Jesus knew it. The saints knew it. Faithful Bible readers know it. Kingdom work is perilous work. We know it was perilous for Christ, but comfort and safety are so attractive. I’ve had those thoughts, but I have concluded that I would rather do something perilous for the sake of love, rather than nothing for the sake of fear.
My journey into the “perilous” has changed my life, and it began in August of 2008, when I visited Mercury Courts, an apartment complex for homeless adults operated by Nashville Urban Housing Solutions.
“What do your residents need?” I asked Traci Patton- Walker MA’96, a Mercury Courts employee. Traci described residents who were permanently disabled and suffered from strokes, heart attacks, brain tumors, or congestive heart failure—even though they were in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. “Because our residents are poor and underserved,” Traci explained, “they have been studied, surveyed, and used as scientific subjects. They need someone to help—help them learn what diabetes means, when to call the ambulance, or how to eat healthfully on a food-stamp budget.”
“That’s all? We can do that!” I said.
Soon Trevecca’s physician assistant students and I began offering weekly health workshops at Mercury Courts, a program that continues now, five years later. Perhaps it was foolish, taking young PA students into a world where drugs, prostitution, and other crimes were so common, but I reminded myself that it’s better to do something perilous for the sake of love than nothing for the sake of fear.
In 2009, Traci expressed a new need: “Please don’t have workshops about eating healthfully. The economy has hit this population hard, and the food delivery trucks no longer have enough to go around. These people are hungry. Even our emergency food pantry is empty.”
She was right. We couldn’t talk about reducing salt and fat intake when the residents were desperate to get food—any food. How could we fill the Courts’ empty food pantry? Restocking would require about 2,000 pounds of food. One ton of food?
“That’s all? We can do THAT!”
I challenged the forty Trevecca physician assistant students to gather one ton of groceries for the Courts’ food pantry within two weeks. Not a lot of time for students who were living at the poverty level themselves, but I’d rather do something perilous for the sake of love than nothing for the sake of fear.
Two weeks later, those PA students unloaded not one—but two—tons of groceries. Four thousand pounds! We stocked that food pantry and several others in town for the year. The following year, PA students gathered three tons of groceries in two weeks to provide emergency food supplies for our hungry neighbors!
When my coat was stolen during a weekly workshop, I came face to face with my desire for comfort and security, and the Lord interrupted my inner whining about that loss: “Was it really YOUR coat?”
Chagrined, I confessed, “No, it wasn’t. It’s your coat. Everything I have is yours, Lord.”
And God replied, “Sometimes I call you to places where your coat—and a whole lot more– will be stolen, but you are still called to be there.”
I remembered something I had read: Bringing people to God cannot be done from the safety and comfort of our sofas, making a difference to no one, blessing the already-blessed. God has called us to bring light, truth, and care to the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner among us.
The next week one of the Mercury Courts regulars whispered in my ear, “Please don’t stop coming ’cuz someone stole from you. You bring the only light to this very dark place.”
“That’s all? I can do that!”
A new need at Mercury Courts soon materialized: residents needed medical care. They had no safe, local clinics, and getting to doctors required long bus rides or arrangements for other transportation. Start a clinic?
“That’s all? We can do that!”
With the help of grants, The Clinic at Mercury Courts opened in August 2012. It now provides free office
visits to the homeless and residents of Mercury Courts and a place for Trevecca physician assistant students to practice their skills.
Soon God brought the poor, the foreigner, and the orphan even closer to me—actually into my house. Last August, my husband and I flew to the Democratic Republic of Congo and adopted Addie Rose (6) and Palmer (8).
When I was small, God had challenged me to adopt children who would otherwise be overlooked. Though I was young and did not understand the thousands of dollars or risk involved, I was able to say, “That’s all? I can do that!”
Instead of being trapped in prostitution or slavery, without education or hope, our kids are enrolled in school, and every day they learn about the perilous path Jesus walked so that all of us could be adopted into the family of God.
God calls each of us to act in ways that seem too big, to take on expenses that seem too great, or to accept problems that seem too complex. We may view those “callings” with apprehension, but God is whispering to us, “There is no fear in love because perfect love drives out fear.”
Do something perilous for the sake of love, rather than nothing for the sake of fear. That’s all. You can do that!