A Plentiful Harvest

"Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." (Matthew 9:37-38)

On Thursday afternoon of this past week, I found myself sitting in my usual spot at the head of an empty table enjoying some form of rice and protein for lunch (chicken or fish). It’s my go to meal when I am on the go. I never seem to grow tired of the combination as long as it is covered in the sweet orange chili sauce that I have come to love.

The table was empty because I missed the regular lunch hour due to selecting songs for the worship services for the next three months with my wife. We are working hard to teach the congregation new songs. I agree with the description used by a sister church in the city: “We want to encourage worship that is both traditional and dynamic. We seek to avoid both uncomfortable novelty and stuffy formality.”

Heather didn’t join me for lunch because she was busy drinking down her usual meal shake while multitasking the next homeschool project for the boys. On her way past the table she asked me if I could smell any smoke. I could but didn’t think much of it. I knew we had several work projects going on outside the parsonage. A group of guys were rebuilding the garage and another man was removing a few trees from the side of the hill.

After a few more minutes, a series of events revealed that the smell was a problem. The parking lot near the parsonage was suddenly full of teachers and students from MNIC. (A charter school for at risk teens renting the educational wing from Family Baptist.) They had evacuated the building and called the Fire Department. The common sound of a siren started getting louder than usual. Within a few minutes, a big red fire truck was outside the house. Apparently, one of the stumps being removed from the side of the hill caught fire from the heat of the chainsaw. Praise God, the fire was under control in a matter of minutes.

I am so thankful for their quick response. No permanent damage done. The students were able to return to their classes. I had a chance to meet some of the local firemen. I am so grateful for the brave men and women who help turn chaos back to order.

On Friday evening we were invited to join David and Susan Mowen, another dear couple at FBC, to enjoy a meal with a Muslim family. What an amazing spread of food! It must have taken David all week to prepare the middle eastern feast. The meal lasted over two hours. It was full of wonderful conversations about culture, backgrounds, and religion. We are blessed to partner with couples like David and Susan who love the Lord and the international community. We are praying for the salvation of our new Muslim friends.

We woke up on Saturday morning to a good deal of activity taking place in the empty lot across the street from the church. Heather and I got an early start to our Saturday in an effort to set up tables and chairs for a funeral for one of the charter members of Family Baptist named Jerry Secord.

His death reminds me of the amazing faithfulness exhibited by those in his generation and the desperate need to recruit younger men and women to pick up where he left off at Family Baptist Church. He will be missed!

But back to the recounting of Saturday… a group of people from the community were setting up a stage for a Christian Hip Hop concert called “God Flow.” It was a small part of a one day festival in North Minneapolis.

We could literally feel our windows shaking for a good portion of the day. It made for some challenging sermon preparation. After about three hours of trying to concentrate, I decided (with the prompting of my wonderful wife and boys) to give in and walk around the neighborhood to see what all the commotion was about.

We were surprised to find around 10 blocks of West Broadway completely blocked off from regular traffic. Most of the street space was occupied by politicians and social justice advocates seeking to gain momentum. We were approached by a handful of people who wanted to talk about solving the problems in the city.

After listening to the solutions proposed by one politician, I graciously told him that I couldn’t disagree with him more. He was shocked by my response and wanted to know why. It developed into great opportunity to naturally talk about the solution to lasting peace through the Prince of Peace. I love being back in the city!

We ended the evening with around 50 recovering or struggling addicts who meet every second Saturday evening for a meal at Family Baptist Church, a time of worship, a viewing of one chapter of Scripture from the visual Bible, and an open discussion about the content. The meeting is called “Second Saturday.” It is run by Dan Bradley, another faithful member of Family Baptist. What a delight to listen to these men and women talk openly about the content of Scripture and transparently about their own life struggles.

What can I say? Urban ministry and church revitalization is full of NATURAL opportunities to share the gospel, live the gospel, and enjoy the gospel. It also challenges your perspective on how to best connect with people in the city.

While we workout the pros and cons of Christian Hip Hop and arguing with liberal politicians about the best way to bring peace to the city, we will continue to enjoy long ethnic meals and meaningful conversations with fire fighters. We remain committed to building redemptive relationships in the church and across cultural barriers. We also remain grateful for God’s provision of faithful members at Family Baptist Church who serve Him in such a diverse and fruitful neighborhood like North Minneapolis.

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