Author Archive

Community Summer Missions Project 2014 – Ann Arbor

by Xinxin Zhou

Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned—and am continuing to learn—during this past summer with our Community Summer Missions Project is that God is eternally abundant in His faithfulness and grace. He is always committed to His glory, even as I may stumble and fall. Throughout the month of ministry, I witnessed this a countless number of times. I had the privilege of being a part of Excel English puppet team and Cesar Chavez Academy’s Fusion program. Fusion was a program where the CSMP Detroit team introduced high schoolers to different extracurricular activities such as painting, dance, cooking, and engineering projects. God was demonstrating through these different ministries just how powerfully He would always work. After a month of getting to know a group of CCA students really well, I felt like God was just beginning to open up their hearts. During the very last day of Fusion, we gave our different squads tours of the UofM campus. It was a fun day, but there was always just this impending sense of sadness as we knew we would have to leave our separate ways soon.

The last stop in our tour was the Transformation Center. How symbolic that seems now. Our squad talked about what we saw on campus, what we liked and didn’t, and what we learned. Unexpectedly, the sharing became more and more personal, so I decided to end our time with an opportunity for each student to lift up a prayer before parting ways. What happened next I could not have anticipated.

To my surprise, it was two of our most elusive members that shared with heartbreaking honesty. One student shared about how for a long time she’s held unforgiveness towards her family and how she wanted to apologize to God. Another student shared how he’s fearful to make relationships in case of getting hurt. He shared about how he made jokes to feel important to others. I was so moved. Never would I have ever anticipated such genuineness from these two students, but just to see how much God had worked on their hearts was too overwhelming. We even got to a point comfortable enough, where I got to share my personal testimony and the Gospel. I believe beyond the shadow of a doubt, God has planted seeds of faith into the hearts of these kids and it’s crazy to see them still sharing prayer requests with me to this day.

It was difficult to leave the students after that tour day, to see all that God had just begun and not be able to continually invest personally. I had failed to see with eyes of faith and I needed to constantly surrender the students to a perfectly sovereign God, knowing that they were in trustworthy hands. I know the same God Who brought these relationships together would be the same One faithfully working in their hearts long after I’m gone. Once again it was this idea that He would be the one to build up His Kingdom and glory. I just had the great joy of being part of the journey. Our God is too too good.

Community Summer Missions Project 2014 – Chicago

Chicago CSMP 2

Chicago CSMP 1
by David Nang
For a month, my missions team did most of our work within Chicago with specific organizations and with HMCC Chicago, but it was through an unplanned event outside the city that God revealed His evangelistic heart to me.

One Saturday morning, our team prepared to enter Chicago via subway. Walking to the station, our team made an unusual right turn, and immediately I saw my high school friend, Conor, jumping towards me. Conor was conducting research over the summer at Northwestern University, but I didn’t know because I never saw Conor to be a long-term friend. With this providential encounter, I began to see Conor through God’s eyes. Not as a distant friend of mine to forget, but a lost child of God to remember. A promise to continue our conversation, a sure handshake, and I rejoined my team to enter the city.

With our busy schedule, LIFE group presented the only chance I had to meet Conor; our team would leave Chicago later that week. But I was scared to invite him. I knew Conor didn’t believe in God. I knew his view of church wasn’t great. I feared his judgments, thoughts towards the group, the difficult questions he might ask. Yet I was pleasantly surprised when Conor accepted my invitation to LIFE group. How appropriate that just 5 minutes before asking, my missions leader had led me in prayer for him.

So with a worried, doubt-filled heart, I began to pray. And pray a lot. I prayed to God that my friend would see the difference in our community, that he would notice something positive. And by His sovereign grace, God began to unfold His amazing answer to me.

Conor not only stayed for dinner, but remained for a long 3 ½ hour night with our LIFE group. He sang ‘Shout to the Lord’ with us, studied Colossians 1 with us, shared very personal moments with us. He even accepted my invitation to receive prayer. His engagement throughout the night was surreal. As Conor and I left the apartment, he asked for the song we had lifted up in worship and made an announcement thanking everyone for their kindness and hospitality through the night. Upon leaving, he shared a touching response, “Just because I don’t share the same beliefs, doesn’t mean I can’t see the beauty in [worship].”

