While working in the Indianapolis community of Brookside this summer as an Urban Outreach intern, I learned again and again how important it is to do ministry in the context of relationship. As an introvert, I need to remind myself: we are all meant to know God and those around us. Our relationships are gifts from God.
Introducing myself to others feels uncomfortable, and I admit that I’ve passed up opportunities to get to know people, but I’m working on it! After the initial awkward moment of introductions, God has often blessed me with great conversations and opportunities to learn from others. As uncomfortable as it it, I don’t regret the times when I did start conversations with people in the ministry and neighborhood.
As I’ve immersed myself in the Brookside community—both living and serving here—I have been changed by the wonderful diversity that exists here. I think of my neighbor across the street, an older African American man who struggles with dementia and other health problems. My roommate and I introduced ourselves to him a few weeks into the summer, and after that I periodically went over to sit on his front porch and talk with him. He brought up his love for fishing, his time in the army, and the sobriety classes he attends every week. One evening, I was surprised to hear of his zeal to tell others about Jesus –those in his sobriety class and especially his grandkids. He then asked me to write out the Lord’s Prayer in big letters so he could read it with his poor eyesight and share it with his grandkids.
The conversation prompted me to ask myself: Why did his passion to share Jesus surprise me? Why am I so quick to make uncharitable judgements? Brookside is teaching me to catch the unloving thoughts I have toward others, to recognize the image of God that is in every created being—no matter the brokenness.
Developing relationships with the men who work at Purposeful Design and the men who attend Brookside Community Church’s reentry service also helped me realize that people recovering from addiction and homelessness are just as normal and relatable as anyone else. These men are usually incredibly open about their personal struggles–everything from medical issues to battles with addiction and sin–and their need to let God transform their lives. Getting to know them reminds me of my own need for God to change my life. I am just as broken as anyone else.
Romans 5:8 says, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
For an introvert like me, it’s helpful to remember that God took the initial step. He pursued a relationship with me even though I was still living in sin. I hope this motivates me to seek out many more opportunities to get to know fellow broken people and be part of a community of broken people where we seek God’s rebuilding work in our lives.