By Chris DeVos – Originally Printed in The Holland Sentinel on October 3, 2014
On Sunday, September 28, from about 3-6pm, 300+ people gathered at the Midtown Center to celebrate what God has been doing in the core-city neighborhoods of Holland. The event was catalyzed by Kathy Beal and a few like-minded people, like-minded in their passion to facilitate the transformation of lives and communities. This gathering was a multi-cultural gathering of Christians who shared stories, sang together and conversed with one another around the theme Following Jesus’ Footsteps in the Neighborhood . At a time when the Church is often segregated and distant from the concerns of the city, this was a powerful demonstration that God is at work bringing people together and helping to change lives.
Now, I have to admit that most of my Sundays are pretty busy and I was not excited about going because this particular Sunday was busier than most. To go to this event meant that my day would be filled with activities from 7am through 7pm. I would have few minutes to sit and relax. I attended more out of duty than delight. And despite the impurity at my core and to my great surprise, Jesus had gone ahead of me to prepare something I needed to see. I was following the footsteps of Jesus
Once there, I discovered that sometimes our determination to follow through, even reluctantly, can bear fruit. I was warmly encouraged by what I heard and saw. I saw a lot of energy, across a cultural spectrum, directed towards the healing of broken lives and the restoration of communities. I saw people of several different cultural and ethnic backgrounds talking, worshiping and witnessing together. Several young people gave testimonies to how they had come from drug abuse and sexual confusion into sobriety and a purposeful sense of who they are. Though the publicity for this event intentionally avoided naming any particular ministry or church in order to affirm the oneness of Christ’s followers, it is clear that many churches and ministries are touching the core of Holland.
From the opening songs led by Dwight Beal, to the testimony of a young man about his deep concern for a sister who had gotten involved in gangs, to a break-dancing exhibition, sacred dance performance and even the sharing of cookies and conversations, my hope for what God is doing in the core city was ignited. I went away thinking that I have to look at the core of Holland differently.
Instead of dwelling on the problems and challenges, I want to remember that God is at work, that the light of the gospel is shining through many people living in the core city, that Jesus is walking through our city calling me to follow. Although the psalmist spoke these words about the city of Jerusalem, I felt them about the core of Holland: “God is in the midst of the city, it will not be moved. God will help here when morning dawns.” Morning is dawning as Jesus has been transforming many bright and shining lives in the neighborhoods of our core city! You can follow the footsteps of Jesus if, in the midst of your busy schedule, you take up the invitation to watch and listen.
Photos Courtesy of Elyn Marie Photography unless otherwise noted.