Today a few of us from CityPres had the opportunity to join alongside a sister in NE OKC who is feeding breakfast and lunch to 50-75 kids per day from the library at 23rd and Martin Luther King. We ran into her at the Juneteenth celebration and we talked for hours as she shared with me a story of how she began to feed these kids. She was a tutor at a local elementary school and was frustrated as her student would come for tutoring and would lay down on the desk and refuse to even lift up his head when she would read. In her frustration with him, she finally felt like she just needed to listen and as she sat quietly next to him and listened what she heard was this little boy’s stomach growling so loudly that she didn’t know how she’d ever missed it. She asked him if he’d eaten that day and he admitted that he had not really eaten that day or the day before. Her heart broke and she decided that she would find a way to walk into that need. She rented a kitchen and has begun to make breakfast and lunch every day of the summer so far.
I called her on Tuesday night and she said that she had actually been praying for the Lord to send her some extra hands as on Wednesday she had agreed to take a group of kids on a “field trip” to the splash pad. So, we agreed and a few of us joined them at Memorial Park on 36th and Classen. We handed out lunch, played with kids, talked to the women who were with them and learned that all of these kids were children of women who were in a homeless and domestic violence shelter in Northeast OKC.
When we arrived and began to set up, we noticed a water feature in the middle that looks like 3 hanging buckets. The buckets sit right side up as water pours into them and as they become full, they flip over and empty refreshing water out upon whoever is in the splash zone.
As we sat talking, they asked us if we were all related or how we all knew each other and we told them that we went to the same church. They asked which church and where it was and a few questions about whether or not we were active in “missions.” It was a beautiful moment to be able to clarify. We told them that we are actually probably better described as a body of people who are being changed by the love of Christ so deeply that we are understanding our need of one another and of Christ’s call to us to care deeply about reconciling with brothers and sisters whom we have not historically loved well. This wasn’t “mission work” for us [which often has a one-sided feel to it] but an opportunity to learn to love one another well and share what we have together [resources, wisdom, life] for His glory. It is a learning to share in each other’s sufferings because “when one member of the body suffers, all suffer.” So, it has to matter to me that these kiddos don’t have access to food or a good education. It has to matter to me that to access a safe, cool place to play we had to drive to the other side of town. It has to matter that their moms are in a hard spot and lack safe places to live. By His grace, it GETS to matter and I actually get to be part of the healing. What a precious gift.
And, just like those buckets in the middle of the splash pad the longer we talked the less defensive we were and the more our buckets filled, until the love of Christ truly overflowed. And it soaked us, it soaked them, all it soaked each of those kiddos. By the end of our time, we exchanged numbers and sweaty/soaked hugs and blessed each other.
It was peanut butter sandwiches, playing in the water, chatting in the shade, choosing to embrace the awkwardness of our differences, but ultimately...it was tearing down what divides us so we can build His Kingdom together.
It was Paul’s prayer for the church at Phillippi and it is ours for the church in Oklahoma City. As he fills us with His love as beloved children it is for a glorious purpose to be poured out that we could see the demonstration of His Kingdom of love, justice, mercy right here in our midst:
“And it is my prayer that your love may be OVERFLOWING, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness [the display of justice and mercy] that comes because of Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. -Philippians 1:9-11-