In the face of a pandemic, or a crisis, my story takes a new turn. How do I thrive in this new environment? I need to redefine my structures of purpose and relationships in the context of God’s greater story, our local communities, and the church. Through a series of experiences with Urban Initiative (UI), I was once again reminded that prayer changes things and I can trust in God’s daily redemption.
This past spring break, God clearly revealed Himself to me through relationships, bridge-building, and the church body. A group of us from Westmont went to Salt Lake City to learn more about the Kingdom of God in Utah, witnessed primarily through dialogues with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) community. Every interaction challenged me to critically consider what I understood to be true. Each conversation required me to carefully analyze the logic presented and what the story meant. Yet, equally important was understanding the person behind the story and that this was a friendship worth investing in. These dialogues shaped how I enter into conversation with someone, recognizing the connection and future we are building between groups seemingly at odds with one another, as well as increasing my own faith and understanding of the truth—a process greatly complemented in community as we come to wisdom together. Here, I learned the importance of having a clear purpose in mind (in this case, sharing the love, hope, and truth of Jesus) while also having humility, not only in trying to understand the beliefs and values of the person next to me, but also by asking questions* such as:
"What do you mean by that?"
"How did you come to that conclusion?"
"Have you considered this?"
When my neighbors are viewed with suspicion or reserve, it is all the more important that I remember each person is made in the image of God and see them as He does. In this time of fear and uncertainty, we must love our neighbor and stand together, recognizing our humanity.
In the final few days, our team had the privilege of sitting in on a prayer meeting of evangelical pastors. The time opened with a prayer and reading of Revelation 5. As we heard the pastors’ responses to COVID-19, the urgency of the church’s response was imminently evident. Throughout the conversation, God was present, proving time and time again His faithfulness and commitment to our lives. In each interaction, the pastors critically challenged one another to proceed with prudence and trust in the power of God, firmly establishing confidence that the Lord is Healer and Provider. This is an everlasting truth that we need to be reminded every once in a while to re-shape our attitudes.
These experiences gave me a new lens and appreciation for the ways leaders come together in consideration of the past, present, and future constituents in their care and our response as a body. Throughout the week, I am grateful for the ways each person faithfully utilized the diverse gifts God has blessed us with, unifying this family as the body of Christ. As we gather, whether with our relatives or friends, my prayer is that we can treasure these moments and times together and engage thoughtfully and well with challenging conversations in fruitful dialogue, standing together. Our stories are still unfolding: how we lean into the interruption and interpret our lives—especially the challenging moments—can make all the difference.
Each day is a new chapter.
*Koukl, Gregory. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions. Zondervan, 2009.