Discipleship: Finding minstry tools in all our “stuff”

During my time with BFJN, I’ve learned that living simply as a Christian has a lot to do with reducing personal consumption. This frees our time and finances to help our neighbors. But there is more to simple living and discipleship than just getting rid of things. Perhaps selling all our possessions and giving the money to the poor is not always the most effective ministry tool. In some cases, it may be more effective to help the poor by using some of the possessions we have in God’s mission. Consider how our cars and trucks might be used to help our neighbors.

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Ben Cressy, a former BFJN intern who still continues economic discipleship with The Boston Project Ministries in Dorchester. There are many parts of his life that demonstrate economic discipleship but I want to focus on just one: The Boston Project’s truck. The old green truck isn’t the quietest, most fuel efficient, or even safest vehicle on the road. With its high insurance cost it may be economical to get rid of it, yet Ben and The Boston Project have found a value in it beyond its financial worth. It is a tool for ministry.

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In Ben’s neighborhood, community members are addressing a need to provide healthy, fresh food to the neighborhood with several small solutions like the Crossroads Community Café, and converting vacant lots into community gardens. Fair Foods has been confronting this problem for over 20 years, to date rescuing over 10 million pounds of surplus produce from the New England Produce Center in Chelsea, MA, and distributing it in the form of “Two-dollar bags” to residents in need all over Boston. The Boston Project and Fair Foods have partnered to distribute some of this food for years. Every Wednesday, Ben takes the truck, loads it up at the docks in Chelsea with pallets and crates of food rejected by grocery stores, and brings the food back to sell in $2.00 bags to neighbors and community members. This provides access to fresh but cosmetically flawed produce to all people no matter their income and it also rescues food from becoming waste. The only way to get all 800 pounds of this food into the neighborhood every week is on the back of a truck of this size, with a gas-guzzling engine powerful enough to carry it.

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Image taken from: http://www.fairfoods.org/index.php?page=dollar_bag.htm

The large truck is being used as a tool to provide such food to the neighborhood in need. The Boston Project has actually used the truck for almost a decade to meet other community needs: furniture moving for a mother in need; disposing of hundreds of tires illegally dumped in a vacant lot; composting thousands of pounds of leaves from neighborhood parks every fall. A vehicle can be much more to a community than an expense if we let it. After the day with Ben, I realized that a car does not have to be a possession to give up, but can also be a tool to minister to our neighbor: by delivering food, taking someone to church, to the doctor, or to work. We need to be intentional about how we use our things as well as how we spend our money. Instead of just investing money into organizations, we must also consider how to use the things we have as tools to build God’s kingdom and help in our discipleship.

(Written by Alex Haney with the help of Ben Cressy)

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