Wednesday, April 10, 2013

J'ville Urban Exchange March 2013

"This is the best experience of my life, wait . . . Yeah, this is better than Disney World when I was nine."
-Overheard from a spring break student

In March, 2nd Mile hosted a total of 66 people from Iowa, South Carolina, and Wisconsin on Urban Exchange Spring Break trips. Each group served in Brentwood in various capacities helping to further along our mission one week at a time. Over the course of their time these students served 520 hours on community clean-up, 606 hours in the local schools, and 728 hours in after school programs! More than 1,850 hours in total!

As these volunteers actively served as the fragrance of Christ and ambassadors of reconciliation in our community, the cumulative sum of their work brought a tangible, positive presence. It is a reminder that Jesus lives in Brentwood, that he hasn't left, that he's not afraid, and that his omnipresence and benevolence extend to our neighborhood.

As teams like these serve, they also multiply 2nd Mile in the neighborhood, thus increasing our credibility and visibility and setting the table for us the pick up where they left off in the other 49 weeks of the year.

Like no other time of the year, March visibly shows the neighborhood who 2nd Mile is. Like no other time of the year, March actively demonstrates the the presence of the church in our neighborhood. It has become an annual tradition for me to collect the mission team's compliments from community members each April.
Further, as these teams serve and seek to bless our community they are in turn served and blessed by our neighbors. Tangibly, our community offers encouragement, a helping hand, and bottles of water. Intangibly, our community challenges the team's perceptions and stereotypes, offering them the chance to grow in their faith.

But, beyond the outward impact on our specific neighborhood, these trips are important for our mission of seeing the Gospel transform communities in every way.

As we give the church a chance to serve in Jacksonville we also seek to expose the church to the full counsel of God. We hope that they would become disciples of Christ, who know the heart of God and see their cares, passions, and affections become aligned to His. We do this through active ministry opportunities as well as teaching times that focus on God's heart for justice and compassion for the vulnerable.

Each week the team dives into the Word to see what God does have to say about these issues. Further we examine the existence of both global and local justice and injustice and challenge them to discern what may be holding them back from pursuing God's priorities in their life. They finish by hearing a couple of real world examples of other's journeys with the Lord and towards the reconciliation of all things (Colossians 1:20).

Our hope is that this experience would not just change Brentwood, but that they would change Orange City, Clemson, and Madison. That it would not just change Jacksonville, but entire career fields and futures. That 2nd Mile Urban Exchange would be a catalyst that sends Christ-centered, whole gospel students and individuals back to their campuses, cities, and workplaces as agents of reconciliation themselves.