Yesterday my husband and I took our four children along with my son’s friend to Chicago. It’s been a lifetime dream to be able to do mission work with my family; however, having a family of six, makes it quite difficult, and nearly financially impossible.
Oh yes, I know we should always do ministry wherever God has planted us, and ministry takes on very different forms. I do ministry everyday by engaging in the cultural war around me. It is what I am called to do. It’s my assignment. My children walk with me every step of the thirteen long years.
I expected this to be different–transformative. I wanted them to see and experience different cultures and people groups. I wanted them to take off their American eye glasses and see the world how God sees it. My husband and I both visited the Devon Oasis Center in Chicago before and were deeply moved. But there is a big difference between being observers and this time. This time, we were invited to serve. I happily jumped at the opportunity for myself and my family!
To say my heart was “wrecked” would be the understatement of of a lifetime! We got to Chicago at about noon, and as we approached Devon Street, it was as if someone reached from the back seat of our family van, removed my policy/lobbying glasses, and replaced them with new unfamiliar glasses.
It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in fact… it was downright scary.
If you’ve ever been to Devon Street in Chicago, I bet you can almost visualize the sights and smells as I describe them. Devon Street is among the most colorful and diverse places some of us have ever seen. This is the place immigrants of all backgrounds have settled. A great number them are Muslim. It’s a place where many refugees are sent. To say we were the minority would be an understatement! It felt as if we had stepped off of a plane right into the center of another country.
Everything was different.
- Different clothes: some vibrant and colorful, others plain black with nothing showing but eyes.
- Different smells: some sweet, from the variety of fruit in the market, others forced us to catch our breath as we walked by the live halal butcher shop.
We got there a bit early so we took the family through some of the stores. Incredible beaded gowns, exquisite colors, exotic fruits and spices. Yes even an interesting plethora of raw meat (the goat head took us aback a little bit!) It was a treasure-trove of culture.
As we walked, I found myself looking at the fully covered Muslim women wishing I could find out their story. I would have loved to sit with them and ask them a million questions about their culture and their life.
When we arrived at the venue, we found Bob and Lynn Andrews, the missionaries to the Devon Oasis Center. They were eager to put us to work!
That day, they were hosting a fashion show for the new refugee women who had just come to Chicago. We had already gotten a glimpse of the incredible gowns earlier that day, but we were about to see them live!
The banquet hall was decorated with purple and pink, with a long purple runway filled with pink rose petals. It was beautiful. Our job was to serve and just love on these women and children.
At first I was a little intimidated. What would I have to give them? I can’t speak their language. I don’t even understand their culture! I was content to stand behind the scenes and hang with the Chai maker, and fill water pitchers!
But, no, God wanted me to SEE and EXPERIENCE first-hand, the compelling work that draws people to Himself. You see, here’s what I’ve learned. Love is a universal language. Love compels people to Jesus. Love allows the Holy Spirit to draw people to Himself. It’s not that cheap grace love I’m talking about, it is genuine, almost painful, heart for the lost, love. I don’t know how, (I really am an introvert who is terrified of people) but I began to mingle with these women. Some could speak a bit of English, some not a word… but looking into their eyes they had the same need… the same void that I had at one time. They were missing Jesus.
Some of the stories are so sacred I cannot begin to tell them. Some, like the woman who came here six months ago with absolutely nothing, lost her husband who had been beheaded by the Taliban were simply terrifying.
Story after story. Some with language barriers–words were not needed. There was no way to talk but through our eyes and a hug.
My heart was gripped, my heart was captivated by this ministry.
I watched my husband serve, and my children work with the kids, and I knew why God had placed this ministry on my heart a little over six months ago with a dream. A simple dream of me pushing a broom at the Oasis Center all night long that compelled me to make the phone call to Bob Andrews. God had some work He wanted to do in my heart!
I watched other churches come alongside Bob and Lynn. We worked side-by-side with Willow Creek, the Moody Church, and our own very own church that sits in the center of the cornfield in Northern Indiana. It was like watching the body of Christ leave the building to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
I watched Bob and Lynn work. It was incredible. There were probably 70+ women that came in that day. Some of them knew Bob and Lynn and were so excited to see them. Others had just arrived to America, and this was how Bob and Lynn began the process of building relationships with them. They live in the community, talk with them, cry with them. It truly is a blueprint of how ministry should work. They didn’t use gospel tracks, or shove anything down their throats. There was no “how many get saved prayer tally.” It was simply a life inspired by Jesus lived out in front of a people who’d never seen Jesus before.
People are coming to Christ. One day maybe I can share some of the stories. Or, even better maybe God is calling you to go and see it for yourself. The best by far would be for you to go and serve.
Lynn shared a simple gospel message with love and gentleness. A beautiful woman who was a former former Hindu who now follows Jesus, translated the message for her. They fed the women and then gave them all a parting gift. I eavesdropped on several of their conversations… they took those beautiful moments and poured into these women. They told them how much they were loved. One woman had only been here a week. They showed her where they could be found. (My guess Bob and Lynn have already visited her)
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as a real or genuine as Bob and Lynn. The love they have for this people group showed on their faces. The love they have for their Savior oozed from their pores. I felt a bit self-conscious as I probably had tears rolling down my face all day. It was as if God was baptizing me with His love for people that was nearly overwhelming.
I know there’s a political side to this. I’m an American. I love my country. I get it. I know the dangers we face each day. This is not the blog post to discuss that.
I remain conservative. I remain Vigilant. I know the realities.
I also know that these people are here now. These people need Jesus just as much as I did 37 years ago. It is what it is, and the women who touched my life yesterday, will be forever imprinted in my mind.
Bob and Lynn have shown me what it means to love. We experienced a glimpse of the love our Heavenly Father feels as He looks at this earth.
I don’t know what the future holds for our family, but I know who holds it. I asked God last night why he took me out of my comfort zone of policy and the battle of the culture war, to place me in unfamiliar territory where I felt very, very, small and inadequate. He gently told me He needed to refresh my heart and to “feel again.” Mission accomplished! I know I will NEVER turn down an opportunity to serve with Bob or Lynn and his people group!
My heart is forever wrecked.