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People Loving Nashville: This Week’s Mission Trip

I'm leading a mission trip this week in my own town of Nashville. To be honest, it's a bit stressful. I'm having to manage my own life in addition to facilitating this group of 19 college students and leaders. But it's good. Great, in fact. As my body wears down, I have to keep reminding myself of that.

The goal, of course, as it is on any AIM trip, is simple: teach people to hear the voice of the Lord and respond in obedience. But we're doing that in the context of reaching out the homeless and urban poor… and we're learning a thing or two about how God sees people.

As this group reaches out to the "less fortunate", they're learning that these are just ordinary people, broken and beautiful just like them, each with their own unique story. One student actually said, "'Less-fortunate'? What does that even mean? I'm learning that these are just people."
Last night, we joined a local ministry in an outdoor feeding, where we talked, prayed, sang, and laughed with people… not "homeless" or "destitute". Just people. Some of us even made a few new friends.
My coworker Matt who's joining me this week and leading worship for the group shared the following on his blog:
People Loving Nashville - Photo by Steph ConnorsIt was composed of ragamuffins.  Nobody had their junk together and all of them felt drawn together to just serve.  Tattooed arms, gauged ears, and scruffy clothing was the style.  Each breath they took in sucked in creativity and exhaled expression because these artists dreamed what God dreamed and painted it into a reality you could taste, touch and see.  Under the cover of darkness, an army of Light was gathered.  And all 22 of us joined them.

People Loving Nashville started out simple enough.  A group of friends got together and decided that they wanted to feed the homeless people downtown.  They started out making ten meals and handing them out to whoever would take them.  Then they decided to make meals and get to know the people that they handed them to.  Ten meals turned into twenty, turned into fifty, and now on some nights turns into three hundred or more.

We gathered around the old war memorial in downtown Nashville last night.  The sight reminded me of my days in Church on the Street.  I loved it and sighed a breath of relief.  My spirit shattered as we made our way closer to the group of men eagerly awaiting their next warm meal, smiles in tote.  I immediately felt at peace and made my way around getting to know some of their stories and dreams.

Mark moved from Connecticut eight years ago to live with his brother.  After working several jobs, sickness won the battle for his life and he hasn't been able to get a job since.  Now he's on the street looking for something, anything to provide for what he needs.  His dream is to get into the music industry and become an R&B producer.

Mary Kay was a beam of radiance.  She stood in line to get some new shoes.  As she made her way to the front, she slipped on a pair.  "Mary Kay! Those look so cute on your feet!" on of the girls told her.  She immediately began modeling them.  "Thank you!  They sure do feel nice.  I can even wear them in the rain!"  She walked away a new woman.

Yancey had a speak problem and a slight drug addiction, but he taught me that B.I.B.L.E. stood for "basic instructions before leaving earth."  He thought I was kidding when I told him that I had no idea what that stood for.  He threw up his hands and laughed when he realized I was serious.

These three and the seventy or more others collectively have centuries worth of stories, worth of life lived.  Their dignity last night was getting to share those.  And we had to drag our group away so they would get sleep and be prepared for their day of ministry today.

I love that darkness is so easily defeated with a smile, a meal, and a classic conversation.  I love that there's a tribe of revolutionaries – a remnant of sorts – gathering in Nashville to change the city through such a simple act of service.  And I was honored to be a part.
Photo appears courtesy of Steph Connors.