If you build it…they will have a home

It’s a variation on a line from what is now a classic 1989 movie, Field of Dreams.  Starring Kevin Costner, the story revolves around a man who is told by a voice to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn fields.  The voice tells him, “If you build it…they will come.”if-you-build-it   Since that time, I’ve heard people borrow that line for all kinds of things.  I’ve heard it as justification for building a sports stadium in a city and a new church auditorium.

But I’ve never heard it for the homeless.

Our church is getting an opportunity to be a part of something new here in our city.  A fellow pastor and friend is leading the way.  Drawing upon what places like Austin, Texas is doing (click here, and click on the video on that page), we get to be a part of a tiny house village for the homeless.  It’s called Compassion Village.  compassion_edit-1-1000x600Our friends at E49 Corporation have been bringing together engineers, lawyers, fundraisers, carpenters, contractors, and others for several months.  With the partnership of a local church, St. Paul Church of God in Christ, there is a plot of land on which up to 20 tiny homes will be placed.  I had the privilege of meeting the pastor there, Pastor Larry K. Joyner.  With pride he showed me how he has transitioned room after room in the church to store food that he and a team of people give away each week.  A building on the back of the property, once used to house foster children, will now be re-purposed into apartments and bathroom and kitchen facilities for the residents of Compassion Village.

On Sunday, April 30th, our church is changing what it does on a typical Sunday.  Instead of our usual three services, we are gathering for one service, enjoying a meal together, and then getting to work.  We’re calling it, “Rebuilding Hope: The Compassion Village Project.” Some will be building and painting the two tiny homes we have committed to build.  Others will be knitting fleece blankets and hats.  We’re inviting families to serve together, painting rocks with messages of hope on them, to line the pathways of Compassion Village. Some will travel to the site of the village to work on projects to prepare the site and re-purpose the existing building.

We’ve reached out to existing ministry partners that have been serving the homeless for years, and on that Sunday, we will help with needs they have.  We’ve learned from these friends, who have been pushing for a “housing first” model for years.  We’ve learned that 13 years ago, our city’s leaders put together a vision and plan that talked about “housing first” in order to put an end to chronic homelessness.

I love that we get to do this.  The church looking to bless the city, as that city looks to help solve the problem of housing for the homeless.  The prophet Jeremiah once said, “Build houses and live in them…seek the peace and prosperity of your city.”  The building is just beginning…

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Praying Without Charade

For the last three months, our church has been studying the book of James.  These words have been hard-hitting. James has talked to us about doubt, anger, appearances, fear, ambition, selfishness, and wealth.  This quote reflects the theme well:

“This letter (James) to the leaders of the early church is incredibly significant because it pounds away at one consistent message: faith that is not wholly integrated and consistently lived out is a charade.”  George Barna, Growing True Disciples.

James chooses to end the letter by talking about prayer.  Whether we find ourselves in trouble or bursting with joy, we should pray.  If we are dealing with sickness, we call upon those leaders that God has put in our lives to pray over us, and the Lord will raise us up.  When burdened with sin, we offer prayers for forgiveness.  In all parts of our lives, James is saying, we are invited to pray, and have others pray for us.

Elijah-Peter Paul Rubens

Angels Give Bread and Water to Elijah         Peter Paul Rubens 

He reminds us of the prophet Elijah, whose life and ministry can be found in I Kings 17-2 Kings 2.  Elijah was such a powerful figure in the history of God’s people that when Jesus was carrying out his ministry, many believed he was Elijah raised from the dead (Matthew 16:14). James reminds us of Elijah because his life was marked by one amazing work of God after another.  It is as if James is saying, “God has worked this way, and God does work this way.  So whether you are in trouble, happy, sick, or need to confess, ask God in prayer.”

Going back to the quote from George Barna;  “faith that is not wholly integrated and consistently lived out is a charade.”  Combine that with all the situations that James mentions here.  All of life:  joy and sorrow, sickness and health, confession and forgiveness—live it all before God, asking Him for help.

Is this our first instinct?  That when things go wrong, or things are going very right, that we go to God?  Do we believe that God hears?  More than that, can we believe that God will answer our prayers? I’m reminded of the words of the hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus”:

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness, Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Questions for reflection:  Where is it you need to go to God?  What aspects of your life have you been resistant to take to God in prayer?