Azalea Mission
Notes from the pastor

Read Revelation 7:9–12

A few years ago God gave us a dream of beloved community like we see in the New Testament.  The journey began when sisters and brothers from our partner church in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Iglesia Metodista “La Resurrección,” spent two weeks serving alongside of us in July of 2015.  During those two weeks we made connections with local ESL teachers, who then connected us with the people of Azalea Mobile Home Park.

Initially, we began by showing up on several randomly chosen afternoons to canvas the neighborhood and reintroduce ourselves as friends of the Puerto Rican missioners who had just been with them, explaining that we hoped to continue building relationships in perpetuity.  It was a risky move, and at first we were met with some resistance, but as my friend Carlos Valera would continually remind us, “You have to keep showing up to these people, Patrick.  You have to show them you’re serious about keeping your promises and serious about walking with them.”  His words were a prophetic challenge to us.  And as time went on, the Spirit continued to press us outward to the communities of Azalea, Traveller’s Rest, and Plaza mobile home parks.

Little by little, as we showed up, our neighbors shared their hopes and dreams and the struggles of their neighborhoods.  Several visits later, we had learned that dreams included tutoring for their children, E.S.L. classes for adults, other enrichment programs for youth, and general ways to encourage community among the families there. These dreams were not small, but they were honest.

While working toward the tutoring and E.S.L., we began monthly gatherings on Saturdays to play with the kids, and allow space for the adults to get to know each other on equal terms.  Often there’s a reading and craft element to our time, as well as games, learning, dancing, and food.  Thematically, the activities shift based on the time of year.  A regular rhythm of “being with” our sisters and brothers has slowly grown trust between us to the point that the children come freely and with excitement when we show up, and the parents are more and more becoming involved as well.

But we need your help.  With my shift in focus toward discipleship within the church family here at Front Street, the Azalea ministry needs strong partners who have a heart for children, mission, and cross-cultural partnership.

The vision of this ministry begins with Revelation 7:9–12, which you have just read.  John beholds an innumerable crowd held together in Christ from every nation, tribe, people, and language.  What a vision, indeed! The Church believes that the Kingdom of God is present to us now in the work of the Holy Spirit, and that we, Jesus’s disciples, are not exempted from participating in the work of justice, redemption, and love wherever we sense God calling us to be.

We hope to empower our sisters and brothers to come together in faith to realize their dreams for their neighborhood and residence in Burlington.  A strong sense of community helps people not only to belong, but also to organize and advocate for themselves as people with dignity and place.  Please check your hearts and consider helping this ministry thrive.  We need you to carry this partnership to the next level.

Pastor Patrick

Last Published: January 31, 2018 4:47 PM
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