Joy: Reflections on Christmas

Mission 98 brings joy to our communities, believing that the Gospel must be wrapped in joy to be attractive and inviting to a lonely, hurting world. Although we are committed to this year round, Christmas is a special time to demonstrate just how extravagant, kind and fun Jesus is.

Over 200 gifts were given to children at our parties. At one location the children were treated to donkey rides as well (Now if that isn't fun, I don't know what is!). Because of the generosity of Samaritan's Purse, Mission 98 receives items that cannot be sent overseas and must be removed from the shoe boxes. We invite residents to select from these "left overs" items they can use to fill Christmas stockings for their children and grandchildren.I love watching the excitement as they sort through, saying, "Avery will love this" or "This is perfect for Ethan."  Along with these gifts, residents receive bags filled to the brim with groceries to help them celebrate the season.  

Because of the generosity of those who donated gifts and those who donated money for us to purchase gifts, we also were able to do a little something extra for four of our children. We knew that in years past they had not received any Christmas presents on Christmas morning. Thankfully we don't have many children in such a situation, so we were able to intervene in this one. We gave gifts to their next door neighbor who then delivered them Christmas morning.  

Mission 98 brings joy that serves as an invitation to the Source of All true Joy, Jesus. Mission 98 sometimes wraps the Gospel in glittery paper with a great big, extravagant bow on top!

What is Mission 98?

Mission 98 is reaching Denver for Christ through apartment, motel and mobile home communities. Demonstrating the care of Jesus while speaking the truth of Jesus, showing up, having fun, listening, teaching, sharing food and free clothing - all of this and more is what Mission 98 is.

 Just as each community is unique, so is the outreach at each one. There are different levels of commitment ranging from simply building a relationship and serving the management to actually conducting regular church services on site. At some locations Mission 98 conducts weekly kid's clubs with a Bible lesson, craft, game and snack or meal. At others community meals and carnivals are hosted. Mission 98 even has a mobile clothing room that takes clothing and conversation to some apartments. At two locations volunteers help students with homework and provide a meal.

 Funeral services. Weddings. Hospital visits. Mission 98 meets needs as they arise.

 One of our students said this, "When I get up on Sunday morning I walk from my apartment to another in my apartment complex. I go in and they are cooking breakfast. We sit around the kitchen table and eat while we talk about our week or review memory verses. Then we have a Bible lesson. This is my church.

 "They take us on trips to the lake in the summer, and to Jump Street and out to eat during the school year.

They spend time with me and help me through difficult times."

 Another is grateful that we were there for her when her mother was ill, then provided comfort and a funeral when she died.

 We all need relationship, and that is what Mission 98 takes into apartment, mobile home and motel communities.

Why does Mission 98 do what it does?

Because it changes lives.

“I was on the wrong path, smoking things I shouldn’t have been smoking and drinking things I shouldn’t have been drinking. I knew I was going in the wrong direction fast. Then two of my new friends at the apartment where we had just moved invited me to their church.”  

This was the beginning of one of the testimonials given at the first fundraising breakfast for Mission 98. The church? Our apartment church at the location where he lives.  

He then talked about doing Bible studies with us, attending teen activities and what was the most life-changing of all for him, going me on a mission trip to build a house in Tijuana.

Roger was being raised by a wonderful father, single because Roger’s mother had died when he was in grade school. When we met him he had just moved to Denver, and while his father worked evenings and long hours he was on his own.  

The church provided not only a safe place for him but a life-changing community that introduced him to Jesus and to the truth of His Word.  

Roger, now a college freshman, closed with his favorite verse,  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Fun. The Necessary Ingredient.

“Oh taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

A friend said, “you guys throw a good party.”

As we seek to  give tastes of Jesus each Sunday and at all of our activities, we laugh, we share, we eat, we pray, we learn the truth of the Bible – in short, we enjoy God and each other together. And more often than not, that means we throw a party!

Eugene Peterson in an article in Christianity Today wrote, “When god spoke to Job ‘out of the whirlwind’ he told himself that when he, God ‘laid the foundation of the earth’ – that is created everything that exists- 'the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy’. Which is to say, if we throw our minds back into the past as far as we can imagine, what we find is joy: the stars of God and the sons of God singing and shouting joyfully. Then go the other direction as far as you can imagine into the future, into heaven, and we find a similarly joyful pleasure.”

When we invite our friends into the community of Jesus, we invite them into the experience of His joy.

It is our responsibility to create environments filled with laughter and fun – to empower people to purely and simply laugh together. Some days that is the greatest gift we can give – and many times, it is that gift that invites them back to Jesus.

Community Starts Here

What do Easter egg hunts, hot dogs and bounce houses have to do with Jesus? Turns out everything!

Jesus enjoyed people, and even as He spoke truth—sometimes hard truth—people enjoyed Him. They flocked to Him.

We want people to once again flock to Jesus. Holidays, especially our most important and most Holy holiday, are the perfect times to bring tastes of Jesus to our friends and neighbors.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What does a good Holiday event include? Lots of the above, lived out in the midst of a community, creating community.

And so we fill hundreds of plastic eggs with candy, we set up a bounce house, grill hot dogs, and enjoy giving people tastes of Jesus. We tell the story of His death and resurrection in words and in deeds. We invite folks to join us for Easter morning after we have invited them to be our friends.

Last Sunday at church we asked people to write the first word that came to mind when they thought of our apartment church. They said, "community," "love," "kind"—all words that truly describe Jesus and His church. One woman wrote, "open." Curious, we asked her what she meant, and she said, “You are always open and accepting.”

Community starts here.

And sometimes it starts with plastic eggs and hotdogs.