Even as a young church plant we talk much about planting other churches, both here in Las Vegas as well as in other parts of the world as we might have the opportunity.
I spoke with a fellow pastor this afternoon who is about to move to Puerto Rico to begin a church plant outside of San Juan. I hope to travel there to visit the area and to get a feel for the work that they are trying to do. Maybe CWR be able to have some kind of partnership with their work in the future.
This morning I drove the extreme eastern edge of the city. Las Vegas is bound up by mountains on all four sides. The view from the rise on the eastern edge was dramatic. I drove about an 8 mile stretch weaving through a 5 square mile area and did not find a single church building. There are many apartments and there is new development around a middle school and highschool that are both under construction. The area is predominately hispanic. I am hoping to begin making more contacts in the neighborhood so that we can begin to think through the logistics of beginning some outreach efforts there with the gospel in word and deed. For now we will being to pray.
I have been learning much this year about what it means to be homeless. Because of my interactions with Glenn I am down on "homeless row" at least once each week, sometimes three times. Yesterday I counted 25 tents or so that line the expressway coming north out of the downtown area. Just 50 feet away along the railroad tracks is another smattering of makeshift shelters.
From this mecca of hopelessness a long line of people filtered and trudged down the hill away from the expressway toward the Salvation Army shelter. I noticed that several women coming into the shelter had children with them. (There are more than 200 homeless students in Las Vegas public schools, according to the local food bank.) I noticed that several other women were without undergarments. Only thin white T-shirts afforded them minimal modesty. How uncomfortable that must be in this heat! When I was actually at the shelter I encountered three or four souls who are mentally disturbed/ill. Glenn has told me that many of the homeless are mentally ill. I don't know what to think about the number of families that have abandonded these weak ones to scrape out an existence on the streets.
One mentally disturbed man asked me for a ride. He hadn't showered in days, it appeared. He knew where he wanted me to take him. The bus stop. He was going to get a ride to visit his sister's house. "Am I missing something here?" I thought. Apparently she keeps his money for him and gives him a little bit at a time as he needs it.
He wanted to pay me for the five-minute drive. He opened his wallet and drew out a $20. He thought it was $2. I urged him to keep it with him, but came away from that brief interaction with a new sense for the vulnerability of these people. Who would have thought that a homeless man could be taken advantage of for a quick $20?
The needs and opportunities to share the hope of Christ Jesus are without end.
I'm preached on the following last weekend and continue to reflect: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."