bicycle ministry

Ministry's Companions

We are in the thick of summer ministry.  Being in the neighborhood four days a week brings the struggles of poverty into glaring light.  The heartaches that are faced in our neighborhoods are in my face, impossible to ignore, rehab recoveries, working poor struggling to provide groceries, frugal landlords that neglect their properties in unsafe ways, young men who’s lives have ended with gun shots in our city parks, parks that should be sanctuaries for children to play are places of business for drug dealers and gang members, seeing disfunction be the norm for families, hardened hearts and hungry stomachs.

There is a sadness that comes in intense times of ministry.  I wrote about it last summer and this winter.  It is a natural part of any type of incarnate ministry, when you meet people where they live.  When you get street-level, eye-level, to a person who is suffering, how do you not feel compassion well up in your spirit?

I found out this spring that I had a vitamin D deficiency.  I have attacked the problem with full force, supplements, salmon, eggs, and I haven’t been this tan since I was a kid that spent weeks at the lake.

Low vitamin D can contribute to depression, and some days I feel like that cartoon character that has the little cloud following him around.

I’m told that I look tired quite often.

I’m conscious of it, I’m resisting, but there’s no mistaking it, I’m sad.  Sad for the problems I can’t fix and sad because my brain needs some vitamin D.

I know I’m in trouble when I start taking offense meaningless crossed arms.  Or feel hurt by not words said, but unsaid words.  Or when I want to take up residence inside a Tres Leches cake.

These are all signs that my hormones or brain chemistry are letting me down.

I try to tell my brain to just hold on and feel better, but it doesn’t want to listen to me.

My husband tells me that I’m making it worse by reading sad books.  He might be right, but I would tell you to pick up The Kitchen House or Just Mercy in a heartbeat.  We can’t fix a problem that we don’t know about.  I think coming to a place of grief over our country’s problems is the first step in working towards better race relations.

This isn’t a blog post where I have ah-ha moments for you or some neatly wrapped lesson for you to take away.

What is the solution to sadness?

Joy?

Joy is right there beside the sadness, but it isn’t so much a solution.  It is a companion to sadness.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls, 
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
— Habakkuk 3:17-18 ESV

My joy is just as present this summer.  It is always with me.

Maybe you are getting ready for a mission trip or an intense season of ministry.  I feel responsible to warn you that sadness will come, but you can weather that storm.

Hold onto joy and celebrate hope.

Maybe your pastor or a missionary friend looks tired.  If they are doing their job right, there’s some sadness and joy in their eyes.  They might need some extra love, maybe a hug or a slice of Tres Leches (as long as they are not lactose intolerant.)

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
— 1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV

 

 

When you're feeling sad, you know Glen won't let you down.  His music will keep you company, and the horns will cheer you up.

I Know You Believe It, You Send Your Kids to Do It

#servetogrow part 6

Last week I went to serve as a counselor at children’s camp.  I was surrounded other counselors that were just kids: teens, pre-teens, and college-aged.  Today I will get on my bike to deliver lunches to children in the low-income neighborhood that I serve.  I will have a lot of help, but I probably won’t have one adult go with me.

I know you are sending your kids to serve, at missions and outreaches, because I’m serving along side them.  You send them to serve on trips and at camps.  Why do you do this?  I’ll tell you why.  You want them to grow spiritually.

You want them to experience God.  You want their minds and hearts to be changed, so they will make good decisions with their lives.

One month from now, I will be in Ethiopia with my daughter Lucy serving with Storyteller Missions, visiting a few orphanages in the capital city, Addis Ababa.  This is my third trip to Ethiopia serving with this organization.  This year it was important to me that my daughter Lucy came on this trip.  It is one of the main reasons for serving this summer.  It’s so important to me for a lot of reasons.  Lucy is seventeen, andI want Lucy to be exposed to the realities of a third-world country.  I want her to see where her future adopted brother, God willing, will come from, what his life was like before our family and the culture he will be leaving behind.  But my biggest reason I want her to go is to mature spiritually.  I want her to see prayers answered.  I want her to depend on God when she feels uncomfortable or unable to solve the unending problems children face in this country.  I want her to see people on the other side of the world worshiping and serving the same God we love and serve.

