Deep in the heart of Jesus is a burden. His passion was not to establish an organization but to start a movement of people that love sacrificially for those around them. Elevate has been pressing into this theme of acquiring a genuine love for those who are in great need. Still, we struggle with selfishness, materialism, ungratefulness and apathy. For six days we'll venuture into the heart of suffering, loneliness and elusive hope in Philadelphia. This trip is not a tourist trip but an invitation to servanthood. We don't go teaching or bringing Jesus, we go to find Jesus in the eyes of the least of these. Your prejudices and securities will be challenged. Throughout Philadelphia's history the themes of freedom, justice, liberty, unity and equality for all reverberate. However, for many of the city's current residents these ideals are beyond their experience. Instead, drugs, poor education, few job opportunities, and difficulties in overcoming the past is the norm. Still, in the midst of despair there is a hint of hope. The hope can be seen in a sandwich, a helping hand, a personal presence and in generous acts. God is at work in the city of Philadelphia through many ministries. He is working through his people to achieve renewal. Help transmit this revolutionary message of Jesus.
In the spring of this year, both of my sons read these words written by their youth pastor, Dan White. They decided they wanted in. For several months they trained for this urban missions experience by meeting with their team, reading and writing book reports, praying and being amazed by the generosity of their friends and family who provided the money for them to go.
Now they are in Philadelphia. And I miss them. I check every night for the newest blog posts. And I read the stories out loud to Brian before we fall asleep. And we both cry a little bit.
It's a good work. Go to the site and read for yourself. I don't know if Pastor Dan realizes that this missions trip extends beyond one city. I am pretty certain it will continue back here in our house next week. Jesus said that doing for the least was doing for him. When I read the stories of the people my boys are meeting and talking with I begin to feel a little bit less ; as one hungry and thirsty and unclothed in story and experience and understanding. The body of Christ here in my home and in my church are needy for this story. We are impoverished in this experience. God help.
p.s. today is Andrew's 17th birthday. I miss him, but I'm pretty certain it will be one his most memorable ever.
(In June my mother's sister, Margaret (we call her Aunt Peg) took my sons aside during a family dinner. She wanted to hear what their hopes and goals were for Philadelphia. She wanted to do this before she gave them a check to send them. She wanted to pray deeply and effectively for them to experience God and share God. She wanted to discern their hearts. Although they can count on one hand the number of times they've spent time with this great aunt, they will never forget her. And I know that years from now they'll have a richer imagination of what "the saints who go before us" look like. I'm guessing they'll picture at least one with a furrowed brow and a little bit of chicken barbecue on her fingers.)