To see pictures of the ramp build, click the picture above.
Sometimes, when we are explaining the incredible international mission trips that Redeemer has sponsored, the question comes up "Why don't you serve others right here in Austin? We have plenty of homeless people, hungry people, spiritually lost or seeking people, etc." You get the idea. My stock answer to these objections is usually to thank the person for having a heart for these areas of ministry and then challenging them to organize an effort to address whatever need they have brought up. This is the way ministry works at Redeemer. Somebody identifies a need, runs it by our Pastors and then is empowered to lead the project. Some absolutely amazing ministries have resulted from this bottom-up approach, including some of our members being involved in a breakfast for the homeless each month, others doing regular blood drives, a disaster relief team working on everything from Hurricanes Ike and Katrina relief to working with families that lost their homes in the recent central Texas wildfires. The list goes on and on. I am going to amend my stock answer to this question to include the following observation. While some of us have been called to get out of our comfort zones, saddle up and do the Lord's work in faraway places, it is not possible to obey God's call to the mission field and not be deeply effected by it. Every one of us that has participated in these trips (in my case, first helping to build two churches in Mexico and now preparing to go on my sixth trip in the past two years to Kenya) has come back with what Pastor Dave calls "Jesus eyes." We are more sensitive to the needs around us in our day to day surroundings and are more involved than ever in our local communities. This morning, I had the pleasure of helping build a wheelchair ramp for a woman in her 90's. Her daughter, who is in her 70's, explained that the ramp would make it much easier to get her mother out and about, since she had fallen recently and was afraid of falling again going from the house to the car. The work amounted to five of us having some fun with power tools, telling tall tales and sharing a few laughs on a Saturday morning. We were done in less than three hours. It was huge, however, to the lady who had been trapped, for all practical purposes, in her home. A group of men from Redeemer is involved in this caring ministry along with the Texas Ramp Project, about once a month. No special skills are required, but the good you can do and the rewards it brings to both us and those we serve are abundant. I guess my point is that the fact that some of us are called to work on foreign missions in no way limits us when we get back to Austin, but in fact spurs us on to being even more involved locally than we ever were before. You don't need to go halfway around the world to serve the Lord and others, your mission field might be as close as your neighborhood, your school or your workplace. If you aren't already active in some sort of serving, helping ministry, I would encourage you to check with Redeemer or your church and see what the needs are. If nothing interests you, perhaps you already feel tugged by the Holy Spirit to address someone's need in a different area. Pick up the ball and run with it! If you do, you will never be the same and I can promise you that the change will be for the better for you and for all those you touch. Thank you, Jesus!