Going to the Hard Place

Living and working in the inner city undid me. Being sent to the hard places taught me the Gospel. It undid my self-righteous, just-spiritualize-everything mentality. It taught me that being a Christian, a “little Christ” was so much more than memorizing verses and meeting people in comfortable coffee shops to discuss the Scriptures. Being a Christian is far more gut wrenching, but also more glorious than showing up to all the church’s different events to socialize with all these people that were exactly. like. me.

It taught me that those verses about the poor weren’t simply about being “poor in spirit” or seeing myself as “poor in God’s sight”. It ACTUALLY MEANT POOR PEOPLE. People who would ask for help, and never be able to return the favor. People we would invite in for dinner, and we would never get invited back over. People who were so different from me, but needed friendship, so hanging out with them didn’t “fill my emotional tank’.  Most often it meant smelling the strong smells of unlaundered clothing, giving time and energy when I didn’t really feel like it, and making myself available, on God’s time table, NOT MINE.

I learned that being a Christian, a “little Christ” meant having hands that got dirty. Noses that smelled the stenches. Ears that heard the heart-wrenching trevails of pain, betrayal and baggage that sends one’s mind whirring. Mouths that speak truth, and pray over situations far too desperate than anything I could help in my own strength. Arms that actually hold the neglected child. Minds that actually work to solve problems of how to keep that teen from being locked up, or how to get the power company to turn the heat back on, or the landlord to wait just a little longer while we gathered the rest of the rent needed for that family of eight. It meant showing up with every component of my humanity to make myself available to spend myself on the poor. And all this is impossible without a heart transplant in the hard, hard place, of my own heart.

After living in a hard place, “the poor” was no longer a statistic for me. They had names, and faces, and stories. They went from being a “project” to being my neighbors, my familiar faces, my friends-BEST friends, and even family…my “adopted” sons and daughters, aunts and uncles for my kids, mothers to me who, in all their brokenness and perseverance became my heroes. And in those years of pressing through the hard places to the point of falling in love with the place, the people, the life there, some resolves were formed in my heart.

1. I will never live in the suburbs again.

How could I? Knowing what I know of the pain and suffering of these neighborhoods full of broken families and disfunction, that just need some neighbors who could be a beacon of light and an example to them. How could I ever live apart from having the need and brokenness on my doorstep? How could I live in a comfy place, with manicured lawns, and stable people (and yes, I know that there is brokenness everywhere, but there are common graces that suburban life GREATLY takes for granted). How could I go back to that way of life when Julissa needs a real home to stop by at after school, and Jaquil could use a hot meal tonight for dinner, and Vernard and TiTi need an example of what marriage looks like. How could I live apart from the freshness, the raw truth of the poverty that most of the world lives in. I need it in my face to keep my heart in check from spending on myself and my own comforts. I didn’t want to join the ranks of those who live inoculated from physical need, because it was that very physical need that helped bring a spiritualized Christianity into the nitty gritty of real life for me.

2. I will never be part of a “bells and whistles” church.

I know what its like to show up on Sunday to set up band practice and have to put pots and pans around the sanctuary to catch the rain through the leaking roof. I know what its like to be so desperate for Sunday School teachers because kids without parents are showing up and need to be taught the Word of God. I know what its like to be desperate for more hands to hold little ones so struggling single moms could be freed up to actually sit in the service and gain nuggets of truth and encouragement to give them strength to struggle through another week. I know what its like to have desperate needs to minister to but just not enough bodies to make the Body do what Christ intended it to do. And because of all that, I couldn’t tolerate spending extra money on fog machines or special lighting or serving Starbucks coffee after worship…could someone please come down here and help us serve a hot meal to these kids after worship? It’ll be the only cooked meal they get this weekend. Or could some of the money that you use on your “wow” affects during worship, be used to patch our roof so we’re not sitting amongst all these pots and pans? Or could someone be willing to forego the comfy feeling of a social event on Sundays so that these kids that have no stable parents, much less mentors, have a decent Sunday School teacher? No, where-ever God would send us, we would always seek to yield any gifts we might have to help a small, struggling church, because we know what it is like to be one.

3. I will never go to the Bible belt.

There is a VAST need for Bible believing church in the inner cities, in northeastern U.S,  in most countries all over the world, not to mention the absolutely unreached peoples of the 10/40 window. No, may my energies never be used to “reach” people who live amongst churches on every street corner, when people in my neighborhood, and people around the world, don’t have that luxury, or have NEVER EVEN HEARD the Name of Jesus. Everyone gets “called” to the southeast where there is already such a culture geared towards Christianity. I don’t want to help “carry the telephone pole and help the side which already has ten people on one side, while just one person carries the other all by himself”. No, having seen the need of just one inner city setting, I vowed in my heart that I would only go where the needs were the greatest and Christ is proclaimed the least.

Well, God laughs at our inner vows, evidently. And He sees bigger sights than we see. And He sees the hard places of our hearts, and sends us to the hard places that will break that hardness.

