Finding Jesus in Unlikely Places


About 2 years ago, I was in a difficult place.  I loved Jesus, but hated the church.  This was a challenging experience because I’ve spent most of my life in the church.  I loved church!  When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait for revival time.  I traveled with my aunt from church to church attending revival services.  I remember the old spiritual hymns that pierced my soul.  I remember hands clapping, feet stomping and the people moaning.  Sometimes the songs seemed to last forever because people just kept singing the verses over and over again.  In the African-American church, we tend to sing songs until we believe it or until it resonates in our spirit.  The deacons prayed and cried out to God on behalf of the people.  I learned as a little girl what it meant to take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.

So, what happened?  Why did I have a change of heart?  Why did I suddenly hate the church?  Well, it didn’t happen overnight.  It was a series of events that I witnessed over time.  While no church is perfect, I thought everyone’s mission was to love God and to love people.  However, the more I served in the church, the more corruption I saw.  It was so disheartening.  How could the Body of Christ operate this way?  Do we not care about the poor?  Are we not interested in sharing the gospel with the lost?  Is grace designed to cover up habitual sins?  Should our focus only be on ourselves?  Are we only interested in building buildings and making more money?  Do we only come to church for God to give us things?  Has praise and worship become merely entertainment?  Is it okay to say the right things, but not do the right things?

I know I must have been na├»ve, but I could not reconcile my love for God with what was happening in the church.  It broke my heart.  I wept for the Body of Christ.  I met so many people who were hopeless and needed a message of hope.  I was introduced to people who needed food and shelter, but where was the Body?  Where was Jesus in all of this?  At that particular time, I was so focused on the negative things; I couldn’t find Jesus in the local church.  I could not bring myself to attend church; that was until I was invited to a church service at the local prison.  I served at a retreat behind the walls of the prison shortly before I was invited to attend a worship service.  I was convinced by a brother in Christ to serve despite my frustration and I’m glad I did.  It was the catalyst that led me to prison ministry.  The women I met have ignited a fire in me and have proven to me that Jesus still reigns in the Church.  The women are so full of joy and full of the spirit of God.  They worship God with reckless abandonment.

Since I’ve gotten to know these women, it has restored my hope in the local church.  It reminded me that there are many churches who are seeking to truly be the Church of Jesus Christ.  I found Jesus behind the walls of prison and I also found Him in Haiti.  I spent the holiday season in Haiti serving with a local ministry.  The ministry I served with was caring for the widow and orphans, feeding the hungry and clothing the poor.  They preached the word of God and came together daily to encourage and love each other.  God used these ministries to encourage me not lose hope.  He wanted me to see that He may not have been in the places I have looked for Him, but He is very much alive in the local church.

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