I had a conversation the other day with someone about Valparaiso. We talked about its history, the way the geography slices it up into pieces separated in a way to make each section wholly separate and unrelated - except when the city tax bill comes. That led to further discussion about the other splits in the social fabric.
Older versus younger - we have a number of retirees and a constant flow in and out of young families and singles due to the military base next door.
Richer versus poorer - some of those retirees get by on very little. I know of one older woman whose income is $500 a month. On the other end, there are million dollar homes on the water, boats costing as much as normal houses, and people conspicuous in their consumption.
Military and related versus civilian - Eglin is a huge base with an amazing impact on everything in the area. Many of the people in Valparaiso have direct ties whether military (active or retired) or civilian (civil service or contractor). But there are many who are not in any relation to the base.
Religious versus not - our little town houses several churches, all fairly small, and a larger by far number of people who aren't involved in a community of faith anywhere.
We walked through all those areas together, and I expressed my hope that one day Jesus would allow us to see what Valparaiso could be with people following Him.
"It is what it is", was the reply.
Should we accept defeat and just concentrate on loving one another and anyone who happens to walk through the doors at New Hope?
There's very little that ties this forgotten place together except - an elementary school, a middle school, a little league field, and some smaller networks (city employees, businesses, older americans council, DAV, post office) So we will have to work hard and use those networks as our conduits to ministry.
We are commissioning people already in those networks as our ambassadors. Their job is to scout out opportunities for ministry and relationship building. Got two up and running this week. The elementary school - we have a teacher inside who turned us on to two opportunities. teacher move in day - when they come in to get ready; and new teacher needs.
We're going to have 5 teams of three people helping with move in, serve free sandwiches for lunch, and sponsor whatever the new teacher needs to get her class ready. Hope is we get some relationships started and some buzz in the community.
Second opportunity comes from the bank. Lady comes in for a home improvement loan. She can;t afford it. has no insurance either. Loan guy calls me because of a conversation we had. We're doing a home makeover for her while she's on vacation with her sister's help. Again, idea is relationships and buzz.
See we cannot compete with the megas in terms of worship bands, youth programs, facilities etc. So our idea is to work the networks to get our word and work out there and after the investments, to invite and extend Jesus' love.
What do you think? Will it work?