Mission Spotlight: WithALL
By: Danielle Canaday and Rev. Rob Parsons
Anyone who has spent time with small children is familiar with their profound yet simple questions. ”Why is the sky blue...where do babies come from...how do miracles happen…?” Ok, that last one is actually the question asked recently by Rev. Rob Parsons. Rev. Parsons and the WithALL Congregation, the new church start he leads, have been trying to live into Luke 10 (where some amazing things happen).
In the July Mission Engagement blog post, Rev. Parsons wrote about WithALL’s attempts to follow Jesus’ directions to the seventy (early disciples). Jesus tells them to go before him in pairs, to be vulnerable, to rely on hospitality, to heal those who are there, and to say to them, the kingdom of God has drawn near. Then, immediately after he finished writing that blog post, Rev. Parsons did just that…he got up, went out in a pair, with what seemed like few resources.
That day Rev. Parsons took a WithALL friend, Patrick, with him to pick up a man from the airport, "because we try to do everything in twos, as the scripture says.” The man they met at the airport had been living on the streets of Miami and he wanted a new start in Asheville. His grandmother helped him secure a plane ticket to get the fresh start he hoped for. The caveat to the story of the man living on the streets...he had cochlear implants that had been damaged and as a result, he had been unable to hear for four months. As you might imagine, this inability to hear created a communication challenge between the man, Patrick, and Rev. Parsons. But, after picking the man up from the airport, they all had dinner together…communicating by text.
The man’s grandmother had ordered parts for the cochlear implant and had shipped them to someone in Saluda. So, the next hurdle was to find the implant parts. Once the group got to the right house, the man began to assemble the parts to his implant. Then, with biblical flair, the man who could not hear was suddenly able to hear. The first thing he did was call his grandmother. She overflowed with tears of joy...her prayers for her grandson had been heard!
The next day, Rev. Parsons realized he had witnessed a healing miracle. “I was caught up in the beauty of the moment for sure. But it wasn’t until later, I looked back and thought about it being a miracle,” says Rev. Parsons. He continues, “To me what is significant about healings is that both people lift their hearts in praise...the person who has been healed and the person who witnessed it. They both get to say amen to being in the presence of God.”
In his July blog post, Rev. Parsons ponders how the healings performed by the disciples in Luke 9 and 10 happened. He writes, “I wonder how many training sessions they had? I wonder if they performed healings as interns under the guidance of Jesus before being sent out? Did they memorize the right words to say at the right time?” The problems of our neighbors and our community seem so overwhelming, so WithALL asks, “What can we do?”
“We so often look at how big the problem is and not what we have. When we put what meager things we have in Jesus’ hands, that’s when the miracles happen” says Rev. Parsons. Pope Francis said, “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That's how prayer works.” The man was able to hear because of all the little moving pieces—flying to NC, having Rev. Parsons and Patrick pick him up, and his grandmother being able to ship the implant parts. “This is what the work of WithALL has been all along…following the breadcrumbs of the Holy Spirit.”
Much of the mission work done at WithALL has a chain-like effect. Rev. Parsons says, “Whenever we work with someone, we soon find them graciously helping others. A lot of the folks we work with have trouble with their cultural understanding of what church is. When it starts with ‘belief’ they have a hard time. WithALL is a church in reverse. We go make ourselves vulnerable components in the transformation of the world. We believe our discipleship is how to bring healing into our neighborhoods, to our neighbors. There in the midst is when we find Christ.”
Jesus responded, “You must love the Lord your God WithALL your heart, WithALL your soul, WithALL your strength, and WithALL your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27 “When we do that, we see those miracles take place and the kingdom of God draws near!” says Rev. Parsons.
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