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Missional Wisdom Foundation

Start With What You Have

Written by Tina Carter on April 01, 2013 | Found in: New Day

From our friend, Rev. Dr. Tina Carter, Parker Lane UMC in Austin Texas:

I minister in a situation where many people are living at or below the poverty line, where
our children think that every adult goes to jail because so many of their relatives do,
where violence is common, and tragic stories are a dime a dozen.

I also do “missionary” work with suburban congregations -- sharing stories, helping folks
see the beauty of diversity and understand that some of the cultural understandings
of generational poverty are closer to being “Jesus-y” than some of the cultural
understandings of the middle class.

I live in community with folks of different colors and backgrounds. We run into hard
stories. (For examples check www.parkerlane.org for a new story every week.) I often
find myself saying words like, “no wonder folks who live in suburbia want to live in
protected neighborhoods -- hearing these stories every day is draining and difficult.”

I also thank God every single day that I get to live my faith life out here. It means that I
get to talk about things that matter. It means that when someone calls from an abused
women’s shelter I don’t have to say, “sorry we don’t do direct services.” Instead I get
to say, “I’m so glad the shelter gave you our number to call, first, let me know how we
can pray for you...” And then I get to hear the story of broken bones and hopes, and I
get to start by praying and then letting her know what we do have to share. Often what
we have available to share does not exactly match what the caller says they need.
We aren’t a “pay as you go” middle class church. We are made up of poor folks (and
some middle class folks too). And we remain convinced that in this neighborhood we
are called to offer hope and light. To start with the abundance of God rather than the
perceived (and mostly false) sense of scarcity from which many churches start. When
you are hearing hard stories all the time it makes so much sense to start with what you
do have rather than starting with what you don’t have.

We all have a God that makes a difference, a God that continues to write stories of
redemption and hope, a God that meets us where we are, in all our messiness, and
leads us to redemption.