A Love That Lasts

Posted: February 10, 2012 in Ministry in Baltimore

I fell in love with the Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church community of inner city Baltimore when I was an early teen.  Coming from rural PA to help with Vacation Bible School, I was enthralled by the noise, the action, and the accessibility of neighbors living close-by.  But more than that, I was drawn by the feelings of acceptance and love that I felt from the people at Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church.

Twenty-five years later, my husband and I find ourselves living here in Baltimore and pastoring this same church.  I still love this community.  Where else can you go where people are just sitting out on their front steps, ready to include you in their conversation?  Where else are neighbors so intimately involved in one another’s lives – for good or for bad?  Of course my eyes are now opened to the difficulties of life here, too, the hopelessness, the layers of bondage that addiction brings, the poverty, the dearth of positive examples to follow.  But consequently, it’s a simple thing to shine in the darkness here – as simple as meeting and caring for a neighbor with the love of Christ.  The hard part is continuing to shine with faith and love, and to not fall prey to the hopelessness that always lurks in dark places.

As a congregation we are learning that in this atmosphere it is vital that we stand together and recognize our need for one another.  The needs outside the walls of the church as well as inside are often too great and we cannot face them alone.  Our weekly Care Groups are vital places where we are refreshed and where we invite others to be refreshed.

We also understand that the church building itself can sometimes be a barrier to those who feel too ashamed or too different to enter.  We have endeavored to go outside as much as possible to break down this barrier and make Jesus and His Church a little more accessible, with outdoor services on our front parking lot (complete with hotdogs and snow cones) and outdoor prayer meetings which allow those passing by on the sidewalk to casually join in for needed prayer.

Lastly, in the past few years in particular, we have found partnerships with others to be so valuable:  Nueva Esperanza, a beginning Latino church plant, meeting in our building on Sunday evenings and sharing our heart for reaching this neighborhood;  Narcotics Anonymous, ministering to over 100 addicts each week on our front parking lot and in our church basement; college students with the Baltimore Urban Program volunteering their time; Westside Assembly of God, a near-by church, sharing services with us this winter while their church was under construction; churches from PA helping with a new neighborhood food ministry; work groups who have come to help on projects in our church and school.  We genuinely appreciate the larger Body of Christ that interconnects with us and encourages us here at Wilkens Avenue Mennonite!

-Marita Scholtz

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