Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stories from the Trenches 1

Harrison and his wife Aleare, are originally from Liberia, Africa.
They survived the recent Liberian war, not without incredible struggles, and came to the United States intent on serving the Lord and His church. For many years they functioned as pastors in the traditional style of church. Harrison; one of the pastoral paid staff, and Aleare; the unpaid, unofficial but functioning, pastoral staff. A common situation in traditional church structures today. They spent their days ministering to the congregation; preaching, counseling, doing hospital visits, weddings, and funerals, fathering and mothering those in the church. They were beloved leaders and highly esteemed.

Then, something started to uninvitedly tug at them. Something organic began to grow in the soil of their heart. It didn't grow out of discontentment, disillusionment or frustration.

It grew as a desire for something more.

Harrison and Aleare began to have a hunger for those not in the church, to experience the Great Shepherd. They wanted to pastor the pastor-less. Something missional began to take root.

God took their own experience as refugees, and gave them a burden for refugee and immigrant families here in the U.S.
They had an ever increasing desire to minister to the African American community that shared their neighborhood.
And a long held dream of an "inter cultural" style of fellowship where diversity on many levels gelled, began to stir up once again.

It was simply not possible to change their focus and ministry to these areas while they were on staff at the traditional church. The church paid them to minister to the congregation and expected them to pastor those within the fellowship, not those outside of it.
Harrison's pastoral position was their main source of income. Although Aleare had just begun a daycare business in their home, they didn't have enough children to make it financially viable on it's own.
It was a moment of decision, and one not without incredible struggles.

Harrison resigned from his salaried pastoral job, and although no one really understood his reasons, they blessed his departure as best they could. He began to take nominal paying temporary jobs. Often working overnight shifts, standing on his feet while working on a conveyor belt, or loading and unloading boxes. He worked a myriad of jobs and most of those physically taxing, (and this isn't easy for someone in his 50's ). In a tight economy, with the lack of jobs available, Harrison took what was offered.

Aleare did childcare in her home with the families in their neighborhood. Investing her time and energies in this, soon more children came, and in a short time they had the maximum number of children allowed.

However, finances were tight, their ego's flattened, positions of prestige gone. It was hard on many levels, and yet they kept going. They had begun a journey of exploration and adventure and they were fully committed to it, regardless of the difficulties.

First, they did what they knew how to do, and that was to rent a space and invite people to come. The trouble was, that in doing this, they only saw "transfer people" coming to their gatherings. It took on the form which is commonly called in the simple church circles as; "Honey, I shrunk the church". This wasn't what they wanted. They wanted to reach unchurched people. Those that wouldn't come into a church building, for whatever reason.

Soon they stopped using that rented space and began to have church, by being church, in their home. Sometimes in formal gatherings, and other times in impromptu fellowship of one sort or another. They began to actively shepherd the families of the children of the daycare in their home. Teaching parenting skills, marriage counselors, single parent support, advising about life decisions, going with them on trips to the hospital, tangibly loving and supporting these daycare families, non of whom claimed to be Christians. In essence, they became a part of their lives and had opportunities galore to minister. The soil was fertile. God was working it!

Harrison was having continual opportunities to minister at his menial jobs. People were curious and had many questions as to why a trained pastor would be working alongside them in such a job.

Something started to happen. Not unlike the days when Harrison was leading a small group of war refugees throughout the countryside of Liberia seeking safety, food and shelter during the war. He had refugees again. This time, the war was the spiritual battles for their eternal life, and he and Aleare were called to journey with them to find true peace and life with the One who gives it.

Suddenly they were pastoring those not yet Christians.
They were ministering to those who needed a physician.
A father and a mother to the fatherless, the orphaned, and those along the highways and byways that Jesus proclaimed in Luke 14: 21-23;

'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' 22" 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'23"Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.

Harrison and Aleare are on a unfolding mission of the life of Christ in the trenches. It changes and transforms itself constantly. God is a good guide and continues to lead them, making course corrections when needed. He knows the pace for this couple. He knows what He has "in store for those who love Him". Exciting and unnerving, they find themselves hanging on tight to the Lord and seeking Him with renewed expectations to work in powerful and incredible ways. When they came over to our home the other night, they were like young children excitedly sharing all the ways God was moving. Their enthusiasm was refreshing and inspiring! That's what we are all created for; experiencing the life changing power of Christ on a regular basis! To be agents of that transforming power of Christ, not only in our lives, but the lives of those around us.

They are living organic and missional; following Jesus daily in His unfolding to whom He wants them to minister and come alongside. They are seeing Him open hearts and transform lives that have never known the riches of those in Christ Jesus. A network of intercultural fellowships are forming naturally and powerfully through relationships, and living naturally through life with one another.

Harrison and Aleare are courageous and faithful servants, pastoring the pastorless.
As heirs, they are living in some of their inheritance even now. What a blessing that is!

Lord give them more!!!!

Now, onto Blaine........

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