Tonight I spent the evening training children's ministry volunteers at Refuge Church in Everett, about 60 miles north of home. What a cool night for me...a great group of people, whose passion for ministry I could sense right away. Refuge is a church plant, located in downtown Everett; a block in one direction from upscale shops and venues like the Everett Performing Arts Center, a couple of blocks in the other direction from the Everett Rescue Mission, and surrounded by a growing homeless population. They are situated in an awesome area for reaching out to so many who need to hear of the love of Christ.
I left the training feeling thankful for the way God calls each of us to serve in different places. I loved the urban ministry of Refuge, and that they were reaching a much different crowd of people than my little church in Enumclaw does.
When I drove away, I noticed a man walking down the sidewalk, pushing a stroller with a baby inside, and another little girl half running next to him. I looked at my clock and thought of my own boys, at home in their beds. As my car came to a stop at the light, the little girl's eyes caught mine and she stopped and waved and I could see her lips saying "Hi", with a little grin on her face. The light turned green; I waved and mouthed "Hi" back to her before driving away. In the short time that I saw them, I had taken in as much as I could. The baby in the stroller was buried under a giant pile of blankets; the dad and girl were dressed warm...puffy winter coats and ear muffs and hats. It seemed like a little much for a warm October night. I wondered where they were going. Home, or just anyplace they could find for the night? They were stuck in my mind, and I wished I knew.
Driving home, I continued to think of them, and was reminded of a phone conversation Keith and I had just hours earlier. We had been talking about taking a trip this coming weekend, and the term "just $1,500" was repeatedly used. Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming conviction. God knew where He was sending me for that training tonight. He knew about the man and the little girl I would pass on the street. He wanted to open my eyes to something I haven't seen, or thought of, in awhile. He knows that in my small, sheltered bubble in my small town, I tend to forget what is happening in the world around me. And, He knew that I would have a 90 minute drive home in silence to think about it.
I stopped at the gas station part way home and opened Facebook as the tank filled. The first post to appear on the screen read:
"I have COMPASSION for all these hungry people who have nothing to eat." -Jesus, Mark 8:2
To be like Jesus, feed the hungry.
I don't think those words were coincidentally on my news feed...
If asked the question, Keith and I would both agree that this has been a tough year for us financially. I know that's kind of private information to some people, but I don't mind saying it, especially in this context. I guess we would use the term "tough" because we've had to stop, wait, and watch God provide for us when we did not see provision coming otherwise. It's definitely been a "trust God" kind of year with finances. Yet...we live in a beautiful home, we go on vacations, we enjoy a ton of hobbies, we stop to grab a burger or frozen yogurt or Starbucks whenever we want, and on and on. Yes, all that, even during a "tough" financial year. Suddenly, I'm ashamed to use that term.
It seems we've gotten so far beyond what we need, and now we're surrounded by all the things we want as well. When we wonder if we'll have all the things we "want", and realize we may have to say no to even one of them, our financial situation is classified as "tough". A little girl and her dad were walking down a city street, bundled up, and whether or not they had a home to go to, there were hundreds and thousands and millions of other people I did not see who don't have a home, and who went to bed hungry. All while I drive in my car, talking on my iPhone, about "just $1,500". And I think I have it tough.
There's no great ending to the story, like me turning around and finding that man and little girl, and learning their story. I just drove home and shared what happened with Keith as tears ran down my face. I updated my volunteer info for the Tacoma Rescue Mission and scheduled us to volunteer in the coming weeks. I will think more closely about where my money and efforts are going for the present time. I will actively look for ways to help others who have it legitimately "tough" as the winter comes and weather gets cold. I'm thankful for the reminder God sent my way. And I am asking Him to send me more just like it, because I don't think my oblivious, sheltered world is where He wants me to live.