Heart for Atlanta
8.18.18 | Serve Day with Free Chapel Midtown and the Atlanta Dream Center
"and love your neighbors as yourself..." What a fairly simple and powerful command. A command that I, and I think most of us fail at pretty regularly. Funny how God didn't say, "love your best friend", "love your favorite coworker", or "love your roommate". Are all of these people considered your "neighbor"? Yes, of course. But I think many of us have decided to overlook the true meaning of neighbor and have resorted to loving just those that are close to us in our lives or maybe even those that are easy to love. What about the homeless man across town? What about the people living in the apartment complex sitting dead center of the largest area of crime in your city? What about the person of a different ethnicity sitting next to you on the plane that just continues to take over YOUR arm rest? In College, I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. We helped people in the small rural villages of Puerto Plata and put together Vacation Bible School for the children. It felt good and if I'm being honest, my ego was boosted. "Wow, I am doing so much good in the world. We are bringing so much happiness and joy to these poverty stricken areas." Or at least that's what my naive and slightly prideful thoughts were at the time. I can honestly say my heart was not in a bad place during that trip. I truly wanted to be helpful and I think we were, at least in some ways, but I realize now that while my heart and intentions were real and pure, I was only focused on the large picture, the finished painting, but completely overlooking the little brush strokes and tiny details that God orchestrated to create the masterpiece.
Let me explain.
While I think there is a HUGE need for missions and outreach and I applaud anyone and everyone that goes to these countries and outpours love and truly tries to shine the light of Jesus onto these places, I can't help but look back and now realize how long I have overlooked my neighbors, my ACTUAL neighbors, the people that surround me daily in this city I call home that are crying out for help. People that are searching for love and happiness and that just want to know someone cares. People that live in poverty, that have no hope, and that truly feel like giving up. Right here. In my city. Atlanta is surrounded with low income government housing, apartment complexes that are dangerous and not fit for living, homeless shelters that are overflowing with people who just need a semi-safe place to lay their head for an evening, human trafficking, crime and so much more.
Why are we so quick to sign up for a mission trip to a tropical place that costs thousands of dollars to love on children for seven days but don't want to give up one Friday night to help women feel love and worth that no one else is making them feel that they are so intensely searching for? Why do we talk about random acts of kindness and how impactful they can be but we don't want to miss out on brunch on Saturday to volunteer to pass out supplies or take food to these neighborhoods of underprivileged children and families? Don't stop doing random acts of kindness or going on mission trips, we need those things too, I just refuse to convince myself that there is nothing I can do and continue to overlook the small needs that we are living next to and driving past every single day.
A few weeks ago I signed up for serve day with Free Chapel Midtown. We partnered with the Atlanta Dream Center, a center that has a few different outreaches they do all over the city of Atlanta. Volunteers and workers take days out of their week to spend time ministering to people on the streets, in neighborhoods, and in some of the roughest areas of the city. We took our Saturday and went a few miles out of the city to an apartment complex and spent the day praying for families, feeding them, and playing with the children. The same work that I did in the Dominican Republic was happening right here every single weekend.Last week a friend and I took some some food that was left over after church to a women's shelter to donate. I have passed that building so many times and had ZERO clue what the building was or that they were always in need of food, clothing, and other donations. A small extension of love that took maybe 30 minutes to drop off.
When leaving, a woman and her little girl who were clearly living out of their car needed help jumping their car. (Apparently this is my new "thing" lol. Read last blog post here if you're confused.) Before we left I got to pray over the mom and her little girl. I don't know if anyone else has prayed over them or taken time out to help them but I was so thankful that God chose us to participate in that small moment. It's interesting to me that before this past month, I only saw all of the things I COULDN'T be doing instead of looking at all of the small things I COULD be doing. I would see influencers traveling with Unicef and mission groups and think how I wish I could be spending my time helping people in need or that I wish I had more money so I could contribute. Uh, newsflash Marah. You're surrounded by people exactly like the people they are helping and you don't have to fly anywhere or raise any money to do it. Remember the masterpiece analogy from above? What if we paid more attention to the mundane, every day? The tiny little details right in front of our face? If we just look a little closer we would notice the thousands of opportunities right outside of our front doors or right across town.
This isn't a hate blog on mission trips. It's just a love blog for my city. For what is right here in front of me that I have the capability to play a role in, to help make a change. We love to use the verse "and go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS..." and those are words from God so that is real and good and pure, but what about our nation? What if he is asking you to step up right where you are FIRST, before sending you out to other places? Everyone deserves to know and see and feel the love of Jesus Christ, including the people that are digging in the trash outside of the coffee shop you frequent everyday. Skip the latte, save yo $5, and buy someone a sandwich instead.
Neighbor; (noun) - a person living near or next door.Neighbor; (verb) - (of a place or thing) be situated next to or very near (another)
How many people are we near or close to every single week that are in need of something? In need of a positive word, a bottle of water, a prayer? You probably don't have to go much further than a mile in the city to find someone. If God created everyone equally than are the people that stand at the corner of the interstate not as worthy of love as the beautiful children in a foreign country? Don't turn a blind eye to your neighbors and think that a trip to Africa is the only way we can truly reach the lost people of the world. You encounter thousands of lost people daily and if we're being real and honest, those people are way less expensive to reach and need it just as desperately.