My little family is a part of an incredible church here in Melbourne where we are constantly being presented with God's word and sound theology, where we are challenged, and where we are loved. Our church often sends teams of people on mission trips to Panama, Romania, and places all over the world, but Anthony and I have never gone because of the finances involved, not having leave from work, or not having anyone to leave our kids with. A little over a month ago, I heard our church was sending a small team of people (10) to Boston on a church planting trip. Immediately I felt the Lord tugging at my heart to go. I asked about the cost and wasn't sure we could swing it. Fortunately, our families are people who love Jesus and love me. Since the trip was just a week before my birthday, several family members were gracious enough to give me birthday money early (extra money, might I add) and with what the church paid towards it, my trip was covered.
At first I thought we were going to scope out a location to plant a church of our own, but quickly found out that that wasn't the plan. We were a "Vision" team going to meet with two church planters who are already there to find out how our church can partner with them and to get a feel for the city.
We flew into Boston on a Saturday, leaving Florida where the temperature was just a few degrees shy of the surface of the sun, and landed in Boston where it was in the 60's most of the week. Saturday night we explored Davis square with some of the interns from Redemption Hill Church (one of the church plants we were meeting with) and ate at an awesome place called Boston Burger. If you are ever in Boston, go there. Sunday, we attended RH's church service in Medford--it was their first Sunday in a new location to accommodate more people. We helped where we could with set up and clean up, and then had lunch at an ice cream shop that also serves food (Colleen's) in Medford Square. We attended a community group Sunday night in Charlestown at the other church planter's home. Monday we had a breakfast meeting with one church plant group and lunch with the other church plant, just to hear their stories, what they are doing, what their needs are, etc. Todd, the Charlestown church planter, took us on a tour of Boston and he was incredible. He has only lived in Boston about two months and he already knows the city incredibly well. Tuesday we toured Medford and attended a NAMB church planting session before catching a Red Sox game at Fenway. Wednesday morning we explored Harvard before heading to the airport.
|Touring Boston--The Boston Massacre Site|
|The front gate of Harvard|
I could give you a million details of all the awesome things we saw, food we ate, memories that were made, and if you want some of them, just ask me, but what is really on my heart, doesn't involve all that.
Why Boston? That was my first thought. Boston is a city that has a deep history of Christianity. Harvard was founded as a seminary. The thing is, Boston was founded on the principles of our faith, but only about 2% of the churches there are evangelical (meaning they spread the gospel). Most of the people in Boston are non-practicing Catholics, are Universal Unitarians, or don't believe at all. What's so wrong with that? Universal Unitarians are very free and liberal in their faith. You can read more about it by following the link. Overall, the churches that are still in Boston, are not teaching all of what the Bible says, but bits and pieces of it. Most of the Catholics there are non-practicing and have been deeply wounded by the scandals in the Catholic church.
What I saw while I was there was a lot of old, beautiful church buildings that are empty. People who used to have faith in Christ but are dead inside. People who want to feel better about their life choices and want to pick and choose what parts of the Bible are acceptable. Several of the churches in the Boston area boldly proclaim their acceptance of all and that non-biblical lifestyles are welcome and accepted. While I believe everyone should be welcomed into a church and should be loved, not all lifestyles are biblical and churches should not embrace sinfulness in any of us (no matter the sin). One church we saw in Medford had three different signs proclaiming this. I got a picture of two of the three signs.
|Sign says, "Our faith is over 2000 years old. Our thinking is not."|
|Notice the rainbow in the bottom corner.|
People in Boston are not against you believing in Christ, they just don't want to because it doesn't suit their needs, it isn't convenient, or they just "aren't into it." People in Boston seem to just sort of want everyone to be happy and everyone can do/believe whatever they want to. While that is a nice thought to think, it isn't what the Bible says we should do.
