Is it okay with you that I walk you through a few highs and lows of this Cre8 journey, just letting my fingers type without much thought to writing style, format, or anything proper? I suppose if you keep on reading, then it is okay. Therefore, I will type.
Here we go . . .
- Ministry (substitute with the word “love”) is hard
- Takes time
- Disrupts schedules
- Eats into personal finances
- Hurts the heart and wounds the feelings
- In the light of reality looks a lot like it does in the Word, and nearly nothing like it does from a stage
- Requires more than there is to give
- Then keeps asking for more.
We share quotes like these after they move us:
“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” ~Ronald Reagan
“Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” ~Andy Stanley
Inspirational words like these ring true and motivate us to do something with them, but they really need to be spoken along with a severe warning signal. You see, if you actually decide to live that way, you cannot think that it will fit neatly into your already-existing schedule, succeed on the first try, or rapidly change the “one” that you are trying to help. Reality Alert: you will have to give beyond the moment, stick with that person who will push you away only to return whilst hitting another rock-bottom. You will get messy, and your sacrificial love will not only be questioned by the ones you are giving it to; it will be judged by those who are watching you.
Nope. We don’t realize those aspects when we retweet the quotes or hear the message in a neatly packed gathering of safe believers.
In the spring, our hearts were torn up when Mike and I were told that we “just tolerate people” and “don’t stand up for truth.” We cried every single day for exactly five weeks to the day over these words and more. We were in situations where the long-time church-goers were bumping up against people who were either brand new to the entire Jesus message, or had been so hurt that they were emotionally fragile and still quite broken, coming to this property with fears and nervous anxieties, “Will I be hurt again? Are these people any different?”
At that time, we were finding ourselves spending time with homosexuals or with alcoholic, divorced, fear-ridden, “hurting-to-the-very-maxxed-out-extreme,” falling-apart people. It was NOT a time for casting judgement or pointing fingers, and we had to trust that Love and the Word was enough, and that listening, offering meals, visiting hospitals, or offering transportation was doing something—something more than words, and more than we could see. All of Life begins in the invisible, right? We couldn’t quit. But oh how badly we wanted to.
A man told Mike that he is a bad leader. And do you know what those words did to us? They sent us to our knees. Not in a fake, “Look at that selfish pious couple trying to appear humble” kind of way. No. It was with sobbing remorse and sobering repentant communications with God, “Please Lord, show us how to Love. Show us the power of forgiveness” (“us” being this entire group of struggling people, but beginning with my husband, and me). Mike has been writing his ministry thoughts into a document called, Name on the Front of the Building for a couple of years now, and the spring season sent him to begin contacting a few leaders from his past that we had been hurt by or that we had judged, in order to begin a wave of forgiveness. The results were amazing. God is like that. God is Love. And Love is powerful.
As spring blossomed into summer, every day was a mixture of overcoming hearsay and welcoming new people into our lives with hope and purpose. Does that very combination make you tired? It. was. exhausting. The next months were spent donating money to needy families, sitting with a person after a suicide attempt, carrying a drunkard who could not walk on his own legs out of a bar safely to his home, praying with a couple who was giving up on their marriage, and more. So much more. The calls kept coming. And the reality of Love was a daily exercise—one that we could choose to walk into, or ignore.
People who have been told to leave their long-time church fellowships (sad, but true) have somehow found their way here to gather with us, hopefully feeling like they really do matter. Men and women have been reading their bibles for the first time individually, together, and with their children … to discover for themselves what it is like to open the Word and feast on DAILY Bread. Mike refuses to allow people to think that getting together to hear someone else speak is enough. It is never enough. Daily Jesus is what people need, so those families that have taken family challenges, seeking answers to questions that they are taking time to ask each other — those families who have decided to take their spiritual growth out of a service and live it inside the home — have grown by leaps and bounds!
There are so many fantastic stories!!! This place has been a home for singles to gather for Friday Night worship nights, for women’s self defense classes, health and wellness awareness events, and more. Several families have begun to eat better, lose weight, and teach their children the art and joy of eating unprocessed foods (and this has just happened organically, seeming quite symbolic of the detoxification processes out of other programmed and pressure-filled areas, I guess).
Under the power of being loved by people, alongside the loving conviction from the Word itself, one young couple decided to postpone their engagement, stop living together, and begin their relationship anew, now meeting for premarital counseling, wanting to grow individually in Christ in order to better serve each other and build an intentional marriage that will last.
We have had requests for farming, gardening, and for people to offer classes on agriculture or square-foot gardening to both the English and Spanish speaking local communities. We dream of becoming a Storehouse.
There are many many signs of life here, much like invisible seeds that need to be put into the soil soon. However, Mike and I are so much smaller than the vision, and it will take many hands, and much provision to grow all that is possible within this community.
One odd thing for me is the usage of the word “church.” We are trying to make it impeccably clear that the PEOPLE are the Church and that it is not a gathering place with a style or activity attached to it. I understand that people are so used to saying, “I love my church,” or “You should come to my church.” But I look forward to a day when people just create church by walking in it in daily life, rather than by attaching a cultural system to it. We aren’t unattached to other Jesus followers around the world. We all grow from ONE vine. We must BE and become people of God, with similar fruit. There is no need for competition. Church cannot be another thing that people want to “see” via flashy programming… rather, it is something invisible, made visible in people, by active Love.