It is obvious to me that I believe that serving leads to spiritual growth because I taking my daughter to serve in hopes that she grow spiritually.  It is obvious to me that believe it too, because you are sending your kids to grow spiritually through serving.

Why wouldn’t I want those same things for my own spiritual growth?  I do, and you should too.

Even if you served at camps, missions, and trips in your formative years, you still can learn more about God.

As Christians we often talk about the abundant life we are given, but so many times I feel that it is used out of context.  God doesn’t care about your bank account.  He cares about your heart.

On Earth, there will never be a spiritual arrival point.  There isn’t a place you can get where you will know and experience everything God has to show us or our relationship being complete.  That doesn’t happen until Heaven.  While we are here, as we serve the Lord, there are endless lessons to learn about our magnificent God.

I could go to Ethiopia a million times, and that millionth time, I will learn something new about following Jesus.

Here’s the funny thing.  It isn’t about what I accomplish serving Him.  It isn’t about what I can do for Him.  It isn’t about the amount of cloth diapers I can cart in suitcases half way across the world.  It isn’t about how many children I can feed off the trailer of my bike.  God can accomplish so much more with one miracle than I could ever do with my two hands and two feet.

It isn’t about what I can do at all.

God is concerned about my obedience and your obedience.  Obedience stretches you and leads to spiritual growth.  It draws you closer to God, and He wants you close.

I’ve learned this lesson, not on my couch, not in my church pew.  I learned this lesson packing up cloth diapers and dragging them through 4 airports over 8,000 miles.  I learned this lesson pedaling my bike in 100 degree weather.

I’ve learned so many things by coming to the end of myself but never coming to an end to our God.

I can do my best to put these lessons on paper for you to read, but I think you have to go learn them yourself.

This summer, instead of just sending your kids or your youth groups to serve, get out, be obedient, and learn something.  Grow spiritually.

 

I like to share a song with each blog post, because music is so life-giving to me.  This is a song we sang at children's camp, and I can't get enough of it!  It's so fun!

Day 22: Route

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 22:  Route

At the beginning of the summer 2012, I had the opportunity to start my own Citychurch bike route.  I had supporting my husband’s route for 4 years, but committing to lead a route was something new.

 

A few things scared me about taking on this role.

  1. I would have to pull a trailer.
  2. I would have to be there three days a week for a couple hours a day all summer long. (There are no lunches delivered on Fridays, and on Mondays, the children on my route are picked up and brought to Citychurch Park for a day camp Bible Club.)
  3. I had a toddler boy at the time.  What would I do with him?
  4. I would be the only girl leading a route.  How would I get past my insecurities?

 

Despite my fears, I agreed to take on this role as the Mary Hazelrigg neighborhood bike route minister.

 

As hard as it is for me to believe that I stepped out and took on that role.  It is even harder for me to believe that I have completed 4 years as the lady who pulls a trailer with lunches in the Mary Hazelrigg neighborhood.

For the past four years, I’ve delivered about 70 lunches a day to kids in this neighborhood.  I’ve built relationships with the families in the downtown neighborhood around Mary Hazelrigg park.

I’ve stepped out in many ways during those afternoon rides.  Many aspects of leadership do not come naturally for me.  Taking groups of strangers with me almost everyday is not easy.  Me leading that group of volunteers is unnatural.  I have to get them through the route safe.  I have to give them clear instructions of where to go, and what to do.  It has gotten easier for me over the years, but the actual leading is always a struggle.

The other way I have had to step out of my comfort zone is the spiritual encounters that happen.  I have been lead by the spirit to stop and pray for people.  I have been confronted by homeless men and women asking for handouts.  My response to them sometimes includes food (I have to use discernment), but it always includes prayer.  I’ve arrived at houses where grief of a lost loved one is fresh; I’ve shared words of hope and prayer in those situations.  I’ve encountered times when I sense that there are things I should share spiritually with either a home or a volunteer, I’ve done my best to take those opportunities.

