On January 24th, The Nathaniel Mission Board met to hear the report of our Executive staff on this period of research. The product of their study was the formulation of the 2018 Strategic Vision Plan for The Nathaniel Mission. This plan outlines the clear conclusions that our research and data point to: The Versailles Road Corridor is ripe for Kingdom service. Some of the most underserved and overlooked neighborhoods in Lexington are within walking distance of the Nathaniel Mission. These communities are racially and ethnically diverse, predominantly poverty stricken, and generally lacking in supportive community services.
The Christmas season has been upon us for quiet some time now. Christmas is my favorite season. I love all of the celebrations, family traditions, the way the Christmas season brings people together but most of all celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
We brought the kids that we work with together to celebrate this season and the birth of Jesus Christ. We held Christmas parties for Harrison Elementary, Cardinal Valley, and Speigle Heights.
The community Speigle Heights and the kids that live there hold a special place in our hearts. We have done a few events in the community over this school year. This school year we have partnered with Christ Church to do an after-school program at Harrison Elementary school and we began an after-school program at Cardinal Valley. Over the last few weeks, we have been talking about the birth of Jesus Christ in our mentoring time. We ended our last day of the program before Christmas break by celebrating with a party! At our parties we had pizza, a Christmas ornament craft, decorating cookies, gifts and other fun stuff as well. Take a look at all of the fun we had celebrating!
Our desire is to be very intentional in building relationships with the children and families in these communities. One avenue that we have utilized is provided the children with activities on the weekends and during summer. These activities allow us to connect with the children in the community, get to know them, and find out where needs are.
Our central goal has remained the same and our hearts for our new neighbors are still grounded in love, support, and care. However, as we have discovered over these significant years of shifting landscape, the needs of the communities in which we find ourselves now are not always the same as the ones we served in the past. Our great desire is that the shape of our engagement with our neighbors would match those areas of greatest need. In order to do that well however, we must know our neighbors and neighborhoods!
Walk into the cafeteria on Tuesday afternoon and you will see excited and joyful children playing with board games, legos, drawing, reading, and eager to help with the day's activities. The day moves from snack to physical activity to dinner to mentoring and ending with a pretty intense tutoring portion. Each section of the day brings its own joys and challenges.
Ministry is expensive, particularly ministry focused on improving the health and wellness of impoverished communities without access to adequate health care. The Nathaniel Mission Health and Wellness Center, our arm of the Mission aimed at changing the physical wellbeing of our neighbors, is a costly endeavor. Our clinics, classes, support groups, and other initiatives are an investment in our neighborhoods that truly does lead to restoration and transformation, but not without a steep price tag.
Dale walked into the Mission with a furtive glance over his shoulder.He was skittish, on edge from the millions of thoughts certainly racing through his head.Dale was homeless, living a life of constant vigilance and defensiveness.Every day Dale had to be mindful of the consequences of normal human choices.If Dale fell asleep, what would happen to his belongings, his person?If Dale needed to leave his tent to get food or find a bathroom, would he return to anything left at all?If Dale walked down the street, or made eye contact with another human being, what would they think, say, do to him?
Behind fidgeting feet, careless hands, and words spoken out of turn is a kid who simply wants to be seen, heard, and understood. Let me introduce you to Z. He is the smaller of the youngest group at camp. He is full of energy and as soon as he sits down at a table his hands reach for the first thing he can get his hands on. His doctor suggested to mom to take him off his medicine for the summer and he's a different kid without it. Two hours into Monday he had already received 3 warnings from his small group leaders.
At The Nathaniel Mission, we have three guiding principles that shape the way we operate, and this story perfectly explains the first principle, which is that we strive to be a restorative community that values all people. This woman felt as if she had no worth and that nobody valued her, and it was up to us to show her the love of Jesus, the man that values her life more than anything, even over His own.
One passage of scripture continued to rise to the surface. These words of challenge and encouragement seemed to simultaneously encapsulate our desire to work alongside our neighbors as well as God’s clear instructions for how that work could actually make an eternal difference. The passage is Isaiah 58:6-14, wherein God calls His people to a radical form of discipleship. While the people seek to practice their spirituality, or more particularly the act of fasting, solely for their own betterment, God’s strategic vision for their expression of faith is inherently relational, calling the people to take notice of and work to alleviate the suffering of others around them. For God, our faith and relationship to Him are their most powerful when they propel us into the lives of our neighbors as we work together for our mutual benefit in the Kingdom of God.