Everyone has a story. Here’s mine. I grew up in a college town in Pennsylvania and attended a fairly homogenous elementary school. Two parents (who will celebrate 45 years of marriage next month) and one younger sister made for a traditional suburban existence. In high school my father’s job took us to Massachusetts where I attended a small high school in a blue-collar factory town. God had uprooted me and was up to something—I just didn’t know Him yet. I went to church every Sunday, and asked Him into my heart in the 5th grade…but I still didn’t really know Him.
I attended one of the most liberal colleges on the East Coast, The University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In close proximity to Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire Colleges the environment was ‘politically correct,’ ‘inclusive,’ and ‘liberal.’ I found Jesus there. I completed a Campus Crusade for Christ survey at the dining hall after marching band practice. Okay, now God could really get started—I was surrendered!
The summer before my senior year I felt led to participate in one of Crusade’s summer mission trips. I was studying education, and wanted to do something to impact the lives of children, children living in poverty to be specific. Here’s Life Inner City offered several opportunities and being the adventurous type, I decided that Los Angeles would be the most outrageous choice. I signed up and started raising support. In late April the Riots happened and the nation watched a city in distress. In May I got on a plane and landed at LAX to live in South Central for two months. (Note: this should give you an indication that I am not averse to risk-taking). That summer changed my life.
The principles I learned from John Perkins, Wayne Dawson and Robert Lupton (and most recently Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert) still challenge me to live a life surrendered to God’s heart for the urban core and those who live in it. Next week I’ll share a bit about what that meant for me and my faith journey—and then we’ll start digging into some of the principles I have found most impactful from Lupton’s most recent book Toxic Charity. I’m looking forward to your comments and input as we talk about the role of local churches and ministries in the lives of the poor.