After some CPC in The Hill events, I sometimes say to myself, “This is a younger person’s game.” Inner city, urban, church planting. Seriously. Planting a church in a poor neighborhood. After these events, I often feel exhausted at two and a half months shy of 59. Yet, it is a good exhaustion. I would not want to be doing anything else, frankly, or be anywhere else.
Although I am certainly not alone with all the work—I have good volunteers, for sure—nonetheless, I do feel exhausted after every CPC in The Hill event where I stand for three to four hours, lift and carry things my body tells me are too heavy, so much shopping, the set up and tear down, carrying again, and at least three hours of non-stop talking to people. Good people in hard places (almost always). Messy lives. So much brokenness. Yet, trying to piece together a life here in The Hill. Exhaustion must be my spiritual gift.
Yesterday, late afternoon-evening, CPC in The Hill had its third Neighborhood Sidewalk BBQ in the Hill—a Summer-to-Fall celebration with our neighbors. (We have one in the Spring as well.) Not quite a block party, but sort of, without blocking the cars from getting through. And the neighbors came. At least a hundred of them. A bunch at first. Then, slowly until dark. They came up the sidewalk to Maxine’s house, where we pitched a canopy, set up tables, and had the grills fired up. Hot Dogs. Hamburgers. Chicken. Even some Georgia Red Hots! And, tables filled with fruit, salads, dishes prepared by our people—and a few pans of Spanish rice prepared by one of the neighbors—and some deserts.
And, what a treat: Tony, Maxine’s neighbor, volunteered his DJ service to play for the duration of the event (no charge, simply because it’s what neighbors do). An hour and a half of Christian Hip Hop and Christian R&B. His mix. Excellent. And to close out the time, Tony’s friends came (on their own time) and gave us a nice Latin beat to finish off the evening. How could you not dance!
Our amazing CPC in The Hill family. The effort and love they put in serving our neighbors—for nearly a three-hour stretch, too. Some of them on their feet serving food for the whole time. All of them there on the sidewalk serving their neighbors. Gracious. Loving. Standing! Nigeria and John at the grills—sweating and persistent for hours. It was excellent to observe. Plenty of neighborhood kids. Okay, I love it when they shout out, “Hey, Pastor Chip,” and, then, give me a hand pump. I was called “cool” a couple of time—how can I not love that! And, the teens showed up en mass. I counted thirty. Free food. Of course. But still, church, 30 teens! (See why we need that youth worker to wake.)
As I walked the street to invite those hanging outside or on their porches, and, then before I offered a prayer at the beginning of the feast, I shouted out, “This is the neighborhood’s table, come join us.” I prayed. Gave thanks for the food and for our neighbors—and for the Hill. And they did come for three hours—and Jesus was in their midst because CPC in The Hill was there to love and serve them in our neighborhood. What a great evening. People blessed us. We talked about Jesus. People asked us about our church. Some might join us (hoping—God make it so).
A homeless couple we met and served in the park two summers ago, wandered into the food line. They were so glad to see us—thanked us for the meal. They’ve been sleeping in a tent down at a nearby river (yes, even through last winter). They finally have been approved for a temporary, subsidized apartment. They’ll call me when they get a move-in date—so I can pray for them and ask God’s blessing on their new home. A twenty-something young man told me, “I hardly ever see this for free in the Hill. This is a God thing.” I said,
“We love it because it causes the neighborhood to come together. Yes, we are a church and this is a church event, but it’s because we believe we are the body of Christ in this neighborhood and we want God’s love to draw people together. So, for one moment—our vast differences don’t matter, the deep wounds that separate us are lessened, and everyone from the homeless to the homeowner, from the family trying to make ends meet to the drug and alcohol addicted, to the gang member and wondering teens to the all the single-women [head of households], all find space—a place—at our neighborhood table.”
As the sun begun to set in the Hill and the food mostly gone by now, I noticed a lady—adult, not too old, 25 to 30 maybe (if I guessed I’d embarrass myself and her, too)—making her way down the sidewalk. She walked with a cane. Slowly. When I had walked the neighborhood to invite people, she was sitting outside. My name is Star. She whispered. I assume she had a stroke—so young, too. And, she came. It was a good final picture of the evening for me. Broken, wounded, hurt, slow, but desiring the table prepared for her. It was a picture of many of the lives in The Hill. We just need to be present among them. They will come. Slowly, perhaps, and with their brokenness. We are the church and we are, most certainly, their neighbors.
It was a good exhaustion.
Feel free to donate through our church planting collaborative, Mission Anabaino, website (pull down the "Donation Applied" and click "Hill Church Plant - Chip Anderson"). Thanks in advance! Donate >>