Friday, July 6, 2007

Gulfport, MS

This picture represents counter-cultural Christianity. I went with these guys (as well as about 15 other people) to Gulfport, MS a couple weeks ago to do mission work for people affected by Hurricane Katrina. The guy in the front right and his wife actually bought a house down there and have been living there and working with people who need help for the last year or so. The others of us who went down for a week took vacation time from work, left behind our responsibilities, etc. to go help a group of people we don't know. We had no idea what we would be doing when we got there, but one thing was certain - we did what God wanted us to do, and it was evident all week long. The list of God stories is amazing to hear people talk about. I think one of the most amazing things was how quickly and solidly our group gelled with the people in the neighborhood we were working in. It was evident Thursday night as we gathered in a large circle around the tree for prayer that our hearts had been united that week. We had stories of safety, protection, God's spirit working through children, outreach, and God planning out details to perfection. We were blessed as much as the people we helped by this experience.
It was a counter-cultural thing to do though. Most people take vacation for themselves. Many people wouldn't willingly go into a drug and crime-ridden neighborhood to help people they don't even know. They certainly wouldn't take vacation time to do it. And they probably wouldn't take their children there either. But we did, and it was awesome.
Last Sunday I preached a sermon on our trip, allowing people to come and tell the God stories. The basic premise of the sermon was that, just as Jesus called Peter to exit the boat and come to Him on the water, He has called us to come join Him outside our comfort zones as well. And when we are obedient and step out of the boat(comfort zone) in faith, we will see Him do some amazing things. The best part is that getting outside your comfort zone and acting in obedience and faith to help people in need can happen in your hometown on a weekend. You don't need to go anywhere special or take time off from work even! The Bible gives us all the instruction we need on what God desires us to be doing. Are we stepping out in faith from our comfort zones? My Bible study class astutely pointed out that this takes discernment - Peter did make sure it was Jesus before stepping out - and that sometimes being obedient doesn't result in anything visibly amazing. God only calls us to obedience, not to glory. Being obedient to God, even when nobody else can see any good reason why you did what you did - that's counter-cultural.

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