A few weeks ago I was brokenhearted for a young girl who wanted to have a very special 13th birthday party. Her friends were all too busy, and she was contemplating the cancellation of her party. We ended up secretly contacting Cre8 Families and having the party here for her. She wanted a Halloween themed party, so I just turned it into a “Face Your Fears” party. We all pitched in for a gift card surprise, and she ended up having her three friends walk into Cre8Home to find twenty-eight people of all ages ready to celebrate her life. Mike wrote a “Top 10 Fears of Becoming A Teenage Girl” list, we had a campfire, a scavenger hunt, and other fear-facing games. A woman from our group who has a scrap-booking business brought enough supplies for everyone to make a bookmark that read, “Fear is NOT a Factor for me!” Another woman made a heart-shaped cake that read, “Perfect Love casts out fear.” It was a beautiful night all the way around!
My mom has listened to our stories over these past eight months. One day she said to me, “Ami, you and Mike have been doing this ministry ever since you were married.” And I know she’s right. We have always had a home that is a revolving door of loving people where they are at, letting them know they matter. In trying to grow this outside of our own home, though, it has been quite a challenge.
We are on this ministry property under a lease for purchase agreement, and the owners are right now wanting their money more quickly than they originally stated. The entire story of our being here is amazing, and there is no possible way that the people who have walked these halls for eight months would have been a part of any of this if we hadn’t taken this step. There are SO MANY things to do, to build, to restore… but in giving to need, we are not bringing in the funds to keep growing on this property unless God does a miracle. Our family has not been receiving a salary from this ministry up to this point. We have lived off of our savings and minimal contract work. We have given to many out of our personal funds in order to keep the ministry funds intact. You financial people out there might just think we’re foolish! But our quest has been to “make the most of Jesus to the most amount of people possible,” believing that a community of people will see gathering together as a way to grow by serving and not by being served. We have spent eight months realizing a few very specific things:
1) Love your neighbor might just mean LOVE your NEIGHBOR. Think about that. We have had families actually say to us that they would serve in a soup kitchen and then leave, feeling empty, like they had done a good deed, but one that just wasn’t enough. Now, they have identified three specific neighbors, are getting to know and serve them, and God is using them in their apartment complex in such deep and unique ways—hard, though, as it is.
2) It always goes back to the HOME. Home is YOU (you are a temple of God), and HOME is your family. When homes are healthy, a community strengthens. So in any external pursuit, examine your home first. Put your best energy there, and miraculous things happen. You are not meant to go out and find your fulfillment in ministry pursuits while ignoring your home. Period.
3) Good leaders talk about servant leadership, but in order to actualize it, the leaders need to have certain things that they do not lead. When those moments happen, it is extraordinary! We just saw some of that take place this week as we served alongside a young believer here who organized a moving day for a friend in desperate need. She led. We served. (This is a young woman who was in her own desperate circumstance and couldn’t afford a moving truck once upon a time. We all helped her with her move and she was so moved internally that she hugged us tightly and said, “I want to know more about this Jesus stuff…” Now that she is experiencing huge life-change, she paid for a moving truck to return the favor… many of us rearranged our schedules to follow her lead. And that’s what it’s all about!)
4) Active Love is not rocket science. I actually think that rocket science might be easier!?! Active Love is SIMPLE, but it is hard. Active Love is something meant for everyone (that is, if you are able to examine the warning signals and become willingly messy anyway). Once you have been Actively Loved, the response is to pass it along to someone else who needs it.
We recently heard someone say that they were told this: “Mike and Ami are just intense.” So I looked up the word intense (adjective):
existing in an extreme degree <the excitement was intense
b : having or showing a characteristic in extreme degree <intense colors>
: marked by or expressive of great zeal, energy, determination, or concentration <intense effort>
exhibiting strong feeling or earnestness of purpose <an intense
b : deeply felt
Yeah, I suppose we are intense. But at the same time, I read true stories about a man who lived to the letter of the law, persecuted Christians, then met Jesus along a road. From that moment forward, he considered his trials, shipwrecks, famine, beatings, and sufferings sheer JOY for the sake of sharing this Jesus whom he had met along that road—Who changed his life with resurrection power and gave him a new name, a new identity in which to BE and Become—with others. In light of a life like Paul… or John, James or Peter… are we really intense? I think not! However, if I have met Jesus, then why wouldn’t I be? Don’t I want others who directly surround me to know of His intense, sacrificial Love? His passionate pursuit? That they are not invisible and when captured by this real Love, they can know the power of pure Forgiveness?
People who feel invisible keep finding this property. We have not even made an entrance sign yet. No outdoor clean up, no advertising. I often feel as though the real ministry that is happening, the good stuff that is actually changing lives, is invisible. And when needy people are being served, the payback does not come in funding; it appears to this world (and to the landowners), invisible. So today in our desire to see invisible people know that they matter, I am hoping and praying that Our Immortal, Invisible God, Only Wise, will keep moving us forward in visible and tangible ways, and continue to make His Life known to those who desperately need Him. We don’t want to quit. Normal is tempting, but I don’t think we’d be very good at it.
“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that
they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before
them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the
things I do, and I do not forsake them.” ~Isaiah 42:16