Just the physical act of riding a bike with a trailer pushes me out of my comfort zone.  I don’t consider myself physically fit.  I’ve never been the athletic type.  I will chose books over physical activity almost every time.

I feel uncomfortable in that bike seat knowing that I am a home school mom with an above average body mass.  I can’t even think about what I look like in that position.  If I do, I want to crawl under a rock.

Luckily, it is not about me.  The route is about the children.  God gives me that privilege of doing his work, feeding children, all summer long.  I am also building up the church in these moments.  I’m a representative of my church and the global body of Christ telling these children that the church cares about them.  We care enough to be out on a bike in the hot sun.  We care enough to come to them, right at their door.  We care enough to look them in the eye, ask how they are, and listen to their answer.  We care enough to offer to bring them to our church or to keep feeding them even if their parents refuse to allow them to attend.

God has rarely asked me to do something that I’m good at.  He almost always gives me opportunities to serve Him from a place of weakness.  Taking on the bike ministry and leading a route is the best example of ministry from the point of weakness in my life.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

God has used my efforts.  All throughout the summer I hear volunteers say different versions of this statement, “I didn’t think I could ride on a bike route, but I heard your route is easy.  I’m glad I tried it.  This is fun.”

The namesake of my neighborhood, Mary Hazelrigg, knew something about serving from a place of weakness.  At the age of 60 she retired from her city of Amarillo janitorial job.  She knew that God wasn’t finished with her yet.  At 65, she began a Christmas ministry to underprivileged children in North Heights area of Amarillo, the area just north of the neighborhood I minister in.  The first party benefitted about twelve children, but God began to multiply her efforts.  Even when 700 children would attend, the parties were still held in Mrs. Hazelrigg’s home.  God used Mary to organize community events, establish community centers and the park that now holds her name.  In 1982, Mary received the honor of being named Amarillo Woman of the Year.  She was honored by many organizations for her work with children, her church, and the Amarillo community.  

The year I moved to Amarillo, the park in the center of the neighborhood I now serve in, was named Mary Hazelrigg Park in her honor.

Although Mrs. Hazelrigg died six years before I moved to Amarillo, I would like to think we would have been great friends.

My heart echos her heart for children.  My passion for serving the Lord was so similar to her own.  And weakness never stopped Mary from stepping out to serve.

I love this quote from a 1972 Amarillo Globe News interview from Mrs. Hazelrigg, “I’m just crazy about children, and I saw so much need in our neighborhood and thought I could do something to help the children out.”

It’s almost like she took the words out of my mouth.  

Mary never had a pile of money in her bank account that she could draw from to provide Christmas for 700 children.  I will never impress anyone with my cycling skills.

Sometimes we want to serve God with something we already have together, something that looks good and pleasing, with a bow on it.

This is exactly what Cain did when he prepared his sacrifice to God from the best of his horticulture work grown from the ground.  God had no regard for this sacrifice.

When God invites us into His work, we might not think what we have to offer is significant.  But that is the point.  We can serve Him best by allowing God to fill our empty vessel, instead of offering a full one.

 

 

I love music, and I like to share a song with each blog post.  Sometimes on YouTube, you take a chance and click on a bedroom studio recording.  Instead of something mediocre, you find amazing talent.  This is absolutely beautiful and brought me to tears.

DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Day 21: Bikes

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 21:  BIKES

I can’t think of a better example of someone using their abilities and passions for Kingdom work than my husband and bicycles.

James became very interested in riding when we finally got settled into our first house.  A family at our church also liked riding, and they encouraged James to enter an organized ride called Hotter than Hell.  It was a 100 mile ride in Wichita Falls, Texas in the heat of the summer.  James actually found something compared to Hell fun.  I knew he was hooked.

