This is part two a series on a mission trip I took to Providence, R.I., with my university. I hope to take you through each day, so prepare yourself for some regular posts on the Ocean State!
Apparently exhaustion was not enough to subdue a pollen-induced cough, so I spent my first morning in Providence trying to keep my eyes open. Our team made it over to the Marriott hotel downtown for our one service with Grace Harbor. The church has been searching for a permanent place to call home, but for now it pulls in enough sound equipment and Sunday school materials to have a traditional church service along with something to keep the young ones busy in a nearby conference room. Our team filled up two rows of chairs, and we kept mostly to ourselves before the service began. At least for me, I was still dragging from traveling the majority of the day before.
The service was intentionally broken down so both Christians and non-Christians could understand the text. Grace Harbor grows from both disciplining new believers and attracting old ones with their adherence to the Gospel message. The sermon went a little longer than what regular Southern church attendees are used to but was focused and calm. No fire and brimstone. No jamming music or fancy PowerPoint slides. No shouts of “Hallelujah!” or hands raised. What wasn’t expected was the willingness for the church members to take in our team, which split up for lunch.
I was delighted to join two growing families, the Boulays and Reids, for a steak lunch and delightful conversation. Topics ranged from disciplining their kids to our future dreams to moving to Providence — a regular topic brought up by the Rhode Islanders throughout our stay. Being folded into the church community so immediately was just one effect of the dry spiritual landscape in this city. In Tennessee, we meet Christians pumping gas, buying groceries and watching movies, but in Providence finding someone who clings to Jesus is a surprise, someone to cherish.
Unlike most Sunday afternoons, napping and lying around were not on our agenda. After perking up from a solid lunch and conversation, half of our team reconvened for a rock climbing adventure in a nearby park. Just because our hosts were city dwellers did not mean they couldn’t enjoy shimmying up a rock face. When my turn rolled around, I knew I was up for a challenge. Perched atop the mini cliff was where I felt most comfortable, snapping shots of my teammates as the scuttled up the relatively small climb. But with the support of newfound pals and my own team members I managed to almost reach the top with only a couple minor scratches. Although ultimate success was not for me that afternoon, reaching a deep crevice just a few feet short would suffice. Cramped legs and sore arms aside, the bonds made that afternoon would prove the value of pushing myself beyond what I thought I was capable.
The rest of our Sabbath was spent together, with both of our partnering ministers — Travis, part-time pastor and Johnson and Wales’ campus minister who we would spend the majority of our week with, and Kevin, Grace Harbor’s pastor who had skillfully challenged us this morning. We all gathered for pizza and reflection on what had been laid out for us in the earlier part of the day. This meeting was just one example of how this little group of lights stays lit in the dark city of Providence. For them, Sunday morning sermons aren’t just entertainment; they are bits of truth worth intentionally reflecting on. Going over the points and strengths of the morning service would prove beneficial for our next day’s task: exploring the city sidewalks for people with open ears and hopefully hearts and roaming the spiritually dry campus of Brown University.
More adventures tomorrow…