There is this woman who serves coffee at Starbucks in the Junction in Sonora. I don’t even know her name – unfortunately forgot it, but I’m sure I’ll meet her and probably post about her again along the way. She shared her story at the pregnancy center banquet in Sonora. Made all of us cry. God rescued her from an attempted abortion of her life while in the womb, and her aunt became her mom. She now has a lovely family and is a vibrant part of our community. This lovely sister in Christ is a modern day Nehemiah. She’s a cup bearer for the community of Tuolumne County.
I don’t think she’ll mind me calling her a “girl”. In California we call men “guys” and ladies “girls”. Actually, we just call everyone “guys” if in a group. But, who’s keeping track.
So, this girl serves coffee to our community week after week. I’ve seen her working, being so sweet and encouraging to people as they come in and meet her and then go about their mingling, resting, getting back to their busy lives. This girl meets people of all kinds from our community through this role of hospitality. Who else in our community has this huge privilege to meet people in this dynamic way? Really, we all touch the community and our culture in some way through our work place roles, our involvement in kids’/friends’ activities, local church life actities, community events, recreational actities, etc…
This connects to Nehemiah. I promise. The interesting thing about Nehemiah is him being a Jewish scribe as well as a cupbearer for a dominating world leader. Even though he served drinks to the most important guy of the times, he was still a mere cupbearer. This girl at Starbucks serves coffee to people in our community of all social classes, all demographics in our community from homeless to hedonistic to the max, from crewel to recklessly kind and merciful, from harsh to consistently gentle. She sees them all and greets them all with her warm smile and gentle manner. She’s there and meeting you, no matter your background or intentions for the future.
Nehemiah was used of God to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and city. Ezra was my last read in my devotions and there we learned about the rebuilding of God’s house, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Now we learn of the culture and community of God’s people. How can this relate to us today in Tuolumne County? It relates so beautifully.
As I’ve begun to interact with several friends about how to reach Tuolumne City, we see a unity already in existence regarding this town. Any believer you meet in the county wants to see this little city oriented around Christ. It’s a consensus. How do we do this but by availing ourselves to God’s handiwork. God is already in the process of restoring and renovating our hearts. I believe He is now laboring between us as believers to be God-oriented when we imagine what He could do for our community life among believers and through believers. This little town is the crippled brother of the community, so-to-speak. He’s lost his occupation (the old mill now a leveled lot), and he’s got an addiction hanging on (the casino hooked to the side of the town).
I know this could be a stretch as an illustration, but here we go:
Remember the girl from Starbucks? She’s walking toward her crippled brother now. Through her current and already active life, she’s building bridges with her little brother, broken by his inability to earn a wage and his broken back, broken by his addiction to _____. She smiles warmly and looks into his eyes. She shows hospitality to him and welcomes him into her hometown and even into her contexts of doing life. She keeps a gentle invitation as he celebrates her hospitality. She’s kind and consistent in showing him gentleness and truth in love. She doesn’t sugar-coat her concerns for him, but she’s so relentless in showing him friendships, that he begins to celebrate her warmth and friendship. He begins gaining ground in the hope walk. He begins to hope again and look up. He begins rebuilding the walls of his town, re-inventing himself to try again, pray again, dream again, but most importantly to find his hope where she’s found hers – with Christ.
Nehemiah prayed under his breath to God as he began approaching the king. The king listened and granted him favor and assistance in his endeavors. I believe that as we show each other hospitality throughout our county, we will be like this sister and brother illustration. We will begin to hope again. We will begin to dream again. There will be positive things happening in the natural that will be fruit of what’s God-willing happening most importantly in the super-natural inside of hearts all over the county. As we consider Jesus Christ together as God’s people, we will be restored and renewed as a community. We will see walls re-built in our community, and this will in time result in our working better together between local churches and inside of neighborhoods all over our county. As we do this, we will begin to see non-believers very curious about what we are up to, and seeing the hope of Heaven showing up here on Earth.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about salvation. Think of the word “salvaged”. My wife and I have always been craigslist/thrift store people. We love giving away what we don’t use to Mother Lode Thrift Store in Tuolumne City to help the Christian School, and then we get to revive some things that someone else truly felt was useless to them. Maybe this is how relationships will work here in the county going forward. Maybe we feel abandoned by friends or are very aware that we have abandoned friends for silly reasons. Maybe we feel we’ve been treated like second-hand goods or we’ve treated others this way. Maybe a little TLC – Tender Loving Care – is in order with all relationships God has given us. Maybe some Nehemiah gentle honesty is in order for us to see restoration of old friendships and establishing of new friendships. These friendships are the necessary labor of love of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Do we want in our community the health Paul describes? We’ve got to labor in love together. Love is a labor, an investment of heart and time. As we labor in this way toward restoration, we’ll see praise-worthy things happening both in the natural and super-natural. We’ll see relationships mended and forgiveness as a pattern.
I’m not trying to paint a picture of utopia here… just the redeeming work of Christ in this life for hearts destined for an etherial eternity with Christ in Heaven, our eternal home together as believers.