I am exhausted. But, this is exactly how I should feel.
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.”
He replied, “Now that’s what we are talking about. Amen. So beautiful. Even if it’s just for a moment. And, it’s a good moment.”
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.
Of course, without the support and under-writing of our anchor church, events like this would be impossible for our under-resourced little congregation. We hope to keep this up—even expand to more events, more neighborhood BBQs—as more partners join us. But as the initial anchor-church funds decrease and our fundraising partnerships need to increase we will need more partners to make this happen. You can help by becoming a partner with CPC in The Hill and offering to extend your ministry by supporting us in The Hill.
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 >>
OUR LAST SUMMER PARK BBQ was this evening. As I usually do each Wednesday evening, I made my way around Trowbridge Square Park, inviting new people to join us for some hot dogs and talking with old friends who’ve joined us throughout the summer. There were lots of people this evening—and after Nigeria (our grill person) said, it's time, I shouted out, “Hot Dogs are ready, come and join us!” They all came. I mean THEY ALL CAME . . . the park literally cleared out and gathered around me at our tables.
Before eating, easily over 50 people (adults, kids, and teens) stood and heard a short message on John 14.
By the end of the evening had we served well over 80 people. But I will not forget the initial crowd that had gathered to hear the word on this last In His Midst Park BBQ evening. We thanked the good people, grateful they allowed us into their park. And, thankful we could serve them this summer. I offered a final summer prayer and asked God to be with them this Fall and school year.
And, then they ate.
We handed out bags with some school supplies (not much, but something). The parents appreciated it and the kids just just getting something. After we cleaned up and put the grill away, we invited the children to line up and sit down. Lots of kids. Good thing we had 60 bags, thank goodness. Hands up for those going into pre-school . . . kindergarten . . . 1st . . . 2nd . . . and on . . . freshman year . . . and on up to senior year . . . hands went up as their grade was called.
I taught them a shout out prayer. I asked them all to think of that ONE subject they need God to help them with this year: one, two, three . . . “SCIENCE!” (Definitely #1 this year.) “Math!” “Writing!” “Reading!” And I am sure there were a few others mixed in there as well. It was quite the moment. God heard them. Then they got the bags. Everyone seemed happy.
Plenty of people asked for our church-cards or mine. A number admitted they really should be going to church (going to worship). A few told me, "Don’t give up on me, pastor, I am planning on coming." One gentleman in a wheel chair, who lives across from the park, asked me to drop by sometime (I will).
Thanks to all who prayed for this summer’s BBQ park ministry. I am so grateful to all our CPC in The Hill family who pitched in and made this happen. So appreciate our wider Hill family that also added to our strength through helping and serving. A shout out to all the kids (and yes, I mean, kids) who were there almost every time to help us unload and carry the stuff from the cars and truck.
One neighbor called me over to say thank you for what our church does here in the park. He then said, “You are a different kind of pastor, aren’t you?” I smiled and said, "I think I am exactly who I am and I am so glad I’m here with you." He said, “I will have to check out your church to see what kind of preacher you are.” God make it so.
And may God add to all the blessings we witnessed this summer in the park.
Wasted Blogger, Chip M. Anderson
I am the pastor and church planter for Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill; a flawed practitioner of Wasted Evangelism. I am learning about Wasted Evangelism through my experience in The Hill and through the good people of CPC in The Hill.