It Simply Started With One Question

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The cheers and whoop-whoops were heard loud at 10am last Saturday.  A parade of families – elementary aged kids holding their younger sibling’s hand, moms, dads, grandparents, great-grandparents, and teachers come to the playground.

Music was playing, games were set up, and bouncy houses were blown up and ready to be invaded by hundreds of small hands and feet.  There were endless amounts of hot dogs, Icee pops, and bottled water accompanied by words of thanks in different languages, but all with one, common smile.

People of different ages and races were dancing – together.  Kids were running and giggling.  Bean bags were tossed and crafts created.  Faces became works of art and balloons turned kids into knights and princesses.

It’s Back-to-School time and SMC threw a party to kick off the new school year which starts in the middle of July for this year-round school.  The past two years SMC has hosted this event to give the love of Jesus away to the families and teachers at Eastlawn Elementary school along with backpacks packed with school supplies.

There were many memories made and stories to be told from that sunny, summer day but as I was taking pictures of the festivities, one stood out to me.  Under a tent at the end of the celebration, there was an SMC woman with her knee on the hard, dusty ground, listening to another woman sitting in a chair holding a baby. (By request they’ll have different names for this story: Kay is a women from SMC and Louise is a grandmother from Eastlawn)

Their conversation went on for quite a while.  Afterwards, I talked with Kay about that moment in God’s timing.  It was a powerful one even though it was simply a conversation:  one woman needed to talk and someone to listen to her, and the other woman was willingly listened with love and kindness.

Kay told me she felt compelled to go talk to the older women sitting in the shade hugging the child.  She walked over and simply asked if she could help her with anything.  The older woman said, “No thank you.  I’m waiting for my great-grandson to finish playing.”  But to Kay’s surprise, that was only the beginning of their conversation.  This great-grandmother, Louise, continued talking and sharing some of her story with Kay.

Kay felt she had known Louise for a lifetime only a few minutes after meeting her.  Louise is retired and has children, grandchildren and was with her  great-grandchildren.  She takes care of them most of the time.  She’s had one kidney removed and her hip gives her pain.  But that doesn’t stop her from living and doing all she can to help others, especially all her children.  She believes it’s important to help raise the next generation.  Some days are easier than others but she’s always willing as long as she’s able.  Because of her rough, family situation, she’s using her retirement funds to make ends meet while raising her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Louise isn’t the only woman walking in those shoes in Burlington.  This cycle of poverty is right here in our city and it’s going to keep repeating itself until those who aren’t in poverty do something about it.  Offering financial support isn’t a bad thing, it is needed, but it’s not until we make the effort to form relationships with different people will we begin to end poverty.

I want to ask you some questions that I’ve been asking myself lately.

What IF women developed relationships with women different than themselves?    What IF you get out of your comfort zone and come alongside women not like you?   A women who’s a different race or a different age?  Or one who lives in a different part of town?  Or someone who’s not in your circle of friends?  What IF you asked a few women over to your home for a simple meal or dessert or met for coffee somewhere– and provide childcare if needed? 

What IF you go meet them where they’re at?

That’s what Jesus did.

This past Sunday at SMC, Milan Ford, our guest pastor, gave a powerful message about racial division.  He broke down the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4.  Jesus was  looked at as a Jew.  The woman was a Samaritan.  They were from different cultures, different lives.  But Jesus didn’t see it that way: He saw this woman had a spiritual need.   She needed someone to tell her about redemption, forgiveness, truth, and love.  He sat down right beside her and looked at her face to face, eye to eye.  He asked questions.  He listened.  Because He cared.  He’s showing us that “cultural differences should never override spiritual needs” as Milan said.

A couple of weeks ago I started reading  a book called, “Transforming Together: Authentic Spiritual Mentoring” by Ele Parrott.  How timely this has personally been for me.  This book fits right in with serving at Eastlawn this past weekend, along with Kay and Louise’s conversation, Milan’s teaching, and Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  Parrott is saying how we, as women Christ-followers, need to come alongside other women and start forming relationships because they are vital.  And because that’s what Jesus did.

“Jesus could not have cared less about another person’s job, position, appearance, financial status, social status, or anything else that made up his or her personal packaging – He zoomed in on the “who” – the thoughts and intents of the person and the direction in which he or she was walking.  He ‘came alongside of’ those who were seeking truth, and He walked with them.”

When we form a relationship, we can learn from each other.  We can begin to appreciate who we are and live how race, age, and culture don’t mean a thing because we’re all made in God’s image.

On Sunday, Milan pointed us to Revelation 7:9

“…I saw many people.  No one could tell how many there were.  They were from every nation and from every family and from every kind of people and from every language.  They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

I want to see what John saw.  Do you?

Kay has the desire to meet with Louise again and it’s exciting to see what may come from their new friendship.  That’s beautiful and that’s the way God wants it to be.  Learning from each other.  Listening to each other.  SMC Women!  Let’s challenge each other to not only give away school supplies and canned food – but offer some of our time, listening ears, and hearts to other women who need to talk and someone to listen.  Both will be blessed.  If you want to take this challenge, a good place to start is to pray and ask God to put a woman (or women) in your path who you don’t normally spend time with and see what happens.  Then when conversations start, ask God’s Spirit to give you the questions to ask, the ears to listen and the words to encourage her, and lift up the Name of Jesus.

{If you’re interested in talking more about reaching out to other women, please contact me.  I have a couple of resources that can help guide your discussions around a table – whether they be about friendship, racial reconciliation, or day-to-day living as a Christ follower to name a few.}

 

Beth                                                                                                                                                                                     (bhildebrand@triad.rr.com)

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