Heartland

June 2017

I have just returned after a couple of days with some of our youth in Chicago on their mission trip. Our group (Robert Pike, Katy Pike, Maia Klein, Ari Cutler, Ethan Giles along with Steve Dressel) is working hard and beautifully representing our church community. They are being hosted by an organization called DOOR. DOOR is a faith–based network that provides opportunities for service, learning, and leadership opportunities within the urban context. They have offices in various cities such as Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago. They are inviting young people to “see the face of God in the city.”

For the two days I was with them, we worked at a community garden and a food pantry for people with HIV/AIDS. While we interacted with various people, what struck me the most were the many volunteers we worked with at each of the sites. I was awed and amazed by their commitment each day to embody God’s love in their service.

At the community garden we met Robert and Pat who daily work in gardens in the middle of the city. Chicago has formed these gardens out of abandoned lots that more often than would be dumping grounds for refuse and illegal activities. They have made these beautiful gardens with flowers, and shrubs, and vines, and trees, and growing vegetables. A place of natural beauty and wonder in the midst of the city. Much of the joy was getting to know Robert and Pat who shared their passion for gardening and creating a better neighborhood. Robert had served in the army for over twenty years including a fifteen-month tour in Iraq. He suffers from PTSD and finds the gardening helps soothe his soul. Pat has been tending these neighborhood gardens in Chicago for over twenty years.

At the food pantry for HIV/AIDS victims, we met Kelli, RaChelle, and Maddie who work weekly if not daily at the pantry. Kelli is a college graduate about to start nursing school. RaChelle is a retired African American woman with a funny sense of humor. And Maddie was a 95-year-old volunteer who delighted us with her spunk and spirit. It was a joy to work with them throughout the day.

In the world today filled with its darkness, anger, and conflict, it is saints like these who give me hope. They make a difference through their commitment every day to touch another person’s life. It may be through the cultivation of a beautiful flower or handing out a can of soup, but these people make the world better through their service. One of the places I saw the face of God in the city was in their faces!