Consider Face-to-Face Mercy
By Lilli Benko, STEP JfL Mentor
My husband and I originally settled in Richmond 15 years ago and planted our growing family in one of its thriving suburbs, enjoying the benefits of high-end grocery stores, new construction, and stable communities. It wasn’t until we later moved to a complicated but compelling Richmond city neighborhood that I began to tangibly see the effects of social injustice, poverty and racism. The weight of this blight collided with my Christian faith in a powerful way: how could I truly live a Gospel life without a personal commitment to my brothers and sisters in need?
Through an announcement at my church this past fall, I learned that STEP’s Jobs for Life program at the Gilpin Court HUD project needed mentors. I didn’t sense I was ‘ready’ and my life felt full as a mother and school teacher, but after prayer and encouragement from others, it became clear. Week after week of the scripture-based lessons, hearing stories of formidable challenges and praying with the courageous class of JFL students, the LORD has revealed a beautiful new perspective on his kingdom. My praying life and time in the Word have been refreshed and I’ve gained new friends, including one precious young woman whom I love dearly and is now regularly attending my church.
Prior to this experience, my participation in mercy ministry was largely through food and monetary donations and short-term missions. While these are all worthy aspects of giving relief, I am humbly discovering that the energy driving mercy work is an ongoing and relational pursuit which all Christians are called to. My time in JFL awakened me to the clarion call that followers of Jesus are to be with the poor. Jesus made a point to interface with those in need and why should we not do the same? He says, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest!” John 4:35 (NIV)
Join me daily in asking the Holy Spirit how to personalize your acts of mercy. Pray that he will give you a desire and opportunities for interaction with the poor and to advance the Gospel in Richmond, Virginia. Partnering with STEP is a wonderful way to do this!