11.03.2008

Brave Not Safe

In a somewhat-unrelated blog post titled From Reagan to Obama, a Brief Political History, author Donald Miller wrote these words:
[Due to the insular nature of the suburban church] When we’ve never met people, we are easily manipulated into demonizing them. We are easily made to fear.
...
Last year I vowed I wouldn’t make decisions out of fear. And because of that I’ve had one of the greatest years of my life. I went to Uganda and got to meet with the man who helped write their constitution. I wrapped up an evangelism project I believe will introduce more than a million people to the gospel. I rode my bike across America. All of this stuff took some degree of risk. But when calculating those risks, I realized the only reason not to try was fear. What if I was wrong, what if I couldn’t make it, what if the project didn’t work? But none of my heroes are controlled by fear. The commandment most often repeated in scripture, in fact, is “do not fear.” Fear is often something unrighteous trying to keep you from doing something good.

They will never write stories about people controlled by fear. Stories are written (and for that matter lived) by people willing to take stands against bullies and think for themselves. A month after returning home from Washington D.C., where the bike tour ended, I got a call and was asked to deliver a closing prayer at the DNC. Many of my friends told me not to go, that it would hurt my career. I was afraid, for a second, but then knew when you were asked to go somewhere and pray, you should. Fear is always a sign that a great story is about to be written (or not, depending on how you respond.) People live the most boring lives because they stand down when they encounter fear. And so I said yes.
Lots of people are being Brave. A friend is leaving for India in a week. Another just got back. Another is undertaking an ambitious project to help her local homeless shelter. Some are praying Brave Prayers. I'm excited to say, this weekend, many, many people set aside fear, set aside their "insular suburban church," and were Brave. Over 3,000 people from my very suburban church stepped out and headed out into Hamilton County and south to Indianapolis. They worked on almost 80 projects for 30+ organizations. What does being Brave Not Safe look like?

My dad told me the story of he & my mom's project. Their small group signed up to help at Third Phase, a food pantry & women's shelter in this county. Their task was to clean out the actual food pantry-closet- a room full of deep shelves on every wall. The cleaning wasn't hard, since the shelves were practically empty- there weren't many cans to move out of the way. Food pantry donations are at an all-time low, and they saw this firsthand. This was not to be the case for long, though! Some other Brave people were standing outside local Krogers collecting food and handing out flyers. Other groups were going through Hamilton County neighborhoods collecting food. By the end of the first shift Saturday, my dad said the room was full- and the director who was there with them looked around at the pantry and almost in tears at the shelves full of canned goods. (Wanna be involved in food collection on a regular basis? Check out the Hamilton County Food Pantry Drive.)

Our project was a different sort. We went to downtown Indianapolis to work with a group called Rebuilding the Wall. The group's goal is to " renovate vacant inner city properties and give low-income families the opportunity for homeownership" while inviting suburban Christians to come help in the project, breaking down racial & socioeconomic barriers. Our project? Demolition. The guys were particularly excited about this one. I mostly hauled demolished pieces to a dumpster or burn pile, and my burly husband swung a sledgehammer to break up sidewalks around the house. Oh, and I also took pictures. Of course.

Others worked to demolish a chimney, remove gutters, and remove a big tank from the basement. What we did was just a small part of readying this house for rehabilitation and for a family- there's a lot of work left to do. The act of us being there, the neighbors seeing that we cared about their neighborhood, and, for our own hearts, the act of serving made the time well-spent.

Whether it's cleaning a pantry, hauling trash, or collecting cans, "whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me"

Wanna hear more about being Brave Not Safe? Greg Paul, author of The Twenty-Piece Shuffle, will be speaking at weekend services at Grace this weekend, about why the rich and poor need each other. Also listen to the conversations the last two weeks with inner city ministry leaders and a South African ministry leader fighting the AIDS epidemic in his country.


Did any of you participate this weekend? What's your story? I'd love to compile even more!

2 comments:

Brett said...

The congregation at Northview had a similar Good Neighbor weekend. Our particular project sent us to a neighborhood on Indy's near northside to simply clean up the streets. We covered several blocks, picking up trash, cleaning up overgrown lots, and hauling away brush. All the while, we prayed for the residents of the neighborhood. It was a terrific, eye-opening experience. It's easy to forget that there's a world outside our little circle of life. Such service is something my family will continue.

It's funny you mention the whole fear thing. I spent part of the weekend painting at home. That also means I had a good amount of quiet solitude and the idea of fear and vowing to make decisions not out of fear was heavy on my mind. We, as a country and a people have been operating out of fear for quite awhile. That is not what I want to teach my children. While I don't plan to bike across the USA (though I'd love to make that trip on a motorcycle), it is changing the way I think. Fear is very real and it isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can be a powerful motivator and give the prompt to action so many of us need. But, when it rules our lives, that's a problem. I'm [gulp] 33 years old and have a family...it's time to step up.

Curtis Honeycutt said...

Great pics, Joanna! Thanks for sharing.

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