While we were there in Winnipeg for our mission trip, we spent five days in full-time connection with the various parts of the Winnipeg Inner City Mission. During that short time, a number of very significant things happened:
- A young girl in the church went missing from her family.
- Another young girl, in desperate need of a new kidney, successfully underwent surgery that would allow her continue her daily dialysis
- The church was putting together household items to set up housekeeping for a young mother and her children as she was in the process leaving an abusive relationship.
- A resident in A Place of Hope celebrated two years of sobriety.
- Another resident reached the end of her time in A Place of Hope and made arrangements to move out and begin a new and exciting phase in her life
- A church picnic (that had been as good as cancelled) was resurrected and organized in about two hours.
This was, as far as I can tell, a fairly typical week at Winnipeg Inner City Mission with big doses of both good and bad news and the church doing everything that it could to help when needed and to celebrate when that was called for. In addition we heard some heart rending (and also some heart uplifting) stories of people dealing with some very big things in their personal lives. I can’t imagine what that is like for the staff and volunteers who are there week in and week out and have to deal with all of it. I know that I will continue to hold them up in my prayers that they might have the spiritual stamina to continue their vital work of living out the love of Christ.
But, though the problems and issues can be very difficult at times, people’s lives are generally much more stable that what you tend to find in the inner city of Winnipeg. We are not constantly bombarded with one crisis after another. What’s more, while the people involved in the Winnipeg Inner City Mission are very quick and eager to share what they are struggling with – in many ways, the prayers of intercession for the families of the church was the most important time in their worship together – often our people are slow to share some of their deep personal struggles.
So the reality is that we spend less time dealing with deep personal or family crises in our churches. That is a blessing, of course, but does it mean that we have fewer problems overall? Not really.
There is a popular meme that makes the rounds on the internet from time time time. It is called “First World Problems.” The meme mocks the way that people in the prosperous nations of the world get all hung up on problems that are of little immediate importance especially in the face of the poverty, disease and war that plague so many people who live in the Third World. Coming back from a mission trip in the inner city of Winnipeg, I recognize that we often do the same thing in our “First World” churches. When we are not overwhelmed with problems and issues and decisions of ultimate importance, we tend to take our other, much less significant problems and decisions and invest ultimate importance in them.
- Someone wants to move a piece of furniture and someone objects.
- A committee is short of members
- Someone doesn’t like the hymn selection one Sunday
- Someone is hurt when their idea is not adopted