A Story About My Stop On the Road In My Journey to Love My Neighbor

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Seven years ago, I left my homogenous, suburban life to plant a church in the inner city of Denver where I’ve spent the last thirty years of my life. A mentor of mine in the early years of this journey, an African-American man named Ted Travis, told me, “Jason, the church has all but completely lost the idea of what it means to love your neighbor.” I didn’t understand what he meant that day, but seven years later, I believe I have a better understanding. We live in a separated and segregated world. Minority and majority cultures, by and large, do not understand or interact with one another in deep and meaningful ways. Because of my calling, I was thrust into an environment where I could no longer be passive in this area. Ted told me, “You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, and you can’t understand from a distance.” This meant I needed to get up close, listen, try to understand, challenge my assumptions, assess any hidden inner racism from which many of us suffer as a result of living in a divided society, and just love. I needed to form deep and meaningful relationships with people across the racial and socio-economic divide. I needed to be a neighbor.

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I’m currently on a bus heading east on I-70 towards St. Louis. We left at 5am with a band of 20 people. The first person who heard I was going said, “Why?” I’m sure he won’t be the last. I’ve pondered it myself. So, I believe that it’d be good to open up with all of my thoughts on this as it’s more involved than it may appear. Here are my reasons for going.

To Encourage Those Who Asked Us To Come

Multiple church leaders have invited us to Ferguson. Our leader Anthony says, “We have been summoned.” The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest reconciliation group in America invited our group to come as well. They’ve asked for support. Anthony believes that we mainly provide refreshment to weary hearts and hands.

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teacherthanksThank you for a great year of hard work. You put in 12-16 hour days for nine months and it shows. My children know more stuff, understand more of their world, and have been impacted by your life and they will never be the same.

Thank you for working at night and on the weekends. When we see the homework folders brimming with papers and we see your packed school-day schedule, we are keen enough to know that you are putting in hours beyond the classroom to make learning happen. That means a lot to us.

Thank you for all you did when nobody was looking. Most of what you did everyday was not observed by another adult. But it matters so much that you did your best for the sake of the kids. As a dedicated teacher, you gave it your all because you knew that every day mattered.

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by Jason Janz

After working in the city for past six years, people will often ask me a question about the homeless wondering if they should help someone flying a sign on the sidewalk. They don’t know if they are helping or hurting

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if they give the guy money. This question doesn’t just stop at the sidewalk. It is at the root of a lot of the issues we run into in the city (and increasingly in the suburbs as poverty suburbanizes). It happens almost daily in this work – a perplexing question comes up and there seem to be no easy solutions. We all want the right answer! A lot of times there is a tug-of-war between our empathy and our logic, our heart and our head.

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jordanLast night was a rough night. I was at home and a friend called and asked if she could come over. I was excited to see her and ran outside when her mom’s car pulled up. But something went down that still upsets me. Her and six other girls piled out and the biggest one – she looked like a 10th grader – started punching me. I fell to the ground and she started kicking me. The next thing I knew I was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. I’m glad that everything checked out ok. They gave me a cold pack to help keep the swelling down on the back of my head. They called my grandma to come get me.

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