when i first moved in over here to this westside neighborhood, knowing the statistics about its crime and poverty, and seeing with my own eyes that it was most definitely very different than anywhere i had lived in my privileged life thus far, i wrote on my blog a lot about the lives of the folks i was meeting. i wrote about the people we were helping and how. i wrote about what they were struggling with and my yearning to see them have more. i wrote freely partly because i knew they would never read it (they wouldn’t have internet connection or a computer) and because most of it i would say to their faces, too.
but these days i can’t find it in me to write about “them.” nor can i even see their unfolding stories with the crystal clear precision that i once thought i could. i don’t know how to summarize who they are, why they struggle, what’s going on in their lives/hearts, or what God is up to in their stories.
so when it comes time to attempt to write for the boiler room blog, or to write a ministry update letter, i get so stuck. i sit there thinking about the people we are here on the westside to serve, and i think, “i can’t think of anyone! what are we even DOING over here?!” (yeah, sometimes self-doubt and panic set in). but it isn’t true that there isn’t anyone we’re serving, nor is it true that God isn’t writing a good story with their lives… it’s just that… well, maybe it’s simply that “they” have become “us.” what were once case studies are now long-term, living-and-changing relationships with people. and though their number is few, the relationships are deepening and enduring.
the people we’re here to serve now serve alongside us, setting up feasts and serving meals. the people we’re here to minister to now share keen scriptural insight at Sunday gathering. the folks we’ve been praying for now offer up their own startlingly potent prayers.
and, yes, they are — some of them — still addicted or unemployed or living on the streets or struggling in relationships or looking for a free set of mittens on a cold day.
how can all of that be true at once? how do i put that in a ministry update? how do i make a statistic out of that?