There are two teams of students from my church on trips - one to Haiti and the other to Chicago. Both teams are showing the love of Jesus Christ to the people they encounter in those locations.
The group in Chicago is on the annual GO trip. Strangely enough, the trip is called ChicaGO. It's a trip that teaches students to step out and share their faith with others. Several posts on Facebook today have made it clear that this team is learning to have empathy and compassion for those who don't know Jesus.
It may sound strange, but I sort of feel like I'm on my own GO trip - but mine is called MishawakaGO. You see, I recently moved to the city of Mishawaka, Indiana, and it has been quite a period of adjustment. Having lived in the country up until I graduated from high school, and for the past four and a half years, moving to the city has had its share of new experiences.
For one, the noises are different. We hear a lot more sirens now than we did in the country.
The smells are different too. Instead of the smell of the lake (which is subtle, but quite nice) I've been smelling a lot of exhaust and trash, with the occasional smell of a neighbor grilling (very nice) wafting through the yard from time to time.
The routine is different. We have to have our trash and recycling (first time I've ever had to gather my recyclables) out to the road first thing Monday morning. I also have a new shower and kitchen to establish a routine in each workday.
The options are different. Instead of driving a half hour to do most anything, now I can drive a couple minutes to do pretty much anything I need to do.
Most importantly, the people are different. When we lived at the lake, most people were pretty quiet and kept to themselves. We lived about 100 yards away from our nearest neighbor. Now, we live just a few feet from our next-door neighbor and across the street from several more neighbors. Fortunately for us, the neighborhood seems pretty friendly and problem-free. We've met several neighbors and all are quite friendly. Our kids already have several new friends - who end up in our back yard all the time (another adjustment).
The one thing that seems to be missing from the neighborhood is people like us. I don't want to sound discriminatory, but I don't think anybody in the neighborhood goes to church regularly or really believes in Jesus.
But then, how would I know? I mean, I haven't talked to anybody about it. I'm just assuming - like I always have. I look at their clothes, cars, houses. I listen to their words and the type of music they listen to while they're driving. Then I make assumptions.
How ridiculous is that?
I guess it's just easier to assume things than to really dig into people's lives and find out who they really are. But the easier way is very rarely the best way to do things.
I need to have compassion and sympathy for my new neighbors. At the very least, I need to love them with the love of Jesus Christ and show genuine interest in their lives.
So, it's been a challenge, but at least I've met most of the neighbors and have plenty of chances to interact with them more. I hope I make the most out of it!