At Citychurch we have this saying, "You can be a missionary in your own city, and go home and sleep in your own bed at night." You might have heard my father-in-law Don Lane say it from the pulpit or on our tv show For the Heart of the City. He came up with all of our best sayings and truths at Citychurch. You might of heard my pastor and brother-in-law Donnie Lane say it on the show or write it in a newsletter.
I've heard the saying countless times. I've even repeated it to my friends countless times. In 18 years at Citychurch, I don't think I've lived it as much as I did yesterday. Yesterday felt so much like a mission trip, I forgot I was at home a few times. Lying in my bed last night, I could help but smile at how much fun I had had being a missionary to my own city.
For more than 5 years now, we've been taking our Citychurch youth group out of town for a mission trip during spring break. Our trips have taken us to a couple different areas of Houston and to McKinney, north of Dallas. During these trips we help someone who is doing inner-city ministry to children. Our youth know exactly what to do, because they help do the same ministry here in Amarillo all summer long and sometimes they have been the recipients of this type of ministry as children.
This year, we decided to stay in Amarillo and have our youth group help facilitate a pre-teen lead outreach week. We have a huge pre-teen group at them moment. We could not imagine taking them out of town or leaving them here with nothing planned for them, so we changed our plan.
Yesterday I showed up at Citychurch with James ready to do whatever they needed me to do. I started by helping pick up pre-teen in San Jacinto, a neighborhood I haven't help with in years. During the summer I have a neighborhood that I am the route pastor to. My neighborhood is our smallest, but most downtown located neighborhood that we minister in. I ride my bike to deliver lunches to about 80 kids in Mary Hazelrigg three days a week. One day a week I drive a van and pick up kids to come to Citychurch's park for a fun morning Bible club. On those days, sometimes I can sneak away and ride my bike alongside my husband James's bike route to North Heights. He has the longest bike route, and I love seeing the kids and moms on his route.
Being in a neighborhood I don't usually minister to, I almost felt like I was in a different city. We drove around picking up pre-teens and youth that were ready to help serve other kids in their own situation.
The plan for yesterday was to deliver boxes of groceries to all the children who have been actively involved in one of our afterschool Bible clubs or Sunday morning services. The church staff had made lists of kids into routes and fixed boxes of groceries that took into account how many children were in the home. At the last minute, they decided to take a corndog and lunch sack out to the kids too since it would be lunch time when the groceries were delivered.
As the sacks were being filled and the boxes of groceries were being loaded into trailers, we had a special treat. Citychurch's ESL (English as a second language) class has lead Donnie to become friends with a women from Eritrea, a small African country just northeast of Ethiopia. The Eritrean woman's name is Kidusan. I was so excited to meet her. She lived in Ethiopia for a while, and she knows Ahmaric. She came to Citychurch yesterday to do a coffee ceremony for our pre-teens. Just before we all piled on the vans to deliver groceries, the kids all gathered around Kidusan to watch her roast the coffee beans, grind them and prepare the coffee. As they sat and ate popcorn watching the beans roast, the smell of roasting coffee beans filled the air, and I had to remind myself that I was in Amarillo.
The kids were so anxious to try the coffee, I didn't even try to get a cup.
When we were piling on vans to deliver, I asked Heather if I could help on her van. It takes me a long time to get to know people. I'm kind of shy. Although I have know Heather for years, I feel like I've just gotten to know her recently, and she's one of my favorite people. She had a sweet group of pre-teen girls that were lined up to help her. Gabe and I go situated on her van, and headed out to Hamlet to deliver. At the last minute, Heather's husband Jackie jumped in to help us too.
Hamlet is another neighborhood that I have ministered in, but it has been years. Most of the time we were driving around, I was kind of lost on those winding roads that all have tree related names.
We got back from delivering groceries, and Kidusan lead me into the kitchen to show me that she had made Ethiopian food. Right there in the Citychurch kitchen, was injera bread, a red-spicy goat dish, and another yellow dish. She showed me her spices and told me the names of the dishes, but I couldn't get them to stick in my head. I was excited to try it.
The pre-teen kids all went across the street to the park. Kidusan offered to make more coffee, and some of the adults gathered around to have a cup. It was delicous. It tasted exactly like the coffee we had at the coffee ceremonies I had in Ethiopia.
The pre-teens came back in for a early dinner, and Kidusan laid out her Ethiopian food for everyone to try. I got a big plate full. As I ate the food with my hands, dipping the injera bread into the stews, my hands began to get that familiar smell of Ethiopia.
I again had to remind myself that I was in Amarillo.
My South Sudanese friend Diana came by. She was busy doing what she is almost always doing, helping a friend. She and her African friend, were surprised to see African food laid out. They were giddy as they made a plate of familiar food.
As I laid in my bed last night, I couldn't believe how much Citychurch felt so much like a mission trip to me yesterday. Even after 18 years, there are always surprises as we meet new people and bring new children and volunteers into our ministry.
I can tell you with renewed fervor that you too can be a missionary in your own city and sleep in your own bed at night. You too can come live the mission.
I'm excited about the bio-pic about Brian Wilson that is coming out soon. So I was thinking about this song last night. Brian Wilson is a musical genius, and I can't wait to see John Cusack play him on the big screen.
Wouldn't be nice to see that movie. See what I did there?