BY NATHANAEL KIM
Brokenness is presently so insidious worldwide that it has become too easy for us to overlook the subtle, unfamiliar, and remote ways in which the communities and environments around us are hurting. But we worship and serve a God who sees every pain and injustice and does not forsake His people who are deeply afflicted. I was able to witness this firsthand this past May, as, alongside SALT (College-Age) Ministry Pastor Caleb Lee, I had the opportunity to lead a team of nine college students to call on God’s presence and do Kingdom work in Northern California. For one week, the team labored with Praying Pelican Missions in the Bay Area, serving communities in Berkeley, Richmond, and Santa Rosa. Given the multitude of joys and blessings the team learned, I’ll focus on a few to exemplify God’s glorious intentionality.
In Berkeley, the team served the homeless community by making lunches, passing them out, and taking time to pray for people upon request. Homelessness is a growing epidemic in our country, and it’s a humbling experience to step out of an upper middle class socioeconomic bubble to reach out to one’s brothers and sisters. For some of the students, it was their first time interacting with the homeless community, and it was an incredible learning moment from the Lord.
The team learned that it’s not enough to serve people who are homeless and to merely emerge with a deeper gratitude for one’s life privileges. While increased gratitude is good, Christ did not look at us in our spiritually homeless and destitute state and feel mere contentment in His holy condition or mere pity at our wretched one. Jesus came down to us and took on the full judgment of God that we deserved for our sins, completely paying the price to give humanity a spiritual home. Therefore, we have a Gospel responsibility to show the same sacrificial love to our homeless brothers and sisters back in NoVA.
Praise God that we have a local church community that is growing in providing ways for us to display Christ in this context! For the past two years, Open Door has hosted the Hypothermia Clinic in March, which feeds and houses people for one week. Another Hypothermia Clinic-related event will also be in store for this summer.
In Santa Rosa, we walked in an area that was once a suburban neighborhood but was devastated by the wildfires of October 2017. The team provided doughnuts for construction workers who were contracted to build new homes. We prayed over the workers and the foundations of the homes. We also met one lady who shared her family’s horrifying experience as they had barely escaped before their home burned down. Hearing her story accentuated the heavy and confusing pain that the fires caused. Two questions burned through our minds: why would the Lord allow this to happen and what is He going to do now? In the process of praying and seeing the desolation up close, the team heard a calling from God to hope and to trust in His restorative power. Just as He prophetically showed Ezekiel how he raised dry bones to life, He will structurally and physically restore the areas affected by the fire for His kingdom glory.
In Richmond, we worked at a government funded community center called Shields-Reid in the heart of a housing community in the area. The center hosts children, ages 5-11, each afternoon after school, where they come to play and get a head start on their homework. Essentially, the kids were like you and me at that age—full of energy and pining for love and attention. However, this ministry proved to be the most draining for the team, as the kids’ behavior reflected the difficult family and living situations they experienced each day. It was incredibly easy for us to be discouraged by the vulgar language, anger, and attitude issues the kids displayed. Even so, the team fought to respond with firm and gentle Christ-like love by sharing our lives with the children and hearing their stories as we played and studied together.
I personally found this ministry particularly difficult because I envisioned the future paths the kids were headed toward. Presently, the children still exhibited the capacity and desire for love and kindness, but when they eventually headed off to middle school and high school, were they likely to mature in kindness and love? Or would they actually be more likely to disengage and harden their hearts in a cutthroat culture that promotes survival at any cost? This difficulty was exacerbated any time we talked about our mission with the locals in NorCal. They were shocked that we were in Richmond and declared it to be an area that they would never enter.
That city and those kids may appear forsaken by the world. But God has not forgotten them and a huge testament to His steadfast nearness is the local missionary there, Linda Castillo. For years she has poured her heart into Shields-Reid by encouraging the staff there and showering love upon the children with her joyful presence. She shows that God is neither silent nor absent, but is very much moving in Richmond, CA.
This theme of God’s proximity and pursuit rested on the team members’ hearts for the whole week. The Lord continually reminded us over and over again that He is powerfully present to heal and restore the spiritual brokenness of this world. Just as Jesus came to seek and save the lost, going to communities and areas forsaken by society, the team has returned with a deepened heart for the Gospel that never leaves the one behind—in NoVA and on college campuses throughout Virginia.
Nathanael Kim is a member of ODPC’s SALT Ministry.