Mobilizing for outreach is as essential at home as it is abroad.  In the developing world, outreach might involve agriculture, clean water, education, medical, dental care, or provision of better nutrition to gain access into any community.  The vital element is to meet legitimate needs in a manner to accomplish betterment and development.   Genuine impact gains opportunities to build meaningful relationships and to share the life-transforming power of the gospel in deed and word.

I am so grateful for like-minded individuals from our congregation and others, who choose to gather periodically for prayer, training, and encouragement.  I recently asked this group to express what following Jesus means to them.

-The number one answer was “being available
-Similarly, “my time is not my own
-“Cross-cultural relationships
-“Putting Jesus first
-“He takes me places
-“I’m a learner

Our simple approach is identifying needs for betterment and development (avoiding ‘relief’ or doing FOR*), and we humbly attempt to undertake initiatives in our community which are primarily geared toward providing a ‘hand up’ to vulnerable people*.

Examples include literacy training for adults and children in apartment residences, in church-based tutoring programs, as well as in the public schools.  Tutoring of adult English Language Learners can easily extend beyond the three R’s of basic education to the Minnesota Driver’s Manual.  Adult tutoring can also include the hard and soft skills of job training and life-skill development to empower members of our community for better employment & livelihood opportunities, which positions our neighbors for making their individual contribution to society.

Other examples of outreach include refugee settlement, citizenship classes and counsel, and international student ministry at our local community college.  Also, so many of our members’ vocational commitments reflect these same priorities, like city services, public health administration and nursing, teaching and the like.  All work, done well, glorifies God and contributes to the social fabric of our communities.

As we spend time with those we encounter, we demonstrate our God-given love and concern for them and exchange generosity, hospitality, and servanthood with individuals of varied cultural backgrounds.  When we do so, bridges are built, life stories are shared, receptivity is gained, and God’s heart for vulnerable people comes through and is reflected in many meaningful and fruitful ways which count for today and eternity.  Even greater outcomes will occur when lives and communities are transformed, not the least of which will be our own.

(*God’s people must be involved in mercy ministry in times of national disaster and the like, however, doing for others what they can do for themselves, e.g., handouts rarely lead to disciple-making opportunities.  See Toxic Charity by Dr. Robert Lupton, or When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbbet and Brian Fikkert)