The week of November 5th through the 12th I experienced a truly marvelous, life changing event at Onsite workshops. I shared with our adult Sunday school class about how the Lord used that week to change my life and give me a new identity. I even found my tie and wore it to church with my sport coat. I did that to represent to everyone I am a new man. Well sort of.
Last Thursday and Friday I became embroiled in a very nasty fight between a chapter of the boys and girls club and our neighborhood over (of all things) a soccer field. Their neighborhood is next to ours separated by a buffer of trees. Well it turns out they have acquired all of the land and started tearing out the trees and exposing us to the vandalism, gang violence and sexual misconduct of this particular neighborhood. This is not a trivial issue. Over the years the police have become good friends with us as they help us combat the crime coming from this particular neighborhood. We had it under control. Until last Thursday. When all of this started happening I got involved with my neighbor and we went to talk to the people to find out what is going on. The “discussion” escalated to the point of threats being made and much anger was expressed on both sides. The police are again involved. The planning commission is involved.
This is where the two Andy’s get involved. The old Andy showed up to the meeting and the new Andy left the meeting. The old Andy was like an F4 Phantom strafing a village with verbal napalm and guns blazing. Not a nice picture. The new Andy realized there was a real problem so as he turned around and left. As he left he prayed: “Ok Lord .. Now what?”. It was at this point the Lord showed up and I recognized him. In no way did I sense condemnation or guilt. I just knew I had screwed up and wanted to know what to do to try to fix it. It was like He walked with me through the mess and on the way home he gave me two visions. I literally stopped in my tracks for them.
The first one was to apologize to everyone I had yelled at. I have been married for 35 years so that’s not a problem. But the second one bowled me over. I got a picture of this neighborhood, the kids involved, and my home, and a picture of Gateway. I can connect the dots pretty well when I have a clear picture. The Lord clearly showed me there was an opportunity here for me to do what I had been asking Him for concerning Gateway. I believe He was saying to me to get involved with this neighborhood and help them with the kids. I also believe this is an opportunity for Gateway.
I was stunned but I went back home and made apology’s to everyone and I drove to the neighborhood to find the lady who was the primary target of my verbal strafing attack. She was walking into her dilapidated “office” and when she saw me she stopped. I told her why I was there and I asked for her forgiveness for being a complete jerk. She smiled and thanked me and said she would. We talked a bit and as I looked into her eyes I saw her and the whole neighborhood as God did. I was humbled to say the least. I was reminded of a saying I had heard before but one that simply bypassed my mind and my heart:
“If you want to go places you’ve never been, you’ll have to do things you’ve never done.”
I realized that for the “new” Andy to accomplish his heart’s desire to fulfill all God want’s me to be and do, I was going to have to walk places I’ve never been and do things I’ve never done and it was going to take a lot of faith to do it. I’ve fought this neighborhood tooth and toenail for 21 years. I’ve done everything I could to minimize their presence and I’ve fought them every step of the way. Now, I believe the Lord is asking me to go there, help them and work with them. He wants me to become involved in their lives. I saw the vision and I recognize when the Lord is giving me an opportunity to do as Henry Blackaby said. I have an opportunity to see where God is working and get involved.
In addition, I think as the Lay Leader of Gateway, the opportunity is for Gateway to reach out as well. I believe this is a door for us to enter that will lead to ministry opportunities and community impact we have never considered or had the opportunity for.
I don’t know how it is going to play out. I don’t know how I can possibly contribute to this mainly Hispanic immigrant neighborhood. I have no clue. But I do know someone who does know. His name is Jesus. As I left the neighborhood with a sense of awe I was reminded of Romans 4:18-20. I don’t have the whole picture. I do have a picture and I know a starting point. I don’t know everything I will need to do to accomplish this, but I do know something. So I am going to step up to the starting line and begin this race.