It was in the most unexpected of moments, on a random street corner in nearby Evanston wherein God gave me a chance to share my faith. CSMP taught me that missions really can occur anytime and anywhere. I learned that Christ-centered community is cool, too; I could collaborate with a family of believers to welcome a stranger oblivious to the love of God. Not only this, but I became a witness to the profound efficacy of prayer. I can only imagine the wonders of God’s sovereign Plan to make it all happen. Jesus is worth it.

Indonesia Missions Project 2014

Indonesia Team

Last day of ministry in Biak, Papua

by Josephine Tan
This past July (2014), I was given the opportunity to participate in an HMI Asia Summer Missions Project along with 6 other brothers and sisters from Ann Arbor. We flew to Indonesia where we joined the teams from Austin and Jakarta to carry out the two-part mission project. From Banten Province on the west side of Indonesia, all the way to Biak Island on the east, we witnessed incredible stories of how God is moving; He is encountering people and softening hearts to pave the way for the Gospel to be shared and accepted.

Though I learned many things, one of the biggest lessons I personally learned is that a ministry without love is no ministry at all. During our Banten Outreach, we were told to go out, meet people, get to know them, and share the Gospel. Given my history with being shy and uncomfortable with evangelism, I was determined to learn what it looked like to be bold. And that boldness came, but by Day 3 of the outreach, I realized that I had somehow made it more about sharing the Gospel with everyone I met rather than about loving people. This eventually caused some problems, which led me to question myself: Did I hold an actual conversation with them? Did I take care to listen to the stories of their lives, or to learn about why they held certain beliefs or made certain decisions? Or was it just me talking? I admit I did these things sparingly if at all. But thankfully, a pastor on the trip brought 2 Corinthians 13 to my attention, and I saw that I had shared the Gospel not out of love, but out of just wanting to be bold and hear my own voice.

Indonesia Missions

Cold Evangelism in Banten Province

This lesson was repeated again in Papua when a few of us had the chance to visit a bible study in South Biak. I saw that a strong emphasis was placed on the symptom of sin (alcohol addiction), rather than the root of sin (what turns people to alcohol addiction). Furthermore, I realized that there was a clear focus on behavior modification (stop drinking alcohol!), rather than on Jesus Christ, the only one who will be able to fill broken areas in our lives. By God’s grace, one of our sisters was given the opportunity to minister to this bible study, and she did so by sharing the story of the Prodigal Son. This time, I didn’t see anyone just trying to get the Gospel across, but I was able to see how really loving those people in the moment meant sharing with them God’s love and forgiveness as it pertained to their situation.

Baptism

Baptizing a brother in Papua

In the end, I concluded that it’s okay to want to be bold and share the Gospel, but if these things are not done with a heart to love people and to love God, then they end up becoming meaningless. What’s important is to listen to people, learn about their lives, and love them with the love of God. Going forth, I see that I want to be bold out of these things, after all, God is doing something with or without me, I just don’t want to miss it anymore!

China Missions Project 2014

shanghai5

by Agnes Yu
China mission was a full month of reaping fruits that we do not sow. I learned that it is truly God who qualifies the ones He calls, and He orchestrates everything by uniting different people together to work for His glory.

When we were in Luoning, China, we ran a two-week summer program at a government-run welfare institute, partnering with a Christian organization to serve around 80 children from impoverished families. In the beginning our team was a little discouraged when we were told that we cannot explicitly preach the Gospel to minors in China. However, after realizing that most of the welfare institute’s teachers – who have recently graduated from college like us – are actually obeying God’s calling on their life to serve at the welfare institute, our team connected with them on a deeper level. We have witnessed how God opened the door for one of the teachers to share her own testimony to the children, people took step of faith to get baptized, disadvantaged children received healing through programs like “Love in Action” and “Family Anew,” etc. God is in control of all things and He will make something beautiful out of the ones who seek first for His Kingdom.

