Bikes & Bikes & Bikes

My truck bed squeaks as I pull up the rough gravel driveway of 130 W. South St. A recent donation of bikes in the truck-bed, we open up the bike-shop to sort and store the latest donation. I pull an adult bike to the side, it's an old style that neighborhood kids wouldn't want, but will serve a homeless friend perfectly.

Pastor Crabbs stops by. He has our mutual homeless friend in his car and directs him to the bike. To this man, it is a Godsend. He has no car, and transportation to clinics, workshops, and services are vital to him. We raise his seat a little, inflate the tires, and send him on his way.

I return to the Front Porch. South Street Ministries works with Summit County's Summer Youth Employment Program to hire four high school teenagers to work with us through the summer at our summer camp, bike shop, and gardens. For extra hours, these kids will help clean the Front Porch Cafe.

One of the high school students is doing just that. He preps the salad for Thomas and Larvett and cleans the tables and dishes. He rode his bike to the Front Porch to work, a bike he received from the bike shop.

Two o' clock approaches and we must return to the Upper Room for our Summer Program. The youth asks for a ride and I gladly oblige, placing his bike once again in the back of my truck. We travel the few blocks back to 130 W. South St and he comments that he has never worked at a restaurant before. This is one of his first work experiences giving him the skills he needs to be successful.

We pull up the gravel drive-way once again and the kids begin to show up. Summer camp is starting and the summer lunches have arrived. 30 children pack themselves into the Upper Room to play, eat lunch, draw, read, participate in crafts, Bible, games, and snack. Our two summer interns and ever-faithful Bobby Irwin are leading the program well with the help of other volunteers and the four Summit County workers.

I sneak off into the Crabbs house to print the Bike-shop spreadsheet. I add one more page of names and hours. We are over 100 now. Over 100 kids who have worked on a bike, earned their appropriate hours to take a bike home. Over 100 kids who have worked side-by-side with loving Christian volunteers who share with them Good News, Gospel. I print the new pages and store them in the shop preparing for the rush of kids that will soon arrive.

6 o' clock rolls around and bike shop is open. It starts off small, just 5 kids asking for a bike. I remind them that bikes are not free here, that they cost hours (hours increase depending on your age). They begin to work on bikes as volunteers show up to help. For the next two hours, the gravel driveway of South Street Ministries becomes a bike shop. Children are sprawled out working on brake lines, fixing flats, installing training wheels.

'Righty-tighty, lefty loosey,' explains a volunteer as he teaches a 8 yr. old girl how to take a bolt on and off. The kids that have finished their hours ride off on their new bikes, the bikes of children who still need to finish their hours are stored back in the shop. The children haggle with the volunteers to take their bikes home early.

Come 8, the bike shop closes and a young girl comes crying across the yard. Someone has stolen her bike. We look around, but it is no-where to be found. Her father stops by to talk to me. Nothing encourages me more than a father in Summit Lake advocating for his daughter. I remind him that we store the bikes of the kids working on bikes, but if a child simply leaves their bike on the ground, we can't guarantee it's security.

He nods knowingly. He asks if she can make a bike at the shop. "Of course," I reply. He consoles his daughter as they walk home. I head home as well, dirty, greasy, and off to a well-deserved rest.

A few days later, my homeless friend stops in the Front Porch. He excitedly begins to tell me that he now has Jesus in his heart. We talk for a time, work through a present issue, and he eventually returns to his reading.

I share this to highlight some of the summer ministry happening at South Street. We have been witness to two neighborhood presences. One, a youth-filled yard at 130 W. South St, the other a hub for homeless, recovery, business, employment, and fellowship at 798 Grant St., the Front Porch.

As I end my day, I pray and thank God. I thank God for keeping us safe, for a summer of harvest, for bike shops and gardens, and summer youth employees. I thank God for His Spirit that flows throughout these places and grows in the nooks and crannies of homeless hearts, neighborhood youth, suburban volunteers, and seasoned ministers like myself.

God is good. All the time. (But especially this summer!!)

An Excellent Volunteer Experience

We gathered in the gymnasium of the Salvation Army. Seventy-five representatives from the non-profit sector, seventy-five representatives from the business world. We were meeting to prepare for United Way's Day of Action. On this-coming Friday, businesses from around the county will partner with non-profits to serve and volunteer. Donations will be sorted, fences will be built, trails will be blazed and cleared.

Speakers shared advice over how to prepare for the day. Have a back-up plan. You can't be over prepared. If you're outside all day, don't forget the sunscreen. Their tips were all designed to provide an excellent volunteer experience for everyone involved.

And they had a point. Planning ahead provides volunteers with an accomplish-able task. And a task accomplished makes for an excellent volunteer experience. However, an accomplished task is not always the experience of the poor.

I am very good at accomplishing tasks. I complete and submit my grants; I schedule the events and items for meetings and youth programs; I get things done, generally because I have resources or access to resources. If I need my lawn mowed I buy a new lawnmower, borrow one, or could even pay someone else to do it.

However for many of our neighbors at South Street, those simple options aren't as accessible. Owning a lawn-mower is an expense, borrowing one may be embarrassing, and the notion of paying someone else is laughable.

