“Is it safe”? I get the question a lot–usually from a potential volunteer or from a parent of a child coming to the Preston Taylor community with a group. I understand the mindset behind the question. I find myself asking the same question. Do I really want to put myself and my children in an area that has a higher crime rate than the Nashville average? in an area that has several shootings each year? in an area where there is a fair amount of drug traffic? I know there are hundreds of children growing up in this environment, but is it safe for MY children?
I confessed my growing hesitation to expose my children to “risk” at a question and answer session following a Shane Claiborne speech at Belmont University a few months ago. Shane’s thoughtful and convicting answer to my comment was, “it may be more dangerous to isolate our children from communities of material need and differences than to risk being present in those communities.” In other words, it is dangerous to insulate ourselves within our “safe” churches, our “safe” neighborhoods, our “safe” schools, and even our “safe” families. We don’t need to be risky just for the sake of risk and adventure, but as Christians we are called to a life of radical abandon to the leadership of Christ that will lead us into situations that are not necessarily “safe”, but are secure in the hands of Christ.
This week at PTM has been a beautiful picture of a faithful community of believers at West End Community Church leading a Vacation Bible School in the Preston Taylor community in partnership with St. Luke AME and St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. What I really admire and appreciate about WECC is their commitment to provide a first class Vacation Bible School in the heart of the Preston Taylor community. Many churches host Vacation Bible School and invite PTM to bring students. We like these great opportunities. But WECC puts together their VBS outside of what is familiar to the staff, volunteers, and families of their church and invites the children of the church to join with children in the Preston Taylor community. It paints a beautiful picture of the kingdom of God. This year, of the 200 K-6th graders who have participated in Summer JAM, over 75 of them are children who attend church at WECC. I am encouraged by this church’s continued willingness to “risk” in building significant, meaningful, and joy-filled friendships.