One of the most precious memories that I have from Over-the-Rhine lasted a mere 5 seconds, but it’s one that I hold on to even today. It was the second day of Kid’s Kamp (the VBS that some of us participated in at a nearby park) and we saw some of the kids who had come the previous day. As we waved and called out to them, one of the girls named Miracle waved back and started running towards us.
After saying “hi”, she then gave me a hug. At first, I panicked. Our host church had warned us to be careful with physical interactions due to potential relational brokenness within their families. Remembering that, I had no idea how to respond. Should I hug her back? Should I kindly push her away? After much hesitation (and awkwardness) on my part, I found myself smiling and giving her a hug back. She then beamed a smile and ran off to the other teachers and kids at the camp. As more kids came that afternoon and we started preparing for the Bible Story we would share, I thought back on that moment and realized a couple of things: (1) the Lord knew that more than Miracle, I needed that hug in that moment and (2) the beauty and power of a simple act done in love. Through her simple action, I found my tired body and spirit lifted and encouraged – now ready for that day’s ministry.
As I continue to reflect on my time in OTR and ministering alongside Living Water Church (and the other AMI brothers & sisters), I can’t help but remember that lesson. Because, that was the ministry that we witnessed and had the privilege of being a part of – simple actions imbued with the love of Christ. Of course, there was a faithful proclamation of the Word every Sunday and the clear presentation of the Gospel during street evangelism, but I noticed that there was also more than that. With the preaching of the Gospel came an earnest portrayal of it. Whether through cooking dinner for the entire congregation after Sunday service, picking up trash around the church’s neighboring streets every morning, or the desperate pleas in prayer on behalf of the city residents, these actions flowed from these brothers and sisters. They simply could not contain the love they had for God and for others!
And so, as I transition back to my life in Chicago, the Lord continues to remind me of those 9 days at OTR and the lessons I learned. That though the preaching of the Gospel is necessary, perhaps so too are the ordinary, seemingly insignificant displays of love that arise from a heart transformed by the Gospel. That God is working both through the grand gestures and the “small”, mundane moments. I’m reminded of 1 John 3:18:
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Day by day, moment by moment, my prayer is that my life would be a clear picture of this kind of love. That while I’m working, studying, spending time with family, and growing with my faith family, what would mark those times would be love working itself out in the everyday interactions. A love for God and love for others, just as He has first loved me. And perhaps, through that, the Gospel will go forth.