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Come Back Mission

Lanecia A. Rouse

In the summer of 2009, I co-led a group of high school youth from Nashville, Tennessee, on a pilgrimage to South Africa and Swaziland. We went to pray with our feet, looking for God at work and listening for what God would teach us about love. The pilgrimage opened my eyes to the possibilities of making the world a better place. I saw once again that God works through the love of everyday people to restore relationships, communities, and individuals. I learned the greatest lessons from my friends at Come Back Mission (CBM) in Eldorado Park, a previously disadvantaged community south of Johannesburg.

SouthernAfricaPilgrimage2 842CBM is a non-profit organization, founded by concerned people who were compelled by love and a strong desire for change. Wanting to give hope to their community, which was affected by poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and high unemployment and high school dropout rates, they decided to create and to facilitate opportunities for healing and positive change. Come Back Mission has been actively loving the community for over fifteen years now.

Thanks to social media and email, I am able to stay connected with the work of CBM: to pray and to celebrate when children in the community graduate from school, when someone in their job-training program gets a job, or when a young adult who is no longer actively addicted finishes his or her first year of university. Light, beauty, strength, and goodness that have been covered up or damaged by the harsh realities of life are being restored for individuals in the community. It is beautiful!

Since being with CBM, I pay more attention to the needs in my own community. Since I returned from the mission trip, I have prayed weekly and written in my journal, reflecting on these questions:

  • What are the needs of my neighbors in my apartment complex? my neighborhood? my city?
  • How are these needs being met?
  • How is God inviting me to participate in what is already being done or to create new ways to meet these needs?

Houston art project2 2-IMG_0481This practice has helped me to see what God is up to in my city and to join in God’s work. I have found some creative and beautiful restoration work, from art projects that involve men and women who are homeless to community gardens in areas that have no grocery store within walking distance. A few months ago, I attended a b-boy and b-girl weekly dance-off sponsored by reVision, a local non-profit that uses the power of community to help at risk and gang-affected youth by providing adult mentors, positive peers, and the skills and resources necessary for youth to thrive. Within a few hours, I could see that this break-dance gathering in a local church was having a restorative impact on the whole community.

God is at work in the world and invites us to join in with hopeful hearts of faith rooted in love. In so many ways, God will use our creativity, minds, skills, resources, and passions to restore communities and to empower individuals. The good news is that we do not have to travel far to encounter the world God loves and to love the world with God. All we need to do is to open our doors and to step outside.

 

DIG DEEPER

“Go where your best prayers take you.” —Frederick Buechner

art project mural2 1-IMG_0484
Spend time with God, exploring the deep needs in your community and the work of local organizations that restore lives. Be in prayer for their work. As you pray, listen for ways you might offer support to their mission. Contact one of the organizations to find out how volunteers can be involved in their work of restoration.

Lanecia A. Rouse is an artist, speaker, writer, and cultivator of creativity based in Houston, Texas. She formerly served as one of the Pastors of Mission at St. John’s Downtown United Methodist Church.

—from devozine (July/August 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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