I spent several years leading prayer in a mobile home park in one of our most distressed neighborhoods in Orlando. One day I was driving past it with my then four year old son, and I said to him “Alex, this is where mommy prays every week that Jesus will come to this neighborhood.” He said back to me, in his little four year old voice, “Mommy, Jesus is already there.”
Ouch! Out of the mouths of babes comes truth! He was right – Jesus was there. God tells us that over and over again through His words and through his Son’s life. That is one reason He calls us to be in the presence of the poor, not so we can show them Jesus, but so we can be blessed by the presence of Jesus, who is already with them.
A few weeks ago I visited our partner, Bryan Kelly, of Common Ground in Montgomery, AL. I saw the presence of Jesus everywhere. Bryan showed me the middle school kids taking ownership of their garden that they were growing. Their faces lit up when they told me of the various vegetables they were growing in hopes of seeing a harvest.
I saw precious first graders beam as Bryan walked through the door where the volunteer teacher was reading them a story in delightful voices. I saw the kids gather with excitement for pizza and Bible study, and a group of high school boys eagerly learning new business skills. Jesus was there. He was present. The staff and volunteers just bring Jesus into the conversation—giving language to the hope that the kids feel. To the safety that the kids experience at the center, Jesus adds a spirit of courage and confidence. And as the staff and volunteers love these kids, they see Jesus “with skin on.”
I have found that the Lord will break our hearts for what breaks His. And then He goes on to work on the false paradigms we have, stripping away our beliefs and perceptions, and then building in us—Him. Alex was right, Jesus was in that mobile home park, and had been there long before I ever showed up. I was just lucky enough to be invited to sit with them, with the Lord in our midst.