Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reflection: Last 2 Years


2008 was a year of excitement and uncertainty. A vision and passion was on the heart of my then, fiancee David, and his friends to go and live missionally in the heart of Rockwood. I was wrestling with the need and calling to be missional at the time so this idea was very intriguing to me. Our imaginations spun as we tried to picture what this would look like in a tangible way - but we didn't know until we started.
It was very humbling and inspiring to see the support that immediately surrounded us when we began. From the support of the apartment management to the local churches who were interested in coming out and serving meals and doing children's activities, it was extremely encouraging to be surrounded by such strong support. The momentum of the first year, doing meals every week definitely provided a strong adrenaline rush. Half the time, I was not sure exactly what was happening - we didn't have specific methods or approaches - we simply ate meals with people and listened. This led to many hearts opening up and relationships formed at increasingly deep levels.
At times information people were sharing was so deep, I did not know what to do with it. My own mind could not possibly wrap around the experiences that people had, and at my naive age of 20, I definitely did not have any wise answers that would solve any significant problems.
This was when I realized the beauty and power of God's grace and His spirit that leads us in times when we feel completely inept. Many a times, when sitting with a new friend, talking about life, I found myself completely in awe of the pain that a person could go through and still be alive. Growing up in a safe Christian family, I could not possibly relate or understand the suffering, yet Jesus understood. He could relate. And through His spirit that is in me, I could listen. The spirit gave words to say and when it was time for someone else to speak into someones life, the spirit led that too.
It was incredible seeing how the spirit worked to touch hearts. No amount of explaining or persuading could lead to the change from within that I have seen the spirit do at Barberry. The most beautiful thing of it all is that in the moments where I felt like I had nothing to offer- no strength to listen or patience to answer, when I felt like running away and hiding-that was when God did the most significant work. It was significant not only for the person who I would be with at the time, but especially signficant for me. I was pushed and stretched way beyond the limits that I thought I had. My limits of patience, self-control, love, and grace. In those moments, it was definitely not I, but Christ who lives in me.

And now, even though David and I have moved, our lives will continue to be shaped and impacted by our two years at Barberry. Having seen what could happen when we let God direct our lives, we are forever impacted. Although we may be in completely different contexts from here on out, the values of community and power of surrendering to Christ and trusting that the spirit will lead us on - give us the strength, patience, and love, have become a core part of our understanding. Although at times it is hard to see, we will trust and be open to whatever God has for us next.
-Elena

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kid's Ministry

All summer a small group of us have been holding a kids ministry on Saturdays at Barberry. For an hour before it starts we jog up and down the apartment steps letting the residence know what we're doing. This is the kid round up time. We then set up a few things on the grassy area by the mail boxes; a card table, bubbles, coloring books, beach balls, etc. We also have a huge parachute which has become the icon of the kids ministry. Everyone loves the parachute and begs to open it.
The most loved game is called shark. The kids taught me this. We all sit down in a circle with our legs under the parachute and shake it as hard as we can. Under the parachute several kids, "sharks," crawl around looking for legs to pull under. This is one of my favorite aspects of being a leader. You're the one they always attack. You never stay dry in any water fight and you definitely never wonder if a shark will take you under. I feel some little hands grab my ankles and I yell for the life guards. They love this. I love this.
After we exhaust them in play we sit down on a blanket or on top the parachute. This is the reason we are here. We pull out pictures and Bibles and begin telling them stories about God. We tell them about creation; who made the clouds in the sky, the grass we sit on, and the neighbors cat. We talk to them about sin, forgiveness, and a man up on a cross. We emphasize this great love of God. I have stopped feeling so shocked at their questions. We ask them, "Who wants to pray?" There hands shoot up. When I call on one he looks away shyly saying he never has before and doesn't know how.
Back when I started this ministry I did it because God laid it on my heart. It was not because I especially liked kids. Actually, I regularly told people I was "not a kids person." How do you interact with a kid? I hated baby talk. Plus I reasoned, you cannot have an intellectual conversation about politics with a five year old. But I have learned, when God tells you to do something, you just do it. The day after our first event someone at church asked me how it went. I started crying. I was the leader and I felt so...inadequate.
These days I hear squeals when I come, doors burst open, and joy explodes across faces. They run to me jumping up and down and hugging my legs. They sit on my lap and trace my face. The quieter ones look up at me and slide their tiny hands into mine. It took time, and a persistent willingness to obey the Lord, for my heart to catch up with my actions. But it did. All over my thoughts, all over my life, I find their footprints.
Last Saturday a mother came up to me asking questions. When I told her it was over in two weeks she looked so disappointed. I explained I was taking 6 weeks off then was hoping to start it again as an after school event. She looked around Barberry. "We're moving in a week. I don't want my boys to grow up here." She explained why; the fights, the drugs, etc. Then she looked at me, "Can I bring them back? I'd do that. I take them to church you know. I want my boys here."
Lately after the story time the older kids have been staying. While the others jump up and play they stay asking questions about God, leaning in, listening, drinking in the Words of God. Cylent is around 11 or 12. He stayed for a long time last week wanting to understand about forgiveness. He was ready, wanting, hungry. We prayed with him. He asked God to forgive him for all the things he'd done that he knew were wrong. He asked God to come into his life and make him new. He asked God to help him walk down the right path. The path of life.
It was amazing.
This is why God called me to stay. I'll continue school here while dwelling in the place he's set on my heart. This broken loved place.
Andrea

