I recently started reading Theirs is the Kingdom by Bob Lupton, who moved to the Grant Park neighborhood of Atlanta in the early 70s. At the time, Grant Park was a rough, dangerous, poor neighborhood. But Bob and his wife Peggy wanted to minister to and build community with the urban poor. Bob's experiences led him to create FCS Ministries, which is now the umbrella organization to Mission Year. I've just begun reading his book and already, Lupton's words so perfectly describe the experiences of my past year. In the preface He writes,
My wife and I saw the city as a mission field and ourselves as missionaries carrying the light of the gospel into the darkness of the ghetto. How surprised we were when we discovered that the One who had called us already preceded us. Those to whom we came to share our faith frequently had more faith than we did. They had learned to depend on God for their daily bread, and answers to their prayers were often miraculous. Their capacity to care sacrificially for neighbors and family members made our scheduled, metered acts of service sometimes seem trite and even self-serving.So it was that God's children who suffer most from crushing poverty became the very ones God used to speak to us of our own spiritual poverty. From those who had very few material possessions, we learned about our bondage to things. And from those who had much to fear and little to hope, we learned courage and faith.The following reflections are glimpses into our eighteen-year journey on the streets of the city. Around every corner is the unexpected. Values collide. Beliefs are challenged. Emotions soar and fall. The city, I have concluded, is a dangerous place to walk, especially for those of us who carry valuable luggage. Much of what we hold dear is likely to be stripped away. But for every loss there is a gain; something of greater value is given. That is part of the wealth of the inner city, and that is why we have made the city our home.