SG4

God also gathers the nations together, scatters them all over the world, and brings the Gospel message with them to transform lost lives. Although HMCC Singapore is small, it is a diverse church. Most of its members are either third culture people who’ve studied abroad and went back to Singapore, or they are not Singaporeans. However, they are the ones who reach out to the country of Singapore and bring people to know Christ. Through this I am able to see how much God values transculturalism. Even when we were in China, God uses the partnership of different families and across generations to impact society. I think God is showing us that a community with Him at the center is much more powerful than we could ever imagine. Therefore, coming out of missions, I think one of the many things that God has taught me is the importance of investing in discipleship relationships and building up His Church that loves the nations.

Global Band Missions Project 2013

Asia Missions Project 2013 Recap Video

Community Summer Missions Project 2013

Missional Initiatives

by Pastor Pete Dahlem

Our world wasn’t always this way.

Of course, I can’t remember a world that was any different than what we live in now. In my lifetime, I have always known that thousands of children starve to death each day.1 The tragic statistic that almost one out of two marriages will be torn apart by divorce, leaving a trail of wounds and broken promises behind, is taken for granted.2 One can find urban landscapes, once beacons of opportunity to previous generations, now darkened by poverty, neglect, and crime. And although slavery has long been outlawed in developed nations, there are still over 30 million slaves in the world today, more than at any other time in human history.3

This is not how it’s supposed to be.

Once Beautiful

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen 1:31a, NIV84)

Once a magnificent divine masterpiece, our world has been broken down by the vandalism of sin for millennia. The wounds, injustices, and sorrows we are now haunted by are but shadows of God’s beautiful creation – a beauty that longs to be restored (Rom 8:19-21).

God was not satisfied to watch His creation fall into decay, and He immediately began to seek reconciliation with His fallen image-bearers (Gen 3:9). The Lord, jealous for His glory (Deut 32:16), began to speak of a time when all broken things would be restored (Isa 49). This restoration came to us in the person of Jesus Christ, and his mission continues in the world until he will come again (Acts 1:6-8).

More Than Salvation

For much of modern history, the Church has preached a message of salvation through Jesus Christ, and this proclamation has brought new spiritual life to millions of people. The truth that Jesus “came to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10, NIV84) is astounding – God came to earth to reach out to those who had turned away from Him.

But what then? Is the end of God’s plan simply to begin a personal relationship and save individuals from eternal torment, or does the loving Creator of the universe have a greater purpose for His redeemed people?

Let’s take a look at how Jesus described his mission in Luke 4:17-21 (NIV84).

The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

It seems that there is more to this passage than a message of individual salvation. Perhaps God means for His grace to achieve something more through the lives of His people. Perhaps we have limited God by saying that the gospel is only for salvation.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus began to preach a simple message: “’The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mark 1:15, NIV84) The proclamation of the kingdom of God is a distinguishing mark of Jesus’ ministry – he believed that it was very important, and we should consider what this means for us.

Several prominent Christian leaders have defined the kingdom of God as follows in the Missional Manifesto:

We affirm that the gospel is the good news of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom is the active and comprehensive rule of God over His whole creation. The sovereign reign of God brings righteousness (right relationships with God, others, and creation), restores justice, and brings healing to a broken world. The Kingdom of God has been inaugurated but is still “not yet.” It will not be fully revealed until Jesus returns. The church, birthed in the wake of the kingdom, serves as an agent of the King in the “already and not yet” of the Kingdom by proclaiming and spreading the gospel and living out its implications.4

There seems to be more to this than simply inviting people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Our Lord has a mission for us that extends to the whole world, with the goal of reconciling God, people, and the entire creation. Now we are beginning to see a more complete biblical picture of Jesus’ ministry.

There is a Hebrew word that describes God’s goal in bringing His kingdom to the world: shalom (םשָׁלוֹ). Frequently translated as “peace”, shalom has a far deeper meaning: completeness, wholeness, safety, prosperity, health, soundness, welfare, friendship, peace.5 Jesus is described by the prophet Isaiah as the bringer of shalom and justice to the world.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this. (Isa 9:6-7, NIV84)

In a world suffering from the cumulative effects of sin, doesn’t every family, neighborhood, culture, and nation need some of God’s shalom?

