Last year , Northwest Bible Church officially launched its outreach movement to Vickery Meadows. That summer, my roommates moved on and I was looking for a new place to live. I began asking around in leasing offices in the Vickery Meadows area. I visited 8-10 different apartment complexes, checking availability, pricing, terms, etc. That summer, I also got to drive the van for the outreach ministry, taking Vickery Meadows kids to a summer reading program at Half-Price Books off Northwest Highway. I talked with Brian Newby and he said that Northwest was renting space at the Sunchase Aptmts in order to have a sort of ministry headquarters there. Also, I applied for the Vickery Meadows ministry positions Northwest was filling in the outreach ministry.
So, I went to the Sunchase aptmts leasing office and asked for their availability: I just needed an efficiency apartment for one person. The lady at the desk said that there was no availability at the moment (it was a little more than a month before I needed to move out of my old apartment) but I could keep checking back for availability, closer to my needed move-in date. A little disheartened, I felt like I needed to seek the Lord’s will on this. So, I decided to do a prayer walk.
Thinking of the people of Israel at Jericho, I knew that there was nothing I could do to force my way into a Sunchase apartment by my own clout, so it would have to be the Lord. I decided to walk around the block of the leasing office 8 times. This walk was a spiritual discipline. As I have practiced spiritual disciplines, I have learned that they are NOT ways of bargaining with God. The principle of spiritual disciplines is NOT quid pro quo. For me, I have learned that spiritual disciplines are largely communication to God: I am ready. I am ready to hear You, God. I am ready to do Your will. I have set this action or time apart for You. So, I walked. I prayed a little, but it was the actual walking 8 times around the block that was my most important communication. Thy will be done! I want what You want.
I came back a week later to the Sunchase aptmts. This time, the Sunchase aptmts manager was there. I was able to talk with her, and explain my relationship with Northwest Bible Church and drop Brian Newby’s name. Immediately, Sally wrote my name at the top of the list. I had an efficiency apartment, for $25 less a month than I had said I needed! I was relieved at that moment because it was less than two weeks when I would need to move out of my old apartment. My walk had not bought this opportunity, but the Lord has responded to my communication with, “Proceed!” I moved into the Ivy apartment complex across the street from Northwest’s ministry space, #903.
Now, you may imagine that I moved in and immediately had a monumental impact on the Ivy community. This, also my expectation, was not to be. My first night in the Ivy, I didn’t even sleep in my own bed: Thang Lian, Burmese pastor, and recent Th.M. graduate and member at Northwest, let me sleep at his apartment as the electricity was not yet turned on at my apartment and the AC was therefore not working! I was able to see some members of the Burmese congregation I had gotten to know in Northwest’s CLC building, but not knowing their language, I could only greet them and say a couple sentences. While I was in the Ivy, a man coming from Liberia was discovered sick with Ebola! I felt a little helpless. So many people whose languages I knew not; people with sicknesses I in myself could do very little to assuage. As it turned out, I didn’t get any of the Vickery Meadows ministry positions – I didn’t even get a second interview.
The Lord, I think, was teaching me some priceless lessons. I want to do cross-cultural ministry in the future; one important thing I learned was that I was going to need to be helpless and vulnerable in another language and culture before I could minister in it. Before I could give what I have to give, the gospel of Jesus Christ, I was going to have to accept help in learning and care from the people I am sent to. Another important thing, too, was that before I did go somewhere new, I would do well to prepare and learn as much I could SO THAT I could at some point function and be useful in the target culture, even if it was merely equipping myself with learning and acculturation techniques that would help wherever I go.
November 5th, as I was nearing the end of my 6-month lease at the Ivy, I got thrown a curveball. My good friend, Paul Lee, recent Th.M. graduate and 2nd gen. Korean, extended a full-time internship at his church, Global Mission Church, in South Korea. Over the next few weeks, I prayed and sought counsel and sent in my application documents and did one video interview. The church offered me the job! But now, in the context of Northwest’s ministry in Vickery Meadows, I had some more questions for God. What was my impact? Where was my contribution? Was there something I could do in the next month and a half to make this worth it? to show that the Lord knew what He was doing in having me here? Once again, I felt small.
December 18th, feeling a little desperate about what to do with my furniture (for one guy living in an efficiency apartment, I had a lot of stuff: flat screen TV, bunk bed, love seat, lay-z-boy recliner, desk and chair, etc.) I emailed Randy Craven to see if anyone needed some furniture. Almost as a throwaway line, to make my plea for help disguised as an email not seem so desperate, I asked him in the email if there was anyone who might want to take over the lease. I immediately got a reply saying to call him ASAP. Apparently, as Randy was reading my email, there was a single guy from Iran who needed to move out of a bad situation and didn’t have many earthly possessions to his name. Randy as a Northwest minister was ready to pay for his apartment, but didn’t have resources to furnish it easily OR have an efficiency apartment readily available. The Lord provided all of that because I communicated to Randy. Once again, Northwest and I partnered up to be used by the Lord to minister to someone.
This lease transfer was awesome. The Lord was definitely at work. Further, He was preaching to my heart. You see, God didn’t reward me for moving into the Ivy. He didn’t reward me for stepping out in faith to Vickery Meadows, even if I wasn’t an official staff member of Northwest. He didn’t reward me for my patience or courage. I found something different. God rewarded this Iranian man for all of those things I did, all that I fought for. God rewarded my neighbor for my obedience. Just like my walk or any spiritual discipline, my faith bought me nothing but showed God that I was ready to contribute, and God accepted my contribution, and gave it to someone else. I don’t get to maintain command over my sacrifice to God. I followed God, and God rewarded my neighbor for my efforts. And I can say that statement in full joy, full confidence – a supernatural utterance. As I understand it, I have no more need for anything because God has given me His Son. And if God has given us His Son, how will He not also freely give us all things?