i’ve received two emails in the last two days asking (rather familiar) questions of our Toronto trip:
how many did you talk to about Jesus?
how many were saved?
what kind of ministry did you do?
i appreciate the curiousity behind these questions. they are questions from a past life and, if i were still in that past life frame of reference, i would be asking them myself.
so, how did i answer, then, if i have this new “frame of reference?” before i go into that, i’d like to explore something that seems to be pretty prevalent in our church culture: God management.
this has been a big topic over the last week in our classes–how we as a people tend to put God “in the box,” create rules to keep God tame, narrow the Gospel so that it fits the God we know. we want to decide what “salvation” looks like and how it can be attained (praying the prayer, and such). we want a God who has grace for us and vengeance for those who hurt us. we have to believe that “real followers” fit a certain list of characteristics: clean, hard-working, upstanding citizens with no addictions, no tattoos, no problems…because God only helps those who help themselves.
it’s much harder to accept the mystery of God.
one thing I can be sure of is that Jesus had a special place in His heart for the poor. He walked with them, shared meals, washed their feet. He let them serve Him, feed Him, bathe Him in purfume. He loved them.
we set out on the streets of Toronto with the very same desire, to find “the least of these” as Scripture calls them, and learn the secrets of the Kingdom. no other agenda. no other plan. ok, that’s not completely true. we had direction from Larry, but it never included being the sole providers of ministering.
this does not mean that ministry didn’t happen. God was faithful in putting people in our paths who both loved on us and needed our love. some in our group shared scriptures, some were welcome by homeless alcoholics, some were able to provide comfort, some just friendship. to each other we gave the gift of listening and wrestling, a welcome place for the sharing of stories. our time was rich and full and we were so aware of Jesus’s face in those around us, and even in that which we saw in the mirror. God was present…was He ever present. and free to move in ways that only He can.
as the church, we have a unique gift to offer: hope. we can approach the world in all it’s brokenness and show them another way, a way that leads to Life. the danger in that becomes in thinking that we are the only ones, then, with something to offer. that we are not like “them”…we are not broken. that those who live on the fringes of society, are not productive or do drugs, could not possibly know God better than we do. we have hope, but we certainly don’t have all the answers. Toronto helped me to see that.
so, when someone asks me if anyone was “saved” on this trip, i simply answer:
there were seven of us, so seven were saved. we were saved from ourselves.