He started talking about riding his bicycle 330 miles from Amarillo to Ft. Worth, Texas.  I wasn’t sure it was a great idea, but James’s dad was completely supportive.  I thought I probably should follow his lead.  The day he left, in the spring of 2007, was a Thursday.  The kids and I stayed in Amarillo to attend our end of the year home school co-op party.  James’s dad followed him along the road as his support crew.

That night at the party, everyone would ask, “Where’s James?”  And I would respond, “Oh.  He’s riding his bicycle to Ft. Worth this weekend.”  And everyone’s response was immediately, “Why?”  I would tell them that he just wanted to do it, and I could tell on their faces that my words were really not satisfying their question.

Right after the party got started, I got a phone call from James.  He was at a hotel in a small town.  He had made it a 110 miles that day, and he was excited to be almost 1/3 of the way there.  He said that his dad had bought him a hamburger, and they were having a good time.  We talked about what time the kids and I would leave the next day to meet him down the road, and I continued with our party.  My motto has always been, “There ain’t no party like a home school party.”

The next day we drove to meet James and his dad.  He had rode another sixty miles before we caught up to him.  We handed out some hugs and drinks.  We let him get back to it and drove about fifteen miles ahead of him.  The kids and I got out and wrote him chalk messages on the shoulder of 287 to encourage him every ten miles.  We bought snacks and drinks, and checked into a hotel in Wichita Falls.  By the afternoon he had rode about 110 more miles that day.  He called me from right outside of town.  His bike had a flat, and he was calling it a day.  I picked him up.  He got cleaned up, we ate some Mexican food, and we tried to get some rest.  I told him that he didn’t have to keep going.  220 miles in 2 days was impressive enough.  He was determined, despite the pain he was clearly in.

The next morning he got up before I did and headed down the road.  Lucy, Andrew, and I got everything loaded in the car, and headed toward Ft. Worth.  Driving over that part of the highway, I could not imagine riding my bike there.  James was doing it.  He was on day 3, and we were getting close.  By the end of the day, he had made it about 75 miles to Decatur, Texas.

That night he was really in pain.  At that point, I really tried to talk him out of continuing the last 35 miles.  He wouldn’t consider quitting.  The next morning, I winced as I watched him leave.  I knew his feet and legs were throbbing.  We loaded up the car, bought James a coffee, and went to meet him down the road.  When we pulled over to meet him, he only had 15 miles left.  The morning was a little drizzly, but he was enjoying the cool weather.

The kids and I drove to the Fort Worth city limits sign, got out some party streamer, and made him a finish line to ride through.

He made it.  We celebrated by going to a Mavericks playoff game in Dallas.  The Mavericks even won that night, 118 to 112 against the Golden State Warriors.  Our celebratory mood was riding high.

The thing James says that he learned riding that road is that there are hills and valleys that you don’t even notice in your car.  We had driven I-287 back and forth between Amarillo and Ft. Worth nearly 1,000 times, and he had always considered that trek of highway to be flat.

Once he was slowed down and powering his ride with his own leg muscles, he noticed every little bit of incline and decline.  He noticed every smell and every bump of that 330 miles.  I begin to think of how animals or insects experience that same road that we drive down with cruise control and our radio.  They would notice even more of the details of that road than James had on his bicycle.

In our ministry at Citychurch, we develop relationships with children, teenagers, and adults who live in our very same town.  They are living lives on the very same road we are on, but their mode of transportation is quite different.  There are obstacles that we don’t even notice, especially in a comfortable SUV with top-notch shocks.

Part of coming alongside someone battling poverty, is slowing down and seeing life from their perspective.  We can’t understand the inclines when we are driving through life in a car that is doing all the work, going at a speed that makes the road seem flat and therefore fair and easy to navigate.

If you have never flexed any muscles climbing out of poverty, it might be hard to sympathize with the obstacles, the inclines, the bumps in the road, the heat, the rain, and the dangerous traffic speeding by just to your left.

