Come One, Come All

By Ashley Tieperman

I’m sure by no mere lucky chance, God placed me (a poetic dreamer) into a family who runs on tangible and logical action steps that you can cross off on a to-do list. When a local family needs Christmas gifts, we debate 0-3 months or 3-6 months, and then we tie bows on packages of onesies. And this family of mine has changed me over time into a scarves and medicine and hot meal kind of girl. After a couple years working as a grant writer for a food bank, I realized I needed to touch the donated cans of beans and waft the simmering soup served to the homeless man who I ignored on my way to work.

I need to hold the ladle.

Don’t hear me wrong. The poetic dreaming hasn’t come to a screeching halt. After I take time to serve, I usually run home to write a story about all the people who I met. But when I’m building words one-by-one into stories, like a shish kebab that I hope you’ll marinate and savor, I often sit back and think, Am I doing enough? And if I write you a story that leaves out the part about Jesus, then really I wonder with a shake-in-my-$200-leather-boots kind of fear, Am I doing enough?

Let’s think about this idea on a broader level. Even when we do find ourselves stepping away from the screens and storytelling, taking time to actually serve and hold the ladle, is it enough to open our doors to provide for the needs of our neighbors who may never ask about Jesus?

On Wednesday nights, we open our doors for 2435 Kinwest. We limit normal church programming in our building on Wednesday nights to enable us the space and resources to meet the tangible and very real needs in our community. We open a medical clinic for people who need free health care. We feed people lasagna, chopped beef, and chicken alfredo with a warmth we hope they carry home in their bellies and their hearts.

We offer a class to help people obtain U.S. citizenship. Edith had been an immigrant in the United States for 20 years before she decided to join IBC’s citizenship class. During Edith’s six months in the citizenship class, she was also a student in her first year of Bible school. Now she plans to travel the world as a missionary to share the good news of Jesus. Edith is one of 89 people who have passed their citizenship test after their time at IBC on Wednesday nights over the past four years.

We help people learn English with classes that develop critical skills like reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Our ESL classes welcome people from all over the world who may have never walked through church doors. From Korea to Venezuela to Iraq, our classes serve about 40 people per year in a multi-ethnic environment that caters to the unique needs of different cultures and languages in a way that reaches more than the traditional Spanish-speaking models. Several women from these classes now join the women’s Bible study at IBC, and we continue to hear stories about people who come to know the Lord through our ESL classes.

We’re providers. We literally open our doors and say, Come one, come all.

Now, here’s the challenge: How can we do even better to make our neighbors feel like this isn’t only a place where they receive care, but this is a place where they can come and belong?

Sharing about Jesus might, for sure, happen right as they walk through the door, but what if it doesn’t? What if it means dwelling on this word belong? What if it’s about loving and serving without any expectations for a profitable ROI?

In Philippians 2:3-4, we’re charged up and refocused when we read: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” We adopt a posture of humility and service, in every effort to increasingly reflect the character of Jesus, because we see others live in this light and we’re just instantly drawn to their radiating beauty.

And it’s in this posture of holding the ladle when the words will naturally simmer and overflow from our changed hearts. We’ll no longer have this roaring desire to boast, “DID YOU SEE ME HOLD THAT LADLE?!” We’ll just do it. We’ll stop and pay attention to our neighbors, the ones who we share sidewalks and streets and lives with. And we’ll never use this love as a shiny, plastic nightcrawler we just picked up at Bass Pro Shop to lure in our lost friends.

We’ll love with church doors wide open to remember that here, in this church, in this building, under this roof, sitting at this table on Wednesday nights, we’re not rich or poor, we’re not old or new—we’re all welcome. We all belong.

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