As I write this, I am 38, 000 feet in the air flying back to my home city of Nashville, TN. My time in Denver has ended. This truly is a sad thought. The good news, however, is that the impact of it is far from over.
At the end of each week, I, as a CSM city host, ask groups “what are you going to take home from this experience? What one thing is going to be different when you go back to your city?” During my last week as a host, I asked myself this question a lot, knowing that my own time to go home was soon approaching. There were just so many experiences, conversations and learning curves, what one thing could I possibly take home from this experience to a city that is so different to the one that I was in?
The danger in going somewhere to do “short term missions” is believing that the work that you did was only in that particular city or country or area. We have to realize that there is no place that we go to do missions - nowhere further than where we already are.
I must admit that I have been so guilty of this mindset before. When leaving South Africa, I arrived in the US with a mindset that I would one day go back to do mission work. I did not see the opportunity of a new country and city to serve and to love people for four years. It probably took me a year living in Nashville to realize that the city I was in is my home and my (at the risk of sounding like a cheesy missionary kid) ‘mission field’! I selfishly spent my time in college, making friends, impressing people, and spending money on things that didn’t really matter, all the while trying to figure out what it meant to live for others. I think I knew, and over time I started taking small steps toward this goal of living my life for the least.
While living in Denver, I felt like every aspect of life was my 'mission field'. Not only did I get to serve and love while I was around the city with my groups, but also on my weekends and during break times. I occasionally sacrificed going out for dinner because one of my homeless friends was drunk and needed to vent about how hard life is. I sat with men sleeping on my porch in the middle of the night, offering water and what food I had inside. I helped bandage my friend Sybian’s wounds when I would rather be exploring the city. A friend and I went to spend our break at a nearby public pool, and ended up entertaining kids from one of our ministry sites that recognized us and wanted to play.
Please understand, this is not to “toot my own horn” or boast at all, because it had nothing to do with what I did, I had just finally discovered what it meant to love people at all times, even when it is inconvenient.
So what am I taking home from my experience with CSM in Denver?
Nashville is now my Denver. I will see the people on Broadway like I saw those on Colfax. I refuse to ignore, walk past, or turn a blind eye to those in the city that suffer just because it is inconvenient to me. I commit to clothing, feeding, loving, and sharing Jesus in any way possible, whether that be volunteering with organizations, hanging out with kids in Edgehill, or talking to a stranger on the bus.