Missional experiences to urban areas have been popular for years. Why is that? What attracts suburban student ministries to reach into the city for a week? Is it because they’ve noticed the strength of urban churches and desire to learn from their creativity, uniqueness and diversity? I hope that’s it and not the thought that the urban church lacks resources or has needs so much greater than “ours”. That would seem condescending and insulting.
From the city of Austin, Texas to the Distillery District of Toronto, urban churches have hosted Serve. We have some great cities and incredible urban leaders in our community of Host Churches, but the Host Churches that sign up for Serve are far from cookie cutter. Each is unique as the day is long.
Suburbia Serve Sites are well represented in Houston, Peterborough, West Des Moines, Ripon, California, etc. There’s an abundance of places to go where economic status varies greatly while the spiritual needs remain constant.
It’s truly not about the place as much as the heart, and the heart of the matter is where the compassion of Jesus Christ converges with his image in an individual no matter what their needs or strengths may be. No matter where in the world we seek to serve it is about finding ourselves in Christ and seeing others in his image; even if that is in the sticks.
Rural Serves are gaining momentum and attention. It might be because we are realizing that rural poverty outweighs urban poverty in both Canada and the U.S. The challenges are clearly different but many of the principles are the same.
To fully embrace a rural “mission trip” we have to overcome some stereotypes. There are words used for “the sticks” that used to be tainted by insult but now carry respect. The redneck nation has grown. Trucker hats are in again and a farmer tan can be worn with pride.
So what do you call the Serve opportunities in western Minnesota, the Prairie of Iowa, Platte, South Dakota, Stephenville, Texas, Heartland, Kansas, etc.? Boondock Serve? You could. Or you could call them innovative, visionary and heart-felt. You could call them God-honoring.
Check Wikipedia and you’ll see: Boondock is American slang used to refer to the countryside or any implicitly isolated rural/wilderness area, regardless of topography or vegetation. Similar slang or colloquial words are “the sticks”, “the chodes”, “the backblocks”, or “Woop Woop” in Australia and New Zealand.
A lot of us who live in rural areas have used, Podunk, Yokel and Middle of Nowhere. A new one for me is Waikikamukau out of New Zealand (pronounced much like “Walk-about-a-moo-cow).
It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you respect it. God is using his Church in rural areas to reach the masses. Churches are advancing and enhancing their community outreach and home missions by hosting Serve. The Gospel is being shared week after week as they gain better understanding for the strengths of their community and meet needs. We have at least five rural Serve Sites that are praying that the Lord of the harvest would send them laborers. Why not join church leaders in the boondocks and share the heart of Christ with them and for them in their community.
Maybe your group could be an answer to their prayer. If you’re from the burbs or a city, you’ll get a dose of fresh country air, some rural hospitality and a great view of the Kingdom.
Thank God, I’m a country boy.
Jerry grew up in the farmlands of the Midwest, helping on dairy and hog farms. The town he lived in during middle and high school had a population of 112. The town he lives in now is just passed “the sticks” and recently turned the blinking caution light at the town square into a full-fledged traffic light.