January 7, 2015

Missional: Share Your Story

My friend Allison is a wonderfully talented and amazing young lady, whose heart is towards Jesus, and serving Him in ministry.  Today she shares her wisdom and experiences. 

Q: Would you share about your ministry experience with the mission in Tulsa (sorry I forgot the name)?  

I spent this summer as an intern with One Hope, a ministry of Springs of Grace Bible Church in inner-city Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was an incredibly full, fast-paced summer of intense ministry as I joined with the other interns and church staff to do many things: plan, coordinate, and run the “Get Ahead” tutoring program three days per week, put on two huge sports camps, VBS, Girls Club for young women in the community, and Summerfest (a weekly neighborhood barbecue with Bible lessons, fellowship, and activities for children and adults). We also participated in several weekly Bible studies, block ministry, topical studies, 
worship services, and Secret Church, served the church body by cleaning and organizing the building and church vehicles, and were available to help anyone who was in need. 

As an out-of-town intern, I was blessed to witness the “inner workings” of the ministry as I stayed in the home of a wonderful family intimately involved with the church and its programs. The economic and racial diversity of the area is reflected by the members of this incredible church body, and are some of the factors that make the inner city such a unique environment in which to live and minister. The city’s past affects its present in profound ways: during the Tulsa Race Riots in 1921, the city erupted with what was perhaps the most violent demonstration of racial violence in our nation’s history, and racial tension and 
prejudice still run strong. Oppressed by poverty, family disintegration, educational dysfunction, and moral decline, the people of Tulsa need to know the love of Christ. It was a privilege to serve with and learn from the brothers and sisters of Springs of Grace - each coming from a different background and walk of life - as we sought justice, stood up for the oppressed, and promoted reconciliation by proclaiming Jesus Christ as The One Hope.

Q: What has inter-city ministry taught you about God? 

- God  is diverse

  • I learned that God is far too vast and great to be represented by any one individual - it takes all the world’s people, born and unborn, from all the ages past and all the future ahead, to bear His image. The diversity displayed in the human race proclaims the greatness, creativity, and magnificence of God.

- God cares for the poor, and that glorifies Him 

  • God showed His love for us by sending His only Son to become like His creatures - the very poorest of us - and live His life in rejection and poverty. In encountering many challenges this summer, I became painfully aware of my own poverty of spirit, and also witnessed the effects of physical poverty in the lives of many I met and lived alongside. In listening to sermons and participating in Bible studies, I was blown away to see for the first time (how did I miss it before?) the way God loves the poor and cares for them through us, His earthly representatives. Over and over in Scripture, in Old Testament and New, God’s people are commanded to make caring for the poor a priority, giving very specific instructions regarding the “orphans” and “widows,” “aliens” and “strangers,” “sick,” “hungry”, and “forsaken”. God’s glory is clearly seen in the way He lifts up and provides for those who are helpless, lost, and broken - loving those who could never repay Him.
- He loves community

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your 
sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” - 2 Corinthians 8:9

  •  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit enjoy perfect communion. God created us in His image, designing us for community with Himself and other people. I spent this summer in a community of fellow believers, as we met daily for prayer, work, and study, spending long days and late nights praying, working, sweating, laughing, crying, sharing meals, studying, and worshipping God together, “with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” in a way I’ve never done before. I feel I can understand the “gladness of heart” the early church experienced in Acts! It was truly beautiful.
- He cares about people 

  • People are so important to God. God is a person, and created us as people to bear His image on this earth. Spending ten weeks striving to keep the pursuit of God and the good of others as my focus, I was continually humbled by my utter inability to do it in my own strength, and saw God’s strength made manifest in my weakness. Impressed with this truth again and again, I was helped to see how often I tend to value ideas or material things more than people, and could only thank God that He loved me!
Q: What does 'missional' mean to you?

“Missional” is a mindset of purpose. God gives us our purpose, more thrilling and wonderful than we can understand: to glorify Himself. “Missional” living is God-focused, and also connotes servant-hood, recognizing that the only blessed life is one spent for others. We are not our own, and must live that way!

Q: How does it work (look) in your life?

I have been growing in the realization that seeking my own good first cannot possibly make me happy. I know God created me to glorify Himself in a unique way, and I’m trying more and more to discover what that is as a way of honoring Him.  

This quote of Charles Spurgeon’s helps me here:
“You must none of you dream that you are in a position in which you can do nothing at all. That were such a mistake in providence as God cannot commit. You must have some talent entrusted to you, and something given you to do which no one else can do. 
Find out, then, what your sphere is, and occupy it. Ask God to tell you what is your niche, and stand in it, occupying the place till Jesus Christ shall come and give you your reward. Use what ability you have, and use it at once.” (Charles Spurgeon, Counsel for Christian Workers, 10)
Although I can’t say I’ve “figured out” exactly what specific work God has made me for, through prayer and consideration I’m getting closer. In the meantime, although I frequently become anxious that I’m wasting time or not doing enough, I’m striving to be faithful where He has me right now, comforted by the knowledge that time is in His hands and that He will lead me as I trust in Him.

Q: What would you say to other singles who are wanting to be productive for God's kingdom? 

Don’t wait! Be wise in the amount of time you spend “living in the future,” imagining what might be someday. Be thankful and fully present now, faithful to do well whatever it is God has put before you today. Seek Him as hard as you can and use this unique season of life to do what you may not be able to do later. Invite the counsel of older, godly adults. Don’t lean on your own understanding in acting today or planning for the time to come, but in all your ways acknowledge God, who promises to direct your path. 
Remember that your life is not your own - you have been bought with a price: the blood of Christ.

Q: Name 5 things that have shaped your worldview into what it is today.

- Church: I had always thought I became a Christian at a very young age, but it wasn’t until later, when our family began attending the church we are now a part of, that I truly understood who God is, saw the depth of my sin and the punishment I deserved, and realized what Jesus had done for me. I was broken, then rejoiced in God as His true child, and have since watched the Holy Spirit grow and change me in so many ways , confirming that I am His!

- Family: I don’t know why I was born into such an amazing family, but I am so thankful for the love and support they have always shown me, and for the cherished relationships I have with them all.

- Homeschool: One of the greatest gifts I have received was home education, which shaped me for good in more ways than I can know.

- Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper: One of my very favorite books, which inspired me toward the greatest possible life - to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

- Creation: I have always had a special love for every created thing - plants, animals, clouds, outer space, light, wind, mathematics, physics, language, music - and one of my greatest delights is to ponder and point out the ways all of these proclaim the wisdom and glory of God. Through creation God has helped me to understand the concepts of rebirth, resurrection, hope, abiding in Christ the Vine, being led by the Spirit, Jesus as the Light of the world, Bread of Life, Living Water, and so much more that I read about in His Word. I want others to see these things as well, and I pray that God will give me a way to show them.

Favorite verse:

 “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” - Matthew 22:37-39

As singles, our unique place in life seems characterized by uncertainty and big decisions. But the truth is, our lives rest in God - and He and His love for us are absolutely certain! When I wonder what I’m supposed to do and become anxious, these verses remind me of the one thing I know God wants me to do: love. 
That’s it. Do you want to do great things? Then love. It’s an action. That is all God requires of you, and He will take care of the rest. Who can say where love will lead?

Allison lives with her family in Texas, where she teaches art, tends a garden, reads good books, studies permaculture and sustainability, and seeks to glorify God with her life.

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Thank you for sharing!