Urban Wilderness


Urban Wilderness Red wing black birds called. A Carolina wren repeated its “wichety-wichety” incessantly. A red-headed woodpecker sounded its distinctive burry trill. Ground hogs skittered under the brush when seen. Wild grape vines choked every open area. Tall grass prairie surrounded the houses across the street. This is Flint. The humidity hung on your shoulders like a heavy sopping blanket. There was no escaping it. Sweat ran down my arms until my work gloves were sodden like a dish sponge. We were cutting up the remains of a demolished garage and its contents. Probably forty years of neglect: old oil filters, children’s toys from the 1950’s, car parts, rusted screwdrivers, trash, and wet leaves. Handful by handful we carried it to the dumpster and layered it in. Meanwhile a crew of eager teens were painting. From the looks of their hands, arms, faces and legs I wondered if any was actually getting on the house. A car rolled by and stopped. The window came down and a voice shouted, “Who are you people?” “We’re from the church and we’re on a mission trip.” “How much do you charge?” “We’re doing this for charity.” “Really? I’ve never heard of that before. You’re doing a great job, thank you all!” The window went up and the car drove away. A man walking down the street called out to us, “Is this for charity?” “Yes” we replied. “Have you guys ever read the Bible? Have you ever read 1 Corinthians 13?” I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I turned away and grinned, letting the kids answer him. He continued, “It’s the part where it says it doesn’t matter how much y’all know about the Bible if you don’t have charity. And if you don’t have charity you’se just makin’ a loud noise…I want y’all to know you ain’t makin’ no loud noise. This is it, man. Y’all got charity!” All this from a complete stranger. It was the nicest thing I’ve ever heard said about our youth. That night in chapel I hear the most moving Christian testimony I’ve heard in many years. It came from the lips of our own Kaylee Plaxton. She revealed the vulnerable parts of her life, inspired us with her will to overcome and demonstrated a mature knowledge of scripture on the theme of discipleship. I felt closer to Jesus at the end of that day then I’d felt in a long time. The twelfth year of the Flint Mission trip is now history. Plans are already being laid for next year. It’s a week of surprises: finding wilderness in the city, talking Bible with complete strangers and meeting Jesus in 100 serving youth. If you go you’ll find yourself pulling weeds, filling dumpsters, pounding nails, hauling shingles, paining siding, cutting brush, passing out food, bandaging cuts and scrapes, buying paint brushes and even jumping cars. You’ll sleep on the church floor being blasted by a giant fan and find yourself happier than a clam. Because this is the Kingdom of God on earth. Connect, Grow, Serve Pastor Tom Anderson

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