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Entering Samaria

Earlier this week, I wrote a post called Skipping Samaria. It is a challenge to our churches to continue taking care of our immediate communities and continue traveling to the ends of the earth, but to no longer skip over the under resourced communities around us.  I'd like to follow that post with a couple pointers on how to Enter Samaria. First I would point you to Christena Cleveland's blog post this week. She unpacks some of the class divisions that keep us separated, and gives practical advice for overcoming those divisions. Please take a moment to read, but promise you'll come back! 

Whether you are moving, visiting, or want to develop relationships inside Samaria, I want to share a couple thoughts with you. I hope this will help you enter Samaria well.  

1. Oftentimes when we go on a missions trip (near or abroad) we do so with the intention of "bringing Christ's love". There is often a desire to evangelize, to share the Good News, to be Christ's hands and feet in the world. Its a beautiful sentiment. But if not careful there can be an underlying assumption that Christ is not already there, with the people, in the people. Have you ever noticed how many churches are in poor communities!? If you go to Samaria, I would really encourage you to add one more word to the desire to share the Good News-- together. Let us share together the Good News. May there be room for every person present to share their faith. In its sharing may everyone be encouraged. May everyone be stretched. The sharing doesn't have to be unilateral.

Once upon a time, I worked for a short-term mission organization whose tagline is: See the face of God in the city. I love that. Go to Samaria. Be Christ's hands and feet right alongside others who are Christ's hands and feet. Participate in the good work already begun. May everyone's faith grow richly as a result.  

2. Talk through disillusionment. My husband works at a public high school in an under-resourced community. Every year, teachers fresh out of college arrive in order to have their loans forgiven, but also because they really want to have a positive impact on the kids. When they arrive and find it's not going to be an episode of Dangerous Minds or the Freedom Writers, disillusionment sets in. It is inevitable. Anytime we travel to a new space we have to bridge the gap between our expectations and reality. But talk through that disillusionment. Reflect on it. Don't let disillusionment turn into bitterness, anger, or even regret at going at all. We are human- in our beauty and in our brokenness. Don't let the brokenness stop you. 

3. Discover the whole community. Going to Samaria can be a great opportunity to move beyond the media coverage. Some of what you find will confirm the news stories, but at other times you will wonder why you've been exposed to so little. Spending time in Samaria will give you an opportunity to learn about white flight, high rises and redlining. But you might also learn about civil rights movements, church events, cultural festivals, and the public gems of the neighborhood. Being there is an opportunity to see how it has all come together, to appreciate its history and while working towards a beautiful future. 

Whether you are thinking about moving to Samaria, working in Samaria, or just visiting, I would ask that you not skip it. I would ask that you enter Samaria well- that you share your faith and allow the community to share, too. I would ask that you enter Samaria knowing that its possible disillusionment might hit hard, but that you can make it. You can adjust. You can handle the brokenness. I would ask that you enter Samaria determined to see it as a whole community, and hold both its stories of tragedy and triumph.

May we all grow as a result of entering Samaria.