Here are two stories about a recent event in Ferguson, MO that may give a flavor for what "boots on the ground" Christianity can do.
The Church as Christ's Hands of Mercy
Yesterday at 06:40:35 PM
Every once in a while, it is good to focus on positive news in the Church rather than the constant analysis of her many failures. The following appeared on the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod's Facebook page. Pastor Steve Schave shares a last name with a resident Deaconess here on ALPB. He and others were "boots on ground" in the immediate aftermath of those tragic days when most ran in the other direction.
The LCMS will be one of three organizations on the ground floor in Ferguson, Mo. where eleven months ago, the local QuickTrip gas station was the epicenter of unrest that would set off a chain reaction across the nation. This past Thursday, this same location was dedicated to become the epicenter for rebuilding and new hope.
Pastor Steve Schave, LCMS Director for Urban and Inner City Ministry, participated in the groundbreaking and spoke on behalf of the many LCMS partners who have worked so hard to seek peace and healing in this community. Here's the local news story about the event:
The posting then links to:
http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/fe ... /29920693/
Re: The Church as Christ's Hands of Mercy
« Reply #1 on: Yesterday at 10:17:53 PM »
Wow, thanks so much for sharing this. I was present at the groundbreaking ceremony along with two of my children and a young family friend that Steve mentored and tutored when he was a parish pastor back in Cincinnati. It was an experience I won't soon forget. What to me in the last year amounted to just images on a TV turned into an appreciation of how far a community has come to work together to not only heal, but to rebuild. Here are some thoughts I shared on Facebook if anyone has an interest in reading them.
It was a blessing to be in attendance at this landmark event for the community of Ferguson. We had no idea when we made plans to host our friend, Remi, from Cincinnati for a long weekend that it would end up coinciding with this event. For a young man who is in the throes of overcoming overwhelming odds much like the young people of Ferguson, I pray he was inspired by those he heard speak formally and those who talked to him afterwards to take a path in life that will lead to stability and happiness.
I have to admit it was fun to play the part of "first lady" again (it's been two long years!), and thanks to the heartfelt speech by my husband, we weren't seen as outsiders, but welcomed by many with open arms.
I was amazed when the owner of the beauty shop at ground zero (it was pretty much always in the background during news coverage last year) came up to Steve and hugged/thanked him for his ministry in the aftermath of last year's events. Who knew a ministry of presence could mean so much that a year later, you would still be recognized and appreciated?
It was eye-opening for me to be in the presence of Michael Brown's mother to see her as a person and not just a figure on TV. She experienced the same heartache that I did twenty years ago this week through the loss of her son. I came to appreciate that how that loss happened is immaterial where her pain and need for hope is concerned.
I didn’t agree with everything that was said at this event. I surely didn’t clap when one particular speaker proceeded to lash out at law enforcement. I’m a former military police officer and have friends in law enforcement, and I respect and appreciate that they put their lives on the line every day to protect me as well as my family and uphold the laws of the land that we have enacted. I don’t agree with how Michael Brown ended up in the situation he was in, whether it was his own fault, his parents' fault, the system’s fault, etc. But I can agree that young people in areas such as Ferguson need to be shown a different way. A better way.
What Steve and I both have learned through our work in the city (and in my research) is that there is a real need for JOBS in these locations. People don't instinctively want to subsist off the government or handouts. They need to be given a chance (and sometimes a second chance), and businesses are perfectly poised to offer the hope and stability that those in the city or urban areas need. Churches can come alongside as a partner to help build these relationships and offer life-changing counsel to those trying to make positive changes in their lives. In fact, it is my opinion that true change can only come when our Father’s love is truly grasped by a person who may have never experienced love from a parent or family members. (That is why the gang culture is so attractive . . . it’s the family they never had.) Who else but the church is in a position to be at this intersection?
I realized my husband has been living a double life this past year or so because of all the people who greeted him and thanked him afterwards and because I had no idea that the relationships he had been building had led to such a tangible outcome. I am extremely proud of the work he has done to break down racial and other barriers to forge partnerships with organizations that some might say are a little untraditional for a church body that is about 95% Anglo. The LCMS through the Missouri District and the Lutheran High School Association will be one of three tenants in this new building offering afterschool programs and other forms of assistance for school-aged children. We have a long-established presence in the community already through Lutheran High School North, and the reputation of Lutheran North helped this partnership come to fruition.
I was especially touched when one particular gentleman came up to Steve afterwards and gave him a big bear hug accompanied by some complementary words. It turns out it was our District President, who I hadn’t yet had the privilege of meeting. He proceeded to tell me what a great guy I had (as if I didn’t know) and how much he appreciated Steve’s persistence with the Missouri District leadership when at times it seemed the effort might stall.
I hope that the few short days we have had with Remi, crazy as our family is, might help him see the importance of having a family of his own someday. I pray he will be there for his children as a loving and doting father and treat his future wife with tenderness and respect. He didn’t experience that himself growing up, and by the grace of God, maybe He used us in a small way to show him that there is a better way. I pray that the young men and women of Ferguson and beyond will come to understand the importance of the family unit remaining intact. In a culture that seems hostile to the traditional family, I pray that the church can do some good in specific corners of the world similar to what is happening in Ferguson.
In my mind, the biggest winner of the day was our young friend, Remi, who had the opportunity to meet a multitude of individuals who had overcome challenges similar to those he faces. He received a nice thank you and pep talk from a state senator, a pep talk from an aspiring musician whose song about putting down the pistol has been successful, and an opportunity to talk to the state trooper who was put in charge of the response after the initial failure, among countless others. I was especially excited to see the support from local corporations, as it fits in nicely with my dissertation research.
The LCMS continues to cooperate in the externals in order to bring hope, healing and restoration to the hopeless, hurting and broken through the only means possible . . . Jesus Christ. The established Word and Sacrament ministries as well as schools in the Ferguson area that have been ministering to the community through the years have received a shot in the arm, so to speak, as a result of this evolving partnership. The LCMS presence in this building isn't about activism, it is about love of neighbor--a love that extends to the young people of the community who need to hear the good news of a God that loves them so much that He allowed His son to die on their behalf. In a community that is so familiar with death, the story of the one death that matters the most needs to be told. What a blessing that the LCMS has the opportunity to tell it in this place.
Vocation - doing what God has given me to do for the sake of the other.