So … here it is. Today’s the day. The day of the big synchroblog. The big hitters are writing about this. Fifty of us are writing to define the word “missional.” When Rick sent out his call for this by blog and by e-mail (thank you, Rick), I thought, “Yeah … I do have something to say.” In the intervening weeks though, my scattered thoughts have not gathered themselves.
I am no theologian. I am not trained in exegesis or any of the other long scary unknowable words that people use to make themselves seem smart. I am, at the end of the day, a teacher. And a quilter (I love color) And a story-teller. So I will tell a story and teach a lesson about how I and my family are missional in the suburbs. In our house missional means lawncare … among other things.
It all began with a door to nowhere. Or more precisely, a door to our backyard with a 5 foot drop for a first step. We lived in our house for 3 years with a french door that we could not use because, well, “Watch out for the first step, it’s a lou-lou.” So we had a deck built.
Two guys built it. I think they spoke about 10 words of English between the two of them. Just enough to ask for the bathroom and water when they needed it. We’d go out and admire their workmanship occasionally; they’d smile and nod.
During this time I was caring for a friend’s four children once a week while she and her husband went to marriage counseling. It was the tradition for she and her kids to have dinner with us when the counseling was done. One evening, it happened that the deck makers were also there. We invited them to have dinner with us in the back yard. We’d have eaten in the house, but we had no way to get the grilled meat into the house because of the construction. We set up a plastic banquet table and paper plates. BlazingEwe and her FlamingLambs were here too. The kids ate all over the yard and the grown ups ate together at the table. I remembered about as much Spanish from highschool as they knew English. So we were able to communicate over sticky drumsticks and gooey potato salad. We all ate and smiled until our stomachs and faces were full. It was one of the happiest meals I remember.
We’ve carried on the tradition since then. Whenever people come to work on or around our home, we bring them water or share a meal with them depending on the circumstances. This year, we’ve finally broken down and hired a lawncare service. This has turned out to be a Hispanic man and his sons. We don’t do lawn care with any regularity and our lawn has always been the po’white trash lawn on the block … a certain disgrace to a particular neighbor of ours. It is the elder son who does the talking and negotiating with us. He must be about LightGirl’s age, but sober and sturdy. Responsible, quick and dependable. They come whenever to mow our lawn, if we’re here we pay them, otherwise, they come another time for payment. If we’re here, we take them water. One evening the father was taking a little too long with his part and the sons played joyfully on our trampoline. LightBoy joined them. And the joy was exponential. Our lawn has become beautiful in their capable hands, but more importantly we are slowly building a friendship with them. Our goal is to invite them to a meal soon. To share our hospitality with them.
You see, to me, missional is about giving hope in a world of gray. It’s about smiling at people who routinely wear frowns. I may never have the chance to speak the words of the Gospel to them in my outloud voice. But I can say to my (agnostic) friend when her sense of being gets too tied up in her website, “You are more than that. You are not your website. You are beautiful and created for much more than that.” Help her move beyond despair and into grace.
Missional is about loving my neighbor and that can be expressed in thousands of ways, but the thought that came into my head this morning and will not leave is the verse from Jeremiah that most people use in very different circumstances. Jeremiah 29:11 … “1 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Plans to give hope and a future. You see that’s so often lacking in our world today. Hope … AND a future.
So I speak hope into the lives of the people I know and the people I meet. I try to know them and find the hope that is there. Find the light that leads to the future and together we will walk towards God.
This is part of a synchroblog that has been organized by Blind Beggar (Rick Meigs) that is hoping to clarify and define the term “missional.” I have more than likely just muddied the waters with my craziness here. But these other folks will have done a much better job than I, so please read them:
Cobus Van Wyngaard