By now most of the free world knows the church I pastor just leased a small permanent facility in one of the worst areas of Lakeland, Florida. We went from meeting at an elementary school in the country-quiet suburbs to meeting at a broken down “holy crap that needs a metric butt load of paint” building in the middle of “the hood”. The past two weeks have lent itself to some amazing photo opportunities. Moments like:
- A drunk homeless man relieving himself in our parking lot and then asking if we have any toilet paper
- The prostitute that was looking for some better “work outfits” because she heard we were going to start a clothes bank.
- The drug deal that went down in our “sanctuary” during a Super Bowl party (sorry NFL…I meant “the big game” party). We were actually willing to roll with this if the dealer had tithed what he just made…but he didn’t…so out he went.
- The crazy charismatic brethren from a local church running down the street yelling “Ichabod” at the top of their lungs with praise banners in their hands.
- The two homeless women that fought over raw meat (no joke…it was a raw t-bone) in the field we are turning into community garden.
Yes, it has been one adventure after another…and we haven’t officially opened yet. At one point I thought we were called to this…now I’m pretty sure we have totally lost our minds. It’s a fine line between faith and stupidity…and I’m concerned that we may have crossed it. But here’s the nagging little problem…God keeps opening door after door to let this happen. We’ve seen Him show up in mighty ways over the past few weeks. Along with the nutty stuff above, we’ve also experienced moments like:
- Folks that DON”T GO to any church anywhere helping with the build-out of rooms for our kids’ ministry and a place to worship.
- People that GO to OTHER churches – and have never been to our church – helping to clean and paint.
- Homeless people cleaning up the parking area and grounds just because they wanted to be good neighbors.
- The professional lawn service that drove by…saw us working…and trimmed, mowed and edged for FREE.
- The woman next door – on welfare and food stamps – that brought fried chicken (pretty sure she has to be Southern Baptist) over because we looked hungry.
- People in our church that are barely making it financially donating their time, talent and treasure to this crazy calling.
- The multiple businesses that have donated materials, paint and supplies…all from word-of-mouth.
Yeah, we may have crossed the line of stupidity…risking it all…teetering on losing everything…betting the bank on a neighborhood and people that everyone else has given up on. But I see God in that….and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!