A little more than a year ago, I was sitting in the living room at my friends CC and AC’s house surrounded by strangers, talking about a broken neighborhood in a foreign city, filled with people looking for hope. The living room was the last stop on an eight month journey, which started with this prayer: “Lord, give me a history lesson.” The Holy Spirit, fast teacher, said, “Seminary.” “OK,” I said.
Twelve years before, I had said “OK” when the Lord said, “Give me your life for ministry.” Unsure exactly how to pursue that, but believing God, I set out pursuing passions. This led to a transformational discovery of theories in communication, a deep love of story-collecting and storytelling, refining and distracting relationships, zeal for the nations, and a desire to know the power of the gospel and then spread it.
Post high school, college, life in Korea, and years of reconciliation and spiritual growth in Tulsa, I sat in a church service where our pastor said, “We aren’t going to move forward with our regular schedule because I heard the Lord ask us to stop and to pray. Pray first for a history lesson. Pray that God would remind you of His promises to you and of how He’s called you.”
Five months after that service, I sat in a tiny break room at a church across town and listened to my friend AC talk to a handful of people about how he and his wife CC with their three kids and their friend MC were planting a church. He said, “We want to plant the seed of the gospel and see if it’s enough.” THAT resonated. Passion dripped off the pages of a prospectus describing this adventure. The Holy Spirit leapt and after the talk AC said, “Come hang out with us.” In a Tulsa living room that night he also said, “Why don’t you move to Midtown? You can go to seminary at Midwestern.” I’m looking at seminary in Kentucky or Seattle, NOT Kansas City,” I said. He asked why and I said, “Hello? Midwestern is the ugliest place I’ve ever been.” He “respectfully” asked me to reconsider the weight I placed on aesthetics. And he said something about not moving somewhere in isolation. “Choose community” was his message and “Hmm,” was my reply.
The “Hmm” grew as I prayed for the Lord to transform my unbelief. And before I knew it, I was sitting in CC and AC’s living room eating burgers, meeting people, and asking questions. I was about twelve hours into a seventy-two hours trip and the Holy Spirit said, “This is home.” I said to AC and CC, “I think I have to move to Kansas City.” AC said, “Well, alright.” And that was that. God had packed up these broken buildings, these hopeless people and this city full of idols, and put them in my heart. I know He did it because I remember the first time I exited the highway at Linwood and turned onto Cherry from 31st Street. I thought for sure I had made a couple of wrong turns. No way CC and AC lived on this street with boarded up buildings, homeless people, and grafiti “art” proclaiming “Ben is dead”. No WAY. I was uneasy, uncertain, and worried that maybe the seed of the gospel wouldn’t be enough in this place. And then a little book called “Life Together” led me to Zephaniah 3 and I read this:
2 She obeys no one,
she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the LORD,
she does not draw near to her God.
3 Her officials are roaring lions,
her rulers are evening wolves,
who leave nothing for the morning.
4 Her prophets are arrogant;
they are treacherous men.
Her priests profane the sanctuary
and do violence to the law.
5 The LORD within her is righteous;
he does no wrong.
Morning by morning he dispenses his justice,
and every new day he does not fail,
yet the unrighteous know no shame.
9 “Then will I purify the lips of the peoples,
that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder.
10 From beyond the rivers of Cush
my worshipers, my scattered people,
will bring me offerings.
So, I said, “OK.” Because, seriously? What else can you say in response to the declaration that “The LORD within her (Jerusalem) is righteous; He does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail.” THIS God within Jerusalem is also within Kansas City (Psalm 24:1-2). This God, this is my God and He never fails! Hold this up to your uncertainty and BANG! it’s annihilated. Hold it up to your doubt that the gospel will be enough, and BANG! you will see that YOU are not enough, but the gospel stands as the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). And then God says, “Good.” Because now it’s not about you. It’s about HIM and HIS glory and guess what! He WILL get it. Re-read verse 9 up there: “Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve Him shoulder to shoulder.” YES! This makes me physically yell out “YES!” which makes it pretty impossible to say “NO”.
So, here I am, in my living room (OK, actually I’m at the “Filling Station” down the street, but it’s basically a living room and I really wanted to keep the imagery thread alive) celebrating eight months in this city, strangers becoming friends, foreign becoming familiar, and brokenness being met with communities of hope, which we (the body at MCC together with God) are creating here in Midtown.