It’s hard to imagine that it’s five years later. In some ways it feels like it has been a lifetime of swimming through concrete. In other ways, it seems like just yesterday we came back home to a new normal – freshly renovated by the hand of God and a fist of furies.
As you travel through the tri-parish neighborhoods, you see a suffering urban triad. New homes sit next to empty lots that lay in between yet-to-be touched properties. Blight sits like an ugly blind date among two other more attractive choices. Much has yet to happen, but no one seems to want to dance.
There is an ADD view of charity in America. While we do give abundantly through many benevolent organizations, we are still a nation of distraction. One day our attention lingers over one disaster and then, just as quickly, it shifts over to a new area with little thought about long-term commitments. Devastated cities are not rebuilt quickly and people take even longer.
Yet, even through the confused difficulties and mire of mountainous and lethargic bureaucracy, we can see light. Hope was transported by God’s grace through thousands of churches and car after truck after van of volunteers. FEMA, the military, Red Cross and other agencies showed up week after week to help and assist in cleanup and recovery. We were overwhelmed by a continuing trail of faithful servants who helped us sew up wounds and re-lay new foundations and in spite of all the delays, political pandering and illogical insensibilities; help arrived. Mercy is beautiful even when born next to death.
In long-term urban relief ministry, we’ve seen a juxtaposition of opposing truths that seem to wage war in a paradoxical fist fight. Great blessings coexist with intense trials. One hand seeking to serve and love like Christ, while the other demands a better menu and preferential work projects. One hand is grateful for whatever help it receives, while the other is never satisfied with the free labor it gets; even though it could never afford in the first place. Grace and demand live as sneering neighbors sobering up those who pay attention. Sometimes it seems like a miracle that anything gets done. It is.
Beyond the waterline, we’ve learned much about our own weaknesses and self-interests and have been made clearly aware of our ongoing need for sustaining grace – the grace that only Christ can bring. When funds disappear and interest wanes, the real fiber of your heart is tested. As promises laced with good intentions break away into disappointment’s wake, it is through His sufficiency and new provisions that we press on. In the long haul, you notice both your utter dependency and inadequacy. God uses hard-baked vessels to bring truth and life, even when they are bruised and cracked.
Establishing our internship program at Homeland Missions has been a deep passion as we have sought to anchor and transfer the heart attitudes and practicalities that we’ve learned in half a decade. We know we are mere pups, but He’s taught us so much already.
As we move past another August 29th and into more unknowns; one thing has not changed. We are even more committed to sustaining a generational beacon of salt and light in our community. We aren’t sure about exactly what the end product will look like, but we are faithful to see it through. He never abandons us no matter how much the darkness feels empty. Pray for us. Pray for the people we help. Come lend a hand. We need you.