Mission Mondays: The Invitation

I’ve been back in my bed for a week or so now. I haven’t blogged since I came back inside, partially because I was busy and partially because I didn’t know to wrap up this crazy journey I’ve been on.

I could put the link to the fundraiser site here and tell you there are only a couple days left to give. I could write about how materially blessed most of us are and tell you some of the hard truths of poverty that I’ve seen this semester. Maybe I could mention more details about the forty five nights we slept outside, give you the highlights and the lowlights. I’d tell you about how close we are to our goal, how if everyone who read this post gave $10, we’d reach it in a couple of hours. But I can’t do that.

There’s nothing worse I could do for both you and the poor than to conclude with a post about giving and not about going. 

To conclude this journey with a post about giving a couple bucks to Mission Waco, I can’t do that. Don’t get me wrong, non-profits need money and we’re called to give. Absolutely. But if your involvement with the poor and the oppressed and the marginalized stopped with throwing some money their way, you’d miss out. 

You’d miss out on Derek. Derek shows up on the playground every week with his scraped up knees and his buzz cut. Last week, Derek got up on my shoulders and asked for my Bible. He’d tell me who to walk over to and he’d read John 3:16 to them.

Derek reading John 3:16

                                                       Derek reading John 3:16

You’d miss out on Wes. On Wednesday, Wes arrived in Waco from Fort Worth. He walked the whole way, all 85 miles. I asked him how he did it and he shrugged and said he prayed a lot. It took him ten days. I asked Wes if it was hard to be alone for so long. He said no, that the time had really helped him grow closer to God.

You’d miss out on Greg. Greg was a disney animator out in California. He created the character of Pumbaa from The Lion King. He became unemployed when he had to move back to Texas to take care of his mom and sister. They both passed away and hospital and burial bills have Greg in the homeless shelter. Greg draws caricatures for his homeless friends at Friday Morning Breakfast. Jimmy from the Church Under the Bridge just helped him start teaching animation classes to the community. He smiles a lot.

You’d miss out on John. John was an old man from the Navajo tribe who we met on our Spring Break trip. He was the hitchhiker that you’re not supposed to pick up. Dirty, old clothes, missing an eye. On the way to Tuba City, Arizona, he taught us some phrases in Navajo and told us stories, heroic stories about the Wind-talkers in World War Two and heart-breaking stories about life on the Reservation. My buddy Justin asked if he could pray. Justin thanked God for John and his people’s beautiful land and prayed that God would bring restoration through the gospel to John and his people. John said thank you multiple times and then went on his way.

More than anything else though, when our response to God’s call to love the poor is strictly financial, we miss out on the invitation to go.

Our Savior was the first to go. He went to the cross. Now the God of the universe sends us an invitation. From the cross, the image of love, he sends us an invitation to a new kind of life. It’s a life that goes.

We can’t show people the love that Christ showed us unless we go.

Go across the hall.

Go across the street.

Go across the town.

Go across the world.

You’ve been invited. We’ve all been invited. It’s time to GO.

 

 

 

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Mission Mondays: Sleeping Around

IMG_0386Jared and I started sleeping around in the middle of February. Some nights we’re in the big tree by the Student Union Building. Other nights we’ll hang our hammocks by the tennis courts. Every once in a while, we’ve gotten a little more creative, and we’ll wake up on the shores of Lake Waco or inside of a tent on a trampoline. During a spring break road trip, we woke up at the foot of waterfalls or in deep redrock canyons. If it rains, we’ll throw a tarp over us. If it’s cold, we’ll bundle up.

The idea is silly. We pay to live in the dorms and we’ve got great beds in there with fancy mattress toppers and soft sheets. We set an alarm and it wakes us up at the same time every morning. Beds are efficient. You fall asleep faster, you get more done in the morning, your back is less sore. Sleeping outside is silly, uncomfortable, and inconvenient, and that’s exactly why we are doing it. We wanted to do something silly, uncomfortable, and inconvenient if it meant that people would pay attention and support the poor and the marginalized of our city.

The poverty rate here in Waco is thirty percent. That’s more than twice the national rate of thirteen percent. But those are just numbers. They don’t capture the overwhelmed schools, the dilapidated homes, the broken families, or the deep chill of sleeping outside. Those you have to experience to really know. The last several weeks of this series, I’ve told you a little bit about Mission Waco and how I’ve been able to get involved. My time with them has given just a glimpse of the picture, but that glimpse was enough.It was enough that Jared and I decided to sleep outside for Lent. We talked about what we’d be giving up and why, and a lot of that conversation is wrapped up here in this postSleeping outside has been a way that we could enter the world of the materially poor. We’ve been able to enter that world for six or seven hours a night for the last five weeks.

The silliness and the discomfort and the inconvenience of sleeping outside has been a way to be with the poor in their suffering. It’s also been a lot of fun. Friends have joined us for many nights, and conversations sparked by the stars are always better than their indoor counterparts. On top of that, every question we get asked about why we are doing this gives us a chance to talk about God’s heart for the poor and what He’s been teaching us through this.

When we don’t enter into the world of the poor and when we ignore God’s call to serve them, we are the ones who miss out. We miss out on being a part of the restoration that God is bringing to this world. We miss out on the restoration that He brings to us when we are willing to love outside our comfort zone. If you are tired of missing out, I want to ask you to do a small thing. Help the poor out.

Mission Waco has been an agent of restoration here in Waco since 1978. They’ve taken over porn stores and made them into community theaters. They play in the park with kids. They offer job training and mental health services and temporary shelter. Mission Waco isn’t passing out handouts, they are reaching their hand out in a way that communicates to the poor:

You are loved, you have gifts, and we want to help you use them.

At the Mission Waco poverty simulation, I first heard Isaiah 58. This entire chapter of scripture has been a huge motivation for us throughout this time. It gives us a picture of God’s heart for the poor and of what happens when we take His call to serve seriously.

…if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

Isaiah 58:10

Jared and I don’t want you to miss out. We want you to be a part of the work that God is doing through Mission Waco. Through this silly sleeping around thing, we are trying to raise $4000 for Mission Waco for the forty days of Lent. Be a part of this awesome organization and be a part of the restoration of this city. Join us. Spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry. Satisfy the needs of the oppressed. Join Us. 

Restoring Waco: Sleeping for a Cause

All $10 and $20 gifts by college students will be matched by an anonymous donor!