if every child in Richmond experienced true, authentic, unconditional love?”  Would it make a difference?  Would it break the cycle of poverty?

You may be thinking to yourself, “How could this ever happen?”  That leads to my second question “What if every Christ Follower actually loved like Christ and was willing to follow Christ into the margins of society?”  If those of us who profess to be Christians actually did what Christ did and spent time with those impacted by poverty; we would come to know the children and the Christ spirit that dwells in us would empower us to develop real, authentic relationship with these children which over time; would allow every child to know they are loved.

I know that these children are still going to be wounded but my belief is that once they know they are lovable; they will be able to heal without the magnitude of long term damage I currently see.  I do not want to give up on the adults, we need to continue to work toward healing but I think the church can have the greatest impact in the area of prevention.

So what does this look like?  I honestly do not know.  I am just starting to ask the question.  What I do know is that it must be relational, not program or event driven.   I do know that there are others like the Micah Initiative and Youth Life Foundation who have come to the same conclusion; if we want to break the cycle of poverty we much invest in the children. 

In a recent Unity Works session one of the participants said “I really want to minister with my family.  Are there any opportunities for families to do ongoing relational ministry with families in transition?”  Sadly my answer was “not right now”.  However, as with all things Embrace, all it takes is one dreamer.  Please join us in asking some new questions and in dreaming some new dreams.  If you are aware of ministry opportunities that engage families in ministering together in relational ways, please let me know.

So what would the world look like if God really could do all the things God did in the New Testament? 

Jesus said “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  John 14:12

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3 Comments

Filed under Urban Ministry

3 responses to “What If…

  1. I’ve always appreciated your thoughts, Wendy. Good and timeless stuff to think about. I’m glad to here that your ministry is still going strong.

  2. What about the Encouragers program you have? It sounds more like it could blossom out of that, but then again I don’t know much about it… other than a min I had to ask Tiffany when she was over Sunday (thanks again Tiffany for coming!)…

    A gal from my church and I have known a guy and gal (met at Monroe Park; she was homeless then and he was but now had a place to stay… but is always down there) for coming up on two years. A few months ago (well prob like 9 mos) she was able to get into an apt from VSH; I’ve visited her once and together we went a few wks ago. Not exactly my whole family ministering to her and her family (she’s a grandmother but they all aren’t together like that…) although I hope that at some point we (being my wife and kids) get to meet all of her family … especially since she is close to Forest Hill Park 🙂

    One time when we were out at Monroe Park, we saw a little child hiding very closely with her mother, but haven’t seen a lot of kids… but then again, we’ve only really gotten to meet people from going to Monroe Park not in other ways so much.

    It would be awesome though to walk alongside the parent/parents in some structured and life-improving manner, but also have some sort of connection with our kids. I understand that there could be issues with this (exposing your children to something very different than what they know… and views you may not necessarily agree with, etc.)…

    but then again, there was a homeless guy (Mr. Al) who just walked up to our church (when we met in a movie theatre). I connected a fair bit with him, and we had him over a few times to our house. My kids, in particular my 7yr old daughter, got to know him somewhat and still prays about him a lot.

  3. wmccaig

    Hi Chris,

    We made some progress in this area today. We are going to have one of our members working directly in the CARITAS shelter with the families and will likely be introducing “encouragers” to clients while they are still in the shelter with the hopes that the relationships will continue into the community. This adds to the safety and comfort level for all concerned.

    I also met with a community organizer about how to pour into the kids in the community just around the corner from our new building, Hillside Court. It is a public housing project and we are trying to connect through the school to discern how we might be a blessing to the community. I learned of a Girl Scout troop that wants to start a community garden in Hillside court. I can see families coming and working in the community garden alongside residence and building relationships in that way.

    Thanks for your comments. I know my girls have benefited through the relationships they have formed at Embrace and we want to create more opportunities for families to minister together but to be responsible in providing opportunities that minimize risk to both the encourager and the encouragee.

    I will be sharing more details as these things firm up but if you and your wife would like to be a part of the team that is researching and fleshing this out, please let me know. We currently have four other families who have expressed an interest but we have not really gotten together as a group, I have just been talking one on one with folks. Let me know if you want to join that conversation.

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