Scott and I spent last weekend in inner city Memphis on a bi-annual event hosted by our church entitled the Urban Plunge. Over three nights and portions of four days we observed, ate, fellowshipped, worked and worshipped in some of the most impoverished zip codes in Memphis.
- I met "Soup" Campbell who ministers in a needy neighborhood. He exhibits great joy not because of where he resides but rather Who resides in him.
- I met Ken Bennett who began a ministry on the streets of another poverty-stricken area in a beat up old van. He now has a $4.2 million facility which reaches hundreds of youth every week. They come because they witness first-hand his greater love for people than possessions.
- I met Jim Kennedy who designed a program to take ex-cons from a life of prison to purpose by investing countless hours giving them life skills, job training and a spiritual foundation. He has partnered with God to rehabilitate hundreds of hardened criminals because he was willing to work for the good of others instead of unrestrained financial gain.
This morning I am working through Revelation 18. This chapter describes the fall of the prophetic city named Babylon. Clearly these are future events but what unfolds there sounds more like a scene in any current U.S. city than in some distant town located in a foreign land. The people mourned the loss of their economic livelihood and nothing else.
The picture was reminiscent of the wave of sadness that followed the recent economic downturn here in the states. It is heart-wrenching to watch or even be someone who loses our job, home or wealth. However, over the last few years I've heard little lament over how the loss of assets would impact the poor, down-trodden and disadvantaged in our country.
My trip to the inner city stands in sharp contrast to the rampant materialism in the zip code where I live. While I was there, these words of Jesus kept ringing in my ear, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear...Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (Matthew 6:25, 27) I pray this weekend I experienced a permanent shift of focus away from my petty problems and onto the power of a single act of kindness offered from a heart of humility.
Jesus, whatever I do for the least of these, I do for you. Thank you for reminding me that people are more important than my portfolio and that true wealth is that which is accumulated for Your kingdom and not in my closet, garage or pocketbook. Today help me to see with Your eyes the unlimited opportunities all around me to alleviate suffering. In turn I know You will transform my meager acts of kindness into magnets that will draw those around me into Your arms of love and grace.