Seeking the welfare of the city
In Jeremiah 29, God tells the Israelites who had been taken into Babylonian captivity, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer. 29:5–7). This is a radical notion. God is calling his people to love and serve a city and people who do not know God. And yet, it's right in line with what Jesus deemed to be the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39) and the idea that Israel, God’s people at that time, would be a “blessing for the nations” (Gen. 12:3). Each year in the month of March our Atlanta Fellows participate in Service Week. I told the Fellows I want to rebrand it to be called Love + Serve Atlanta Week. It's a mouthful, but the reason for the change has to do with the overall purpose of the week. Yes, it's an opportunity to serve some amazing organizations around the city and see where God is already at work. But more than that, it's an opportunity for our Fellows to fall more in love with the city of Atlanta. It's a chance for them to catch a vision for what it means to live a life of service, to "seek the peace and prosperity of the city." Most people simply use the city for their own pleasure and career aspirations. But we're challenging our Fellows to live FOR the city—to love it, pray for it, root for it, serve it, and seek its shalom—in their vocations and everyday lives. To that end, each day during Service Week we serve a different organization, learn about the work they're doing, and then have some fun doing some "bucket list" Atlanta activities. Here's what one Fellow had to say about her experience: “Service Week was incredibly encouraging to me. As we served, it magnified the impact of the organizations and eliminated this oppressive sense of futility that often prevents me from moving towards the poor, vulnerable, and powerless. Ultimately, it was a powerful experience to see people showing up in our most broken places as the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Scroll down to discover the organizations we served and the fun things we did! As always, thank you for supporting this program and helping to shape the next generation of gospel leaders!
Monday: Clifton Sanctuary + La Fonda
On Monday we started off the day by having lunch at the Craigs' home and hearing the remarkable story of a woman named Laverona who, against all odds, escaped homelessness and addiction.
After that, we got a chance to serve Clifton Sanctuary Ministries and learn about the work they’re doing to bring transformation and restoration to men coming out of homelessness. We did some yard work around the house, organized their pantry and laundry rooms, and got to serve dinner to the guys. Then we capped it off with an incredible meal at La Fonda Latina!
Tuesday: Fountain of Hope + Top Golf
Tuesday we served at Fountain of Hope, a food bank based in the Grove Park neighborhood. We loved getting a chance to hear how God is moving through that ministry from Bishop Larry and the FoH team.
Half of us worked in their massive food warehouse while the other half worked the phones to get support for their latest food bank operation in Conyers. After a morning of serving, we had some fun at Top Golf!
Wednesday: The Grocery Spot, Plywood, and the Painted Duck
On Wednesday we served our friend Matthew Jones atThe Grocery Spot, a local grocery store in the Grove Park Neighborhood. Matthew is in the process of renovating his store and partnering with Free99Fridge to provide free groceries to people in need.
As we were leaving, we got the chance to meet Latisha Springer, the founder of Free99Fridge. She's a bit of a local legend, so it was a cool moment.
Next, we went on a tour of the new Plywood Place led by our friend Tuere Butler. (If you haven't seen their new space in the West End, you gotta check it out.) Then we capped off the evening with a fun outing at The Painted Duck!
Thursday + Friday: Summerhill Community Ministries, GA Aquarium, and Ponce City Roof!
On Thursday we took our Fellows to the Georgia Aquarium (I brought my two-year-old son Max—BIG fan of turtles and sharks) before they headed to their seminary class with Pastor Scott Armstrong.
Friday we got to serve our dear friends at Summerhill Community Ministries by helping them pack and distribute food and basic toiletries to local families in need. We LOVE Justina and Emmanuel Dix and what they're doing to bring renewal to the Summerhill Neighborhood.
Then we celebrated the end of Service Week with a trip to Ponce City Roof!