community on mission

I saw a quote on Twitter, ‘Community is the byproduct of mission.’ I wonder how many would agree or disagree with that statement? Honestly…we’ve seen it both ways around Woods Chapel.

There are groups of friends, small groups or even large groups that choose to do mission together. They are all from different backgrounds…doing Bible studies together, Sunday school classes, neighbors or accountability groups. Groups go down to Westport, work in Joplin, help families that have lost jobs, bake delicious treats for neighbors or firemen, and serve at Harvesters are all examples of things our folks have done. Sometimes it’s not the whole group that is interested in serving, but as groups do everyone tags along. The part that I love, however, are those that have never served before. Never looked a homeless person in the eye, never looked for worth in one who finds pillows in dumpsters. Or didn’t realize there were thousands of people in the KC area that cannot regularly put food on their tables. And my personal favorite…those who suddenly realize that deeply caring for their neighbors is all a part of the mission God wants us to participate in while just living our ‘normal’ lives.

The groups that feel like there is something more for them to evolve toward typically find it when they serve together. The groups we’ve seen serve come away from that time with a stronger bond, more stories to laugh about and a greater understanding of what God meant when he said ‘Go!’ At the foundation of it is a group that has been the heart of God to others, and it ignites something in their souls.

‘Community is the byproduct of mission.’

Community is incredibly intensified by doing mission together. But what about those that are complete strangers who go out to serve together, and come back like family? Our Joplin teams are a fantastic example. Teams of 6-25 people were traveling to work for 1 to 3 days at a time. It became a normal thing to hear someone say, ‘I’ve been going to Woods Chapel for 10 years and I never met most of the people on my team!’ As over 200 folks traveled to Joplin…friendships were formed, relationships with ‘our Joplin families’ were nurtured and God’s presence was not only abundant, but tangible.

Woods Chapel has been serving meals down at Westport for many years. Folks go serve on a Saturday or Tuesday night, and a couple of months later go again. And soon enough there is a pattern. They learn names of those that come through the doors. They recognize faces. They acknowledge birthdays. And months later realize…this is not about serving meals. It is about connecting to others equally made in the image of God. Some of those that are investing each Saturday of the month at Westport are not only seeing homeless with a different set of eyes, but they are a part of a community that was born out of a desire to feed the hungry.

A couple of years ago, one of the Russia teams came back from a trip and wanted to figure out a way to involved everyone in the ministry at Woods Chapel instead of perpetuating the idea you had to travel to be part of the family. There are those that travel to the orphanage in Russia, families that sponsor each of the orphans, and pen pals that cannot make a monthly commitment, but want to speak hope & value into the lives of the kids. Soon Nadezhda Crew was created out of a random thought in Russia, and ever since anyone connected to the Russia ministry gathers on the first Sunday of the month to share a meal. They also do projects for the kids: cards, posters, and video messages. Without the Russia ministry…they would have never been a group. Their community was a byproduct…a beautiful, fantastic byproduct of the mission of God to serve orphans in Russia.

Each of us is born with a beautiful mission impulse. It is that part of ourselves that is hard to explain, because how do you form words around what it feels like to pour out God’s love on others? To have that gut feeling that there is more God has for you to participate in? It is the purest desire of our Father that we would fight for His kingdom on earth…and choosing to love others as a community on mission together is an amazing reflection of God’s presence in our lives.

What is your story? What has your group done? Shout it out! Hold it up! I would love to hear the story of how your group is participating in God’s mission!


giddy, seriously!

Sometimes I take a look at my life and I wonder, ‘God, why do I get the honor to do that for you?’ This week, it is in light of what I spent my time doing in Joplin on Tuesday and Wednesday. Last June, I was taking my first team to Joplin to work on homes and clean up when our project got off track. The delightful older woman we were assigned to help felt a group of 4 ladies couldn’t move her things into her new apartment, so I ended up back at St. Paul’s UMC to find a new project when I hear, ‘Are you Stephanie?’ After I got over the ‘How do you know my name?’ awkward issue, I said ‘Yeeeessss…’ And then God gave us a new assignment, though he’d had this one in mind all along.

At first, when I asked what this family needed, the list was just siding that needed to be pulled off (which is loads more fun than you would think), exterior sheeting replaced (lots of nails, FYI) and the roof replaced. Their home was in the path of the tornado, but got through with only damaged from debris being thrown into the sides of the house and roof.

As soon as we pulled everything off, though…it got worse…the tarp hadn’t gotten on the roof until a week later, after 4 days of heavy rain, and mold was everywhere. Their home went from getting repaired in a month to coming home after 5 long months. I took out a lot of their walls, pushed out their windows that were shattered and bent, and was knee high in fluffy insulation from their attic for many days.

Very quickly, Lynn & I became friends. It is amazing how you can bond over teasing my brother!

Woods Chapel has had teams at her and her husband’s house demolishing, dry walling, mudding, sanding, painting, roofing, putting up siding…I don’t think I even know what all we’ve done over 5 months.

Last Monday they got carpet…and Tuesday, I was helping Lynn move in her kitchen! What a long couple of months it has been for them, after a horrific disaster that by the grace of God they are still alive.

It was one of the most amazing feelings I have every had to help her move things into her home…start the dishwasher for the first time…doing loads of laundry…helping my friend get back into her home. We were both giddy…her because it was actually happening…and me because I was actually getting to help! I cannot even count how many times I giggled with sheer joy when I thought of being there for the first time, and how amazing their home looks now!

As Lynn and I sat on the twin mattresses in the spare bedroom that had been the moldiest because of a tree in through one wall and out through the window…she said she’d been sweeping the day before when she was waiting for the carpet guys, and got emotional for the first time during the whole ordeal. Her mind had trailed to the first time I’d been there with a team, and when she’d come back to the house after it was being gutted.

She remembered the compassion of two of our team members meeting her outside the house to make sure she knew what was going on, and walking with her into the chaos that was happening inside. (Sorry, I’m ratting you out Lynn, if you are reading this…but honestly as we sat there…I was getting emotional too, because it has been such a journey that I’ve been honored to be apart of with you.)

And it is emotional…this relationship that we have with people when it is forged in a extreme situations, like a disaster area. But that is what going to Joplin…and anywhere else…is about…being compassionate, and caring enough about a complete stranger that your only desire is to help them. It is what Jesus calls us to when he sends us out of our own homes.

God forms friendships through some strange situations, and without WCC’s commitment to the city of Joplin, Lynn and I would have never become friends. I am posting some before and after photos…as well as the one of me in her kitchen last Tuesday drinking water out of her faucet, with ice from the new fridge and in a

glass that we’d moved from the storage unit! I love you, sister! And I’ll see you next weekend – I can’t wait to see the new couch!


PS – Thank you, Abba, for giving me new friends! You make me speechless sometimes in how you orchestrate things…