The mission of City Church is to renew Houston by bringing beauty into broken places. Recently, I joined twenty middle and high school students to do just that. Under the leadership of Blake Thomas, Pastoral Resident | City Youth Coordinator, and Jennifer Welch, City Kids | City Youth Coordinator, we participated in an experience called Bridge Builders. I did not know what to expect. On previous mission trips that I’ve been on, the focus has been manual labor - building fences, mulching playgrounds, painting houses…stuff like that. Community service is important, but it’s pretty easy to return to a rather normal, undisturbed life, when it’s over.
My prediction could not have been further from what God intended to do. We stayed overnight at the Forge for Families, a ministry and recreational center for the children in the Third Ward of Houston where Blake is also the Bridge Builder Program Director. Upon arrival, we readied ourselves to grab a shovel or a broom in preparation for the work just around the corner. But the first thing we did was talk. There were many kids at the Forge, as part of their afternoon program. We were given the task of setting up games with the goal of starting conversations, that is, being human beings. I will never forget these children. Each one loved with an inexhaustible capacity, without any thought of withholding it. I got to know a young girl named Mikayla very well. Her smile, her laugh…I will never forget her.
The mission trip continued. Each day we learned a new way of building relationships. One day we went down to a bridge in downtown, split up in groups, and talked to the homeless. No water or care packages or even the goal to share the gospel. Just the simplicity of conversations, communicating to these people that they were people, that they deserved eye contact and a listening ear.
As this week went on, through daily lessons and captivating conversations, I saw that poverty was not a lack of the material, but a set of broken relationships, with yourself, your community, the world, and God. Every person suffers from poverty, no matter if you have everything, or wonder where your next meal will come from.
Bridge Builders is about building relationships, not manual labor, bringing beauty into broken places, which includes every person because every person, including me, is broken. To build these relationships, these bridges, is to come to the realization that each person suffers from a poverty of soul and heart, and it is only Jesus and his love that can mend that bridge, that can set us free from destitution. I grew to see the world as it is, and to see how God intends to mend it.