Action with and for those who suffer is the concrete expression of the compassionate life and the final criterion of being a Christian. Such acts do not stand beside the moments of prayer and worship but are themselves such moments.
— Donald P. McNeill, Douglas A. Morrison, and Henri M. Nouwen, Compassion

James began to look for ways he could use his bicycle in the ministry in downtown Amarillo.  He had this crazy idea that he could deliver the lunches to kids using his bike.  He went to the hardware store to buy some plastic tubs and lawn mower wheels, andhe made a trailer to hook to the back of his bike.

That summer was just beginning, and fuel prices were at an all-time high.  Maybe it wasn’t a crazy idea.  He loaded up his bike with over 100 lunches, and headed out by himself.

When he got back, he was convinced that he had discovered the best way to minister to kids in our neighborhoods.  As he pulled up to their houses, it was so much easier to relate and interact than riding in a big van.  You are already standing on the same ground they are.

Isn’t that what the church is lacking, relating to the culture, common ground?

A street level ministry allows you to be in the same posture and prospective as the child you are ministering to.

This level of ministry is totally different than trying to minister from a van or a church building.

James finished out that first summer delivering about 150 lunches 4 times a week to his neighborhood.  I tried to ride along with him as much as I could.  Honestly, I couldn’t believe how fun it was.  But there were many times that first summer that he went by himself.

James’s main job at Citychurch is media.  He has been producing videos about the ministry of Citychurch since 1998.  In 2006, he began producing a weekly television show that would highlight what Citychurch was doing, to take people along with us and show them the work of the ministry.

The show is aired on local television, but at one time we had it airing on a Christian station.  The station had figured out that they could show their programing in parts of asia on satellite for a very nominal cost.

One Saturday that winter, a couple visiting Texas from the Philippines showed up at Citychurch’s door.  I was there helping with a sleepover with the youth girls.  As we were getting breakfast together for the girls, Don walked through showing the couple around.

They had seen the Citychurch tv show, and they had been inspired by the bike ministry we were using to feed kids.  Bicycles are a major part of the transportation in their city of Davao.  They had been inspired to begin feeding ministries in the neighborhoods near the shores of the ocean where trash lines the streets and families would squat on the invaluable land by building a home out of corrugated metal and anything else they can find.

The couple had came to visit several American cities with a mission organization.  The organization had set them up to stay with families in each city.  The family that they had been sent to stay with happened to be members at our church.  When they asked if they had heard of Citychurch, they couldn’t believe it.

It was so unbelievable to me that this church setting on the Pacific Ocean had been spurred forward to reach the poorest in their city by seeing the ministry of Citychurch.

Citychurch planned a mission trip to visit this church that had been connected by such strange coincidences.  James and the other guys in our family went to visit Davao and encourage that church in September of 2008.

Often new ideas take a long time to catch on.

James and his brother Donnie delivered lunches with their bicycles in the summer of 2008, but the summer of 2009, they went back to using vans.

As the summer of 2010 was approaching, James and Donnie wanted to get the bike ministry going again.  James found a company in Portland that made bike trailers that would be perfect for carrying lunch sacks and ice chests.  They delivered lunches that summer, and people began to volunteer to ride along.

The past 5 years, the bike ministry has been a favorite of volunteers.  People love helping with this ministry.

 

 

 

I love music, so I share songs.  Here's one about riding bikes.

If James hadn’t been looking for ways to incorporate his passions and interests into the ministry, we might have missed out on the whole idea of street level ministry.

DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Cynicism is not a Spiritual Gift: How I shocked a 24 year old

Looking across the dinner table, 24 year old eyes the diameter of tea cups were staring back at me.  It was at that moment, I realized what I was saying was shocking.  I hadn’t thought it as unbelievable.

We were a table of five IF:Lead2015 women discussing life topics including everything from YouTube videos to politics, and we had even talked about having the sex conversation with your kids.  So how was I to know that books would be the topic that evoked that outlandish look of from someone 14 years my junior?