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Trust

In early May as I began to mentally compose the summer kids ministry God gave me a picture for the summer. It was the scene in which Jesus took a midnight stroll across a lake. As the apostles where in the boat fighting the waves "Jesus was about to pass by" but their fear of him stopped Jesus. Jesus turned and looked at them. It startles me, scares me, awes me, settles my anxious heart to see him there, standing in the wind and waves....looking at me.
Rockwood is full, bursting, ripe, white for the harvest. In January of this year God asked me to face my fears. So I began the street ministry. Now I fall all over myself in love with these people. Last week while I stood on the corner with one of my favorite ladies she pointed out a group of guys walking past and related the story of the man they beat up the night before. At the same time a stream of sirens blared past on their way to the store behind us. Another robbing, another beating, another proof of brokenness.
God gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have ever lasting life. Christ died for them. So we live, and walk, and breath, and love our neighbors.
The first time I met Elena she said, "There's something special about Rockwood." I agree. That's why we're all here. His blood pumps through these streets.
This past Saturday marked the halfway point of the summer kids ministry. Kristine couldn't sleep Friday night thinking about Barberry, worrying over "our" kids. I took my turn Saturday night. Early in the morning I gave up. At the top of a cliff above the Columbia River I watched the sun rise over the eastern mountains. I thought about Rockwood, Barberry, Colorado. Face after face came through my mind. People that I've grown to love here. One's that don't know Christ, yet are so close. If only I could stay in their lives a little longer. My move to Colorado takes place in five weeks. Two days after the last kids event. How do I leave the people of Rockwood? How do I leave the kids of Barberry? I desperately want to bring them Christ. I long for them to have what I have. I want to stay in their lives; a protective mentoring shield. The little ones look up at me with big hopeful eyes and slide their tiny hands into mine. I think my chest aches 90% of the time now.
To trust God means to trust Him in the details of life. Right now, for me, it is with my move and new place in life. Mostly, it is to trust Him with the lives I am leaving behind.
Last week the Samoan family lost their little eighteen month old Vie. She drowned in the pool on Thursday. In the months and years to come whoever read this please pause and pray for them. Pray they will be drawn to God through this and that they will recognize the difference between the lies of the enemy and His true voice. Pray they will know the depths of God's love for them.

Andrea (Summer Kid's Zone)

Monday, July 12, 2010

1 Peter 2:12

My favorite class I had ever taken as I went through public school and finished with a mix of community college and bible college was a philosophy or religions class at the community college. It provided a couple of my favorites together: unbelievers and open discussions on theology and philosophy. At then end of the course I found myself sitting across a very astute new age agnostic over drinks. His family was heavily religious of some Christian flavor, and his father was a pastor. He rejected his upbringing and put me in corner with this question: "Have you ever seen the waiting lines for the uninsured trying to get on state health insurance?" "How could a whole cross section of the US be so opposed to helping people with such basic needs as health care?" Sadly, I did not really have anything to say to him.

