“What do you have in your hand?” Answering a question with a question seems to be one of God’s favourite ‘go to’ responses. Moses was trying to figure out his mission. What was he to do? and How was he to do it?
I am often asked to tell the story of the beginning of ‘Stone Washed Laundry’ and the founding of Up Town Church. It is a story of discovering my mission.
It all began with a good pair of walking shoes. I began to walk the neighbourhood around Stone Church and try to notice things. I would give each stroll a new theme. I had a walk where I took note of baby strollers and children’s toys. I noted area stores. I counted hydro meters on the side of buildings. I noticed all sorts of things in my walks that I would never have seen otherwise. One day I counted the number of dryer vents. There were frustratingly few! I began to ask folks where they did their laundry. Many told tales of wearing clothes until they could not stand them and then going to the ‘clothing bank’ for new ones. Investigations showed me that these clothing banks did not offer under garments and very few socks. I was impressed with how little dignity there was in this. Was this need like Moses’ rod? Was this the answer to my questions about mission?
Not long after this I heard the father of one of my colleagues complain about all the perfectly good washers and dryers which were going into the local landfill. The government was then offering grants to people for purchase of higher efficiency machines and folks were getting rid of older ones. I soon arranged to intercept some on the way to the dump. At the time I had access to the muscle power of some of our students at Taylor College and we carried them into the basement of Stone Church. The old unused downstairs kitchen was renovated cheaply to accommodate the new Stone washed Laundry. Ten years ago it began to be operated every Wednesday by one of our students who was assigned to the task. We had the 1 ½ it took to do a load to build relationships and from that core developed our Up Town Church which has its latest iteration as Street Hope.
This story need not be a ‘one off’ but illustrates some basic principles of mission. More recently through a friend I came into contact with the AA community in our area. I realised that this might be an opportunity for mission, and so our evangelism to this community began. We have just begun our 12th workshop for AA members in which we share using AA materials that alcoholism is a spiritual problem which requires a spiritual answer. Many of our friends from the workshop have become active in our Street Hope Community. This October we will be offering our first workshop to ‘church leaders’ to equip them better to participate in the 5th Step with our friends who are seeking spiritual help. We have also developed ‘Shalom Saturday’ which is a Christ centred healing circle. We meet every 6 weeks.
All of this grew from noticing what was ‘at hand’ and seeking and praying to build Christ centred relational value onto the opportunity. I believe each of us have these types of opportunities. Yours may not look like mine but they are there! The missional trick is take time to notice and then begin to ‘tease out’ the opportunity which is right there.
Evangelism is too often like an overtime period in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On the ice are 12 people who are in dire need of some rest and in the crowd and in the audience are folks who could really use some exercise! God has provided us each with our own unique mission in our own unique mission-field. Ask the Lord of the Harvest to show you the mission field in your orbit and ask him to send you!