Letters from the Mission Field: Homestead, Florida
There is a sign at my church in Florida, a bold one that makes you stop and stare.
You read these words as you exit the church property and go out into the world beyond. I have always loved this sign, because it speaks of something very real.
Homestead is a small city near Miami. I thought for sure that when I became a missionary, I’d go to Italy or Africa, or for crying out loud, at least something slightly exotic. But, God is a very funny guy. He kept me right here in the U.S.A.
Upon arriving, I immediately sensed the family atmosphere, the love that Homestead Church of Christ had for one another, and a passion for people - all kinds of people. They are a tight knit group; everyone helps with everything.
My team and I came eager to jump in and help with the ministries already established - including a Christian school, a youth group, and more. In the congregation, there are rappers and artists, and people who are great at preaching or making amazing food. It’s a melting pot of cultures. I’d love to talk about everything, but that would take an entire book (someday!), so instead I’ll just tell you about my favorite thing – the children’s ministry.
I will never forget my first summer in Homestead. We would pile into a large yellow bus, hoping for the air conditioner to work, and drive to Florida City to pick up elementary school kids from their tough neighborhoods, and bring them to the church. The air smelled of sweat and sunshine, every window was wrenched open, hoping to tempt in a breeze. When we made it the couple miles down the road, the kids clambered onto the bus - dozens, if not over a hundred.
And their faces, oh, the faces made it all worth it. They would come bounding in, grinning ear to ear like they just won the lottery. The look in their eyes spelled out contentment and hope. When we got to the church building, we would have Bible stories for them, songs and games. For some of these kids, it’s a chance to escape the streets for a few hours and be somewhere safe.
I used to wonder if it really made a difference. But when you look into the eyes of a troubled kid, and see them laughing and knowing they are loved – that they are home – you don't question the importance of the ministry again. We are showing them that there’s a different way, a better way, to live. A way that cares about others and says that love and God’s acceptance are the most important things in life.
For some, it has made a vast impact. We have several kids who started as J4L Jr.s (the children’s ministry) and are now reaching out to others, pulling them into the church family. My coordinator always says, “People do the best they can with the tools they have. Our job is to give them better tools.” We all have to be taught how to make better choices. We don’t just know this automatically. And so began my realization that we are all very much the same.
Yet, we are also all very different. Because of our backgrounds, we all have unique challenges. So there is no way I can judge another by what I would have done. They aren’t me. We have to meet people where they’re at. It's what Jesus did for me. God is not shocked by our problems, and He loves us in spite of them. Ministry in Florida taught me that, and how to see people differently.
So, back to that sign - You Are Now Entering the Mission Field.
[pullquote width="300" float="left"]What is a mission, anyway? Its about having a willing heart and a spirit of obedience.[/pullquote]
If you are like me, you grew up thinking mission work had to take place somewhere far away. But, all it really takes is stepping out your own front door. What is a mission, anyway? Its about having a willing heart and a spirit of obedience; it’s an adventure and being willing to step out of your comfort zone.
God’s invitation of love is for the whole world, and everybody in it. All it takes to show His love is looking someone in the eye and caring – loving like Jesus does – regardless of their life's circumstances. This is where everything starts.