CUFFS

We must once more turn to the Bible to discover more of God’s heart for the world. From beginning to end, scripture presents us with a consistent revelation of God, who reaches out to His broken creation in holiness and love. Because of the fallen state of the world, people have become “slaves to sin” (Rom 6), and we are in need of God’s intervention to set us free. There are several consistent meta-themes that can be discovered in the Bible’s pages, which will be outlined here in the acronym CUFFS.

  • Cities: God often deals with people not only individually, but also corporately, and the Bible shows us many occasions when cities were the recipients of both God’s love and judgment. Cities were prophesied to (Isa 23), wept over (Luke 19:41), destroyed (Gen 19), and evangelized (Jon 3, Acts 17). We look forward to a redeemed city, the New Jerusalem, where the kingdom of God will be completely realized (Heb 11:10, Rev 21:2). Howard Snyder explains in his book Kingdom, Church, and World, that cities are places of power, places of the poor, and places of mission.6 There is enormous potential in cities to demonstrate the redemptive power of God.
  • Underprivileged: The Bible speaks consistently with concern for the underprivileged in this world (Luke 6:20, Zech 7:9-10, James 2:14-17, Lev 19:9-10). The God who “was rich, yet for your sake he became poor” (2 Cor 8:9, NIV84), wants His people to care for those who are in need, whether they lack access to food, shelter, education, health care, or other needs.
  • Freedom: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1, NIV84). God desires to bring freedom to those who are enslaved or unjustly imprisoned. Paul advocated for Christians to free slaves (Philem 1:16), and God went to great lengths to free His people from slavery in Egypt (Ex 8:1). There are still millions of people held in slavery today, and God wants to set them free.
  • Family: God is the “Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Eph 3:15, NIV84). He created the first family (Gen 2-4), commanded children to honor their parents (Ex 20:12), taught families to be centers of spiritual life (Deut 11:19), and expects faithfulness to marital vows (Matt 19:6). The Church is meant to be a new spiritual family (1 Tim 5:1-2). Families in our world are broken and hurting, and in need of God’s saving and healing touch.
  • Splendor: The whole universe was created as a display of God’s glory (Ps 19:1), and He made it “very good” (Gen 1:31, NIV84). All nations of the world are meant to glorify the Lord (Ps 86:9, Ps 108:3, Rev 7:9). And yet, when we look at the world, we see things broken rather than whole, tarnished rather than beautiful. Our God, the great artist, created us in His image so that we could use our gifts and creative ability to both restore God’s original splendor to the world, and also to create new beauty for His glory.

We are a long way from the beauty of the original creation, but as the new family of God, we have the opportunity to act as the hands and feet of Jesus and bring shalom back to the world. We will now explore a specific means of addressing these global issues: missional initiatives.

Missional Initiatives

As discussed at the beginning of this article, God’s mission to restore His lost and broken creation involves more than just individual salvation. In this context, we must reexamine the Great Commission for a deeper understanding of our mission as God’s people.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20)

For many Christians, we have limited our understanding of the command to “make disciples” to an affirmation of faith, a prayer, and church attendance. These basic expectations are fine, but why have we neglected “teaching them to obey”? The Bible plainly attests that we are meant to have an impact on the world far beyond individual salvation. We are called to be the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” (Matt 5:13-14, NIV84), and to “spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Cor 2:14, NIV84). The bright, fragrant, preserving influence of Jesus Christ must extend through us into areas of need in this world (CUFFS).

In obedience to the Great Commission, we must consider how the Church can partner together to meet these needs. This active partnership in addressing global issues can be described as a missional initiative.

A missional initiative is a visible display and a viable demonstration of the gospel to the world around us. It targets a specific global issue (CUFFS), and brings believers together in a partnership of gifts and abilities to meet this need. The love of God and His passion for redemption are put on display through the body of Christ.

