“So, what kind of Christians are you guys? Are you the ones who only care about people’s souls?”
The question came from a neighbor. Sam Kamminga, who works as a community chaplain with Resonate Global Mission and the Trellis Collective—a grassroots, locally based group seeking peace in the community through various initiatives—in Halifax, N.S., was helping another neighbor move.
“You tell me,” he said. “What do you see?”
Sometimes global mission work is separated from justice and mercy work, and Christians get a reputation of caring only for people’s souls and not whether they have enough food, clean drinking water, or a safe and comfortable place to live. It’s one of the reasons Kamminga often meets people who are wary of Christians.
“So many people know the church as preaching something but not embodying what God cares about,” he said. “When you’re walking with people and discovering God together, then how else can you do it than to live it out with them?”
When Kamminga is getting to know neighbors and reading the Bible with them in his work of unearthing the good news of the kingdom in the city, he often sees and hears about injustices in the community they can’t ignore.
“What is God’s dream? What does God want?” he asks. “When I read Scripture, I see the big picture is the restoration of all things.”
The reconciliation and restoration of all things is part of the good news of the gospel. Kamminga, the Trellis Collective, and their neighbors are working toward God’s peace—shalom—in their city, and they come alongside and support one another when they are fighting injustice.
This past winter, for instance, many families in their 3,000-person apartment complex did not have heat. Most of these families had come to the city as refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria. Some had lived without heat for several of Halifax’s frigid winters.
Many residents, including Kamminga, worked together to resolve this issue. They went first to the complex’s management, but when management did not act, they were finally able to get the attention of a fire inspector. It took months of work, but now all residents can stay warm.
The Trellis Collective also knew that many children who recently came to Halifax as refugees weren’t learning how to read. With packed classrooms, teachers didn’t have the time or resources to give individual attention to so many students, and some students have been advancing grade levels and even graduating from high school without being able to read.
The neighborhood worked together to rally young adults to work with students in their homes, and in the process they are able to form friendships. Through one relationship at a time, literacy rates are improving among newcomers in the city.
That’s often how Kamminga and the Trellis Collective work: from the ground up, working in relationships toward neighbors’ wellbeing. They invite one another into their homes, share meals, and often talk about how they see God present and at work.
“I find that when we are seeking the right relationship of all things—this shalom—then along the way … we’re going to find Jesus in really unique and surprising ways,” said Kamminga.
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