Yesterday, we had the privilege of attending a local festival called “Rails and Ales” at Riverfront Park in Downtown Huntington. It was super encouraging for us because the festival was jam-packed and really demonstrated that there’s a lot of life in our city. We also enjoyed it because it was a chance for many local small businesses to showcase their products – everything from craft beer to clothing, jewelry, baked goods and even full meals. One of our stated missions is to “seek the peace and prosperity” of Huntington, so being able to support local businesses from our city and around the state of WV was awesome!
After leaving the festival, we decided to drive through some of the at-risk neighborhoods in Huntington – the neighborhoods where we hope to one day see God do amazing things. We’ve been praying for these kinds of areas and driving/walking through them for a few months now. As we drove through, we passed two guys who were clearly gang members. They were in a dispute with some other guys in a vehicle. The situation was escalating quickly and obviously about to turn violent – at 3pm on a Saturday.
Anyway, we obviously went the other way so as to avoid any possible crossfire (one of my team members got caught in some crossfire at the ministry I started in South Central L.A. years ago – so I get a little paranoid). Afterward we headed down to visit the local monastery for a bit to visit with one of the monks I’m friends with, and ever since I haven’t been able to get my mind off the guys we saw in Huntington. I don’t know them, don’t know their name, their story, etc., but I know that God does. And even though they may be dangerous and undesirable to many “decent church folks” (whatever that means), I can’t help but think that God has His eye on them. Watching them. Loving them. Calling them. Wanting better for them even than they want for themselves.
Ever since we passed them, all I’ve been wanting to do is go back down there and talk with them. Hang out a bit and hear their stories. But as anyone who has worked in inner-city ministry before knows, you don’t just “do” that. You can’t start there. You have to know someone an “in” so to speak. You have to have a relationship and people have to know they can trust you – at least a little bit. So that said, here’s where our prayer request comes in.
For a long time, Christian missionaries have understood the importance of a “person of peace” – a “cultural translator” if you will. The term comes from Luke 10 when Jesus sends His disciples into the city. He tells them that, before they start their ministry, they are to find a “person of peace.” In reading this passage of Scripture, missionaries have speculated that the “person of peace” was someone who assisted Jesus’ disciples in getting acquainted with the people where they would eventually bring the good news of Jesus. Having someone who acted as a “bridge” between the disciples and the city’s residents was an essential part of early Christian missiology. What’s interesting is this – that strategy is still in use today – and that’s exactly what we need at this point.
We are praying for a “person of peace” in Huntington. This would be a person who has relationships and a measure of respect in the at-risk neighborhoods we want to reach – most likely a person who lives there – whether it’s a gang member or a grandmother makes no difference. As much as I’d like to just show and start serving and sharing (and who knows – I may just end up break down and start doing it anyway – ha ha), it would be more effective to have someone to “introduce” me to the people in these areas.
So there you go. That’s my prayer request – sorry if it was a little long! Please pray for a person of peace who will trust us and get us “into” these neighborhoods. We have an awesome God, an awesome church, and an awesome message – we just need the bridge – and we’re confident God will provide it…