While waiting to get a prescription filled, pharmacist Melanie Golding and pharmacy assistant, Jessica Brooks, and I began our early morning monthly ritual of engaging in general conversation about life. I have been very blessed over the last few years to have a wonderful relationship with these professional ladies who are also thoughtful, kind, and most helpful.
We started talking about church and mission work. Melanie told me that she and her church family had traveled on a mission trip to a northern state for a week. They were commissioned to go into the surrounding neighborhoods near the host church to, first of all, inform people about the church and its mission, and then, invite them to attend revival.
Her group dutifully, willingly, and eagerly began their assignment. As they went from door to door spreading the good news, one of Melanie’s friends suddenly had an epiphanic experience. She said, “I am thankful to be knocking on doors and inviting people to this church; on the other hand, I realize I haven’t even invited people in my own neighborhood to my church – I haven’t told them where I worship!”
A quote by an unknown person says, “Sometimes we must get hurt in order to grow. We must fail in order to know. Sometimes our vision is clear only after our eyes are washed away with tears.”
As I stood there listening to Melanie, my insight became clearer in regard to my mission work in my community, school, and job. I also realized that I had been lax in fulfilling my personal mission to bolster positive relationships in my environment. I then thought about Dr. Joe Bailey, who founded the Tree of Life ministry in our area based on the mission work performed in Mexico. Just like the people in Mexico need our help, there are men, women and children right in our own backyard who need our help as well.
I thought about the missed opportunities that many of us have had to let our light shine among men. Oft times, we have declared certain areas and certain people “off limits”. “They are not from our neighborhoods; they are a different race, etc.” I thought about the “projects” or low-income, poor neighborhoods that many do not venture into for fear of what “those people” might do to us; or, the affluent areas that many won’t go into for fear that our license plate number might be called in to the police and for fear of being arrested.
One friend told me, “All my life, I was scared of the people in the ‘projects.’ It was taboo for me go into that type of neighborhood. I began working with several who lived in the ‘projects’ at a restaurant. I found so many myths and untruths regarding them and their character. They wanted the same opportunities in life, just like I did. They had dreams, goals and aspirations just like I did. They helped me. Many became my best friends.”
I know personally that where you live does not define your character. It is not up to us to screen the people or the areas in which we go to do our required mission work. People are people – good or bad – regardless of the neighborhoods they may reside in. Poet Maya Angelou said, “While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”
I then thought about the insights and helps I could have gained from people of all cultures – if I had only taken the opportunity to develop relationships with them, whether it was community, school or job related. Congressman Barbara Jordan said, “We must exchange the philosophy of excuse – what I am is beyond my control – for the philosophy of personal responsibility.” It is our responsibility or charge to love all mankind. We are without excuse. We have been commissioned to love all human beings.
Author Toni Morrison said, “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands!” Without a doubt, it is in our hands how we treat people who hail from all walks of life. It is in our hands where and when we perform mission work.
Friends, have we missed opportunities to develop relationships with people? Have we committed a disservice to mankind by not performing mission work in our own backyard? You be the judge.
Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president of finance/administration for CREATE Foundation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.