Re-Thinking Our Work Day
In high school I spent several weeks every summer serving in an orphanage in the Peruvian jungle. I was a hard-core mission tripper. My favorite days were the ones that started early, involved hauling heavy bags of sand and concrete up the river bank, pouring foundations, and ended with making more concrete by the light of headlamps. I was proud of every sore muscle and blister because I felt they proved I had worked hard that day serving others.
Little did I know that “there was always someone else to pour concrete.” I could have sent half the money it cost just to send me on the trip, and Scripture Union could have hired professionals to mix and pour concrete better than my high school self. The real work of our mission team—the real reason they wanted us to come and not just send money—was the time spent playing soccer and having dinner with the boys of Puerto Allegria. That time communicated to abandoned boys that they were valuable. Those conversations gave credence to the house parents’ repeated reminders that God did love these seemingly unloved boys, and He was watching out for them. There was also real work for me to do in learning about God and His kingdom. As I mentioned, my trip was just a few weeks over three summers—this time was not intended to be my lifetime of ministry. It was a chance for me to learn more about God’s character, more about the brokenness in the world, and more about what Gospel reconciliation looks like.
For me personally, conversing with someone in a foreign language or learning about the gravity of sin’s destruction in Peru and my own life was harder work than hauling bags of concrete. I had a lot to learn about kingdom work.
Many of you may be like me. You look forward to a day of hard work, a meaningful project that has tangible results. You do not mind a few sore muscles or dirt on your knees; they are just proof of the good work you did that day! This is not all bad, and there are important places for sore muscles and dirty knees. However, we often neglect the important work of learning, listening, and most especially praying in favor of the work that seems to yield tangible results.
This year our Church Family Work Day is going to challenge us to work in a different way. We will be doing the less tangible but equally important work of learning, listening, and praying with and for our partners at Lincoln Village Ministry. Instead of pulling weeds out of dirt, we will be asking God to pull weeds out of our hearts—weeds that choke out the good seed of the gospel and convince us that life is all about us. Here are a few reasons I think you should consider joining us this year!
• If you are new to Lincoln Village Ministry: This will be a great chance to hear the mission, vision, and history of Lincoln Village Ministry.
• If you know all about Lincoln Village Ministry: It’s still likely that you do not know much about their new Evolve program, and we will be focusing particularly on this aspect.
• If you want tangible ways to engage long-term: We will share a few, specific ways that Southwood members can serve together with the Evolve program in the immediate future. These opportunities will be family friendly!
Questions You May Have:
Can my nursery-aged children attend?
Yes! All ages are welcome with parental supervision. We understand that young children will not have much to do, and you may have to slip out early. We still encourage you to join us for fellowship over breakfast and as much learning as you can. Weather permitting, parents can take young children to play on the playground.
Will the morning be primarily lecture?
No—we will have a seated program from 9-10, and then we will break into groups to tour the neighborhood, tour the school, and pray for their staff and ministry. These groups will rotate over the next two hours, and then you’ll be finished.
Will my elementary school child benefit from attending?
Yes! They will be able to go downstairs during the lecture and decorate lunch sacks for the Lincoln Academy kids. Then they can participate with parents during the rest of the morning.
The Evolve program is designed to offer families a safe, affordable living space while they work toward specific goals. There are many facets to the program; some are listed below.
• Safe, Affordable Housing: LVM owns 18 renovated mill homes within close proximity. These 2 or 3-bedroom homes are rented below market value to allow residents the margin to pay for schooling, find employment, or develop savings. The goal is that a family would live in the neighborhood for anywhere between 3-5 years while they work toward their goals and secure stable housing elsewhere. LVM works to maintain the homes and their lawns so that the neighborhood feels clean and orderly, and they rely heavily on volunteers to do that work.
• Goal Setting: Financial Management—For some homes this looks like creating a budget. For others it looks like managing school debt or creating a plan for eventual home-ownership. Each resident meets regularly with the field staff to go over their financial goals and evaluate progress and challenges. Education—To obtain a better job many residents require additional schooling, and the field staff help them evaluate options and create a plan for graduation. Savings—Residents who remain in the program for over one year are eligible to participate in a matched savings program. This program allows them to save up to $2,500 that LVM will match, meaning that they could potentially leave the ministry with $5,000 toward the purchase of a home or continuing education.
• Supportive Community: No one, no matter their economic status, can live life well on their own. Support networks are a critical part of life, but for many those networks are either dangerous or do not exist. LVM wants to create a healthy, supportive community in their neighborhood so that neighbors feel safe and know there is someone to call when they get stuck at work and need someone to pick up their kids from school.
What does it look like for Southwood to engage with Evolve?
We will start small and we will start slowly, because meaningful engagement requires relationships, and relationships require time. First, we hope to commit to helping with regular lawn maintenance. This is a great way to serve as an individual or with your family, since even younger children can help collect sticks and debris before the lawn mower comes through. Ideally lawn care will take place on Saturday, but should rain prevent work Saturday, the lawns will still need to be cut within the week.
Second, we hope to host neighborhood dinners. These dinners have been requested by the residents as a chance to get to know each other better and fellowship together, but the field staff need volunteers who can host on a monthly basis. Our hope is that 10 or more individuals and families will come together as the core group for these gatherings, allowing us to form ongoing relationships with the residents and their families over time. Here are three reasons we are excited to partner with Evolve:
1.) Lincoln Village is one of our primary local partners, and we are looking forward to connecting with them in a new way and better communicating with our church about their ministry.
2.) The opportunities available allow families to serve together in a meaningful way.
3.) There is real potential for mutually encouraging, genuine relationships to form over time between our members and the Evolve participants.