It wasn't the torn up sofa with the exposed springs that was out of place in the corner lot, nor the rusted-out freezer, knee-high weeds, broken glass, shredded clothing and mounds of trash. No, this stuff was exactly where it had been for years. It was the people who were most out of place. It was highly unusual to find a couple hundred suburbia folk walking around this part of town, especially on a Sunday morning.
Brother Jackson kept brushing the pants of his expensive suit as if to stave off the filth. Sister Benson, tiptoeing through the high weeds and broken glass, froze in mid step. With her eyes as big as golf balls and her mouth moving up and down in silent screams, she watched a green snake slither across her red, high-heeled shoe. Nine-year-old Nelson ran from one filthy discovery to another, glad he wasn't stuck inside on a beautiful day. Nelson's mother ran behind him with several wet wipes in her hand.
"Nelson Bright," she scolded, "get back here this instant. You're ruining your Sunday clothes. Not to mention being covered in God-knows-what-kind-of-germs." Grabbing him by the collar, she began to scrub every exposed part of his body with the wet wipes.
Watching the scene unfold before him while shaking his head, Pastor White called to his congregation, "Okay folks, gather around. I'm sure you're wondering why I asked you to meet here instead of at the church. Believe it or not, I have a good reason. I haven't gone completely mad."
"Uh, could we take a vote on that, Pastor?" Brother Jackson asked while brushing a piece of dirt off the shoulder of his suit.
"Okay, here's the thing. We've talked about evangelism for years but all we've done is talk. It's time to put feet to our talking and take action. I brought you to one of the darkest areas of our city, a place where people are needy and desperate and hopeless. I want you to put on your thinking caps. We're going to brainstorm standing right here in this lot. And we're not going to leave until we have a plan in place as to how we can help these folks. We will consider all your ideas."
Silence filled the air. Folks stared at the pastor. The pastor stared at his congregation. Brother Jackson looked up into the sky. Sister Benson kept her eyes glued to the ground. Nelson's parents looked at each other and shrugged.
"Either we're deep in thought," said Pastor White, "or our hearts aren't as softened to the lost as I had hoped they'd be."
Brother Jackson spoke up. "Okay, Pastor, how about this. Why don't we go back to the church and pray for these people now that we have an idea of their living conditions?"
"Yeah," agreed Sister Benson. "We could read the Bible to see if God will show us if this is what He wants us to do."
"Maybe we could form a committee," said Nelson's father. "You know, to see if this is cost effective and all."
With shoulders sagging and head bent low, Pastor White began to speak. His congregation leaned forward to hear his barely audible words. "Those things are okay if you want to play church-ese. I don't know about you but I'm tired of playing church, folks. I want to impact this area for Jesus."
Nelson, being just about as bored as he was in church on any given Sunday, couldn't stand still any longer. Walking over to a pile of trash, he picked up an armload and put it in the rusted-out freezer. He walked back to the pile for another load of trash. Whether it was a God-inspired idea or not no one is for sure, but the response certainly was God-inspired. Pastor White walked over the Nelson and put his hand on Nelson's shoulder.
"Nelson, I do believe you have hit on an excellent idea." Pastor White began picking up broken glass and beer bottles. One by one the congregation spread out to pick up their share of the trash.
"Thank God I brought lots of wet wipes," sighed Nelson's mom while pulling up weeds.
As the congregation worked and sang together, a neighborhood crowd gathered to watch the commotion. One tattooed man, scratching his dirty beard, nodded his head in approval. "Well, I'll be. No one has ever done something like this for us before. Roll of your sleeves, folks, let's give them a hand."
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