In the spirit of baseball superstition, the city of San Francisco will ban the Lorde song “Royals” from the airwaves for the duration of getting spanked by the KC Royals in the World Series. (Just wishful thinking on that last part.)
Hey, FRISCO! (I know you hate that… so I’m saying it.) The song isn’t even about the Royals! DUH! It was inspired by George Brett… but the singer is 17 years old! What in the world does SHE know?!?!
I’m swearing off sourdough bread for the next two weeks in protest.
And here is a parody of the song that actually talks about… you know… the REAL Royals.
In our trip to the Tenderloin in San Francisco, the beauty and ugliness of a city hits you in the face quickly. Living in Minneapolis, I realize this as well. Every city has its “gorgeous” side that shows up on TV during “game day.” New Orleans is like this. TV crews at the Super Bowl will show you Bourbon Street and the Dome, but they won’t show you what is literally three blocks away from either of those places.
But even in the ugliness you find beauty.
City Impact, where we worked, was in the Tenderloin. Glide Memorial Methodist Church is two blocks away. YWAM has a base a block away. Teen Challenge has a center around the corner. In the midst of ugliness… beautiful things are happening. And you meet beautiful people.
The contrast of the beauty and ugliness was experienced when we came out of the BART station and thought we were going to be in the Tenderloin itself. Instead, we came up staring at beautiful buildings that make up one of the richest shopping districts in the nation. Three blocks later… the Tenderloin.
Then, there is City Impact itself. The main building is right next door to something San Francisco seems to be fairly proud of in their history. There is a historical marker in front of that building marking it as the birthplace of the adult film industry. Today, it’s a sex club. Hooray.
And City Impact is right next door.
Beauty. Ugliness. Same place.
Salt and light in the midst of decay and darkness.
It’s a visual reminder everyday in the Tenderloin. For our own lives, it’s not so obvious, but the reality is often it can be the same. We deal with the potential of the beauty of Christ in our lives, or the ugliness of sin. It’s there, but not as obvious as a place like the Tenderloin.
We were in San Francisco the same week as the Supreme Court made two key rulings on gay marriage. Several people set me texts or messages asking how things were going in light of that decision.
Some of the messages I didn’t get for a little while because we had lousy cell reception in the Tenderloin. Go figure.
Here is what I realized while involved with City Impact: you’re basically too busy with the poor to follow the news closely. For me, that was refreshing since I’m a huge news junkie. But it also helped me understand the heart of Jesus a whole lot more. I was so busy with City Impact, I didn’t even give much thought once I knew the decisions.
It doesn’t mean I lack an opinion. I just found myself with a refreshingly different focus and while we were there, it was indescribable. I can’t explain how it felt to not let the news bother ministry. We fed all kinds of people. I don’t even have categories for all of them. We just tried to bless as many people as we possibly could, and it was exhausting and joyful all week long.
As we leave San Francisco, we have joy in our hearts. God is doing such an amazing work in the Tenderloin district through wonderful ministries like City Impact.
Here is the scariest thought, though. What would this place look like WITHOUT the salt and light of the Church? It’s rough now. It’s a bit scary now. But without great people pouring their lives out for the poor day after day, all in the name of Jesus… THAT is a scary thought.
In this mission where we are serving there are several college aged kids interning. What I love about this current generation is their willingness to serve and they DO IT. These folks are throwing themselves into this work with joy. It’s great to see.
One of the things about any missions trip is it reveals a couple of things quickly: the condition of the heart and body.
I may spend my life pastoring an inner ring suburb, where there are challenges of new ethnic groups, older groups not wanting change, poverty, transition, etc., that doesn’t mean I am used to ANY situation around me.
In times of going on a mission I find that my life is just too soft. I LOVE my life, but I am always challenged that I too comfortable in many ways.
I also realize that I don’t want my heart hard to the realities of life. A missions trip, even to a city in America, keeps my heart pliable. I don’t want my spiritual ears deafened to the needs of the world, even the world right in my own country.
As a pastor, I am about to experience two very different worlds in a matter of hours.
The first world was a dream for me. I performed a wedding for a couple in the Minnesota Twins ballpark, Target Field. I am a huge baseball fan, so being able to walk on the field, sit in the dugout, etc., was a lot of fun. The reception in one of the fabulous guest services reception areas was amazing. When we exited the facility we were taken through a club level where only original season ticket owners to the new field had passes. There were places I got to go I certainly won’t get to see any other time I go to the game. It was a fun day.
The second world will come less than 48 hours later. I will be in San Francisco with our team of pastors serving in the Tenderloin District. San Francisco itself is, of course, a world class city, but the Tenderloin District is… well… NOT. We will be serving a mission there and help in any way they want to reach out to the cast-offs of our society.
We will be there all week, but I won’t be taking my computer, so blogging will be a minimum effort for the time there. I hope to have some thoughts on the trip when I get back.