Saturday, November 08, 2008

Agape At Night Strike

Friday Nov. 7 our Recovery Minister, Zak Zumwalt, organized a group to help at Nightstrike. This is a ministry through Bridgetown Ministries. Every Friday night teens, youth groups, and people come to Liberation Church at 6:30pm for an hour of worship and orientation. Then they head under the Burnside Bridge to serve the homeless. People serve at various stations from foot washing, passing out hot food, handing out drinks, praying with people, giving clothes and blankets, haircuts, and prayer/food walks with people in the area around the bridge. It is truly a wonderful experience. It all began 3 years ago with a couple who just washed feet and has grown to a weekly ministry, outreach, and God experience. The most important thing stressed is that those attending visit and spend time talking with those who are being served.

Agape had 20 people come to help the group of 200 volunteers. Lori and I brought Hunter, Caleb, and Nathan (who also brought a friend from school). We all spent the evening as a family visiting, helping, and experiencing God's people at work. We also saw God in the faces of those we spent time with.

The next morning as I was praying about this I was struck by two overwhelming thoughts.

First, this is the future of ministry. I saw 3 of our Agape staff/interns in action and was encouraged. Lori saw a couple guys who have been at Agape and was hugging them and catching up. I love watching her with people. God blessed me with a wonderful partner. Marc, our campus ministry intern, jumped in the PSU kids and began to meet them. He also looked comfortable sharing with some of the people we were serving. Two of the Cascade kids shared with us that they want to stay in Portland, attend PSU, and become part of the campus ministry. Zak had brought 12 or 13 from Multnomah Bible and was serving in the food line. He did a great job putting this together and was all smiles Friday night. I also saw our Agape people talking with homeless people, sitting and listening to some play their music, and serving at their tasks. Of the 200 people present about 70% were college and teen aged people. This is the work of God and this is where this generation wants to be. Bono once said something like, "Stop asking God to bless what your doing and go work where God is blessing something." Lori and I decided years ago to lead this generation and we have to be where they are and be where they are going. I have always preached that the Gospel is about social justice but now we have the opportunity to see that Gospel fulfilled.

Two wonderful evangelists in Albania with World English Institute (Bledi and Cimi) have been watching us at Agape and sharing with us their work with World Vision and street people. Due to some of the younger interns they have led in ministries to the poor and oppressed. They have been emailing exciting messages about the media and community support they are receiving. It is great to see how God continues to bless them in Europe.

Second, I am excited to see a staff with this kind of heart. I guess I have spent so many years with established churches believing that God's work is about being patient. I had to learn to work with other leaders/ministers who were not outreach focused and encouraged to be patient, hope for change, and plan to spend years gently guiding them to that. I heard stories about how many miles it takes to turn a barge, small changes are what you should look for, and to understand that inward focused people are what we need in churches. I guess there is some truth to those stories, however while I was patient our young people left the church. We weren't keeping pace with the population growth. We frustrated the evangelists in our movement.

With Agape I have held fast to the belief that God needs a church of people who are fired up about reaching out for Jesus. God needs a church of people who are not afraid to take risks. God needs churches of people who have a passion to serve and love the poor. God also needs leaders in these churches who set the pace and push the outreach agenda. In this area I have learned to be patient. We hold to this belief and I am seeing people come not only to be part of Agape, but lead in this ministry. God will bring leaders to Agape who will have this passion. In this area I have to be patient and not compromise on a conviction.

My patience is different now. It is focused on God's promise to provide if we hold to the mission and life of Jesus.


Zachary Zumwalt said...

We do this because of you, Ron. You encourage us to take an active part in Agape through your attention, interest, and empowerment. There's a ton of stuff to do - and folks like you and Lori allow us to get out there and do it. Thanks for being the "wind beneath our wings!"

Luke Coles said...

I'm glad God is surrounding you with able and willing people. Portland is blessed to have a family like Agape with leaders like you. Praying for you Ron.

Rebecca said...

I just want you to know that I really appreciate everything Agape is doing in our community! I loved your thoughts on giving Sunday. It may have been the first time I have heard a lesson on giving and felt empowered to do good things with my money. More thoughts....
good stuff. Thank you Ron.

KMiV said...

Thanks everyone. Rebecca, that's funny. I hate talking about giving and yet that is one of those sermons where I had more comments of encouragement than other lessons.

Zak and Luke--your encouragement made my day today.