In 2000, Clint, Ruth and I moved to Joplin Missouri. It was only supposed to be a temporary 2-year stint while Clint finished his clinical rotation. (And, we only moved here because of our attempt to outsmart his medical schools raffle; we put Joplin as our first choice and Kansas City second. Clint was number 6 in the draw!) I remember coming down to check out the town, how run down it seemed and how the people seemed way to lax for my liking. Pajama pants were worn during the day at Wal-Mart, there was a high “no teeth-to-tattoo” ratio, the run down Main Street held more empty buildings than open. I saw very little culture and not a whole lot of people who looked like me. But, I can stand any adventure for 2 years!
Joplin never felt like my home, in fact I thought of it as my Nineveh. We continually talked about our return to KC someday. However, we were in the middle of the adoption process, and leaving Joplin right now would thwart those plans. So we stayed for Clint’s residency. It would just be “a few more years”. In the spring of 2006, children adopted, and Clint graduating from residency, we jumped at the opportunity to move to Branson Missouri. Our house didn’t sell, but that was O.K. by me, we’d rent it out and try to keep selling it. After 6 years in Joplin, I affectionately called Branson“My Shangri-La”! (Some of you may be puzzled at why a city girl would love Branson, but that is another story!) The kids and I were so happy living in our fun little city, but Clint was miserable. With our house continuing to cost so much and the hospital back in Joplin offering cash incentives to return, Clint brought us back to Joplin kicking and screaming in 2008. Joplin was not my home and I continued to discuss our returning to KC sometime soon. I really wanted friends who looked like me and had my same interest. I wanted to be in a place with culture and art and things to do. I just couldn’t see this in
By our return to Joplin, the city had done some major revamping of the downtown area. I was thrilled to see new business, clean streets and beautifully restored buildings. We became part of a church that was planting in the heart of downtown. I wanted to be a part of God’s missional work and be a part of helping bring cultural events to the city “where God had exiled” me to for this season. Joplin was not my home, but while I was here for the next “few” years, I would try to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile“ Jeremiah 29:7a. Joplin was my Nineveh, but in my arrogance, I at least was not going to be a Jonah and refuse to go! I began to serve at Art Walk and work with Joplin’s Downtown Alliance, but with a grumbling heart for being “stuck” here. But God began showing me how much like Jonah I really was! One Sunday we sang “God of This City” (not new) but God used it to reveal some serious sin I had towards this place. God was the God of these people. He loved the people of Joplin and my attitude was just like Jonah’s: displeasure for the things of God’s heart.(vs. 4:1) The mission statement for our church was the “we exist to glorify God through our transformed life, and see a city changed by the power of the gospel.” Was my grumbling life and attitude glorifying the gospel to the people of Joplin? With the prompting of the Holy Spirit that day, I went back to read my Jeremiah 29:7 verse, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile,” Wait! There was more to that verse…”and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
As parents, we love when our children love the things we love. So, as His child, God wants me to have the same love for the things He loves. He desires for me to find pleasure and passion for the same things He is passionate for! That Sunday I began to pray that God would change my heart for this city. He had asked me in my verse to “PRAY’ on her behalf. As I began to get ready for the first Art walk of that year, I began to pray. I prayed for the artists and the people who would walk though the building. I prayed for the city of Joplin and that God would “In the same way, let (my) light shine before others, so that they would see (my) good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
As I was busy rushing around preparing for the evening, filling the food trays and drink carafe’, God wanted to reveal and transform my heart that night for His people for this city. He gave me His eyes that night, through the act of one of the homeless people who came in to the gallery to fill up on the food and drink we set out. A homeless woman walked up to the counter to get a drink. She looked at the beautiful carafe’ then, she wrapped her dirty arms around it began to hug the container of water. I began to get irritated when suddenly, I thought of John 7:37, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink”. I held the key to living water (John 4:10) and the power of the gospel, and I was worried about a silly drink container. He was hope to this hopeless woman, and He had me in this place, in the very center of Joplin, Missouri to live a transformed life. God loved these people, who were candidates for His grace, just as much as He loved me. “Those” people who were different from me, who had different life stories and circumstances needed the very hope that He had shown me.
You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You’re the Light in this darkness
You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless
And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
That night, God transformed my heart for Joplin; my home, until He calls me elsewhere.