Seeing Through New Lenses
by Kim Preuitt
(Kim Preuitt, Guest Blogger and Just Jump Ministries Board Member, beautifully describes her experience of God teaching her to see through new lenses on a mission trip experience. She, her husband Matt, and her daughter Josephine were members of the Just Jump Family Mission Team last summer.)
It’s been several months now since our mission trip to Arlington, Texas. Some things that stand out in my mind are the sweltering heat, the friendly people at Mission Arlington, and the camaraderie of our team – the relationships that were formed while serving together.
Serving during Sunday worship still tugs at my heart. My team of three arrived at a two-story apartment complex early enough to do some cleaning before people arrived for worship. We picked up the children’s playroom, which was a small bedroom. Its carpet needed vacuuming, but we did the best we could with a broom. We picked up crayons, markers without lids, and sorted the various playing cards back into their games. Little did we know that the playroom would return to its chaos within 10 minutes of the small children arriving. The living room served as the main worship area. We swept the hard floor and put out folding chairs. Along the wall was a shelf of Bibles. A table in the entryway had a pile of papers with worship songs printed in Spanish.
Then there was the kitchen. Dirty dishes were piled high in the sink and lined along the kitchen counter. There was no free space, not even on top of the stove. My husband discovered a water leak under the kitchen sink that had been there for quite some time – algae was growing in the pool of water.
The bathroom had a filthy sink, toilet, and bathtub. We searched the apartment for cleaning supplies – any kind of disinfectant – but none was found. Inside the bathtub was a roach that we swept into the trash.
Even though no worshipers had arrived, the small apartment, though quiet, felt dirty and chaotic. Despite our efforts, things weren’t much cleaner since we didn’t have access to cleaning supplies or tools to fix the sink. But what I really want to tell you about is how the apartment felt when the people were there to worship the Lord.
Kids came first. They peeked their heads in and then went to knock on doors of other kids, inviting them to come worship. Then came “Abuela,” who was a grandmother to all the grandchildren, not just her own. They greeted her with hugs. She ran fingers through their hair, looked into their eyes, and spoke in Spanish to them with a smile.
There were so many kids that day that our team watched them in another room while Mr. T, the worship leader from Mission Arlington, led the adults in worship. At first, I was nervous. My husband and I were in a room full of grade school kids. Although we didn’t have any Bible stories or lessons planned, it soon became apparent that these kids just wanted to talk and have someone listen. They told us about school, their homes, their friends, fun memories, and struggles. They talked and we listened and responded with encouragement. I felt guilty at first for not leading the conversation to a Bible story. But God didn’t lay that urge on my heart. What He did lay on my heart was to listen, to show these kids God’s love by learning about their lives, and to respond to what they were sharing with us. To show them that they are important; they matter.
It was obvious that these kids knew each other very well, both from living in the same apartment complex and going to school. They could finish each other’s stories and were quick to call each other out on inaccuracies. They were competitive with each other, like brothers and sisters. Our time together passed quickly, and I was sad to see them leave. I made a commitment in my heart to continue praying for them after that day. I still think of them and wonder about them from time to time.
As worship ended for the adults, we noticed they each had a plastic grocery bag. Each person filled their bag with cookies and bags of chips that Mr. T had brought for them. Filling their bags was not in a manner of saving a treat for later. This was in a manner of providing for their families. Mr. T knew about their needs and brought a huge tray of treats for this small group of 10 adults. I observed that these people knew each other well. They spoke and hugged. Abuela wiped away tears as she hugged young mothers goodbye. Abuela no longer lived in the apartment complex, but she came back to worship with those she felt were her family.
With worship over, we drove back to Mission Arlington. Upon arriving, our small team was asked to walk across the street to pick up donations from a church. Walking through that church was like encountering a foreign world. In contrast to the apartment complex, the church building was calm, quiet, and empty of people. The floors and walls were white and clean. Everything was in its place. It was cool and peaceful.
And then it hit me.
The people we worshiped with this morning would not set foot inside a church like this. No part of that would feel comfortable to them. They had little to nothing, except for each other. Why would they attend a church that felt like a mansion compared to their meager dwelling? And I knew this because when I went from that apartment complex to this church, I felt it too. I felt like I didn’t belong there – it was too luxurious.
This experience emphasizes our need to reach beyond our church walls and build relationships with our community. I am so thankful that Mr. T leads people in worship at those apartments every week. He meets them where they are. Within their own apartment building amongst their own people, there is no shame, no feeling of “have-not,” and they can focus on praising the Lord. They can focus on loving each other and building each other up. They can be themselves, share their stories, and shed tears. But most importantly, they can set aside their worldly worries for an hour and raise their hands to God in praise. Their place of worship may have algae growing under the sink and cockroaches and dirty dishes. But it is filled with love and support for each other. It is a place to grow strong in Christ together.
I came away from this mission trip with a challenge: What am I doing to reach out to others who are not in church on Sundays? How am I continuing to show God’s love – not just on mission trips – but in my own community?
These questions make me uncomfortable. But God does not call us to be comfortable; He calls us to trust Him and obey. Abuela and her grandchildren touched my heart after one hour of worship together. Imagine the blessings, the relationships, and the praise to our Lord when we venture outside of our church building and into the community for worship.