Boston is a beautiful place that is a perfect blend of history and modern life. We talked to a lot of people who live there and most of them are hurting and desperate for Christ's love. While a lot of the sight-seeing we did doesn't seem very missionary-like, it was important for our team to get an idea of what the city is really like, see what is there, what the people are like, and what the culture is. Being a Red Sox fan is quite possibly the biggest part of their culture there. A lot of the people there won't accept you or listen to you if they know you aren't a Sox fan...seriously.
Our trip was very sobering for me. I grew up in the Bible belt and in a family of believers. I have always been around believers. When I've been around people who don't believe in Christ, I've just sort of walked on egg shells so I don't offend them--after all, most non-believers are that way because they think we are full of hate towards people who have different ideas and views than we do when actually, those were the people Christ approached first, with love. I have never viewed myself as a missionary. To me, an missionary was some obscure person who goes to live in the jungles of Africa to translate Bibles and is never seen again. Missionaries can be those people, but that isn't the only type of person who is a missionary. We all are. Jesus called us to that and that is something I seemed to have conveniently pushed aside and forgotten about. Just spending time every day with the Godly women who went really changed my perspective. It showed me just how lazy I have become in my faith.
My team and the church planters we met with really opened my eyes and challenged my heart. Before we got off the plane, one of the flight attendants spoke with us and said she'd been talking with the other half of our group almost the whole flight. They'd ask her what they could pray for her about, where she went to church, and just took time to listen to what she said. Some of the church interns picked us up at the airport to help us find our way on the subway and bus system. Before we ever got on the first train, Joel (an intern), was asked by a man to help him with his luggage. In the five minutes it took to do that and wait on the train, he'd shared Christ with him. People were asking our waiters and waitresses if they had any needs we could pray for. People in the elevator of the hotel were being invited to Redemption Hill's church service. It made me think about when the last time was that I had Christ on my mind when I talked to someone outside that church building. When was the last time I invested in strangers? When was the last time I put other people's prayer needs before my own?
While I was in Boston, I realized that every single person who goes to help with a church plant or who attends a church plant is a missionary in their daily lives. Everyday their job is to love people and show them Jesus. There is a guy at Redemption Hill who leads their praise team. He works at MIT and uses that as his mission field. One of the pastors of RH up until recently worked at P.F. Chang's to help supplement his income and to make connections with people. Everyone there is constantly thinking about furthering the kingdom of God. I am constantly thinking about myself and my needs. Yes, I pray for friends and family who have needs. Yes, I go to church and study my Bible. But up until this trip, I never viewed Melbourne as a mission field.
Another thing that God showed me is that I have never thought of myself as missionary material but the Lord showed me that I could be. I don't think Anthony and I are called into the ministry as pastor and wife or anything of the such, but God showed me that if He calls us to go be a part of a church plant, we could do that. Church planters need people who have regular jobs to be a part of their church planting effort. They need teachers to be in the schools and be Christ to those who will never see him otherwise. They need engineers who work for companies and spend time with the lost at work everyday. They need bankers, photographers, construction workers, and stay-at-home moms. Anyone with any job can serve. All you have to do is be willing to go, willing to serve, and willing to spread the love of Christ.
I don't know if God is leading our family go to serve somewhere. I have always wanted to move back home to be closer to our families because that is what I want and that is where I feel comfortable, but God showed me that we are already pretty far away from our families and He has taken care of us. Could that be God preparing us to serve in a SEND city? Maybe one day. What I do know is that where He leads, we will follow, even if it is out of our comfort zones. I also know that when He needs us to serve, He opens the doors and that hasn't happened yet. I think we were placed in Melbourne/Palm Bay for so many reasons, many of which we still don't know.
I love that we live somewhere that has such a gospel-centered church. By going on this trip, I was awakened to what life should really be like, even in Melbourne, or the Bible belt (Atlanta is one of the cities on the list!). My goal is to be discipled, make disciples, and follow Christ. I am so thankful for the opportunity to go (thanks family and FBC Melbourne!) and to serve our church. I have been blessed.