Hannah Groves - Internship Summary Week 1 - July 26, 2012
The first chapter in John’s Gospel, talks about the Word, the Logos becoming flesh and making his dwelling among us. This same verse is said this way in the Message translation, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14 Message). This verse came to my mind several times and serves as an encouraging, summative statement for my first week of interning with the group of missionaries that live and work in North St. Louis.
Getting ‘into the neighborhood’ occurred in a variety of ways. First, it was important to learn, through conversations, videos, etc, some of the history of the area in which I was living and the dynamics and issues currently present because of that history. I learned briefly about the Pruitt-Igoe situation—where a literal road (named division) separated black and white people. I learned briefly about the effects of generational poverty and racism.
One of the most helpful learning tools was the film “Second Chance” in which a rich, comfortable, white Christian struggles to learn about life in the inner city. I was reminded again of the complexity of many urban issues and that no formulaic process can ‘fix’ the problems, but only the power of Jesus Christ, many times working through his people— the Church. I was also reminded that often ‘issues’ don’t fit into neat, even categories (like suburban, urban, black or white), but rather that issues stem from broken relationships with Jesus in a fallen world.
Another way that I ‘moved into the neighborhood’ was by spending time in various locations quite literally in the neighborhood. A Saturday evening concert (put on by the missionaries) and the Sunday morning church service were both held in the local park. I spent time most every morning working in a sewing center a couple blocks from the house. As we walked past neighbors we would stop to talk to them and hear how life was going. One evening we walked the streets, picking up trash and praying for the area. We witnessed a shooting and had the opportunity to walk kids home, report and discuss the incidence with the local police, talk to the nearby residents and share the story with others in the neighborhood.
This specific incidence serves as a profound example of the final way that I got ‘into the neighborhood’—that being, through learning about and witnessing the lives of the missionaries themselves. Unlike many organizations or church groups that spend only short amounts of time with the people of this district, these missionaries are committed to living in this area and becoming part of the community. Unlike many organizations or church groups that try to provide immediate relief or care for what they see to be a ‘need’ in the community, these missionaries are committed to truly getting to know their neighbors and discover and provide for their actual needs. They do this through one-on-one discipleship and providing holistic resources that care for the whole person.
I told the group from day one that I was there to be a learner and that is exactly how I would summarize my first week – one learning experience after another. Learning history and background, learning demographics and neighborhoods and finally learning about the people of the community and the missionaries themselves. I am excited to continue learning and to one day translate what I am experiencing now into ministry for my own life.