Some statement on a recent TV news program made me think of how harsh and unsympathetic the world can be to the various ways human beings are hurting. Then, I began hearing encouraging reports in the ABC family that there’s really a lot of caring going on.
- Sunday a-week-ago someone* shared in the worship service about how a 79-year-old homeless woman finally found a place to live, after three years on the streets, through the Women’s Room program of Friends In Deed.
- This past Sunday, an eight-year-old ABCer, in response to what she had heard the Sunday before, brought a housewarming present for the older lady: a plant, as well as Target and Vroman’s gift-cards to help buy things for her new home. They were delivered to her that afternoon.
- At the end of the Communion Service, we received a special Benevolent Offering for relief of those who had suffered from the recent hurricane on The Bahamas. The generous offering of $1,261.05 was supplemented by donations received earlier, and a check for $2,071.61 was sent through Converge churches whose people suffered losses.
- A couple of weeks ago, one of our senior citizens decided to do something about the struggles of a young man having trouble finding his footing following his release from prison. After a lot of personal advocacy and persistence, he was able to get him into a program that will give him an opportunity for rehabilitation to a positive life.
- Last week, a recent ABC graduate from a nursing program chose to take a job at an inner-city hospital located on a street where homeless people live in tents, over job possibilities in more comfortable locations. Her decision to do healthcare work among homeless people grew out of her years of volunteer and staff work at the Pasadena Bad Weather Shelter through ABC.
- A young lesbian couple came to discuss their relationship and their future with one of ABC’s pastors, and the pastor was also able to ask for and receive their advice on how our church can become more accepting and affirming of LGBTQ young people.
- Our team of four returned from their first Growing Young Cohort summit meeting with leaders from close to 20 other churches about how ABC can become more youth-oriented as we move into the future. They’re full of hope and enthusiasm.
My conclusion? There’s a whole lot of caring going on at and through ABC.
But, we need to stretch our caring even more. That can’t be done without a miracle of God’s grace. Our own hearts just aren’t big enough.
There’s an interesting Old Testament example — King Solomon who ruled at the apex of Israel’s influence in the Middle East, about nine centuries before Jesus. God wanted a man big enough for the job, so he stretched him:
God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and largeness of heart** as vast as the sand on the seashore. (1 Kings 4:29)
How many people should we care about? How much can we afford to care? It’s all up to God; he’s the Heart-Enlarger. Let’s pray for largeness of heart in the entire ABC family!
— Pastor George Van Alstine
* I decided not to identify any of the people mentioned in this article to focus attention on the common caring theme among the examples.
** The New Revised Standard Version, which we use as our pulpit Bible, translates this phrase “breadth of understanding,” but the King James Translation is word-for-word from the Greek original, “largeness of heart.”
Christina Chevez, Debra Hunt, Rob Ottaviano and Pastor Connie attended a conference last week at Fuller Seminary, designed to help us revitalize the culture of our church, with a specific focus on young people 15-29 years old, which will have the effect of branching out and strengthening every other age group in the church–downward and upward. We learned about research, we heard about real practices in real churches all around the country. We learned, we prayed, we dreamed, we brainstormed.
ABC is embarking on this journey, believing that God will guide us through together, and that he has great things in store for us as a church. The four of us are hopeful and excited to share with you what we are learning. We are going to need your help and ideas and prayer.
But more than all, and first of all, we are especially, especially keen on listening to you. What you have to say is very important to us. So the first thing that we will do is to ask every attender to take a church assessment. It will take 5-10 minutes to complete. It will be anonymous. We really need to know from all of us, where we stand currently, in order to grow from here, so your voice is very important to us.
We will have more instructions on the assessment soon, but I do want to invite you from today onward, to be praying for our church.
We also have four copies of the book Growing Young, which provides the framework for all our efforts. You are welcome and encouraged to sign one out to read and/or to ask questions of the cohort, deacons, or pastors.
^The beautiful cross in the background was made by Matt Lumpkin. We were happy to see it–it’s quite stunning. Ask Matt about its creation and meaning next time you see him.