New Mercies

by Debbie Langford October 17, 2018

God is doing a new thing at Tenth. The ministries that have found their home in the newly formed Mercy Commission are finding fresh synergy as God broadens our understanding of the word “mercy.” Through the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus described compassion shown to another whose life journey had placed him in unexpected circumstances. Even the Pharisees could identify this kindness, untainted by their “greater and holier than thou” attitudes. In the stories of the Mercy Commission’s committees, we can see this model at work and used by God to draw fellow travelers to himself.

Compassion motivated Randall Drain and Nick Parrell to provide a special ESL Bible study class for visiting Chinese Christians taking summer classes at Temple. Through the Internationals Outreach committee, “W” found her way to Tenth services, regularly bringing her unsaved classmates. They plied Elizabeth Gunther with questions about the sermon. Her subsequent hospitality and a medical connection to George Schmidt for W’s visiting mother made an impression. W later wrote from China saying her mother, strongly influenced by her experiences, had finally decided to be baptized.

Led by Enrique Leal, The Internationals Outreach (IO) worship committee set October as a target month for implementing ways to make the IO services even more accessible to those for whom English is a second language. Visual helps, simplified language, and prayer in heart languages are designed to draw many closer to the Father.

ACTS Committee volunteers Johnnie Mae Smith, Paul Duggan, Tom Witmer, and Charly Cianci live their compassion by providing Bible studies for fellow travelers who have stumbled on their way. These Bible studies provide a safe place for a diverse group of short-term inmates awaiting trial at the Federal Detention Center to study and learn to apply the Scriptures. Recently, one formerly hardened inmate confessed to the group that he had been treating another inmate badly. “Who am I to judge him for his crime,” he said, “when the Lord has forgiven me for so much?” As others join them, these few prison ministry volunteers could soon become “Ten from Tenth.”

Each month, compassion forges relationships with nursing home residents of PowerBack Rehab at 16th and Lombard and Penn Rehab at 36th and Chestnut. The team that visits PowerBack (Rob Douglass, Patrick and Winnie McNamara, and Tom Jackson) leads the worship service and are blessed to pray with people like 80-year-old MT, whose five sons were preachers. After the service, roommates of attendees often ask about God and how he might help them with their concerns.

Finally, in hospitality to homeless guests, Sunlight and Kevin Little have met people like D, who soaks up the gospel through community dinners, the screening of Christian films, Fellowship Bible study on Sundays and during the week in West Philadelphia. God’s kindness and compassion shown through them is drawing her to himself.

Compassion creates a safe place at Bridge Builders (part of the Racial Healing Committee) for brothers and sisters of all races to listen to and learn from each other about racially motivated wrongs in the lives of fellow brothers and sisters. Sheryl Olson describes an atmosphere of understanding and validation for feelings experienced, for example, when tailed suspiciously in a store or harassed for identification in a park for no reason other than the color of one’s skin. As our church addresses the “elephant in the church” this month, devotional material by David Apple is available to help us further lament, confess, and meditate on making our church family a place of acceptance, refuge, and respect.

Tenth members have been showing compassion to the Asukulu family, refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for the past two years. The newly formed Immigrants and Refugees Committee, with Mim Tilton as chair, has been setting goals of holistic assistance to this family.

While the Mercy Commission may be a new thing at Tenth, God’s mercy is not. Jesus gave people a new vision for neighborly kindness and compassion in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Then in his mercy, he went to the cross for us. How far will you go to broaden your ideas about mercy and show his kindness and compassion in the weeks to come?