So when a group of professionals (or church-goers) come to the neighborhood ready to accomplish tasks the response ought to be a warm welcome of thanks for the much needed support, right? An excellent volunteer experience ought to be accomplishing for those who can't accomplish it themselves, right?

Not quite. Volunteering is valuable. South Street couldn't run without the help of the many who give of their time and lives for South Akron and Summit Lake. Furthermore, accomplishing tasks is a huge help to our ministry. Newsletters get stuffed, gardens get planted, bike shop gets organized. But do those tasks make for an excellent volunteer experience?

An excellent volunteer experience is entering into the pains and joys of those you serve. Accomplishing tasks is necessary for community development, but the experience of walking with a friend and neighbor through two painful years of unemployment and the joy of finally finding a good job is excellent. Demolishing a dilapidated abandoned house is a needed task for neighborhood safety, but sitting with neighbors watching a piece of the neighborhood disappear and change is a true experience.

This is part of our faith: the Word was made flesh. Jesus was incarnated. He stepped into our pains and joys. His experience was the human experience. So as I lead various volunteer groups at South Street, part of the excellent experience is entering into the hardship and pain of those around them. My neighbors know that volunteer resources come and go. An accomplished task may be an excellent experience for the volunteer, but it is a reminder of the disparity of resources to the recipient.

Perhaps that is the stumbling block of the Cross. Jesus with all the resources of the Divine, seemingly 'failed' in his humanity. His life ended in pain and isolation. Now we know the rest of the story. We know that death brought us life. But Jesus' human experience wasn't excellent by traditional measures, and we do ourselves a spiritual disservice when we measure our selflessness by traditional measures.

 

God’s Will, God’s Provision

There are a few distinct Biblical philosophies that guide our work at South Street Ministries. (I imagine if I can ever convince Duane to write a book that these will be distinctive chapters). Ideas such as ‘faulty but not false,’ or ‘neighbors first.’ However, today I have been struck by Duane’s retelling of Dallas Willard’s axiom: God’s Will by way of God’s Provision.

This guiding theology has integrated itself into the DNA of South Street Ministries out of necessity. The necessity that there is work to do and that this work costs money. The ministry requires funding. But this is the way of most things, they require resources, provisions must be made. And the majority of our days are spent scrambling to create, earn, or find those provisions. We manifest our wills by our work and resources.

However in the Kingdom of God, this format is different: God’s will by way of God’s provision. If the project/ministry/action is God’s will then it will be accomplished by God’s resources. At South Street we act in accordance with this guiding principle; that God will truly provide for His will to be enacted.

Following George Mueller’s model, the Crabbs family spent the first few years of neighborhood ministry never asking explicitly for support. Rather they would pray. They would pray that if God truly wanted for them to minister in Summit Lake that God would provide the resources. As South Street has grown, the Mueller model has impacted our view of provision: we pray first (and since we have lots of needs, we pray often). We pray and discern for God’s Spirit and leading. Then we follow God’s will. And the funding follows. The provision follows the faithfulness.

In our scramble for funds, it is easy to reverse this order. To support and stabilize, then act. But this is man’s resources providing for man’s will. God reverses this. We act and serve in faith, trusting that God will provide what He promises. This order is enacted throughout Scripture: Moses speaks to the rock and the water comes forth, the Hebrews step into the Jordan River and the flow stops, Jesus directs the lepers to the temple and they are healed en route. The provision follows the faithfulness.

We are at that point once again. Like many non-profits, the resources are low. However, rather than scrambling for man’s provision, we first ask if we are acting in accordance with God’s will. And we believe we are. We believe that planting gardens on abandoned plots around Summit Lake and working with neighborhood youth to weed, water, and harvest all the while building relationships and sharing Gospel is God’s will. We believe that rehabbing the Front Porch and turning it into a hub for job training, recovery, employment, and fellowship is God’s will. We believe that moving in and incarnating ourselves in the neighborhood (and letting the neighborhood impact us as well) is God’s will.

And we are convinced that the provisions to do God’s will will follow by God’s hand.


Source: New feed

God’s Will, God’s Provision

There are a few distinct Biblical philosophies that guide our work at South Street Ministries. (I imagine if I can ever convince Duane to write a book that these will be distinctive chapters). Ideas such as 'faulty but not false,' or 'neighbors first.' However, today I have been struck by Duane's retelling of Dallas Willard's axiom: God's Will by way of God's Provision.

This guiding theology has integrated itself into the DNA of South Street Ministries out of necessity. The necessity that there is work to do and that this work costs money. The ministry requires funding. But this is the way of most things, they require resources, provisions must be made. And the majority of our days are spent scrambling to create, earn, or find those provisions. We manifest our wills by our work and resources.

However in the Kingdom of God, this format is different: God's will by way of God's provision. If the project/ministry/action is God's will then it will be accomplished by God's resources. At South Street we act in accordance with this guiding principle; that God will truly provide for His will to be enacted.