When I tell you what I said, considering a Christian book review was my last blog post and the fact that this actually is a Christian blog, you might be surprised too.

 

Almost all 26 years of my Christian life, I’ve been cynical about Christian produced writing.  I read almost no Christian books between high school and 2010.

I’m just getting home from a IF:Leadership Conference, and five years ago, I couldn’t have named one single Christian author I would have wanted to listen to, much less read a book by.

This is more shocking knowing that my husband and I have been in ministry for 19 years.  I helped start a church, taught countless Sunday school classes, brainstormed hundreds of crazy ministry ideas with my family, participated in lots of those crazy ideas, led lots of people to Jesus, had amazing church attendance, home schooled my kids, and lived a lifestyle LifeWay would have put a stamp of approval on.  God did all of this in my life.  Glory to God, not me!

You are probably asking, “You’re a Christian, and you’re definitely Beth Moore’s demographic.  Why wouldn’t you read Christian book?”

Well.  I didn’t think there was a Christian author that would “get me” or would be authentic enough to let me “get them.”

I valued action not words.  I wanted someone to put “the rubber to the road” for Christ, and couldn’t imagine someone actually being honest about the world we live in and living for Jesus beyond a “preaching/teaching people who are already Christians” sort of way.

I’d like to say I was one of those “all we need is the Bible” types.  Gosh.  That would actually make sense.

I was wrong.

When is cynicism ever right?

So what changed?

Two things.

One, I lost my little brother in 2010.  That probably made my heart a little softer.

Two, God shoved a book in my face.

Friends kept asking me if I had heard of Jen Hatmaker.  They said, “Her story in interrupted reminds me of the story of your church.”  I filed those references under “yeah, whatever.”

The “yeah, whatever file” also had the book name Radical filed in it.  (I know.  I know.  Forgive me.)  Let me just tell you.  When you are on a bicycle delivering lunches to inner-city children and telling them about Jesus, and some middle-aged white guy leans over and asks you if you’ve read Radical, thoughts go like this:  I helped think of this ministry.  I’m on my bike doing this.  This is my life.  It’s pretty radical.  I don’t need to read the book.  But to the man you just politely say, “No.  I haven’t” because that’s WJWD.

FullSizeRender.jpg

So back to the second thing that changed my reading habits.  My husband came home from a Christian conference with a free book for me.  I asked, “Is it Jen Hatmaker?”

Guess what?  It was.  What are the chances?

God obviously wanted me to read this book.  The book was Seven, and I read it.

Jen Hatmaker changed my mind about Christian authors.  Then she lead me to IF.

Because I’m radical, (Can I call myself that?  If I ever meet David Platt, I’ll ask him.) I hosted a IF:Local Gathering in my church in 2014 without knowing what it was or who anyone was.

There I was with my friends watching the IF live feed.  Everyone kept asking me, “Who is that?”  My answer, every time.  “I don’t know.”

I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t Jen Hatmaker.

I didn’t know who Ann Voskamp was.  Let that sink in.

(Other than Jen’s book) I hadn’t read any of their books.

Was this good?

No.

Why?

Because the Bible says this:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 ESV

I was judging Christian community and quenching the Spirit.  I wasn’t testing anything.  How could I hold fast to what was good when I wasn’t letting anything in.

What about you?  Are you in the place I was, where I didn’t see a need for Christian input, cynical about what they could offer?  Are you at the opposite end of the spectrum, where you are reading every Christian book you can get your hands on, but you are not putting your faith into action. (James 2:17 says faith without works is dead.)

Let me encourage you to find your place in Christian community.  Allow input, test everything, and hold fast to what is good.  Allow those good things to give you strength as you venture out into the world and turn your strengthened faith into work.

I love music, and I like to share a song at the end of my blog posts.  This song was playing at the IF:Leadership Conference this week, so it has been stuck in my head.  Also, it starts out, "My cold hearted child."  I feel like that was what my heart was like when I wasn't open to what others had to share about Christ.