It is important to note that missional initiatives are not the work of a few dedicated men and women. The Bible is clear that we all make up a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV84) using our spiritual gifts to serve others (1 Peter 4:10, NIV84), functioning as a healthy spiritual body (1 Cor 12). Everyone can contribute to missional initiatives that will make a real difference in the world.

In addition to our spiritual gifts, God has resourced His people with talents and abilities in various spheres of society, enumerated in the acronym CHARGED: Commerce, Healthcare, Arts & media, Religious institutions, Government & politics, Education, and Domestic issues. Our involvement in these spheres provides both avenues for engagement with the world around us, and a toolbox of skills and abilities that can be used to address various needs.

Missional initiatives are not a new idea. In fact, the Church today is only recovering how early Christians began to obey Jesus’ teachings. Rodney Stark writes about the early church’s affect on the Greco-Roman world in his book, The Rise of Christianity:

Christianity served as a revitalization movement that arose in response to the misery, chaos, fear and brutality of life in the urban Greco-Roman world… Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent problems. To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachment. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fire, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services… For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture.7

If churches today embrace our missionary calling, God will use us to reach into every sphere of life with the active truth of the gospel, and the world will never be the same.

The Big Picture

Missional initiatives bring God’s love to bear upon the greatest needs of our world, uniting the gifts and talents of the body of Christ with a God-given passion to serve others and restore the beauty of creation. Christians cannot sit idly by while this world suffers both the immediate and eternal affects of sin, because God has equipped us and sent us to the lost and the broken.

When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, he told them to “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt 9:38, NIV84), and he asked the Father, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10, NIV84). Together, we can be part of God’s answer to these prayers.

Action Steps

How can we begin to live out our missionary calling through missional initiatives? Ask God to guide you through the following steps, and begin to put your faith into action:

  • Invest in Relationships: We cannot serve people well from a distance, and if we want to make a difference in the world, we must invest in people, getting involved in their lives in the same way that Jesus did.
  • Identify Needs: As we build relationships with people, needs will begin to reveal themselves. As you identify these needs, ask God to speak to you about how to best serve and care for people.
  • Initiate Collaboration: God’s mission is not meant to be lived out alone. Begin conversations with other believers about the issues and needs you are observing, and invite them to join you in prayer.
  • Inventory Resources: As you pray and discuss with others, see what unique gifts, abilities, and passions the Lord has provided for you. How can these resources be used to meet the needs you have observed?
  • Intercede with Faith: There are many service organizations and generous people in the world, and their service can make a big impact. Ultimately, however, the only One who can transform a person, family, city, or nation is Jesus Christ. Intercede with faith that Jesus wants to use you uniquely to display his love and power to the world.
  • Implement Plans: Simply talking about missional initiatives will not help anyone. We must formulate specific plans and put them into action, or all of our discussions and good intentions will amount to nothing.
    • For examples of missional initiatives, visit HMCC 2020 Vision Blog


      1 Johnson, K. (2011, December 14). Global hunger. Retrieved from http://www.bread.org/hunger/global/
      2 Stanton, G. (2011). focusonthefamily.com. Retrieved from http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/relationship_challenges/divorce.aspx
      3 Batstone, D. (2012, March 7). Not for sale. Retrieved from http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/about/slavery/
      4 Stetzer, E., et al.. Missional manifesto. Retrieved from http://www.missionalmanifesto.net/
      5 Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for shalowm (Strong’s 7965)”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7965&t=NIV
      6 Snyder, H. A. (2001). Kingdom, church, and world: Biblical themes for today. (pp. 49-50). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.
      7 Stark, R. (1997). The rise of christianity, a sociologist reconsiders history. (p. 161). Princeton: Princeton Univ Pr.

Asia Missions 2011

By Helen Kim

I’m blessed and privileged to have seen and heard the many different things during this past summer’s Asia missions trip. For 3 weeks, our church worked closely with Evangelist Eljhon and the neighboring churches in Lampung, Indonesia that is predominantly Muslim. Our ministry included VBS (Vacation Bible School – children’s ministry), youth meetings, house visitations, community service, seminars, and revivals. During our last week, our team traveled to Hong Kong and reunited with some of our University of Michigan students and alumni. It was an awesome time of reconnecting with friends and praying over the beautiful city of Hong Kong.

