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.