Would you send an entire search party into the treacherous jungle to search for your closest loved one who was lost but still alive? How do we tangibly justify our spiritual investments these days, especially when we are part of a culture that demands immediate statistics and reports of progress?
On July 26, 2014, nearly 2,000 like-minded individuals joined together for the City Impact Conference to act out the calling of the Gospel. This one-day event was not motivated by statistics or measurability, though certainly huge things happened. Instead, this day of serving could be summed up by one thing, relationship. In the morning session of the conference, there was a massive gathering at the Historic Warfield Theater as attendees took part in pure worship led by All Sons & Daughters and were challenged by a stellar word from Dave Lomas. Dave reminded attendees, “Righteousness is about a relationship.” With a strong message to the congregants, he also emphasized, “The church is here to bring about justice and righteousness, and ultimately to bring about the Shalom (peace) of God.”
What happened next is the intriguing element that separates the City Impact Conference from all other conferences: the scattering. The next 4 hours were filled with love in the form of serving others as all 1,700+ attendees broke out of the Warfield and into streets of the inner city of SF to lead the 46 different outreaches that ranged from meal delivery, foot washing, a kid’s sports camp and clothing give-a-ways to full medical checkups for the inner city community.
Many exciting impacts of love took place during this time of giving to the community, including eight different outreach locations, 46 outreaches, 300+ medical check ups, and 8,000 people served. However, the moments that were undoubtedly life changing, took place through the simplicity of a conversation. One of the Conference attendees shared her interaction through conversation; “I was moved by the personal stories of the residents. There is so much need in the TL but the residents blew me away. One man told me stories of how he ended up in the TL from New Jersey following the Grateful Dead and just never found his way home. I heard people who were hurting, people who were rejoicing, others just surviving. It was amazing and I will be back. Thank you for the work you do, not just once a year but every day, it is so important. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work alongside your amazing volunteers and staff.”
Perhaps through these aforementioned acts of kindness we see that the most tangible statistic we should be consumed with is the intimacy of conversation with each person. For it is only through relationship that we can learn how to love one another better and compare similarities, even if our lifestyles have led us down different paths in the past.
In the evening session of the City Impact Conference, many stories of volunteers that have invested their time and efforts were shared and celebrated. Also, through the selflessness of many volunteers, 221 Child Sponsors were raised to help fund the private education of students at San Francisco City Academy.
In closing, Shane Claiborne encouraged the continual efforts to dig deep into community by example, “The gospel spreads best, not through force but fascination.”
It is through events like the City Impact Conference where we learn that success is not hinged on the statistics that make us feel accomplished, but instead on the one person whose life is changed through a conversation. Is it worth the time and efforts of nearly 2,000 people in the jungle of the Tenderloin to obey the calling and change the life of at least one person? Yes, it is completely worth it. If still uncertain, decide for yourself and join the City Impact Conference next year July 25, 2015.