As we participated in the different ministries throughout our time in Lampung, I can testify to how God powerfully moved in every meeting. From the young to the old, God was in the works of bringing people to recognize who He was as the holy God which led to convictions of sin and repentance. Just like a parent would discipline a child out of love and care, I was able to tangibly see how God desired to guide His children from a life of darkness and bondage to that of light and freedom. At our revival meetings, people were running up to the altar desperately wanting to receive and recommit their lives to Christ. God filled and ministered unto them by the giving of the Holy Spirit.

One of the many praises from our ministry in Lampung testifies to the Holy Spirit’s work in the hearts of people, especially in children. We were able to see Muslim children gradually attending our VBS even though their parents warned them to avoid Christian influences. These children who were adamant in not associating with us due to our Christianity, later joined our VBS as their parents’ hearts toward us opened. Being able to see the children sing and jump along to the worship songs, even hearing traces of these songs on their lips as they walked back home was a blessing from God. We pray that our time with the children will not fade into a distant memory but will become the stepping stones of God’s transformative work in their lives.

Most of our ministry in Hong Kong consisted of praying over different campuses and building relationships with some of the college students there. As we traveled around Hong Kong, I saw how close God’s heart was for the lost and how He brings the nations to a city. Whether it was in HKU or HKSTU, my team and I encountered students from all over the world, especially from China. It was a privilege to meet students of different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives not only on life but also on who God is in their personal lives. One of my most significant moments was at the peak of Hong Kong where we saw the city skyline from 10,000 ft above. As I stood in awe of Hong Kong’s beauty, I saw God’s pursuit over this great city to create an even greater movement to other cities in Asia.

From this missions trip, I witnessed God powerfully moving among His people in Asia. I saw a small snippet of God’s mission through the 2020 Vision through this summer’s experience by the way He utilized our different church sites to come together for ministry. It has been humbling and encouraging to know that our big God used an ordinary college student like me to be part of this great mission. I am personally challenged to not only live a more passionate life for Christ, but in expecting greater things to happen because of the power of Christ.

Spring Break Missional Initiative (SBMI), Chicago, March 2012

Throughout our Disciple Series at HMCC of Chicago, we learned that “to be a Christian is to be a disciple.” God placed on the hearts of many church members the desire to take up Jesus’ call to “follow me” by acting to tangibly serve the community of Chicago.  Consequently, the Spring Break Missional Initiative (SBMI) was born, and a team of 19 students from both the University of Illinois in Chicago and Northwestern University decided to use spring break in order to intercede for our city.

We spent the week partnering with Breakthrough Urban Ministries, a homeless shelter tucked away in the west side of Chicago. While Breakthrough largely operates by building relationships with those in their community through meal provisions and children afterschool programs, much of our service was behind-the-scenes—staining gazebos, organizing the storage attic, uprooting and replanting a garden, and cleaning the vans that transported the children. Throughout it all, we were reminded to serve “not by way of eye-service” but with “sincerity of heart…as for the Lord” (Col 3:22-24)

 

Anthony Tsao: “I felt intensely challenged to understand what it really means to serve with a God-centered integrity and with the sincere and honest heart of a true servant.  In contrast with my missions experience with the Community Summer Missions Project (CSMP) this past summer, SBMI had fewer opportunities to interact with the people we were serving at Breakthrough Urban Ministries, and the tasks that we had for each day were mostly mundane and repetitive manual labor.  One of the main jobs that I specifically worked on was coating the wooden gazebos outside the men’s homeless intervention center with a drippy, transparent water sealer liquid.  In the process of doing the task, I noticed how easy it was for me to grumble inside and to question the significance and impact of all that we were doing.  Since the water sealer went on clear on the wood, it was a struggle to fight the desires of wanting to see progress and noticeable change in what we did and wanting to have the affirmation of other people.  Interestingly, the stillness and silence of working on the gazebos afforded an open space to wrestle with these thoughts, to pray to God against my own rebellious heart and also to ask Him for the sober-mindedness to worship Him first and seek His greater kingdom purpose. Grace came soon afterwards.  When a fellow brother and I took a break from painting, we sat on the bench and started to just share with each other about our attitude and heart.  Shortly after, we were randomly approached by James, one of the residents at the Breakthrough shelter.  After the brief exchange of getting to know him and having a friendly and genuine conversation with him, I was left with a feeling of heaviness—from truth, rebuke and encouragement.