And just how the hard inner city setting softened parts of my heart, it hardened others, to the point that there is more breaking that needs to be done.  So, come June, guess where God is calling us?

1. a wealthy area

2. to be involved in a HUGE church (nothing against this church…it is doing awesome things and they love Jesus, its just so…well…different)

3. in Atlanta, GA-smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt

WHAT is going on?!? This is not the hard place I was preparing for!

And my prideful heart, thinks God needs some help running His Kingdom.

I think the Lord of the Harvest needs some help directing the harvest workers.

Well, this whole ordeal is God’s gracious way of putting me in my place.

The hardest place I could have ever been sent to.

So, when Danny, came back from his prayer and fasting, seeking God’s face for our next step, and “Atlanta, GA” was his answer

All we could do was kneel by our bed, and poured out our hearts to our Guide

and cry,

and pray,

“Lord, this is the hardest death I’ve had to face. Aren’t all those passions and desires for the poor something YOU put there? Isn’t that what your Word speaks of? Isn’t going to the hard places something you command? I didn’t conjure this up on my own! And I don’t understand, but I trust You. Please take this grain of wheat, falling to the ground and dying, and produce many seeds from it (John 12:24) Its all I’ve got to offer. And I want my life to count. To count in the lives of those kids and families. To count in the lives of people who have never heard your name. And because I’m yours, I will go to the hard place.  My hardest place.”

Explanatory Note:

**Danny has been chosen to participate in Perimeter’s Church-Planting Residency program. He will be working for and be trained by Perimeter for the first two years and then we will move into an inner city setting in Atlanta to launch a church (finally!) amongst the types of people I feel so strongly to reach. After that (5-7 years total) MAYBE the Lord will permit us to move back to the city that has so strongly has gripped my heart.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Eileen
    Mar 23, 2013 @ 19:44:17

    Oh, Kimberly! THANK you for your heart, and THANK you for sharing honestly what God has brought you THROUGH and now what He is bringing you TO.

    I remember when we were leaving Chiba and no doors had opened for us to return to Japan after our two-year term, my heart cried, “ANYWHERE but America!” Paul & I had both sensed God’s call to foreign missions, and we felt that staying in our Jerusalem was disobedience to His call. But America is where He called us. Back to Paul’s home in Norfolk for two years (literally living with his parents for a while), and then back to Lynchburg, to the VERY HOME where I grew up.

    But God is the Lord of the Harvest and He has used us here. He has kept alive our heart for the world, and now Paul has served in Spain, Morocco and England; I have served in Kenya and Uganda, Julie has returned to Japan twice, Mary has served in India and England (with Paul), Thomas has served in Kenya and Uganda (with me) and India (with Mary), and today Joseph (who was 6 months old when we moved to Chiba) leaves for Brazil! We have hosted exchange students from Japan, France, Germany and now China.

    God gives us our passions and in His grace, allows us to share those with the people who are closest to us.

    I rejoice in the gospel-centered, inner-city-loving, international-welcoming home your children are living in.

    Keep up the good work. We can and must trust the Lord of the Harvest who loves the lost infinitely more than we do.

    Continuing to pray daily for you, Danny and your sweetest blessings,


    • kimzhis
      Apr 02, 2013 @ 02:59:00

      Eileen, Thank you so much for your encouraging words and sharing a bit of your story…it gives me hope!! It would be so much easier to GO, but God in his wisdom has called us to “stay” at least for this upcoming season. I pray that my children will one day be sent out as yours have been! Thank you so much for your prayers and for your faithfulness! God bless you guys!


  2. Jan
    Mar 23, 2013 @ 20:46:45

    Kimberly, I think you are part of our CC community, but I don’t know that I have met you (my daughter is older, in Challenge now). I can SO relate, though! Once upon a time I made similar vows to yours (different content, same passion). And God systematically broke every one of them! It was a huge lesson to learn not to tell God what I will and won’t do…so now, when I hear someone say that they will never do such and such, I smile and say, “Well, never say never…God will take that challenge!” God bless you and your new adventure in following Him wherever He leads!


  3. Jean Jackson
    Mar 23, 2013 @ 22:56:10

    I share this experience….when the place of ease becomes the hardest place for you to go, rather stay. Praise God for the clarity of vision He has given you, and thank you for sharing your heart so honestly. ” To trust is to obey”; may you find great joy in this obedience. God grant you patience with yourself as you make this unexpected adjustment, it really is like culture shock. I’ll be thinking of you.


    • kimzhis
      Apr 02, 2013 @ 03:02:30

      Thank you for your encouraging words! I’m in a season of teaching my kids over and over again to obey and trust me, now I’m learning the same lesson on a grander scale!


  4. Ruth Hoernig
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 12:40:17

    You expressed well what we who are called to the city FEEL and KNOW about the city. I have no doubt you’ll be back in it. Thanks for saying it so well.


  5. Pocketful of Motherhood
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 21:09:25

    Hi Kimberly! I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Liebster Award! You have a wonderful blog and I enjoy being reader of it. Blessings to you-Hannah


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