By: Ciara Hartzell
*This story was originally posted on September 26, 2014
When our community group began our partnership with Reedville Elementary last year, it wasn’t a radical leap of faith; it was a quiet act of obedience.
But what God has done since then?
Well, that has been pretty radical.
We were entering into our third year as a community group, and feeling both encouraged and challenged by the steps we had taken the previous year. We’d volunteered together at Northwest Children’s Outreach and taken some small steps toward the community at Reedville, participating in winter and spring events in the complex near the school. Looking back over the previous months, we all agreed that the times we’d served together had been the highlight of our year. So, as a group, we set a goal: to spend one evening a month engaged in service directed towards Reedville Elementary.
At first, the projects were small and simple, and didn’t require us to step outside our comfort zones. We spent a couple of evenings in the Scott’s living room, cutting out shapes for teachers to use in their classroom, not really interacting with the teachers themselves. By late winter, we had moved from the living room to the school, spending several evenings organizing and reorganizing the school library. During those times, we made tentative connections with a handful of staff members or volunteers.
By spring, we had begun to regularly volunteer at school events that brought us directly in contact with the staff, students and parents. We served pizza and cookies at a school reading night, and taste-tested authentic Mexican salsa at their Salsa Competition (some of us may or may not have tried our hand at the salsa dancing, too). Some members began to volunteer at the school outside of the times when we were there serving as a group. We began to connect directly with some of the kids, and recognize the faces of their parents.
Around this time, the discussions in our group started to change. Two of our members had recently returned from a trip to Gan Sabra, alight with passion and the desire to make an impact. Individually, we began to recognize a call to do more, to sacrifice more, to step outside of ourselves more. As a group, we encouraged and affirmed these steps of faith. When we wrapped up our group for the season in June, again we heard the same feedback we’d heard the year before: that serving together, as a family, had been the best thing we’d done all year.
Late in the summer, as community group sign-ups approached, FUEL came forward with the request that Matt and I help facilitate Club RC, the after-school outreach program that our FUEL students run. We were excited by the idea, but knew that participating in Club RC would mean we’d have to give up leading our community group. We prayed and agonized over this decision and what it would mean for us and our group.
Finally, we decided to bring it before the group and ask them to join us. We laid out what we knew: instead of meeting in a living room, we’d be meeting in the school. Instead of focusing on connecting with each other, we’d be focusing on connecting with the parents of Reedville students. Instead of staying in the place we felt most comfortable, we’d be stepping into a place where we might feel awkward; where we might even struggle to communicate. But, we’d have the opportunity to truly, genuinely connect with the community at Reedville. Yes, it would be hard. Uncomfortable. Scary. But, it will be worth it. They were all in.
As I look back and look ahead, our story reminds me a lot of Matthew 14:22-33, when Jesus asks Peter to place his trust in him and walk on water. One popular worship song expresses it this way:
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the water
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
That my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.”
Over the last year, with tiny and obedient steps, Jesus has beckoned our community group to the edge of the boat. With every step, He has encouraged us and strengthened our faith. Now, he is asking us to step out onto the water; the great unknown. It may seem scary, but He is faithful, and so we begin another season of community groups in much the same way we have done before: with a small step of obedience.