City on a Hill is located in the Lobo theatre in downtown Albuquerque. This is a very rough part of town, and at night there are prostitutes, druggies, and lots of "rifraf" all around this area. This is also one of the poorest areas in the city. The location is very strategic for the church, and they have structured much of their church around reaching the lost. They have what they call "neighborhoods", where they have split their small groups in to focuses on areas of the city they want to reach - there is a group of artists who want to engage with the unbelieving art community in the city, a community events group, a group that is working with the elementary schools in the area, etc. What we did was basically tag along with these groups to see what they are doing. It was extremely exciting to see how the Lord is really using City on Hill to reach the neglected people in their city. For example, the community events group is attending an AIDS walk in a few weeks, and they were asked by the people who were organizing the event if they would like to set up a booth, which of course they do. So, what they are going to do is have cards that say on one side "We are sorry for ignoring the AIDS epidemic" and on the back side have a place asking how they can pray for them. Wow!
Saturday morning we did some good old fashioned manual labor at a housing complex called Casa Shalom. Basically, Casa Shalom is a couple of apartment complexes in a below-poverty-line neighborhood near City on a Hill that was just put together by a man who really has a vision for reaching this neighborhood. He has gotten 18 low income families who are almost entirely Spanish speaking families together, who would otherwise be unable to afford home ownership. They have all gone in to purchase individual apartments, and will be living in this complex, eating meals together weekly, and hopefully reaching out to the violent neighborhood around them. This area has major problems with drugs and prostitution. The man who is heading this ministry up was probably around 40 years old, white, highly educated, and is married with 2 children. He and his family have moved right in the middle of the complex with the vision of really enabling the residents of Casa Shalom to reach out to their neighbors and share the love of Christ with them.
The exciting thing about all of this is that when you go to a Sunday morning service, you can really see the diversity of the church. They are now about 40% minority. Yesterday morning they had a baptism, with everything from a 9 year old girl, to pregnant woman, to a rough looking old man, to a girl with short pink hair. It was such a reminder to me that the gospel can transform, and is transforming, all types of people. The Church really is diverse.
This trip was also very challenging to us. Andy and I have been hashing out how we can really care for the people in Lubbock that the church ignores. These are the people that Jesus was engaging on earth - broken people. "For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost." Luke 19:10 Jesus was contstantly being criticized by the religious people of his day for eating with tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor and sick. Why should we think we should be any different?
Jesus is actively calling people to Himself right now, and has commanded us to be his means to do this. These people are broken down and needy, and they don't necessarily look like me. They are people that might have major problems like drug addictions, poverty, or broken families. And they are people that I will probably be criticized for spending time with. If Jesus Himself made broken people a priority, why should I do any different?