5 years later I live with a group of believers reaching out to the poor through the apartment complex initiative. Compassion connect also puts on free health care clinics to serve some of the most broken. If the question ever comes again I am ready to boast about: Milan, Jennifer, David & Elena, Josh, Tyrone...
 
"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."

-1 peter 2:12

-Dan Johnson

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fruit of Divine Love and Patience

After I posted Dan's perspective on doing ministry at Barberry with children, I recieved a text message from a friend who was going to return a scarf we left at his house. He said he would swing by the apartments this week. My first thought was "How will we ever coordinate being home when he can stop by?"

Then I realized, it doesn't even matter! Without a second thought I told him he could leave the scarf with neighbors anywhere around us. Yes, in Rockwood. At Barberry Village.

As I clicked send, it sunk in how radical this is. How many people can even say that in their comfortable safe suburban neighborhoods?

We love our neighbors.

And what a difference a healthy amount of Divine love and patience through sacrifice can make - in any community.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ministry at Barberry While Raising Children

This week Dan Johnson is sharing his unique perspective as a member of the ministry team here at Barberry Village while also being the father of a young family:

"I grew up in the suburbs and became accustomed to an isolated life with almost no contact with my neighbors growing up. I am now married and have a 2 year old son, and a newborn baby girl. We live in a poor part of town with crime rates that make most people from the suburbs a bit uncomfortable. For God so loved the world that he sent his only son... to a world that rejected him.

My wife and I are are constantly reminded of the dangers surrounding our children. We also know that the work of the Kingdom of God is far above our preferences. We are thankful that we have a team of believers here working together for the Kingdom. This team makes up our extended family, and our son knows each of these members by name and loves them.

Our son (and daughter) are growing up in an area with poor schools, high crime neighborhoods, and no enclosed backyard to play in. We are careful to exercise caution to keep our children safe from sexual predators, bullies, and more. However, our children will have the advantage of seeing parents that are reaching out to the poor, widows, and the orphans outside of their home. To us it is no surprise that the happiest of children are among the poor."

- Daniel, Jennifer, James, & baby Hannah Johnson

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Lesson in Community

This week Kurt, a fellow laborer in the Kingdom, shared some reflections on how he had been impacted through involvement at Barberry Village. He helps lead a small group at Clear Creek Community Church, which is one of the handful of churches in the area that has been seeking to embrace our apartment complex with loving arms.

I'll let him tell you the rest:

"I have had the privilege of serving along side the team at Barberry Village for a couple of years now and the impact to my soul has been huge. Until just a couple of years ago, when I first heard of the "mission to the village", I had never given much thought to the community beyond the Compassion Rockwood event held annually at PLS and that was just one day a year. The only thoughts if any that would come to my mind, was “it’s not my backyard” or “this” is a rough community. I would continue to drive through the area, sometimes daily, without much thought about the individual lives that reside there. My world was 4 miles away in a “different” community.

My first opportunity to visit Barberry came at a community meal that my small group offered to provide and serve. I had apprehensions about what to expect while there. To my soul’s relief (first to discover that my fears were silly), I met wonderful people who really just wanted to reach out and find other souls to relate to. To me, that’s what serving at Barberry is, reaching out to meet other’s where they are. Since that first meal, I have really enjoyed the sense that showing up at the community is about meeting other people, getting to know them and finding out that they are my neighbors in this world we’re all trying to survive in. Many of us are experiencing the same hurts, frustrations and challenges in life, some of us just have a prettier picture to hang on the wall for others to see.

Since serving at Barberry, my “community” has grown. I recognize that I need to reach out to neighbors closer to home, I need to be open to meeting new people and reaching out to souls wherever I am and not to “drive” through life with such a narrow focus on myself. Barberry has taught me to open my eyes to those that Jesus died to save. ALL! I with to thank the team at Barberry Village and those in the community that taught me what God’s community is all about! People loving people no matter where they are."