A Group of People

The “feel-good” list

In checklists, Christianity, community on January 28, 2011 at 11:48 pm

I spent last night with some of my favorite people, the Bridge Town ministry team who faithfully gather under the Burnside Bridge every Thursday night for Night Strike.

Last week, a friend of mine explained that they didn’t want to see their involvement in Night Strike become something they crossed off their list. What exactly is this list? Simply put, it’s the “Look at me being a good Christian” list that most of us have pulled out at one time or another either to validate our participation in love and good deeds or to justify our non-actions when the list appears to be righteously full. After all, a brief description of Night Strike may include words like, “Burnside Bridge, volunteers and homelessness”, and who wouldn’t view an evening spent out of doors serving in Portland’s winter elements as something worth highlighting on “The List”?

If the checkmarks on this list are connected with ministry, I have to question our understanding of the word “ministry”. Shouldn’t every aspect of our lives reflect the same heart we associate with ministry? I understand that serving of any nature can be draining at times, but I wonder about the areas of our lives that we don’t consider worthy of mention because they don’t fall in line with the heart of ministry. Unrealistic perhaps, but do we even look at the mundane activities during our weeks and raise the same concern in saying, “I don’t want it to be something I just cross off my list”?

I’m referring to the things that are so engrained in our routine that we cease to question either their purpose or our motive for doing them. Most of us just expect to have the television at our disposal after an exhausting workday. The hours spent watching sitcoms and sporting events don’t make an appearance on our blackberry calendars. We worry about spreading ourselves too thin if we make a monthly commitment to an outreach like Night Strike, but do we ever stop and realize how fast the hours slip by when we’re “vegged” out on the sofa?

For the record, Night Strike didn’t need me last night. Alongside 160+ volunteers, my presence didn’t make or break the evening. Yet being a part of “loving on people because people matter” gave me a renewed perspective. It showed me some weaknesses in myself and in my faith.

At the end of the evening, I met a young man named Troy. Riding his pedicab, he approached our group of five at a park close to Burnside. Troy had an enthusiasm about his work that I haven’t witnessed in a long time. As he put it, “I get free Red Bull, free pizza and the privilege of exercising all day long”. Troy asked us what we were doing at a park along Burnside at late at night, to which we responded, “Praying for Portland”. “Cool”, came Troy’s response, “I don’t believe in God or anything, but I think Portland could use the prayer”. We asked about Troy’s work and after handing us his business card, he concluded with, “Hey, call me if you guys ever want a ride, downhill is always free!”

Troy’s zeal for life was contagious. I walked away wondering how a person could approach a group of strangers so easily and how a simple job could produce such cheerfulness? If Troy can ride around Portland in rain or shine for hours, surely I can take a moment to be grateful for my car. And perhaps the next time I feel like grumbling about my work, I could stop and realize the power behind a cheerful word.

I view “the list” and life as one and the same. I’m learning that ministry isn’t meant to be a grandiose experience. It sits alongside a wonderful conversation with a pedicab driver named Troy, and both are intended to enrich my life.

By Angela Snow


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