My neighborhood is full of culture. South Tacoma is filled with endless nationalities. Among the beautiful cultural display are thriving mini-cultures. I have learned to look past the poverty, crime, and the startling needs into the faces of my brothers and sisters.
In the past, I have been guilty of ‘cushioning’ my life. I have been guilty of being comfortable around people who look like me, think like me, and live in comfort like me. Then the call to love Tacoma came.
About a decade ago, I sat at a traffic light annoyed at the homeless man knocking on our window. Without warning, our oldest son rolled the window down and proudly reached out his little arm. He held his sippy cup out the window and squealed, “He thirsty!” I met eyes with the homeless man who began to cry. I felt something on my cheek and realized that tears were flooding out of my cold heart. I pulled over, and that day we started a long-term relationship with “Northgate Dave.”
God used that moment to teach me more about the love of Jesus than 25 years of 'safe Christian living' had afforded me.
I credit this moment for saving my life. Jesus transformed me. I went from cushioning my life with the familiar to opening myself to uncomfortable inconveniences in my daily living. I went from having an “us and them” attitude, to falling in love at first sight of my fellow man. Of course, I had never set out to have the attitude of self but it had developed as part of the American Dream. I was walking dead. A Christian without any engaging concern for others. I was lukewarm and apathetic.
Ephesians 5:14 says, “Awake you that sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” I had chose to be a Christian drifting through this world without purpose, without true love.
As I listened to 'Northgate Dave' it was as though I had turned on Pandora for the first time, and my song was playing. The song that summons emotion, reflection, and shapes your view of the world around you. That song started to play for me that day and has never stopped. I looked at my comfortable life, with my career husband, our shallow Sunday commitment to the local church (that we attended when convenient), and I knew that everything we had known had to change. Jesus wasn't going to let us compromise anymore.
We are now church planters in South Tacoma, WA. We have served our city faithfully for 2 1/2 years. We have been told repeatedly by local leaders that, “we won’t be able to grow a church here, unless we transplant people. The culture is too broken, too addicted, too stubborn, too apathetic, and too generationally fractured to worship God.”
We have prayed at length regarding this definition of our city. We see the walls also. However, we find ourselves more determined than ever. We only have love to offer. We do not have financial resources, we do not have spot lights or a professional band, we do not have teams of greeters, or a fog machine. (I do not criticize those that do, keep going and use those things for the glory of Jesus.) In man's eyes, we have little to use. I have learned that in the Kingdom of Jesus, we stand as conquerors of this city.
Remember how my neighborhood is full of culture? I celebrate the diversity of my community, I celebrate that generations have made their homes here and have committed to each other, and to our city. I celebrate that we are broken… because we have the Word, we have love, and we will not give up.
Jesus, give our church strength for the tasks ahead. Help us see Your glory here. Against all seen odds, You are coming for my city. You will be victorious.
“Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your mind, and all of your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”