On Friday, our only serve assignment was lunch service at Dallas Life. It has been great serving at the same place multiple times, as we are getting to know and recognize some of the residents. Serving the meal keeps us busy, so we don’t have much time to talk to people, but just being a smiling face on the other side of the counter makes all the difference.
After lunch service, we spent the afternoon exploring Dallas. Over the course of this trip, we have driven past the parade route where JFK was assassinated, through Southern Methodist University’s beautiful campus, and explored the artsy Deep Ellum area. In search of a “Don’t Mess With Texas” t-shirt we also spent some time at the Galleria Mall. What was most interesting (and a bit heartbreaking) was the drive through the various older neighborhoods where gentrification is taking place. While the neighborhoods become “safer” and more aesthetically pleasing, it creates a housing crisis for lower-income individuals. This point was driven home further by our time at the CliffHouse on Saturday morning.
After a night of southern storms, we made our way to CliffHouse to meet with Kenny Ingram. CliffHouse is a large house (currently under construction) in a “tough area” the Oak Cliff neighborhood. It was built “with the purpose in mind to provide a residential apprenticeship environment for young adults to come, share family life, while living on mission with Jesus out in our wonderful multi-cultural neighborhood.” Our plan was to work on setting up a community garden, but we were unable to do that task due to the rain. Instead, we took the time to sit under the lovely portico and hear Kenny’s story.
He and his wife are missionaries who began their work in the Rio Grande Valley. After several years of creating community through their LifeHouse Missional Internship program, they began to explore the call to serve the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas. Their goal at CliffHouse is to become a model that can be replicated in other places, showing others how to “do life” with people, and encounter Jesus at work in the neighborhood around them. So often we ask God to come to our church buildings where we feel the most comfortable. Kenny and his missional apprentices aim to encounter God out in the world as well, loving and caring for the people right where they are. While we were able to help out with a few odd jobs on the property, our biggest take away from CliffHouse was experiencing Kenny’s joy and devotion to CliffHouse’s mission. We left feeling inspired to be better neighbors, and to be open to “thin places” where the distance between heaven and earth feels incredibly thin. If you want to learn more about CliffHouse’s mission and approach, check out the FAQ’s on their website: http://www.mycliffhouse.org/faq-s.html.
Saturday evening we concluded the serve part of the trip by providing childcare at Dallas Life. Many families with young kids stay at the shelter, and the process of getting back on their feet AND caring for the children can sometimes get overwhelming. Having childcare available for a few hours allowed parents to have time to get the laundry done, take a shower or just relax without having to worry about the kids. Dallas Life has an amazing kid’s room available, complete with a library of children’s books, lots of toys, and a small play place with a slide. Throughout the evening we played games, read, sang and had a lot of fun with all the kiddos. We were amazed by their resilience in the situation, and did our best to listen to and encourage their hopes and dreams. Even though some of the kids were a little disappointed that none of us would go down the slide, we all had a great time.
Tomorrow we head back to Kansas City after attending service at Tyler Street United Methodist. We’re looking forward to worshiping in their historic sanctuary!
One final thought from our team – If you are considering a serve trip to Dallas, do it! The people you will meet here are so welcoming, and it’s been a wonderful experience seeing how God is at work in this city making “dry bones come alive. “