October 23, 2016 was quite a momentous day for us. It saw the celebration of Church of Truth’s 3rd birthday! I’d like to take a moment to tell you about how this church came to be, and why this day was so special for us.
True Hope Ministry wasn’t created with church in mind. Those of you who have been with us for a long time know full and well that the heart of True Hope ministry has always been to go and serve the fatherless, wherever they are at. Whether it’s the orphanage, street corner, hospital, sewer pipe, or jail. We have always made an effort to follow the Divine example, and go seek out those who were lost. While doing this, however, something amazing started to happen; we began to actually see spiritual fruit!
To give a little context, you should know that one very important core value of our ministry is “service without agenda.” We wish to serve these children of God with a Father’s Heart. Our Father always wishes the best for His children, regardless of how He is viewed by them. As a result of this, we help all who are willing to receive it, with none of the oh-so-common “we only want to serve you so you will convert” hidden agenda. We just help, and many times after we help, we don’t see those kids for years, if we ever hear from them again at all.
However, in the midst of this unconditional, physical manifestation of love, we get to see a powerful truth come to life. Paul, in Romans 2:4, teaches that the kindness of God is what leads people to repentance. This is a biblical truth that we get to see take form in the real world, right in front of our very eyes. Many of the orphans we serve began hungering and thirsting to know more about this Jesus guy.
Thus, Church of Truth was born! We didn’t set out to build a church all those years ago when True Hope first began. Instead, a church grew out of the ministry in the most natural and organic way possible. It grew because people wanted a place to hear about God. In October of 2013, Church of Truth first opened it’s doors, and it has not stopped growing since.
So that’s how it started, but what made this particular day so special for us?
Let me offer you the perspective of one of the ministers. For the ones who are here working day after day, it can often be hard to measure progress, and can easily feel like none is being made. This birthday party completely blew that misperception out of the water. It was a massive confirmation of the impact that we have already had on our city. When we filled the sanctuary with every last one of our 75 chairs the night before, we knew it wouldn’t be enough. However, I don’t think any of us expected the turnout that we got. Even standing room was in short supply, as 160 people packed, pushed, and shoved themselves into our tiny little church room. Later we found out that there would have been more, but many people left when they couldn’t even get in the door!
Far greater than the attendance, however, was the attitude. We got to see church the way it should be, as a matter of people and not an organization. Everyone was telling everyone else “Happy Birthday!” because everyone knew that this birthday belonged to them, and not to a building. Everyone felt that piece of ownership and belonging, knowing that they personally were an integral part of this thing that God is doing.
It wasn’t a regular service, and many people prepared gifts from their heart to give to the church. They varied from pieces of art, to plays, to songs of God’s goodness. It was a huge realization of how God has taken our small acts of obedience, and multiplied the effects of them in our family’s lives, even when we don’t see them.
For example, one young man prepared a rap, and actually rapped for us. He was an orphan that had been served by our ministry many times in the past, but lately we hadn’t really seen him around very much at all. Now rap isn’t something you normally think of as a tear inducing experience. I’m telling you, though, as everyone listened to him pour out his life story in verse, chronicling a very real, non-fairytale journey with God, there were lots of people crying. It was a real experience of going through the valley and coming out on the other side that people could relate to. Furthermore, it proved to everyone who had invested their love in him throughout the years, that not a single seed in his life was sown in vain.
Pastor Max gave a beautiful picture of what this birthday was to us. Ministry can feel like a farmer with his back bent, and his eyes to the ground, completely focused on the work that’s right in front of him. He works all day, plowing rows and hoeing weeds, and all he sees are things that need to be done - another weed to pull, another rock to dig out. Then, every once in a long while, he gets a chance to stand up, stretch his back, and take a short break. When he does, he just stands in awe. With his nose to the dirt, he never realized just how beautiful the garden had become. That’s what this birthday was to us.
Though the church isn’t necessarily the “ministry” part of True Hope Ministry, it is an important aspect of what we do. It was the first fully functional part of the True Hope Center, and for the foreseeable future, will continue to be an important part of what we do. In our city of over 700,000 people, this is the only church that has the vision to serve orphans as the drive behind its existence. We still have a long way to go, but we are so thankful for what God has done. We see His hand in our growth, because it has been very steady and sustainable. We ask that you would keep us in your prayers, as we continue down this path that has been laid before us. We ask specifically that you would pray as Jesus asked us to, that the “Lord of the harvest would send more workers out into His harvest field.” We have seen with our own eyes, the fields are ripe and waiting!