Following George Mueller's model, the Crabbs family spent the first few years of neighborhood ministry never asking explicitly for support. Rather they would pray. They would pray that if God truly wanted for them to minister in Summit Lake that God would provide the resources. As South Street has grown, the Mueller model has impacted our view of provision: we pray first (and since we have lots of needs, we pray often). We pray and discern for God's Spirit and leading. Then we follow God's will. And the funding follows. The provision follows the faithfulness.

In our scramble for funds, it is easy to reverse this order. To support and stabilize, then act. But this is man's resources providing for man's will. God reverses this. We act and serve in faith, trusting that God will provide what He promises. This order is enacted throughout Scripture: Moses speaks to the rock and the water comes forth, the Hebrews step into the Jordan River and the flow stops, Jesus directs the lepers to the temple and they are healed en route. The provision follows the faithfulness.

We are at that point once again. Like many non-profits, the resources are low. However, rather than scrambling for man's provision, we first ask if we are acting in accordance with God's will. And we believe we are. We believe that planting gardens on abandoned plots around Summit Lake and working with neighborhood youth to weed, water, and harvest all the while building relationships and sharing Gospel is God's will. We believe that rehabbing the Front Porch and turning it into a hub for job training, recovery, employment, and fellowship is God's will. We believe that moving in and incarnating ourselves in the neighborhood (and letting the neighborhood impact us as well) is God's will.

And we are convinced that the provisions to do God's will will follow by God's hand.

Corinthian Pocketbooks, Macedonian Hearts

It was a bustling, seaport metropolis. Recent federal developments had put the city of Corinth on the map. Hebrew Hipsters, tent-making entrepreneurs, and up-and-coming civic officials flocked to this cosmopolitan city to make a name for themselves. One such urban adventurer was Paul (of Biblical fame), who quickly entered the city's growing workforce with local, small-business owners Aquilla & Priscilla. Paul's weekend were spent downtown, in Corinth's Jewish district debating with and persuading his Hebraic countrymen towards the cause of Christ, with limited success.

When financial support came from Macedonian friends, Paul left his full-time tent-making to enter full time ministry; preaching good news, reconciling arguments, bridging cultural and racial differences to bring worshipers of God together in Christ. Some of the offended Hebraic Corinthians drafted a lawsuit against Paul, but it was quickly dismissed by the courts. This verdict permitted Paul to stay and teach for a year and a half in Corinth, the longest time Paul ever (voluntarily) stayed in one place!

The Corinthian church began to develop some roots. House meetings and large dinners became normative for these new converts to The Way. Paul was not only a pastor, but a dear friend. A few times, the issue of compensation came up; this growing city was in an economic boom and the up and coming Jews and Gentiles desired to see their newfound pastor duly funded. Paul declined. He spoke of rights and boasting and calling, but the fellowship was simply glad to have such a Spirit-lead pastor for a time.

But that time was soon cut short. A year and a half passed, and Paul set off for other trips, ventures, and people-groups. He promised to write and return to his Corinthian friends. He returned to the Macedonia cities that supported him earlier and dealt with (or caused) some of the political, cultural, and spiritual uprisings, arguments, and revivals there. Rumors from Corinth kept coming to Paul's attention: gross sexual misconduct, sectarianism, and class divisions. This was not the report he wanted to hear, but true to his word he wrote.

It was a scathing letter, chastising his old friends for the reports he heard and exhorting them to live up to their calling. Paul desired for his next visit to be friendly, not agitated (he had enough of that in Macedonia…). However visiting proved difficult, it seemed that imprisonment and hardships became commonplace for Paul. Indignant rumors from Corinth again reached Paul's ears: his strict rebuke, his lack of visits, even his rightful place as an apostle! So Paul wrote again.

However, this time Paul had a God-given agenda. While in Corinth, Paul was able to preach free from financial concern thanks to support from the Macedonian churches he had recently visited. And as he traveled, his friends from Corinth supplied many of his needs. Furthermore, the wealthy Corinthian church had committed to a substantial gift for the church in Jerusalem. This gift had yet to come in. Despite the negative rumors from Corinth, Paul belabored to speak well of his old friends: of their hospitality, generosity, and love.

So in his next letter, he exhorted his old friends to finish what they started. Fund and give to the church in Jerusalem. Paul had friends visiting Corinth soon and desired for his friends to experience the same generosity and hospitality that he had known. He wrote to his friends in Corinth, reminded them of the Macedonians poverty, yet extreme generosity. He wrote about testing their word and love, and sowing generously. He told them that his travelling companion and co-laborer in Christ, Titus, would be there soon to collect the funds.

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It was a unique friendship: Paul and the city of Corinth. Their correspondences make up a greater part of the New Testament (and some of our most cherished and/or confusing theology). But I am struck by Paul's candor with his old friends in terms of finances. As I am learning more and more about non-profits, tax deductions, philanthropy, and para-church support, Paul asks the Corinthians to prove their love. Paul directly tells his friends that he is testing the sincerity of their love with whether they financially support his mission or not!

As we at South Street Ministries seek the Kingdom good and wholistic renewal of the South Akron and Summit Lake neighborhoods, pray for us and prove your love.

Grace and Peace