Steve Sjogren and Rob Lewin write in their recent book, Community of Kindness, "We believe that a church that doesn't do outreach is a waste of time," and "...one of the foremost qualities that makes for church-planting success is great humility of heart." with that in mind, Jon Bartholomay and i spent an hour today trying our best to communicate Jesus' love to our city, Milan, Michigan. here's a recap of 1:10-2:10 p.m.
1:10 load two buckets with windex, paper towel, pine-sol, sponges, toilet brushes, toilet cleaner, and garbage bags into my car, as well as a bag with 35 gift boxes of Godiva chocolate. each box has this card slipped under the ribbon:
1:11 drive main to wabash, over the river, and into the city complex.
1:14 walk into the police station, and wait for the dispatcher to get off a phone call. "here for the pager?" she inquires (i'm on a once a month rotation as a chaplain for the police department).
"no, actually here to drop off some chocolates for everyone on duty this weekend," we reply, showing her the chocolates. "all free, of course." give her 6 boxes of chocolates, one for each police officer working the weekend shift. wish her well, and thank her for her service to the community.
1:17 walk to the library, and Jon gives the surprised librarian and his coworker a couple boxes of chocolates. "what's this all about?" calls the one furthest away.
"rainy day." I say. "thought you might enjoy some Lady Godiva chocolates"
"just because God loves you," Jon says.
"wow, thanks!" she says as we leave.
1:20 back up wabash, left on main, park in front of the downtown laundromat. we give chocolates to the two men doing laundry. they look pretty surprised. "this sure makes having to do the wash a lot better," comments one guy as he thanks us.
1:22 wind our way through the back streets to dexter / carpenter, heading north. pull into the other laundromat in town and give chocolates to the 5 or 6 people there. everyone accepts, gladly. "your're from the vineyard church?" asks one woman as we're leaving.
"you know it?"
"i've been to the one in ann arbor once," she says.
we talk for a couple of minutes, introduce ourselves, discover she lives in Milan, works at the adult care facility. we tell her about the church, let her know she's welcome anytime, and offer to pray for her. she enthusiasticaly accepts the offer of prayer, telling us about her children and mother. Jon and i bless her as we leave, and stop at the car to pray for her and her family. we also grab the cleaning supply buckets.
1:30 pop into the coney island restaraunt, and one of the waitresses recognizes me from waiting on me a few times, asks what we're up to, and gets the owner's attention. we give Jonny (the owner and head cook) chocolates for him and his staff (which they seem really surprised and happy about), and tell him we'd love to wash his bathrooms for him. classic servant evangelism double take. priceless. seriously, we persist. free, no catch, no strings attached. go for it! he says, and points the way. Jon and I divy up the work, toilets, sinks, mirrors, and garbage. we work fast, so the customers aren't inconvenienced. we work thoroughly, too, though, so that God's love gets a good reputation, if you know what i mean. many enthusaistic thanks from waitstaff, chefs, and ownership alike on the way out. we thank them for allowing us to serve them. and we mean it. we're having a blast.
1:45 run back to the car to get the bathroom cards, because the next place, Marco's Pizza, has an employee only bathroom (i feel funny leaving cards in public restrooms, since the cards can seem like sneaky advertising--but they work great for employee only bathrooms, since the employees always wonder what in the world we're doing). the cards look like this:
1:47 chocolates for the Marco's employees and a clean bathroom too. still no rejections, which is amazing in this line of work. hard to believe how difficult it is for many people to receive things for free, whether because of skepticism, or lack of practice, or whatever. but we're on a roll, having a great time together, talking, serving, laughing.
1:55 Subway is up next. the manager seems skeptical about the chocolates (maybe it's a language barrier, maybe cultural, maybe it's just outside his categories, who knows). but when one of his employees hears Godiva chocolate is being offered, there's no stopping the love.
"Godiva!? seriously? i'll take some!"
the manager's resistance drops, and he accepts the offer. then we ask about cleaning the their bathroom. another questioning look from the manager.
"our bathroom?" asks the younger guy, incredulously. "why?"
"just a way to show you God love you," answers Jon.
"wow, that's so cool!" he exlaims.
again, the manager softens. points the way to the bathroom. "go ahead," he says, resigned.
10 minutes later, as we're walking out, offering our thanks for the privilege, he beckons us over, points at a new employee behind the counter. we hand over the whole bag of boxes of chocolates. a big smile explodes on the manager's face, and he grabs a box of chocolate out of the bag, handing one to the new guy. go ahead, we encourage him. his smile broadens and he grabs a couple more. he thanks us vigorously, and then asks why, again, are we doing all this. Jesus loved to wash peoples' feet, we say, loved to meet their needs in surprising ways. we're just trying to be like him, best as we can.
2:08 a dry cleaner is the last place on that's open nearby. we stop in and give the woman there some chocolate. seems like she's not exactly sure what to make of us. no, her bathrooms don't need washing. it's free, we clarify. no, still, they are quite clean, nothing needed. no problem, we say, wishing her well and heading back to the car, praying for the people we met, praying for them to meet God's love personally, back to the church, back home.
it's good to get out.