Photo by Paul Kurth
Post by Jamie Duncan
One thing I appreciate about Red Sea is that our mission is three parts: draw to Christ, develop in community and deploy into culture. When I think about all that Red Sea did in April, it brings a smile to my face, because we lived out all three parts of that mission. We drew to Christ during our Sunday gatherings, Good Friday service, Easter celebration, and prayer gathering. We developed in community each week during youth community and home community gatherings. And we deployed into culture as we partnered with Swap N Play during the Great Exchange and worked in the community garden during Serve Sunday. It was a beautiful month of being the Church in our city.
It’s sometimes easier to see the impact that drawing to Christ and developing in community have on us as individuals and as a church family. But what about deploying into culture? What impact have we seen? Before Jesus was crucified, he gave his disciples a new command:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
The recent Great Exchange event was an opportunity for us to show love to one another and our community by serving Swap N Play and sharing with our community free items that they might need for their families.
During the Great Exchange, I had the privilege of having several interactions with people and talked with them about how this event impacted them. I ran into an old friend who not only lived with us for a short period, but also was a part of our home community and Red Sea family. It’s been 10 years since we’ve interacted and our conversation was sweet. She shared how she and her family live in St. Johns now and that they are a part of Swap N Play, and how that partnership has been vitally important for them as they are foster parents. She shared how that space has made it possible for them to find friends who can relate to the situations they face in the foster system and how events like the Great Exchange help provide for their needs as they care for these children. I don’t know if she will return to Red Sea or not, or what her relationship with Jesus is like today, but I know that our reconnection was not by chance and I just pray that it’s just a step forward for them to grow in their relationship with Him.
As closing time approached it would have been easy to be discouraged, as the room was still full of items and could make you question whether the whole event was even worth it. But then as I was gathering my things, the Swap N Play director sat down in the office with me and we had such a great, open, and honest conversation about life, St. Johns, and the struggles and the celebrations of living here. She expressed her sincere gratitude for the partnership with Red Sea over the years and all the help with the Great Exchange. She was amazed how the students and younger children helped without complaining on Wednesday as we moved close to 300 boxes upstairs. She was honored that our church volunteered to finish packing up the boxes and cleaning up the auditorium on Sunday, instead of them. She then followed up with an email that said, “Thank you isn’t enough…I am beyond grateful to you, and your community, for making pure magic happen this week/end. You all are an amazing group! The Great Exchange was a grand success because of you! Please know how much I appreciate your unwavering support of Swap…and me.”
So, when I think about what impact we have seen as we have deployed into culture just this past month, I don’t base it on how many boxes of stuff we got rid of. I base it on all the smiles of the people that entered the building that Saturday and left with boxes of items that could bless their families. I base it on the brief conversations I was blessed to have with old friends and new acquaintances and how a simple event like this makes a huge impact in their lives. I base it on a long-term relationship with Swap N Play and how this is just one other way that we can be connected with our community and serve them with grace and love without expecting anything in return.
I’m encouraged and hopeful that just these simple acts of love can restore our community’s perspective of Christians and ultimately their perspective of who God is and how He loves them. I’m hopeful that our community will see the love we have for each other and for our neighborhood in a way that points them to the redemptive love of Christ.
So, while it may be harder at times to see the impact that deploying into culture may have, I pray this past month has been encouraging and empowering for each of you as we move forward. I believe Red Sea is a beacon of light in our dark community and that God is at work in and through our church to reach our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers for the sake of the Gospel.