Every Thursday night the Outer Circle hosts a gathering we call Amigos. Our purpose for this gathering is to provide a space where our Christian friends from the street and our friends from church can mix it up and learn to follow Christ together. I say this, because an outsider walking into our kitchen or living room during a typical Amigos night might not be able to figure out what was going on. It is a complicated scene.
By 5:30 a meal is usually nearing completion. What this meal looks like depends on each person's contribution for the night. It is usually a hodge-podge of food bank faire and some large, simple, and delicious main dish, perhaps chili or spaghetti. The clanking and banging of pots that functions as a musical prelude during the preparation of food for a group is accompanied by a quartet of singing, crying, and chasing-each-other-through the kitchen two-year-olds. Add to these sounds, conversation, laughing, especially Jessica laughing, a timer going off to remind Claire to take the biscuits out of the oven, and it is understandable that it requires yelling to gather everyone to pray for the food.
Once circled up and in the kitchen, we all join hands. The kids either want to hold hands with the adults or stand in the middle of the circle and ham it up for the crowd. Capitalizing on a moment of quiet, I pray: "Lord, thank you for this chance to be together tonight. Thank you for this food. Please be with all of our friends that don't have any food or anyone to be with tonight. Please bless our fellowship, amen." Then plates are filled up, and the eating begins.
Dinner actually goes by quickly. It's the transitions from prep to meal, meal to clean up, and clean up to worship that end up taking the most time. When the dishes are done and most of the people have moved from the dining table to the living room, someone starts playing the guitar to kick off our worship time. Somehow, when we sing together at Amigos no one seems uncomfortable. It's fine with everyone if someone sings loudly and another doesn't sing at all.
After we finish singing, someone from the group teaches on a passage of scripture that has been helpful to them recently. This week it's my turn to share. I sometimes struggle about feeling discouraged and have recently been looking at some scriptures about pressing on. After reading Philippians 3:7-14 to the group I ask, "How do you all press on? What makes you continue to want to live and seek God?"
A few different people share their experiences or advice. Someone reads a verse that they find helpful when they are feeling discouraged. Then Joe shares.
"My biggest problem is my own stinking thinking. If I listen to the advice that I give to myself, I get in trouble fast. I have to figure out how to shut me up and listen to God. Praying usually helps. I pray everyday, every time I leave my house. I struggle with myself everyday," he says.
Joe's simple, honest advice spurs me on, challenging my hopelessness. Something shifts in my heart and mind. I feel lighter. I am encouraged. I am grateful for this community. We pray to close our time together and another night of Amigos is over.