Through God’s gentle reminder, I reflected over my own weakness in faith and strength to love and was drawn to the reality of God’s greater steadfastness in His promises.  It was easy to just say in the beginning, God, I will serve you in whatever capacity and whatever way You call me to, but I had evidently failed to follow through.  Still, God had humbled me to recognize again that it’s His grace that sustains me and is sufficient in my life, and that it’s also the core reason why there is even an SBMI in the first place.  From that realization and reorientation back to His gospel came a greater passion and intentionality for the remainder of the trip and even for my life now.  Even if our efforts in this past week remain unacknowledged by the eyes of others, I’ve learned that there is definitely a greater gain in understanding how much better it is to shift the focus away from ourselves to serve the only One who matters, the God who is worthy of all worship, praise, acclaim and esteem.”

Irene Grace Park: “With the sun scorching those who worked outside and a ‘dust storm’ enveloping those who worked inside, it was difficult to refrain from grumbling in one’s heart while working. I am guilty for volunteering with this mind-set; I was blind to the greater vision of the menial tasks. However, I praise God for reminding me of the Cross. During my personal quiet time, I was rebuked by this verse because I did not work at it [whatever I do] with all my heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. I realized that due to my tendency to be task-oriented, I got caught in the moment with the task at hand. For example, my only goal while staining the gazebo was to paint the wooden structure with transparent chemicals where the fruits of my labor were literally invisible. I worked without any other thoughts passing through my mind and this reflected in my expressionless demeanor. The following day I intentionally recited this verse in my mind repeatedly [Col 3:22-24] and by God’s grace I found enjoyment in carrying heavy items to the dumpster… Ultimately, it came down to working for the kingdom of God.

I praise God for how He is working through members of HMCC-Chicago. This was a reminder that it is only by the grace of God that I am saved and that even engaging in conversations required me to invest all of my energies to the task. Being in close quarters with members from both sites and across LIFE groups inevitably led to deeper relationships with one another. I praise God for the opportunity to grow together and to be united. I am encouraged and reminded to live a fully devoted life for Christ and for the glory of God, and it is my prayer that I do whatever I do ‘with all [my] heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since [I] know that [I] will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ [I] am serving.’”

In the end, though much of what we did might be considered menial in the eyes of the world and pointless—mere manual labor as we moved heavy objects amidst clouds of dust and the “fruitless” act of painting invisible paint—we were reminded that seeking first His Kingdom is worth the effort, because His Kingdom is worth it (Matt 13:44-46). It was a privilege to be able to partner with Breakthrough and help them with their efforts to meet the needs of the community, a service based on the Gospel and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Maybe no one will notice that the gazebos are painted with invisible sealant or the organized storage space hidden in the shadows of the attic, but if the protected gazebos provided a place for visitors to rest and an orderly attic facilitated greater stewardship of Breakthrough’s resources, then we praise God because of the opportunity afforded for the Gospel to move forward as one more visitor to Breakthrough is quietly blessed.

 

When we literally worked with our hands, God worked on our hearts. SBMI gave us only a glimpse of what it means to serve in the name of Jesus Christ, who first set the model of True Servanthood. Our prayer is that SBMI is the start for more missional initiatives, as we learn to see, with eyes of compassion, the needs of our communities in Chicago and strive to reach out, as Christ did to us.

Here’s a video of our work with Breakthrough Ministries:|
Spring Break Missional Initiative, March 2012, Breakthrough Ministries, HMCC-CHI

– Grace Lyu