Seek The Welfare Of The City
“We are witnesses to burned down homes, boarded up houses, makeshift shelters, discarded household belongings, human waste, animal abuse, and poverty Endless poverty. This city needs redemption. This city needs revival. This city needs a Savior.”
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for you sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:4-7
With these words still hanging in the air Conor Tait, founder of Saving Grace Ministries, member of Triangle House Church, and organizer of the annual “West Side Clean-up Outreach”, prayed over our crew of 15 volunteers and for the welfare of the city we serve. Each year the Clean-up is held God accomplishes big things through small people, and the amount of trash collected from alleys and abandoned houses grows larger. When Conor opened us up in prayer he stated, “The prayer on my heart for the past few weeks is that God would provide us with 100 people from all over the Miami Valley and from all different House Churches to come to the West Side and show the community that even if they don’t live in Dayton they still care about Dayton. Today I’m grateful for the people we have present who have hearts for the city.” This year was a record-breaking year for the West Side Clean-up crew. The Clean-up organizers rented two mechanized dump trailers for collecting large trash, abandoned furniture, and fallen tree trunks and branches. Volunteers provided yet another trailer for collecting old tires, as well as a dump truck for hauling brush. The line of cars and trucks crawled like centipedes through the alleys and streets all over the west side of Dayton, making frequent trips to their dump site behind the abandoned Dayton Boys Preparatory Academy. Over 20 large loads of trash and furniture was collected along with 40-50 tires! The crew worked from 8 am to 12 pm, with less fatigue and weariness experienced in prior Clean-up events, despite our fewer number of workers. Even after the official Clean-up was over, a few of the volunteers returned to the streets to continue cleaning and reaching out to the community over the course of the weekend.
“Seek the welfare of the city.”
The purpose of each Clean-up is not just to clear out trash and illegal dumping zones, but to show the neighborhoods and city-dwellers alike that they are not forgotten; people care about their welfare. Water bottles and granola bars, accompanied with prayers, are offered to curious neighbors who emerge from their homes to see what the ruckus is about. Occasionally the team is met with anger and confusion, but the majority of the time they are met with gratefulness and thanks. Several individuals, tired of seeing their homes and neighborhoods fall to ruin and desolation, have taken matters into their own hands, pushing trash-filled shopping carts around wearing signs saying, “For a Cleaner View.” When these individuals see the crew of volunteers coming alongside them they are tearfully overjoyed. Many seeds were planted in the form of conversations with neighbors and prayers, with those open to it, by this Clean-up.
“Pray to the Lord on its behalf.”
Before the start of this year’s Clean-up, a few of the regular volunteers were discussing how discouraged they were to go through brimful alleyways they had cleared out just last year. Concerns were raised that illegal dumpers and city-dwellers were using the Clean-up’s initiative and this taking advantage of the hearts of the workers. This presents two valid questions: 1. Is the Clean-up important? 2. Does the Clean-up actually make a difference in the hearts and minds of the West Siders? My answer, to both questions, is a resounding YES It is absolutely important and it absolutely makes a difference.
“For In its welfare we will find our welfare.”
This was my 4th time serving alongside my House Church ministering to the city of Dayton in this way. We’ve had whole families join us, parents teaching children that you can never be too young to serve others, as well as young singles and Urban Dayton residents. Each time we’ve held the Clean-up the eyes of my heart are continually opened to the raw and painful needs of this city. We are witnesses to burned down homes, boarded up houses, makeshift shelters, discarded household belongings, human waste, animal abuse, and poverty Endless poverty. This city needs redemption. This city needs revival. This city needs a Savior. But more than providing social revelations, these outreaches don’t just remind me of the raw and painful needs of the city; they also remind me of the raw and painful needs of my own heart. Apart from Christ my heart looks like the streets of Dayton; apart from Christ my heart is boarded up, filled with trash, waste, abuse, and poverty of the spirit. My heart needs redemption. My heart needs revival. My heart needs a Savior. And guess what– So Does Yours! We all do. We are all in desperate need for Jesus to flush out the alleyways of our hearts our ugly, beat-up, broken-down hearts. We all need Jesus to extend us his love, grace, mercy, and compassion. If Jesus can dwell within me, filled with all the ugliness and sin as I am, then I can dwell in Dayton and serve those who live there. These outreaches are important because not only are we witnessing and ministering to our community and to those in need, but because it also reveals to us time and time again our own needs. It makes a difference because we build up relationships with the city as people who genuinely care about its welfare because we have a Savior who genuinely cares about our welfare.
Triangle House Church would like to extend an invitation for you to join us. This West Side Clean-up has come and gone, but there will be others. If you’d like a wake-up call to the own depraved condition of your heart, please come. This is not just for those who live within the walls of the city but for all who Christ has saved and redeemed. You can be sure to find me there– baggy hoodie, sunscreen, bug spray and all. If you’d like more information about how to get involved in the next Clean-up contact Conor Tait at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch coverage from the 2015 Clean-up here.
A Reflection- Is your House Church serving the community around you in some way? Do you know what the needs are that surround you? Share this story with your House Church the next time you meet and discuss service opportunities for you to do together.
Author- Elise Herzing