Published 8:25 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2019
By Nathan Decker
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
– Francis of Assisi
“Never gonna happen.” I’ve heard that a lot in my life. My experience in any group of people is at least one of them is going to be the self-appointed ‘devil’s advocate’ or worse ‘nay-sayer.’ Over time, however, I have learned to listen … and then continue forward where God leads.
When I arrived in Franklin and Southampton County, I was told several times racism, poverty and several other dividing lines were a problem, but one about which nothing could be done. Supporting arguments were offered. Blacks and whites will never work together, too much animosity and bad history ranging from Nat Turner and slavery to welfare and jobs at the mill. The churches are more interested in competing against each other for members than working together. If you give someone a helping hand, they’ll just be back for more. Nothing is going to change. It will never happen.
Last weekend, the impossible happened. Four churches worked together. Kids in a poor community were empowered to build. Relationships were born. People came together and found we are better together as community. Celebration Church, Franklin Baptist, First Baptist and High Street UMC represent a large part of our community. Yes, there is a history of competition. Yes, there are differences in culture, belief and skin color in the clergy. Yet, these four churches came together to cook some hot dogs, provide some lumber, and let kids in Southampton Meadows know they matter.
The best part — we didn’t do it for us. We did it for Jesus, and we did it for them. The best missions are not free meals and give-a-ways. They create interdependency and inequality in power and decision making. The best missions are about working with one another, sharing resources, and empowering change.
God provided opportunity for the residents of Southampton Meadows and us to rise. We didn’t give away corn hole sets. We brought lumber and paint; the kids put it together, owned it, painted it, and played. We brought food; the community brought music with an impromptu DJ. We brought footballs; older kids taught younger kids how to play. We brought bubbles; little boys and girls bonded with an officer from the Sheriff’s Office who opened the bubbles. We brought a little light, and the community blazed with joy instead of the dark of hopelessness.
The Bible is filled with examples of limits with which we box God into categories of possible and impossible. More often than not, what we think is impossible is God possible. Feeding 5,000 at a picnic? Freeing slaves in Egypt? Coming together not in spite of our differences but celebrating them? With Jesus, the mission is always possible. Have a little faith. Try to accomplish what people say is ‘never gonna happen.’ After all, it’s what Jesus would do.
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
– Mark 9:23