While walking through apartment complexes one clear January afternoon I was praying about the opportunity to move into an often avoided area of our community in order to better serve and invest in the families there. During that prayer walk, God specifically placed one of the youth and her mom on my heart. As I was telling my friend about them and the call I felt to invest and disciple them, they pulled up next to us and jumped out of car. In that moment my friend and I had the chance to connect with them and pray for them. I knew God was confirming that this desire to fully engage with the community was from him and the decision to move was made.
It’s in moments like these that I feel God’s continued assurance despite the perceived “dangers” of this community. I knew in that moment that He wanted me to fully commit to this community through both prayer and action. Within weeks, I moved into the area so I could cut my commute and devote more time to building relationships with my new neighbors. Soon after, I landed jobs with two local ministries in the area providing even more opportunities to serve my community.
“It’s in moments like these that I feel God’s continued assurance despite the perceived “dangers” of this community. I knew in that moment that He wanted me to fully commit to this community through both prayer and action.”
Everett is a fairly large city, located between Seattle and the Canadian border. It is a city of sharp contrast with the rich and the poor living just minutes from each other. Our street, Casino Road, has a reputation for being dangerous as poverty, drugs, and gangs litter the streets. Because it is a lower income community we also see a lot of immigrants and refugees as well who have few opportunities and too often get sucked into the struggles of the streets.
One of the ways we reach out to the families is through a soccer program with Hand in Hand. Soccer serves as a universal language providing opportunities to engage and mentor kids and families. What started out as a volunteer position has opened door to work for them as well as I now serve as a bilingual Community Navigator. We work to strengthen and empower our community, helping families become more self-sufficient and resilient through community partnerships and personal support. Every day I get to meet with families and help them find resources, fill out applications, interpret for appointments, listen to their story and pray with them.
I also have the opportunity to work with Youth For Christ’s Citylife program, which reaches out to at-risk urban youth. Through this organization I get to mentor youth and share the love of Christ in real and tangible ways. We have club twice a week, with over 50 youth attending each week.
We have kids that are in gangs, kids that are addicted to drugs, kids who are failing in school, but I don’t see any of that, I see resilient kids who have persevered through some pretty rough circumstances. They push the limits, and regularly test our love to see if we will be one of the many who will give up on them too, but love commits. No matter how hard they push, we are here to show these kids what love is.
One of the girls I coach is a terrible student at school. She gets suspended regularly for drugs or alcohol and has constant problems with teachers and struggles to turn in homework. But on the field, it’s a different story. When I coach her, she’s one of the most well-behaved and responsive players on the team. One day we asked her why she is so different at practice than at school and she responded “because I know that you guys love me”. That’s why we are here, we want these students to not just experience our love, but God’s love as well.
“No matter how hard they push, we are here to show these kids what love is”
Training for Love
Eternity Bible College is equipping me for this daily life with these students. I love that I can take all my classes online, so I can stay right here in my community and apply what I’m learning in my local context. The counseling classes have been extremely helpful as we work with a variety of students who struggle with a lot of different issues. I love that the heart of the school is to equip people for ministry through education and that they do so much to make it affordable. I can go to school, serve, and work for a non-profit, and still graduate debt free.
This season of life has been extremely busy as I am working, going to school, and volunteering, but I love the opportunities God has placed in front of me. I love my students and families and I am confident that God is at work in this city bringing transformation and hope. He is allowing me to be a part of his purposes and is sufficient in my weakness in dealing with issues that I have never even had to think about before. He fills me up with love for this community each and every day as I see the dignity and potential in each person I work with. Although long-term overseas missions is my goal God has opened opportunities right in front of me to serve on the mission field here at home as a season of preparation for whatever he has next.