I took the job.
As I sat in my car in the parking lot (behind the oldest looking Safeway ever…70 years I overheard.) I avoided raindrops for awhile before my 9:00 meeting. Not wanting to be late, and not knowing what a drive from North Seattle to Rainier Valley in morning traffic would cost, I brought along a couple of books. For some reason I always think I will just read two or three entire books whenever I am going to have a few moments to myself…and this morning, like most of my free moments, yielded no reading list success.
This morning, it seemed appropriate to crack open the Bible. After all, I am now the 161st employee of the Seattle Union Gospel Mission. As the Church Development Officer, it will be my job to network with church leaders in the county and help to mobilize, support and learn from local ministries that are serving those in greatest need.
In my interview process I was surprised to learn that Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission was 79 years old, and started shortly after the great depression. Hoovertown, (modern day Pioneer Square) was booming with unemployment, and churches from the area were providing food, clothing, encouragement, prayer and companionship to those struggling to get by. This association of churches became Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and my role was to reclaim the original spirit of the mission and bring churches back into the forefront of serving the poor.
I hadn’t read Galatians in awhile and chose to use my 15 minutes to chew on the first chapter or so. What I read was remarkable. Paul explains how Peter and the other Apostles officially accept his testimony and agree that he is no longer oppressing the church, but is radically changed by Christ to join full-force into the building of God’s kingdom. It is agreed upon that Peter and the apostles will minster to the Jews while Paul and Barnabas will go to the Gentiles. With this indefinite split Peter and the apostles has only one piece of advise for Paul, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. (Galatians 2:10)
With most of my professional life being in the local church, I was a little taken aback by the simplicity of this reminder. No other tips Peter? No leadership suggestions? No public speaking pointers? No study guides? No conferences? No fundraising wisdom? Nope. It seemed that “The Rock” of the Church knew that engaging with the poor was easy to forget to do, easy to avoid, but was mission critical in building God’s kingdom. Paul eagerly agrees.
I took the job. In doing so I expect to be stretched, emptied, amazed, filled, encouraged and humbled by the privilege of joining God’s incomparable Kingdom work, and it is my hope (and I suppose my actual job description) that Seattle’s church will lead the way.