On the Sunday of Urban Plunge, we went to two very different worship services. We dressed casually so that we wouldn't be too "out of place" in either church setting.
First, we headed off to Empty Tomb Church...a church for the homeless and near-homeless. At this church you get a ticket when you come inside. You can redeem this ticket after services for a hot meal and a sack of groceries.
I sat next to a man named Gary. His beard was awesome!! He was very kind and cordial towards me, and told me he had been attending here for a little over a year, I think. He had a handkerchief ready, as if expecting to be moved to tears during worship. Perhaps if I needed help (and therefore God) as much as he did, I would be more moved during worship as well...
What moved me the most was how the people helped each other out. There were several people who would get up and get a chair for someone, or give theirs away. You could tell that they took care of each other as much as possible.
Downstairs, we went to work packing during the altar call. As soon as we got ready, the line was forming! There had to be at least 200 people that attended that day, and almost all came through the line. Several people gave things back to us and told us they already had that item and to give it to someone else who needed it more. It was a very humbling experience and I am so glad our teens got to go. If I wasn't a youth minister, I would want to go there again. I believe powerful things are happening there. In fact, I think that's where Jesus would be if He was in Omaha.
From there, we rushed over to Salem Baptist Church. This would be the last stop of our weekend. It was a little more of what we are used to...a nice building, newer stuff, nice cars in the parking lot. But it was still challenging because WE were the minority in the place. You see, it's predominantly African-American. But this was also exciting because the teens knew there would be energy and rhythm that is so often lacking in the "white" churches.
They had their visitors stand to be greeted, and then the congregation sang a welcome song for us. Oh, the singing was glorious!! They had an adult praise team, but the children were in the choir loft behind the stage. There were probably 40 kids up there! It didn't take long before the place was rocking. People were hootin' and hollerin', dancing in the aisles, and praising God. There was genuine excitement in the air.
Pastor Bachus delivered an exciting message of hope. He is definitely a seasoned preacher. By the end of his lesson, he was singing and shouting, and had the place moving. What a wonderful experience to see a church that involves their children in the Sunday morning worship services instead of shipping them off to "Children's Church!"
And that, sadly, was the end of our weekend. In my heart, I craved more. I knew that God had been speaking the whole weekend, and I didn't want that contact to stop. But my crashing headache sapped me of energy and I was ready to get home to my wonderful, God-given family.
I am determined to keep listening for God's voice and instruction through all of this. Satan is already attacking...I think he wants me to forget about this and move on to the next "fun youth activity." As of right now, though, I am devouring Shane Claiborne's "Irresistible Revolution" and then it's on to "Under the Overpass" which is about two men and their experience of homeless living for six months.