By Hannah Kessler, Partnership Coordinator

If I have learned anything in my short time in missions, it is that life, and consequently ministry, is messy.

The Partnership Coordinators at Next Step are currently reading a book together called “Making Neighborhoods Whole” By Wayne Gordon and John Perkins. The book is essentially a handbook on how Christian Community Development works and what it looks like practically.

My favorite quote from the book thus far says, “Many want to participate in community transformations without entering into the pain of the people. Learning comes from completely immersing yourself in a community- living with, learning with, and many times crying and struggling with neighbors. The experience is far from pain free.” They later say: “Sometimes the pain outweighs the happiness, but the joy has always outweighed the pain.” This spoke so much truth into my many times, overwhelmed heart. Is living for Christ, and trying to serve him and serve others supposed to be this difficult? Why is my heart so burdened? Why do people not do what you think they should? Why is this world so broken?

Why is this all so messy?

When I’ve been discouraged by ministry, one of my good friends always reminds me that it’s not my fault things are difficult. Relationships are messy, people are messy. It’s difficult because when you work with people it will always be messy.

In the wake of the flooding in Clendenin, and struggles within the community of Charleston, the last few weeks have seemed messy. In a meeting this week I was somberly encouraged when the leader of a formal gathering broke down in tears in front of representatives from FEMA, The Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Hands on WV, The United Way, and many others. He cried while he was telling stories of families affected by the flood having Christmas trees donated to them. This simple act within a community of hurt was enough to make a grown man cry.

A young boy was murdered in Charleston the Monday prior to Thanksgiving. He was shot and killed as an act of racial tension, and was called “a piece of trash” by the man who shot him. This community is mourning a 15-year-old’s death.

When you are deeply engaged, and have entered into life among hurting people, their hurt becomes your hurt.

So in response to these things, what do we do? Do we keep ourselves from engaging, because it always ends up being too much to bare? Do we just stay locked in our own homes, our own comfort zones hoping to keep our hearts unaffected by the sadness it can so harshly feel?

The answer is no. We continue to immerse. We continue to dive head first into the problems, the joys, the struggles, and the celebrations alike. Why do we do this? Because Jesus did and does the same for us.

Christ Jesus came from his PERFECT home in heaven. Not just our comfy rooms where we seem to be safe from the world. He came from a place that was actually safe from tears and sin and heartache and pitched His tent among us.

His is the perfect relocation story. We relocate, we serve and love and go through the messy times, because Jesus came to a messy world to give us hope in Him. Hope of that safe home where floods don’t exist. Where all races and cultures and colors meet together with one purpose: to live with, and enjoy God forever.

I encourage you to continue in the hard and messy relationships of life. We do this because He did this.

Next Step Ministries