They sat in the back. A mother, a grandmother, and two grandfathers. As 180 neared its conclusion today I keyed in on the two elderly men, one at a time. The first lives several miles away in inner SE Portland. He was visiting his grandchildren in the neighborhood. Happy to see them going to church, he beamed at their joy. He was raised in the church, but has not attended in a very long time. I invited him to come. Turns out he has no reliable transportation due to his age and disability. We will be working on figuring out how to help him get here. Because he matters. I told him so. He teared up. In Christ our hearts bonded during our brief conversation.
And then a similar conversation with the other grandfather. He does live in the neighborhood. I invited him to church as well. I think he was surprised; not in a bad way. Although language was a bit of a barrier with him, I made it clear that we want him here. That we care about him and his family.
Both of these men are the elder statesmen of their families. I include immediate and extended households in that statement. As someone who primarily ministers among youth and children, I understand that I must intentionally engage and honor their elders at home and in the neighborhood.
What a privilege. A handshake and arm around the shoulder as a sign of respect for the first gentleman. A handshake and bow of the head for the second. Both from different cultural backgrounds than mine and each other.
Urban mission to youth and children must include whole families. If it doesn’t, then all we are doing is offering seasonal activities with no incarnational relationships which provide common conduits for doing life together in the daily routines of community. So, with the unabashed faith of my young friends in the neighborhood in the photo below, I pray that God will grant us wisdom to break down walls of our own construction and those of the culture so that Christ may help us to learn to love each other as he commanded in Scripture.