One of the things that we knew up here in Seattle is the cultural rhythms... it wasn't hard being that we, meaning my wife and I, have lived up here most of our lives. We ended up creating a yearly calendar because of it and have lived on this calendar as a missional community since we started over three years ago. Not only do we look around to see what we can join that the community already does well, but also what needs to be redeemed. Here is what our yearly calendar looked like: June - September:
- People are outside because the weather is somewhat nice. That made it very easy to connect with people in the neighborhoods. We used this time to have BBQ's in our front yard with an open invite to all.
- July 4th: People in Seattle, and specifically our neighborhood, love the 4th of July. We used this time to create an event in our neighborhood so people didn't leave the neighborhood - a wiffleball tournament, cook-off, live band, and lots of fireworks.
October - May:
- This is the rainy season for Seattle. People stay inside because of it and don't go outside to do any sort of general association with others. It's lock-down mode. Knowing this, we used this time to have Saturday morning breakfasts at our house. This caused people to see each other, stay in touch, etc.
- January: Knowing people usually start new things in January, this is when we started the 10-week "Story Formed Way" with our neighborhood. This gave us a chance to dive deeper with the neighbors who were interested in seeing the fullness of why we live the way we do in our neighborhood.
Joining and Redeeming
One of the first things we knew needed redeeming was the bedroom community feel of our neighborhood. Everyone played and worked away from our city, and they only slept and sent their kids to school in our city. We wanted the understanding of community redeemed for our neighbors. I think that has definitely happened. Actually, one of the ways you can pray for my family is that we speak clearly the good news to our neighbors before we leave. We have 6-9 months before we move, so be praying that the Spirit gives us opportunities with those we have yet had the chance to speak clearly with. I've been praying for "what's next?" with a few neighbors and the Spirit is telling me to look for how the good news is good news to their story.
We've joined, a little, with a single mom's home in the area that were taking care of those in need and doing a very good job with it. Because we only have 6-10 families (depending on when you ask) in our missional communities, we didn't have the man power to join too many other works.
Now on to Arizona
Because I know that one of the major things we'll be doing as missionaries to Arizona will be to understand the cultural rhythms - where to join and where to redeem - we have started the process of speaking to those who are already living there. Why start from scratch if you don't have to? I have talked to men from Church of the Cross and other churches. Some are in the city, some are in the 'burbs, some are pastors, and others are businessmen.
Here is what I know so far:
- Summer is hot. Meaning, no one does things outside in the summer. This is a complete change from Seattle. We'll need to figure out how to engage the neighbors during this time. I am thinking that the breakfasts will happen during the summer months.
- The fall through spring is amazing. It seems as though BBQ's, pool parties, and other parties will work the best during this time.
- Phoenix is one huge suburb. Many have told me that this is why Phoenix is a difficult place. I have heard for years that making disciples in the 'burbs is near impossible. Yeah, whatever. The Spirit won't fail, we just have to be patient and love people because God loved us, and not want anything in return from people because of our love. This is playing in my favor and the gifting of the Spirit in my life.
- Not only this, but few are from Phoenix as most have moved there and have little family. That is something that needs redeeming, to show people what true family looks like.
As you can see, because the weather is far different than we are used to and many don't have close family nearby, which is not the case in the NW (for the most part), some things will have to be thought through in regards to our rhythms and the rhythms of our new culture.
Here are some things you can think through where you are at, as we are also thinking through these things currently for AZ:
- What does the culture like to celebrate? Is it 4th of July, Christmas, Halloween, Friday night pub nights, etc.?
- What needs to be redeemed in the culture God has sent me to? How can I be the feet of Jesus to show them that the good news is redemptive to those needs?
- What is the story of the culture I am sent to? Then, what is the story of the specific people I am interacting with? Where does their story - both the culture's and the people's - point to Jesus, and then where does it need to be pointed to Jesus?
- How can I show love to the culture that I am sent to? How can I do this so that they find it as actual love and not judgment?