“So how did The Bridge get started anyway?”
I never have a good answer for that question. Founding a ministry is not a linear progression of one step after the other. It wasn’t of our own will. It was more like insignificant bursts of ordinary obedience that were caught up into a compelling, divine wind. With its own strategy, it rushed in and swept us up into a movement we hardly understood at the time and likely still don’t grasp.
But, if I had to name a tipping point for when the rushing winds picked up, it would be this:
It was when I opened my front door.
It was the summer of 2010. I call it my Summer of Surrender. It was a simple act, this opening of my door. But simple does not mean easy.
At the time, I didn’t realize the implications or that the mission field had just slipped in under my feet. I had no strategy or long-term plan. It was only a personal response to what I believed God told me to do.
I opened my door to 15, 20, 30 (who knows) little neighborhood kids each day. This is note-worthy because the youngest age I have ever taught is college level, which was by choice. Hanging out in elementary classrooms too long gives me the same feeling as when I watch circus people swallow knives or fold up into human pretzels. There some shock there, and a sense of wanting to shield my eyes but too intrigued by their ability to derail teaching moments, never cease movements, produce random stories about family pets, and ask to use the bathroom 38 times in 10 minutes.
Maybe God didn’t want me to take credit for my hospitable ways or maybe He knew just what I needed. As it was, I was the most unlikely good neighbor. Please remember that when I say we did crafts, Kristine told Bible stories on the porch, I fed the kids, we played games, ran around with our dog, and trampled the yard with neighborhood games every day. Day after day. And, I had 4 kids of my own. Perhaps that’s what I mean by a divine force that rushed in and carried us through.
Still, listening to God that summer cost me. It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t within my personality type or giftings or natural affection. But, I learned then that hospitality is a choice, and opening our doors is an offering we lay down – beside our will, our plans, and our better ideas.
Building relational bridges means being welcoming and generous with our homes but also with their hearts.
Opening our doors involves opening our lives. And opening our lives will cost us. It will mess up our schedule, yell too loudly, and leave candy wrappers in the landscaping.
But opening our lives invites divine work by way of relationships.
Maybe you’re facing your own season of surrender. Maybe God’s asking you to open doors and lay out vulnerable welcome mats, inviting the unknown into spaces you can’t control, predict, or clean up quick.
Let it happen, Friends. You too may be amazed at how He shows up when we open up.
Here is a journal entry from that summer of 2010
“When the Bible talks of letting the children come and “the least of these” – I feel like crying because I only have to look out my windows. I’m ashamed of how many kids I’ve turned away because they constantly want to come in, get a drink, talk with me, play with our dog – the inconvenience and extra dishes somehow trumps everything. But today I felt His assurance, heard His words running through my head – “It’s for now, Anne. It’s for a season. Do it for now.” I know it’s time for me to tear down a few of my usual boundaries. But I’m afraid of being overwhelmed and incapable – and He knows it.
I don’t know how far reaching the effects of our open door, hot dogs, s’mores, long chats and band-aids will go – and I guess it doesn’t really matter.
The thing is, our lives are impacting each other – and I’ve been blessed. So, tonight I offered supper to everyone on my deck. I know about enabling and cycles of poverty, bad choices and such. But, I’m letting go for now. Because He’s asking me to trust Him not logic. But, mostly because He’s supernaturally knitting these kids in my heart. Because I care about them a lot. Because they’re teaching me things. So I’m done rationalizing the reasons to not trust – as compelling as they seem.”
This month’s series is on being a bridge-builder. In short, it’s about how to be like certain individuals who let God show up in their words and deeds and forever changed our little family. But, it’s not a series about our story; it’s as series about how Redemption made our story useful, even valuable, in a greater story.
If Jay and I know anything about being a bridge-builder, it’s because we were the ones stuck on an island. If we understand anything about the power of meeting people where they are and standing in the gap, it’s because that’s how we were rescued – by God, through average people.