Jesus told His disciples, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-20)”
It is very easy for a person to pass through West Coconut Grove and never notice the gems hidden in the fabric of regular life here. I’ve even found myself trudging through life day in and day out without taking the time to appreciate the beautiful elements of my neighborhood. When I do take the time, I see the precious picture of father/grandfathers riding children to school on the handlebars of bicycles, hear the soothing sounds of laughter floating through the cracks of my open windows, smell the sweetness of unclaimed mangos left in neighbors’ yards, and feel the tight embraces of neighborhood kids tackling me with hugs. Then I remember the richness of witnessing life through the lens of incarnational ministry. Scenes and events such as these have the power to carry me in gratitude and encouragement for quite a distance. One recent event in particular has made my heart smile and my eyes water at every remembrance; it has truly been a priceless treasure.
One of our weekly rhythms as a team is called Learning Community (LC). LC is a spiritual formation tool in which our team comes together in our context/neighborhood to study curriculum and listen to/learn from one another as a community. Coming together for LC usually means group discussion over assigned reading. Last summer’s LC was all about discussion over the new Living Mission book. During one of our summer LCs, we were discussing chapter three entitled “Incarnational” written by Craig and Nahouy Greenfield. The chapter spells out the value of incarnational ministry and describes the different kinds of workers you find in incarnational ministry: relocators, “those who were not born in the neighborhood but moved into the area to live incarnationally and to tie their well-being to that of their neighbors”; returners, “those who were born and raised in the community and then left for a better life. They are no longer trapped by the poverty of their neighborhood, yet they choose to return and live in the community they once tried to escape”; and remainers, “the ones who could have fled the problems of the community but have chosen to continue living there incarnationally, becoming a part of the solution to the problems surrounding them” (pages 40-41).
Sitting around the table this particular evening, Rick, Erika, and I were representation from each of these groups. We talked for a couple of hours about the joys and challenges we have each experienced sharing laughs and frustrations. As I shared about the challenges of communicating to others why I would choose to follow Christ into places of poverty as a returner (because I grew up in our cultural context) or relocator (because I didn’t specifically grow up in West Coconut Grove), I was encouraged by a simple pat on the back. Rick, a 62 year old African American man and retired Vietnam veteran who grew up in the hay day of West Coconut Grove and witnessed the recent deterioration of the neighborhood he calls home, had gotten up from his seat at the table and walked over to pat me on the back. As I sat with a puzzled look on my face, he explained that he was patting me on the back for choosing to move into his neighborhood (now my neighborhood as well) to help pursue community transformation. When I tell people that I chose to move into West Coconut Grove, their immediate response is always, “Why?” On this particular day, Rick’s response was, “Thank you.” Not only did he get the “why”, he genuinely appreciated it. That was a first for me.
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Posted on December 14th, 2011 by Michael
Filed under: News