Where to start? It has been a whirlwind of a weekend. It has been a whirlwind of a month. September flew by; day after day of phone calls, emails, web pages, blogs, and so much community. Not only were we planning our official kick-off throughout September, our family feasts blossomed and grew, our official small group prayer meeting started on Sunday’s and was a beautiful success, and friends started dropping by our house more often. Much more often.
Funny how during our busiest time, who we were in this neighborhood really started to become what it is going to be for a long time. Our presence is beginning to be established, not only as individual girls who are throwing birthday parties and clipping toe nails monthly, but as spiritual leaders committed to opening up our home to all, to listening to the needs of the community, to having real friends right here in Uptown – across the street, next door, down the block, at the restaurants and salon’s, at the shelters and churches. We feel like we have so many more places to connect with, and there are… God has allowed us to interact with so many, and one word that was spoken about JUSTembrace this weekend was: favor.God has given us favor. He showed Himself, and poured that favor on Saturday. That whole day of our celebration and launch was full of such favor. I could truly feel His smile on us all that were there that day.
I couldn’t believe how it all came together. (Check out some pictures here) All of the sudden I looked up from my chair in the small group set up in our different “stations”, and realized there were over a hundred people walking around, experiencing what JUSTembrace is all about.
I was proud, I must admit. So proud. Not because I did it. I didn’t do much, ran around like a mad woman, that’s what I did. What was more important than the decorations, the birthday cake, the music… was the people. People of all shapes and sizes. Races, colors, ages. The very poor, and the very well off. The “us” and “them” came together and there was no other. There was no other. We were all there, all mingling, all eating the same cake, all dipping the same vegetables, all talking about God together. All listening to the incredible Deb Hirsch challenge us to take action and step out of our comfort zones, out of our laziness and fear.
I love that. I love that about JUSTembrace. We are all in this together. Our kick-off was a time for each person to see that when you set a common table in your own home, and invite people in, any and all kind of people, walls come crashing down. Bread breaks, and our hearts open up. I’ve seen it. Oh, I’ve seen it happen so many times. Our dear friends share things that I know have not bubbled up from their mouths in years… or maybe have never been spoken aloud. Trust is being formed within these walls; God is bringing favor to us all.
Deb told us that we can only see what we can see from where we’re standing. In other words, where we choose to stand (or must stand due to circumstance) determines what we see. If you place yourself within four walls of a home, in the suburbs or the city, but never put yourself out there, never take a risk, never realize that the radical God we follow is a calling us to so much more, Satan has us right where he wants us. Afraid and lazy.
Perhaps even more than learning to love, understand and accept the other, is to realize that we ourselves are the other. We are just as broken. I am just as broken as each and every person I’ve broke bread with in my dining room, and who attended the kick-off. As Deb reminded us, though, was that though we are sinners, yes, we are also Imago Dei, made in the Image of God. Every single person. From the strangest, to the poorest, to the meanest, to the richest. That’s who Jesus broke bread with and loved.
“Providing training, events and hospitality in order to remove barriers that marginalize and divide communities.”
That is JUSTembrace’s mission statement. That’s what we’re trying to do. It is going to be a long road now that we have officially launched. The good things is, we sure do throw a lot of parties! And that’s what Saturday was – a big JUSTembrace party that brought people together that normally wouldn’t ever even talk to each other. The only disappointment was that it ended too soon.