I get tired of kids leaving. Moving on. A few weeks ago, a family we’ve ministered to for 5 plus years now packed up and moved to Mexico late in the night. The mom’s boyfriend has been here illegally for quite some time and was deported last month. She didn’t want to be away from him any longer, so she loaded up her kids and moved. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. I found out about the move two days later from her sister and nieces. Gone. Just like that. It’s tough.
Yesterday, I showed up at the apartment of another family of kids. It was empty. They were gone. Just like that.
I can’t tell you how many “goodbyes” I haven’t been able to say to kids and families I’ve developed relationships with. Families in poverty often have to move at the drop of a hat, due to evictions, illnesses, trouble with the law, domestic violence, etc. One day they’re here, the next they’ve left, for good. I’ve also had the opportunity to say a bunch of actual “goodbyes.” Those may be even harder.
Whether I’ve known a family for 5 years or 5 weeks, it’s easy for me to wonder if I’ve been “successful” in how I’ve ministered to them, how well I’ve loved, helped, and shared Christ with them. And that’s a little difficult. Success is supposed to be measureable. When I was in sales, my success was based on last year’s numbers for a month compared to this year. I was supposed to increase them for the current year by a certain percentage. If I did that, I was successful. If I missed it, I had some explainin’ to do to my boss. It was easy to measure. It was easy to know whether I deserved reward or rebuke.
But how do I measure success with Mission 2540? I’ve found that it’s hard to measure success when you preach Grace. Grace says God loves you and me unconditionally. Grace says Jesus bore every sin ever committed on the cross. Grace says you and I are eternally forgiven. Grace says you and I are the righteousness of God. Grace says we will never be more loved and forgiven than we are right now. And that kind of grace kind of causes me a problem when I measure success. I’d love to provide reports to my donors about how I’ve got less kids doing drugs or stealing or fighting or having sex. Or less parents lazing around drinking during the day and instead going to church and being engaged with their kids. But that stuff merely makes me feel better. It good stuff, but still, it’s law, not grace.
No, all I really can do is introduce them to the love of Jesus, whether it’s through conversations as we walk through an apartment community, shoot hoops, draw with chalk on the sidewalk, or as they sit and listen to my Bible stories. If families walk away knowing that there’s more to this life than just surviving, that there is hope through a Savior named Jesus, then I guess you could call that successful. That’s not earth shattering. It’s not measurable. It’s not exciting. It’s not something you can put in spreadsheet form.
But it’s my calling. And as painful as it get sometimes, I just have to be faithful to it. And when I’m not, I just have to give myself some grace…