This summer, College Park sent four students to live on the near-east side of Indianapolis, in a context they were not familiar with. Here, one of the interns reflects on how the experience changed her:
“So much better, Your ways.”
These lyrics to a song called “Defender” by UpperRoom echoed in my mind as I knelt on the floor, trying to prepare myself for the next eight weeks–the sixty-one days in which I’d be an intern living in a duplex in Brookside. When I first visited the neighborhood with my family, we toured the ministries of Heart Change and Purposeful Design, and I was prepared to minister to the neighborhood’s residents. But I hadn’t imagined I’d be living there myself. My nerves jangled as I turned onto Tuxedo Street and I saw with new eyes what it must be like to live here amidst so much run-down housing.
Again, that refrain echoed in my mind: “So much better, Your ways.” Despite the culture shock, I still sensed God’s presence, and his leading me in this direction.
A couple of weeks passed. Apart from the times when booming sounds echoed through the house–were those gunshots or fireworks?–my nerves were beginning to settle. Despite these moments, I began to fall into a rhythm. It helped to come alongside Cindy Palmer and Sarah Shaw–two College members who moved into the neighborhood years ago and were well-loved by their neighbors, especially the kids. These young faces beamed with love and admiration as they looked longingly up to the women, hoping always for signs of their approval.
Cindy and Sarah were so natural in the way they interacted with the women and kids of all ages–I had to know–how were they able to make such an impact?
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18, NIV). This verse came to mind as I watched fear lose its grip on a child as they spent time with Cindy and Sarah. The love these women have for God is so deep they can’t help but share it. It’s second nature to them.
This gift, this little glimpse of heaven with some messiness included, is the reality I lived in this summer.
For nearly sixty-one days I’ve watched mature believers pour Christ’s love into others. It’s changing me as much as it’s changing the residents here.
I can see it. My own love for the Lord is beginning to overflow to others. It’s not that I didn’t know how before, but this was different, deeper. I can see it in the way the two 15-year-old girls living across the street come see me and Ashley, my wonderful fellow intern.
They know we care for them, and they just want to hang out. I see it in the conversations I have with another neighbor, a thoughtful girl who longs for a parental kind of love. I see it in the faces of each of the sweet kiddos I interact with at Heart Change. One of them enjoys leaning back against me as a fellow intern teaches the Bible lesson. Time is more precious than gold, for through it love manifests itself in a thousand different ways. But for me this summer, God let it come through relationships that I know will last far beyond sixty-one days.