A Kingdom Within a City
2.11.2014 | by Elizabeth Duke ('13), Team Leader
It is hard to believe that seven weeks have passed since our mission team returned from serving with host partner, City Impact, in the inner-city Tenderloin District of San Francisco. It truly feels like it was only yesterday that we were working in the rescue mission, tutoring kids in the elementary, or being a last-minute substitute in their Christmas play! This was my 14th mission trip to be a part of, but this one was definitely one of the most memorable. The way that God orchestrated the team and pulled us together at the last minute to carry out the trip will stick in my memory forever. It is a beautiful memory of the true meaning of Christmas as we were not surrounded by gifts, cocoa, and reindeer, but by people who love Jesus, people who need Jesus, and people willing to lay down their lives for him. This trip was unforgettable because of the phenomenal people we got to meet, serve, and pray with. It was memorable because God started breaking our hearts for His people the very first night we were there. I have been on mission trips around the globe, but the Tenderloin District was the most spiritually broken community I have ever visited. Many people think you have to travel around the world to do missions, but the place where I’ve seen the most need for Jesus was a place right here in the USA.
We initially had a couple of months to plan this trip, yet team formation was challenging as most people joined our team within the last few weeks, in fact a couple did so very last minute! Two weeks before we left we had reached one-fourth of our goal thus far and I began thinking to myself, “There is no way we’re going to be able to do this.” We had students who had to drop from the trip unexpectedly, we had airfare rates double, we had a new team co-leader come aboard about 10 days prior to the trip and I could go on and on, but nevertheless, God revealed Himself to us in some special ways as it all came together. On December 16, our team of eight arrived in the inner city of San Francisco and within minutes after arriving we found ourselves already immersed into the ministry of City Impact.
After serving dinner at the rescue mission, City Impact’s interns took us on a prayer walk around the Tenderloin District to see where we would be serving during the next few days; spending time in prayer for specific areas of the district. That night we saw brokenness up close and personal. We talked with people on the streets without homes, experienced people full of resentment against Christians speaking their minds, prayed over drug houses, prayed over City Impact’s ministry and so much more. By the end of our walk, over half of our team had been brought to tears. It was a heavy night and the reality of what true brokenness looked like really started to set in.
Seeing that they are heavily reliant upon volunteers, Lipscomb was the only mission team serving alongside the City Impact ministry over the holidays, therefore were ready to put us to work every day. We helped in the elementary school, food pantry, thrift store, rescue mission, apartment meal deliveries, and so much more. Since our trip was just a few days before Christmas, some of us even got to perform Thursday night in the local elementary school’s Christmas play. “The highlight of my week was working with the 3rd graders,” said junior Tim Denly, “Most of them wouldn’t talk to me at the beginning, but by the end it was great to see how they had opened up. They are the future of the Tenderloin District.”
As I have served over the years in Ghana, Jamaica, Mexico, and within our city of Nashville, something I have really learned over the past few years is that God always exceeds our expectations. God did not just pull this trip off and make it a good trip, He pulled this trip off and made it GREAT! I love how it’s evident that none of this could have happened on our own doing, but only by God’s hand. I talked with our City Impact leader the other day and his comment on our team was, “Your group really painted a picture of what a group seeking Jesus looks like. Your hearts were incredible. It encouraged me that God is moving mightily in Tennessee.”
I am thankful for our randomly assembled team of eight and the willingness of our students to give up a week of their winter break to serve. I am thankful for the experiences we shared within our trip where we were able to assist and serve while being humbly reminded of the brokenness much of this world lives in every day. Most of all I am thankful for how God is using the people of City Impact, in how they pour countless hours of energy into their ministry all year as they feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless and share the love of Christ to the broken-hearted.