"dream great dreams and find the courage to live them"

-erwin mcmanus

Saturday, June 18, 2011

revived passions.

When S ran away from Shelterwood several months ago, she made it all the way to the Plaza, an upscale shopping area in Kansas City.  Walking only a couple of blocks outside the boundaries of this area, she met people who lived on the streets, who worked for pimps, who led lives far different from her own.  She went to the apartment of a prostitute and heard her story.  She experienced a side of Kansas City, a side of society, that would have otherwise remained unexplored.  Here the thing - the time she spent that day on the streets was transformational in ways that no other experience would have been.  S spent time getting to know people who were different than she was, seeing a side of society left largely ignored by the privileged middle- and upper-class.

Kansas City is a city too.

Sometimes I think I forgot my love for urban ministry in Chicago, as if when I left there, I also left all opportunity and desire for it.  I mistakenly view my time at Shelterwood as a distinct phase, a separate existence from who I was before.  Yet, what I do here could be integrated with what I did there.

Did I not work with youth, teaching them about opportunities for ministry in the city?  Did I not act as a liaison between these groups and existing ministries in Chicago?  Did we not build relationships with and learn from the homeless community as we served them in soup kitchens, shelters, and on the streets?

Translated to my time at Shelterwood, I still work with teens, only minutes from a thriving metropolis where the needs are great and the opportunities abundant.

In May, when I was told I was the community service coordinator for my wing for the summer, I was a little bummed that I had been assigned to the role that required the most work, the most planning, the most research.  Could I not be assigned to movie night, where all I do is choose a move and put it in the dvd player?  Why did I have to be the one sending e-mails and making phone calls constantly to set up these community service times?  Little did I know that God would use this role to reveal His way of integrating everything that I love.

My strengths lie in planning and organizing.  My passions are for youth and for the city, for teaching and for ministry.  God knew exactly what He was doing when He put me in this role.
Talking to the girls about homelessness and poverty, taking them to work in thrift stores, building relationships with the people there, and talking about my experiences in Chicago has allowed them to not only see my heart for the city, but also has taught them what it means to serve a community in need (not to say that every community doesn't have needs, but these are visible, physical needs).

When I decided to drop out of grad school, I left my desire for education with it, and, sadly, my desire for urban ministry in general.  My plans went to the trash, as I knew that formal education wasn't what I was called to do, but the heart behind those plans got lost in the shuffle.  Maybe God had bigger plans, ones that actually integrate my strengths with my passions, all for His glory, instead of my own wants for my own glory.  It is a wonder that He extends this much grace despite my self-centered goals and plans; plans that He subsequently demolishes and gently guides me away from.

We serve a good and gracious God, do we not?

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to the most wonderful coffeeshop in KC - The Roasterie.  Not only do they use top-of-the-line equipment and espresso (both essential for creating a good latte), but they also steam their milk properly: a rare find.  They use quality milk that comes in glass bottles (so you know it's top-notch...) and create a delectable drink that is more than worth the $5 you dish out for it.  I think I may become a monthly visitor of this fine establishment.  And only monthly, because it is about 40 minutes from Shelterwood and their prices would empty my checking account far to quickly if I were to make more regular visits.

Life here is looking up (as if it were ever actually looking down?) .  I see glimpses of God's purpose in my time here.  Why did I allow the difficulty of being in this place to bring me to doubt his goodness?  This is a place of great beauty and growth, if only I allow myself to see it.  This is a good place, and my heart is tied to the girls here.

And this is a beautiful, warm, sunny day in a city full of opportunity.  I'm going with my mentor to get our nails done to celebrate!  (Even as I type that, I feel all superficial.  Getting my nails done?  Really?!  But I suppose it's okay for a person to splurge every once in a while, right?)  I'm done feeling bad about it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Everything we do and say sends a message.  More often than not, it's indirect.  A slumped posture indicates sadness, perhaps stress, or even depression.  Dressing nicely rather than wearing sweats shows that you care a little bit more for whatever is going on that day.  Even the way we smile tells the recipient whether we are smiling out of necessity or out of genuine agreement or happiness.

Regardless our intent, the way we move and act and speak communicates something.

Really, it's a gift from God.  I see the way that we interact with one another, the way relationships grow, the depth of relationship that comes from understanding one another.  It's beautiful.  God created Eve for relationship.  He made her for the specific purpose of being a companion.  So are we made to be companions, to be friends, to live in community, in relationship.

In the infamous Moby Dick, Melville writes, "No man is an island."  Boy, is he right.  What we do affects others.  What we say has an impact.  Everything is intertwined, and relationships are no different.

I find myself relying on other people more and more as I see my own inadequacy, as I learn what it means to truly rely on Jesus, and what it looks like to be the body of Christ.  My fellow discipleship students (Bigs) and I lean on one another constantly for support, for consolation, for affirmation, for a reminder of why we are here and Who we serve.

We are held together by the God who redeemed us and brought us into relationship with Himself and with one another through Jesus.

[let me just tell you, i really did intend this post to be about communication.  then it turned into one about relationships.  but i suppose the two are inextricably linked, are they not? oi.  i need to get my thoughts together, but it's after midnight and i'm done thinking for a while.  good night :)]

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The summer schedule is a little bit different than that during the school year.  Sure, the girls still go to school in the mornings, but they are done at lunch, which leaves the entire afternoon and evening open.  Each night, then, is a different activity planned:  game night, sports night, community service, movie night, and adventure day.

Tuesdays, however, are Bible study nights.  First thing I heard from someone was complaining that it was mandatory.  Second thing was the question, "What if someone's an atheist?  Why would they have to go?"  It was not very positive feedback, so I went into it a little skeptical about everyone's willingness to engage.

Fortunately, God had bigger plans than my skepticism allowed, and He moved in big ways tonight.  Girls wrote on their feet words that they thought described themselves, labels that they had been given, ways in which they are perceived, mistakes they've made, and sins they are/were involved in.  One of the Bigs talked about what it means to be a child of God, cleansed, and redeemed.

By the end of the talk girls were already crying, and then came the best part:
We washed their feet.  We took cloths and wiped away the words that once defined them, as a symbol of God's cleansing power.


Several girls took extra time to keep praying afterwards, and one even recommitted her life to Jesus - Praise the Lord!  These girls are seeking God like crazy, and this summer is brimming with opportunity for growth, for good conversation, for encouragement.  for LIFE.

Our hopes are high and our hearts are open.
Will you pray with us for the girls this summer, that they would be eager to know God more, living in His presence each day?