It all started with a simple question, “Would you guys be interested in helping out with Cub Scouts?” I think we literally laughed in Keri and Shellie’s face. Shellie Mitchell and Keri Fletcher have tirelessly given themselves to the lower income communities of our city for almost 20 years. Whether it’s organizing the weekly Cub Scout meetings or helping to ensure families have a roof over their heads at night, these women have ingrained themselves into the lives of countless families.
We first met Shellie and Keri in December of 2011 at a Christmas party for the families of Searcy, a housing community for low-income residents in our hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. A number of local churches and businesses had partnered to provide Christmas presents for the families living in Searcy.
At that time, I was about four months into hanging out with a group of single guys, most of whom were fresh out of college. We had begun to meet together regularly to study the foundations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We learned that the one true God of the entire universe had descended into a fallen world, had wrapped Himself in human flesh, and sought out wayward sinners. He, through the work of the cross, then took the punishment due sinners, namely death, upon himself. After rising from the dead, He now grants everlasting life to those who trust in him. This radical Redeemer has now called these rescued rebels to lay down their lives so that they might point others to Jesus.
This truth, by the grace of God, wrecked us. We knew that if the Gospel had turned our lives upside down internally, it would also do that to our lives externally. We began to search and pray for a place or people group where we could serve consistently, and in community, so we might reflect this grace that had been so richly poured out to us.
Just a few weeks later, we were asked that simple question about helping with the Cub Scouts.
It Just So Happened
Around the same time our group of guys had begun praying for mission opportunities, our church was studying the book of Ruth. In Ruth 2, the story tells of how Ruth, a foreign widow, just happened to find herself in the field of her kinsman redeemer, Boaz. This it-just-so-happened moment, our pastor explained, was an ironic phrase that was actually intended to allow readers to reflect upon the sovereign hand of the Lord in all things, even in our everyday wanderings.
Just as Ruth unknowingly walked into the field of her own redeemer, we daily walk in the path that God in His sovereignty has set before us.
With this truth freshly implanted in our minds and hearts, we were able to see God had divinely placed an opportunity to serve the Cub Scouts right in our paths. So, we jumped right in, unaware of the profound effects it would have on our lives.
Walking into the first weekly Cub Scout meeting empty handed, we left an hour later with appointments to get fitted for our own Scout uniforms and with the responsibility of leading the Scouts on an upcoming snow skiing trip to southern Indiana. We were excited, but scared; we were thankful, but anxious.
We began to consistently spend more time with the Scouts, and found ourselves walking into more it-just-so-happened moments. The young boys were incredibly receptive to having us around, and we naturally formed deeper relationships with 10-15 of the Scouts. We began spending time with them outside of our weekly Scout meetings — taking them out for pizza on Tuesday nights and to the park on Saturdays.
On one particular Saturday, we decided to take some of the boys hiking at a local state park. As we trekked through the trees, we talked about everything from wild animals to the Bible story about the children of Israel being lead out of Egypt by Moses. What initially started as a simple story to pass the time ended with us talking about Jesus as the true and better Passover Lamb.
Multiple opportunities to speak the Gospel into the lives of these children arose. Whether it was the simple task of enduring the weekly fights on the bus rides to and from the Scout meetings or the more life-altering challenge of taking four kids into our home for two weeks one year, sharing the good news of Jesus’ acceptance, abundant grace and forgiveness became a natural rhythm birthed out of simply living life among this community.
Our church believes that, as Christians, our lives are best lived in the context of missional communities (MC) — a group of people who live and experience life together like a family. No, it’s not a cult. Neither is it just a small group, just a bible study, or just a support group. It is about making disciples both within the group as well as within a certain people group that may not currently be following Christ.
Our group of guys had organically formed into a functional MC without intentionally trying to do so. However, we soon discovered we were ill equipped to minister to the Scout community because it consisted in large part of single mothers. We needed the help of single women, married couples and children to better pursue these families.
As before, we began to pray for just that. And as before, in the Lord’s timing, He provided us with a number of women who were not only already involved in the community, but who were passionate about seeing these families come to know Jesus.
We are currently involved in this community — teaching at the local elementary school, coaching sports teams and the weekly Scout meetings. My roommates and I were able to move into the neighborhood across the street from most of the Scouts, so we gather each week at our house to share a meal, discuss the evidences of God’s grace in and through our lives recently, and pray for the Scouting community.
Our collective mission is enormous in scope and impossible without the grace of God: Restore the worship of God in this community through the establishment of relationships with children and their families with hopes of displaying tangible love with our time, with our gifts when appropriate, and with our sharing of the unrelenting love of Jesus Christ.
Demystifying the Mission: We’re Still Sinners
A danger that can exist in telling stories of God’s grace is that it can sometimes allow the characters within the story to steal the glory that is ultimately due the author. If, after reading this particular story, anyone sits back and says, “Wow, those are nice young men and women,” the point has been missed.
Ask anyone who knows our personal stories. We’re flawed people with past broken relationships and addictions that occasionally rear their ugly heads. We still sin, but oh how sufficient the grace of Christ has been toward us. We get the privilege of proclaiming and displaying the Gospel to those who may have never heard the true version. And by this outward proclamation, we are hearing it ourselves — day after day, week after week — pointing to Jesus as rescuer for the good of those around us and for the good of our very own hearts and souls.
And how do we do this? We consistently show up. We strive to always be available. We are always on the lookout for the Gospel cracks that allow us to speak the truth into various situations and life circumstances, instead of the world’s lies.
Walk in Them
Paul encourages the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
This mission opportunity just seemed to have fallen into our laps. What has God divinely placed in your path? Is it listening to your neighbor? Is it helping a co-worker move over the weekend? Is it training up your children to walk in the ways of the Lord? Just remember: God has prepared the good works; we just have to walk in them.