Jillian Sitton, Graduate Student, Biblical Counseling
"God, if you save my baby, I will serve your people all of my days," was Janeen Williams's prayer as she held her two-year-old daughter's hand under the bright lights of the hospital examination room. That day, the doctors found a cancerous tumor in her daughter's left eye, and to remove the cancer, her daughter would have to lose her eye. Desperate, Janeen offered to God in return for her baby's life the only thing she could—her life. Thirty-three years later, I am sitting across from Ms. Williams and hearing her share her story. I listen as she tells me how God led her to PGM with her four children when she was homeless, how God strengthened her as a single mother, how God comforted her through the loss of her children’s father and the loss of her son later. I listen as she describes a God who has become the closest friend she has and her dearest source of comfort and hope. At 72 years old, she has indeed stayed true to her promise to God – to serve His people all her days.
"I tell the Lord every day, just give me a corner where I can praise you all day long, and I would be happy," was 64-year-old Gracie Sander's humble statement as we sifted through a bin of clothing donations. She is a small, quiet woman whose big brown eyes are filled with a steady joy that can only come from Christ. I listen as she tells me all about how good God is to her, how patient He is with her, and how much He loves her. I listen as she speaks of the deep pain she has endured, the loss she has felt, and the brokenness of her soul before Christ. When you talk with Ms. Gracie, what you see is what you get. She is honest about who she is before God – a sinner. She is raw about her flaws and mistakes. And she is genuine and reverent when she speaks about who God is.
In the book of Acts, it is evident that ministry is not a show. It is not a title, a program, or a job description. Instead, the ministry of ministering is the result of blood-covered lives. The book of Acts is filled with examples of ministers doing raw, natural, and authentic ministry. Before Christ, they were fearful and timid; they lacked self-control, were consumed by anger and hatred, were arrogant, self-righteous, and violent. They had different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities, different social statuses, and positions. They spoke other languages and served different gods. But under one broken body – Christ's body – they became a family. Paul writes in Colossians 3:11 that, in the body of Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, Barbarian nor Scythian, neither is there slave nor free. The glorious message of the gospel is that I am a part of a large and beautifully diverse family in Christ. No matter what color your skin is or what part of the country or world you are from, we are the same. We are all a part of the same family.
At Pacific Garden Mission, there are staff from Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and various regions in North America. Their languages range from Spanish, Shona, Afrikaans, Bana, Tagalog, and Portuguese. Many have grown up in cultures steeped in demonic activity, satanic occults, and idolatry. They come from backgrounds of drug and alcohol addictions, gang violence, and sexual immorality. Their bodies bear the scars of violence and abuse, and many have been abandoned by those who claimed to love them.
Still, when I walk past them in the hallways, when I sit with them at meals or in offices, when I labor with them through each day, I don't see that. Instead, I see the humility of Christ in Ms. Williams. I feel the deep compassion and love of Jesus in the hugs of Ms. Jackie. In the prayers of Ms. Gracie, my heart is drawn to love my wonderful and gracious heavenly Father. And in the smiles of the men and women at PGM, I see the joy of lives made new through the blood of Christ.
The Pacific Garden Mission is God's instrument in His mission of transformation in the lives of His creation. It is not a perfect place. It never will be. It is broken and brutal and is run by broken and scarred people. Every day is a battle, a test of perseverance and endurance. But every day is also a blessing as the family of blood-bought brothers and sisters labor together to minister God's love to every person who walks through the doors. The ministry of ministering is only possible in a heart that surrenders itself to the Holy Spirit – in a heart that chooses to give each day to the Lord and to commit its actions to Him. At the Pacific Garden Mission, the name of Jesus is made beautiful in the lives of His transformed children. Let this be our prayer as believers: to make the name of Jesus beautiful to the lost and to minister the love and mercy of Christ to our brothers and sisters.
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
If you have a story of how God has used you this summer in ministry or evangelism, please leave a comment or consider writing a post of your own at www.bjucgo.com/submissions. If you are student interested in an internship with PGM contact the CGO at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.