Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How do you do Ministry in The Hood?

When a man stopped by the house to sell some basic, but obscure items, we wanted to help. He wasn't selling drugs or bootleg dvd's, but it wasn't expected either. When moving into a new neighborhood, you need to form alliances right away, without inviting the wrong people into your life. You want to be sure that the locals will keep an eye out for you, and even protect you if they see someone trying to take advantage of you. It's a very tricky thing, trying to be friendly at a distance because you don't know if you can trust someone.

So my friend spent money that he didn't really have trying to build and strengthen that First Alliance. It wasn't the best move that we could have done, but it wasn't the worst either. It's very difficult to invest into a community when you have very little to invest, and all we can do is hope that that little bit will pay off in the end.

Paul says that one of the qualities of leadership in the church is to be hospitable. Again, this is really difficult to do when you don't know if you can trust people. It's easy to want to take everything you read in the Bible at face value with all simplicity. But when it cuts so close to home, or rather is placed within your home, it's really easy to get kind of sketchy and downright fearful.

Tonight, Im trying to stay the night in some unknown part of Muskegon Heights this evening, I found myself looking out the windows frequently. Not even really sure what I would do if someone were to approach the house. I guess appearing out of the blinds in the middle of the night with a baseball bat gave me some false sense of security, so I could at least sleep a little better tonight. The reality is that God is my true security. But it seems like I'm lacking in that realization more often than not.

It's easy for me to trust God that he will protect me when I'm driving on the highway. But when I hear a loud Bass in a passing car, or gunshots down the street, my mind does a lot more than wander. To be honest, I've lived in the hood my whole life, and yet I was never taught how to live in the hood. it's something that you just get thrown into, most times unintentionally. it seems that all I really wanted to do was Escape, only to find out that I don't make nearly enough money to live in those nice neighborhoods.

I found myself equally discomforted when we showed up to work and a condo neighborhood. For the next few weeks, will be doing some power washing and painting and basic maintenance on houses that are basically worth more than my entire life. These are realtors and doctors and lawyers and ex-federal officers with $30,000 chandeliers imported from Italy. You know, the kind of stuff I know nothing about. And it's weird, because I'm very uncomfortable there as well, but in a different way.

You see, in these nice neighborhoods, I'm a little bit fearful that someone's going to point me out of place. That I don't belong there. Because it's happened before. I remember working in some small town new the country, and having someone tell me that I needed to go back to Saginaw. Class and racial profiling can be some of the most hurtful experiences in one's life. But on the other hand, living in the hood, or just being in the hood, can be and even more threatening experience on the wrong day.

I guess in both scenarios, if the Neighbors Know Who You Are, and think at least fairly highly of you, then walking down the street in our neighborhood can just be a really nice experience. Even with the loud music, or old people sitting on their porches, it's just another walk in the neighborhood. but when you're the new guy on the Block, it seems like you being introduced to the Jungle. everybody's looking at you trying to find out whether or not you can be taken advantage of, or at least that's how it feels.

This is how it was for me growing up at least. No one ever really believe me when I tried to tell them about it as a kid, and I guess it never really went away. Sometimes people can behave like (and treat you like) animals.

Now in my adulthood I'm starting to learn a little more about finding my identity in Christ and putting my trust in God. But the two things I haven't fully figured out are these:

1) how do you minister to a group of people that you're afraid of?
Whether you're in a suburb full of mansions, or on a block where the houses are falling apart, it's all the same. How do you reach people in your own community when you're afraid of them, or when it seems like they want NOTHING to do with you?

In my younger years, I used to burn mixtapes of my favorite Christian rap songs and then use them to walk up to a group of guys and try to talk to them a little bit as I passed out the CDs. Nothing ever really came of it. The guys never really seemed all that interested in what I had to say, and a lot of them even laughed and threw the CDs on the ground and walked away. other times people would just glaze over, and sort of tolerate me because I was in there area of activity, sort of dampening the mood. I've never had anyone want to pray with me, or talk a little more. they just seem to want me to go away so they could go back to drinking and selling their drugs ( I'm not assuming, I'm talking about walking into obvious drug traffic areas).

I've never been physically threatened when trying to do ministry. But that kind of rejection is pretty hard to deal with. I always tried to tell myself that I was planting seeds, but I never really knew for sure.
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2) how do you create a safe Zone in your neighborhood or people can feel like they trust you?

Again, this question comes from the rejection of being more of a black sheep in my neighborhood than actually one of the flock. it's just one of those things where people look at me and they can tell that I'm not like them. I have no idea what to do in that situation anymore. it's nothing like talking to people after shows at a performance, because they've already somewhat accepted me and probably think that I'm cool or whatever. and it's really not like relating to people at church on Sunday morning, because they live nowhere near my neighborhood (I'm often embarrassed when somebody from my church has to come to my house because my neighborhood is so ghetto).

But when I'm not mad at people for playing their music too loud, or for being drug dealers or fighting in the street in the middle of the night, I find that I really do wish I could reach them. I have a genuine love and concern for these people that I don't even know, and I have no idea how to even talk to them sometimes. I mean, I can strike up a conversation with someone that I've seen a few times, but these situations are difficult at best.
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It seems like if I wanted to have or be a part of a successful Ministry, I just go where the money is. but I feel like it must only be natural to want to do ministry where you live. I wrote this because I couldn't find anything on Google about how to do ministry in the hood. There was one article about what some guy is doing at his church. But that is a whole different context. What about the average person, in the average situation, who's not running a church?

So, if anybody has any solutions or ideas, or even links that are helpful. Please let me know. In the meantime, I'll be here in Muskegon Heights, trying to help my friend get settled in, and trying to make more relationships with the neighbors.

Pray that we can be more full of God's love and Power.

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