An unlikely outreach tool

Toby.  Toby is my 65 pound adopted, rescued, formerly abandoned red bone hound.  We met his “foster family” before we sold our Government Street home.  When we were between homes, we were unfit to adopt since we didn’t have a stable home with a safe place for a dog.  Those rescue groups run a tight ship!  So when we bought the house on First Avenue, I contacted the folks and they still had Toby after those 2 months.  So after some paperwork, we adopted Toby.

Toby needs to walk.  So walk we do.  About 3 times a day, we take a mile or so walk around different routes of my Trinity Gardens neighborhood.  It can be 6 AM or 8PM, but every time we walk, we meet people.  We talk to children on the street.  We greet elderly folks on their porches.  A few ignore this grey-bearded white guy walking a red hound, but most folks look.  And ask questions.  So Toby has been my tool to reach out and make friends.  I’ve made so many acquaintances that I am having trouble with the names.  I have to ask forgiveness when I can’t remember upon our second encounter.

I look forward to seeing how God uses Toby in this ministry.  I believe that we will look back in a few years and remember his role in meeting folks.  Meeting folks, so that common community can be established.  Bridges of communication can be established.  Trust & love can flourish.  And Trinity Gardens can be transformed for the glory of God, the good of the city, and the salvation of all peoples.  And my heart can be transformed by the process.  Sola Deo Gloria.

Follow Toby on Twitter @TobyinTG

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It is Time

It is time to cross the tracks, cross the city, cross into another zip code, cross the church aisle, or perhaps cross the room to befriend someone different than ourselves.

The evangelical church in America is splintered.  Separated along racial lines; along socio-economic lines; along cultural lines; and along many other lines that we draw.  This is not the way it should be.  Christ died to redeem his people.  One people.  Joining together in worship of the almighty God.

I am a white male professional.  A product of a middle class upbringing which afforded me great benefits.  I achieved the “American dream.”  Raised my family, paid my bills, but, is there more?

There is more. There is an entire culture of people that we ignore.  There are communities in every city where good folks were born & raised with no opportunity to succeed.  Don’t say “It’s their fault.  They didn’t try hard enough.”  You haven’t walked in their shoes.  You haven’t been raised in their situation.  Society says “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”  What if you are born in a family or community where there are no bootstraps?  And often even no boots….

At age 54, my wife and I have made the decision to sell a wonderful 100 year old historic home, and to build a smaller home in an under-resourced, primarily African-American community.  The process of buying property, designing a home, and dealing with government permits has taken a year.  Too long.  So, we just bought a small existing home to move in the community.  We need to be there.  We need to be on the ground, interacting with neighbors.  Befriending folks who appear different than us, but deep down, they are just the same as us.  We are all created by God.  Created in his image.  We are image-bearers, fully equal in God’s eyes.  It doesn’t matter if you dropped out of high school, played around in college, or graduated with multiple college degrees.  We are all equal image-bearers.  We are each other’s neighbors.   We are commanded to love God, and to love our neighbors.  If your present neighbors are all easy to love because they have no needs, and are always there to help meet yours, perhaps you need to find some more “neighbors.”

This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision.  It wasn’t a reaction to a sermon or challenge at a conference.  It was the culmination of 12 or more years of regular involvement in the community.  Learning about people.  Loving people in their situation.  Crying with them in their struggles.  Helping them when possible.  We are planting a church in this community.  But more importantly, we want to live in the community.  Living there takes your commitment to a new level.  A full-time level.  It becomes your life.

So, this story is not finished.  It is a story that is still being written.  Chapter by chapter.  Relationship by relationship.  Trial by trial.  Success by success.  God is still writing the story.  Please pray for this ministry and other ministries like it that seek to establish cross-cultural relationships and common communities of worship and living.  We are all God’s people and have equal value in his sight. This community has much to contribute to the church & city.  Read parts of our story at http://www.trinityfam.org

What about you?  Are you comfortable in your part of the world?  Is everything under control?  Is it time to reach out, to reach out to someone different than you?   I think it is.

(Originally published at http://www.raanetwork.org/time/ by the Reformed African American Network.  Thanks to them for giving me a voice.)