Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Van Driving

It's funny how God uses something that seems so trivial on the outside, like van driving, and uses it to advance His kingdom.  Without understanding the culture of van driving in urban ministry, it's easy for one on the outside looking in to diminish the task as grunt work.  Pick up and drop off.  With the REAL work being whatever that person is being picked up and dropped off for.  I beg to differ.  Van driving always ends up being more than a ride.

One day it took me over an hour to find one of my younger friends house.  It was late, about 8:15 on a school night, and he had been in my van for over an hour.  I ended up taking him through the Burger King drive-thru to get him something to eat because I felt so terrible.  We conversed back and forth about his recent football season, talked about his family, and about what he likes to do.  Both of us laughing and enjoying each others company.  I then proceeded to tell him that I enjoyed spending time with him and that I appreciated him as a friend.  He didn't respond.  A few seconds later, he slowly uttered the words, "nobody's ever told me that before.. well my Mom has, so I guess you're the second person."  Van driving always ends up being more than a ride.

When I slip into the thinking that what I do on a day to day basis as n2n is small and trivial, I'm constantly reminded of how absurd that is.  Am I really limiting God's ability to use anything and everything to what I think is fit for Him to use?  Because let's be honest, van driving is not sexy.  But then again, neither is being born in a manger, riding in on a donkey, washing feet, dying on a cross, etc.

Instances like the one above (and there are many) remind me that my work is not about driving vans or helping run youth outreach programs.  My job is about providing opportunities for relationships, discipleship to take place, and for reconciliation to happen.  Sometimes it takes driving a van (just about everyday) for me to be reminded of that.  Maybe I've been brainwashed (nah), but van driving is what the golf course is to the business world for urban youth ministry.  And you can take that to the bank.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mission Year.. In Charlotte!

I just found out that Mission Year just recently started in Charlotte.  I remember working with some people that did Mission Year in Chicago when I was interning at Breakthrough..  so it's exciting to hear that Mission Year has come to North Carolina!

Mission Year is a year long urban ministry program focused on Christian service and discipleship.  They take teams of young people, place them in an area of need, and help them to serve people and create community.  They are committed to the command of Jesus to "love God and love people," by placing the needs of our neighbors first and developing committed disciples of Christ with a heart for the poor.

Here is the link: Mission Year - Charlotte

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tink & Terry

Meet Tink and Terry.  They are in third grade and sixth grade respectively.  Both boys live within walking distance of the n2n center (1200 S. Blount St.) and are regular faces around n2n and the surrounding neighborhood.  They are involved in bible studies at Ship of Zion church up the road and in our HOSTS mentoring program.  They sometimes visit Tapestry Church they even stop by on a day when there is no program to watch a movie or play connect 4 with some of the staff.

Without trying to sound cliché, kids like Tink and Terry are our future.  More specifically the future of the neighborhood in which they live.  I strongly believe that there is a strong correlation to their future and the future health of their neighborhood.  If they (or youth like them) continue to fall into the same destructive patterns, their neighborhood will reflect that.  However, if they replace those destructive patterns with new patterns of living, their neighborhood will reflect that instead.  Thus making it all the more important that we learn to listen and make time for them in our lives right now.  I’m reminded of these words:

“The fundamental building blocks of the kingdom are relationships.  Not programs, systems, or productivity.  But inconvenient, time-consuming, intrusive relationships.  The kingdom is built on personal involvements that disrupt schedules and drain energy.  When I enter into redemptive relationships with others, I lose much of my “capacity to produce desires results with a minimum expenditure of energy, time, money, or materials.”  In short, relationships sabotage my efficiency.  A part of me dies.  Is this perhaps what our Lord meant when He said we must lay down our lives for each other?”  -Theirs is the Kingdom by Bob Lupton

Between the staff at n2n, volunteers, mentors, and other community leaders, God has been putting people in the lives of youth just like Tink and Terry.  These ‘redemptive relationships’ are happening.  In our HOSTS mentoring program, Tink and Terry have been placed with wonderful adult mentors (Tom, Emily, Lindsay, and Alex).  In about two months Terry will be playing MAD House Basketball and will have a MAD House Coach.  I hear stories from Tink about how Pastor Chris from Ship of Zion takes him fishing.  Tink and Terry have bible study leaders.  When I asked Tink what he was learning in bible study he told me about his favorite person in the bible, Paul, and how God rescued him from jail.  He also told me about Joseph and Peter.  Pretty amazing isn’t it?

At the same time God is putting people in the lives of these youth, God is also putting them into our lives.  The teaching and subsequent learning not only occurs from the mentor to the mentee but also from the mentee to the mentor. Both benefit and grow from their relationships with each other and whether we realize it or not, we need each other.  We are not complete without one another.  Maybe we haven’t thought of it like that, but that seems to be the way the kingdom works.