It was exciting to be in Chicago for a week in July, 2018. The board of Project Lost Sheep funded my attending a conference at Moody Bible Institute. This included Monday to Friday living in a dorm in the downtown area. The meetings were sponsored by CDCA, an established non-profit that works to promote inner city Christian work.
The first day, I walked across campus to a classroom where we had a full program of talks about community development. It was like being in college, but what a wonderful group of people - ministers and other leaders in one room together with the presence of the Lord felt.
The next day was the same with more lectures and getting to know others.
Wednesday, we got on a bus for a field trip across Chicago to their Chinatown for lunch and to visit a Christian church. After that, we went by bus to another area where a huge health center had been built in response to the felt needs of the community of Lawndale.
Thursday came with hurting, a closed black eye, painful wrist and knee, and a shaken feeling. Meals were brought to me. For many hours I was alone in the dorm room with ice packs and my thoughts, which were surprisingly unafraid. I knew that I had been called to Chicago with a mission of hope building. I had not expected this accident, but I did not feel that God had left me. The group was off on another tour, but I was dorm-ound.
At the end of the day, a leader came with a book of messages for me. I could hardly read them for the emotion that overcame me. Here are a few:
“I am so sorry to hear about your fall. I feel blessed to have been with you on the trip to Lawndale, and I value our friendship. I pray that you will have a speedy recovery and just know that we all love you.”
“Hey, Joyce! Everyone on the bus is thinking of your amazing spirit and caring that is with us as we move throughout the day. Praying for a quick recovery.”
“I am so grateful that you were the first person I met when I got here. I love hearing your heart for the kids you work with and know you have God’s heart, ears and eyes. I pray God heals you quickly so you can get back in the trenches with us! I love you.”
“Sweet Joyce, I have been praying for you. So thankful you have no broken bones.”
There were many more encouragements and notes. I can tell you that the Lord even woke up one of my Chicago intercessors to pray for me in the night. She had no idea what had happened. So, I rested and received all the prayers.
Friday, the last day of the conference, I was back with my black eye and bruised body to attend the final sessions. There was a line of people to greet me and rejoice that I was back in action.
So what was Chicago all about?
I was there where I was called to be, and God used me to influence others. But just as important, God showed me His love and care in difficult circumstances.
Friday night I went with hat and dark glasses to a dinner meeting with a pastor and team, not part of the conference, who were interested in camp. Not sure at this writing what will happen out of that, but I was sent to Chicago, and Chicago has permanent marks on not only my body, but also my heart.
The Lord showed me His goodness in a strong city. He let me feel the pain and hurt of Chicago and allowed some of my blood to be shed on the streets. I thank God for the many good Christians and works inside Chicago and grieve for the blood shed on the streets, the violence, the sickness in families, and the deep gulf between what is happening and what must happen to bring change from the roots up.
As it would happen, the day I left there was an organized prayer march in the Southside. My Uber driver, a Muslim, told me he had seen the religious people out marching. “The good people need to be visible.”, he said. “They need to inform on people selling drugs.” I thought, truth is truth, and my driver had underlined some of what had been said in the conference.
It is not enough to put a bandaid on a grievous wound or a bleeding city. We must care enough to get involved and be part of the healing process. Salt and light. We need to be salt and light.
Founder of Project Lost Sheep