Saturday (October 25th) afternoon Ellen Reed, David Zimmel and I were out doing mission work on the south side. We knocked on a door and heard a "come in," in a loud and matter of fact voice. A six year old boy opened the door and the three of us entered the house. There was a middle aged woman on a computer, a young man on a couch against the far wall and a young woman sitting directly in front of us. The room was a bit smoky and the scene was a little chaotic. At least 5 teenagers lived in the house, some related to each other, some just friends; they came in and out of the room a fair number of times while we were there. We introduced ourselves and told them we were Christians out talking with neighbors about the Lord. David knelt down to ask the six year old boy if he know anything about Jesus. He said yes but didn't have many coherent thoughts to share, being only six years old. Now eye level with the young woman, David asked her if she knew God. "What, you mean personally," she said as a huge smile erupted across her face, "No that's scary!" Her grandmother said something like "it's not scary." David commented, "it might be a little scary." I asked her "well, you're smiling?" She said, "God's here in the room, that's scary." Her grandmother replied, "God's everywhere." The young women insisted, "God entered three people and they're in the room." Later in the conversation we talked about how all of us can know God personally, just like friends know one another and she seemed to be listening the whole time. The conversation jumped around a bit (which isn't unusual in chaotic mission situations), but the Lord really showed up. Four of the teenagers in the room want bibles and seem to be open to us returning to talk to them. Glory to God, he was certainly in the room.
Saturday night the south side had its fourth and final barbecue of the summer. The Indy branch came (they made the food happen!) as well as many south siders and the missionaries. It's a blessing to see neighbors coming together, happening because we live here. One man from the south side, who regularly goes to men's group and often to Sunday night meetings commented to me, "this is great, people are starting to recognize us in this neighborhood (us meaning the missionaries and the south siders who are joining us). A few years ago no one got together and now look at how many people are here at this barbecue!" He was really excited to see the neighborhood, well actually the people in the neighborhood, changing, even in the small and gradual ways that it is. "The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood." Praise God, Jesus is here in the south side!
This past weekend the missionary women went to the Indy~Muncie Women's retreat. The location was a convent in Tipton, IN, a little over an hour from our house. The convent is in farmland, which made going outside and praying delightful for me and many others (I even found some horses that lived across the road :) ). I watched the sunrise both Saturday and Sunday morning; there were many opportunities to take awe in God's creation. Barb Koller did a great job giving the "Love and Friendship"/"Love of God I" talks. It was a treat to get to know the women in the Indy and Muncie branches; life from one branch to the other in People of Praise is so similar, and we all have common experiences to share in. The picture is from Sunday morning in the graveyard on the property (surrounded by soybean fields).
I've been in Indianapolis almost a month now, living on the south side since August 21st. It feels like I've been here for a while which I suppose means that the transition into missionary life has been a smooth one. I arrived in Indy at the cusp of transition from a summer schedule to a fall schedule, so all the missionaries here are undergoing changes which has made it easier to jump right in. Various people in the household have been out of town the last month, so we haven't had a whole "normal" week yet. Despite this, there have been many chances to start doing missionary work. It's been really cool to see the fruit of the mission work done the past year/summer when meeting our friends in the neighborhood whose lives look a lot different now that we are in them. It has been common this last month for south siders to share how the Holy Spirit is changing them. The Lord's mercy and grace in people's lives is delightful to see.
A fun thing that happened the other day was running into an 8 year old girl while doing mission work on Union. Shania was walking down the street with us when we ran into two other girls playing in their fenced in yard. She made a face at them which clearly showed she wasn't very pleased to see them, and I asked her why she didn't say hi to them. She said those girls curse at her and she "could never say hi to them." I told Shania that Jesus told us to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you. She pointed to Claire and said, "that's what she just told me." I got out my New Testament, I had been reading Luke 6 in mission prayer earlier that day: "Bless those who curse you, and pray for those tho spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also ... But if you love those who love you, what credit is it to you? For even sinners love those who love them..." Her nose cringed up, particularly around the "offer the other also." "I can't do that" she said as she looked up at me. "But this is what Jesus tells us to do" I said. "Well I love Jesus." She decided to try to be nice to her "enemies". She exchanged a few words with the girls which was better than ignoring them as she had done previously. As we were leaving the house 20 minutes later, the little girls called out to Shania as she walked down the sidewalk with us "Shyanne (they couldn't seem to get her name right), come over here." I looked at her, "can you be nice to them, here's your chance?" "I'll try..." she replied. I think Shania learned something, and I saw in her a real regard for and desire to do what Jesus teaches in the gospel. Next time I see her I'll ask her how turning the other cheek is going.