Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Troy's Hidden Woman of Prayer

Note: We have a backlog of stories from Oaks of Righteousness that we wanted to share with you. This story is from a couple of months ago.

I feel like my life is becoming a collection of "crazy God stories." This is certainly one of them.

This story falls into the category of a "God gives us what we need" story. When we first opened Oaks Cafe, we collected a lot of these. For instance, we wanted a foosball table. We prayed, "God, if this isn't too dumb of a request, could you give us a foosball table for the Cafe so the kids can play?" Within two days, we had two offers of foosball tables from two sources who knew nothing about what we'd prayed.

All that to say, God keeps giving us what we need. So, getting on to the main story....

Hannah and I decided it was time for me to implement the missionary strategy of walking around our neighborhood, talking to people, praying for them, and basically acting like their pastor until they accept me as such. (It works better than you might think). Troy has some rough parts, and we discussed who might be a good person to walk with me in those areas. We both thought of a warm, no-nonsense friend of ours who's done street ministry for years and decided to ask her when we had a chance.

The next day -- as I was getting ready to make my rounds -- this friend spontaneously showed up to help out. Figuring God was giving us who we needed for the day, she and I set out for the rough neighborhood.

As we journeyed along, we encountered a middle-aged woman with a sweet face who was picking up cans to trade in for cash. We walked over to talk to her and realized she only spoke French (not a language one normally expects to encounter in Troy).

I don't speak French. But my friend, it turns out, used French years ago and was able to talk a little with  this woman. A smile spread across our new friend's face as she heard her native language. She said her name is Rosalee, she is from the Ivory Coast, and she is Catholic. As she'd been walking and picking up cans, she was "Praying to God."

All this to say two things:

First is that my God is the father of orphans, the defender of widows, and the lover of immigrants and outcasts. In his incredible love for Rosalee, my Lord set up a dizzying set of circumstances so that she'd encounter two sisters in Christ in a foreign -- and probably often unkind -- land. And for just a few moments, she'd hear words of love and kinship in her own tongue.

Second is that my God allowed me the humble honor of meeting one of Troy's hidden women of prayer, who speaks to the lover of her soul and mine -- hidden in plain sight.

Lord Jesus, you said, "For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light." Lord, how beautiful is just a glimpse of what you have hidden in this world! Give us hunger for the wonders to be revealed, along with the trust to wait on you. Amen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Two girls, St. Agnes and Dr. King

On Monday, we embarked on a new adventure in discipleship at Oaks of Righteousness. We went to the mall.

Let me back up a little bit and explain. We've been operating Oaks Cafe & Ministry Center now since March. It's become a regular hangout place, by God's grace, for dozens of children and teens. We've served hundreds of meals, hundreds of snacks. We've played roughly 80,000 games of Uno (maybe not quite that many), and we've shared the gospel with dozens of people.

But, we've gotten restless. Most of our regular volunteers -- including Hannah and myself -- have begun to wonder "What's next?" We have a hunger to disciple -- not just to evangelize. And the Cafe, while a haven compared to the street outside, is still a lively and sometimes chaotic place where it's difficult to disciple with depth.

It is terribly hard living in North Central Troy. Just last week, a few adults from the neighborhood talked about being able to feel the anger and the hopelessness in the air, like a heavy cloud. I find it tough to be at Oaks for the roughly 15 hours the building is open each week. But, I can leave. Most of the people who live there, especially the children, can't.

Enter the mall. We realized that, to disciple with depth and express love to our young people, we need to take them out of the neighborhood on field trips. So, we began weekly mentoring this week with two of our girls. Each week, we go somewhere for a couple of hours to have fun, and we talk about God.

This week, we went to the mall, ate cupcakes, ran up the down escalator and spent a good chunk of time in the pet store. And, we talked about the Christian witness of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., since it was his day.

As we sat in the food court -- two Euro-mutt pastors, an African American kid and a Puerto Rican kid, we talked about the fact that, not so long ago, our meeting wouldn't have been possible in public. One of the kids was shocked -- different dining spaces, different water fountains, different schools, different bathrooms? "That's just rude!" she exclaimed.

We talked about the bravery of those in the Civil Rights movement. And, we talked about the fact that, for Dr. King, his love of Jesus Christ was what compelled him to join in the fight. And, to give his life. "Greater love has no man...."

We also talked about the scandalous fact that, if he repented and asked forgiveness, even Dr. King's murderer may be singing the praises of God with us in heaven someday. Scandalous mercy and amazing grace.

Finally, we talked about St. Agnes, whose feast day was also Monday. She was a teenage girl -- perhaps a year older than our kids -- who died rather than abandon her love of Jesus.

It was "mad fun," as our kids like to say, and a good beginning. Only the Lord knows where it all will lead.

"Almighty and Everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."