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Missional Garbage

By Mike Mileski

Our church scatters in small missional communities, called “faith families”, where we are learning to practice discipleship and being on mission together. Each month we choose a way to bless our neighbourhood. Recently, we invited our neighbours to join us for a community clean-up, to be followed by a hot meal. 

As we filled bag after bag with trash, passersby treated us like royalty. Drivers slowed down, honked, and said things like, “God bless you guys, eh?” and “Seriously dude, thanks for cleaning up our garbage!” This was more warmth than we’d expected from downtown Hamilton. It was downright special.

By the end of the day, we were all dirty, stinky, and hungry. Supper was ready, and it was that awkward moment when no one is sure if it’s okay to start eating or if someone is going to pray first.  I started with, “If I could have your attention?”, and twenty-five sets of eyes were suddenly fixed on me. Oh boy, I thought. Here goes!

“So, um, we like to say a prayer before we eat. If you’re okay with it, we’d like to give thanks for all of you who joined us this afternoon. Would that be okay?” A kid in the room said “No thanks!” The adults all laughed, and I prayed anyway. 

Over dinner, watching my faith family interact with my neighbours was a little like being at a wedding. My worlds were all colliding in beautiful ways. Many of the neighbours asked us what kind of church we were, what we believed about this or about that, and they even shared stories of churches they’d once attended themselves when they were children. We laughed a lot, and at a few points there were also tears as someone shared about a recent loss. The whole thing was surreal. I thought to myself, “Wow. Thank you, Jesus!”

Since then our neighbours have gone from seeing “church” as a building to seeing it as a people who are here to learn together and share life together in messy, practical and loving ways. Whether it is to grab vegetables from the community garden in our front yard, or to bring us our mail when we’ve been away, or just to hang out and talk about their struggles, they keep coming. 

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