For the last nine weeks, I've been living in the land of weird. I've seen a German Shepard in a stroller, a man wearing the same kilt every day, and piercings I didn't even think were possible. I'll be honest it took me a few days to adjust to this city that prides itself on being weird. But the more time I spent here, the more I understood that its uniqueness is why Portlanders love it so much.
We have been so blessed to be able to live in an apartment right in the heart of downtown that is big enough to host a lot of people. Nearly every night we have friends over to hang out, eat, or watch a movie. Many of these people would identify themselves as Portlanders, so imagine our delight whenever we hear the phrase, “you guys are different, but in a good way."
Trust me, there is no bigger accomplishment that being labeled “different" here in Portland. This is the land of hipsters, where mainstream is looked down upon, and all things intriguing are appreciated. Our love for Jesus and our commitment to being hospitable to everyone we come in contact with has sparked people's interest. They want to know more about why we are the way we are, and feel comfortable coming back to hang out with us.
In John 17:16, Jesus says, “They are not of this world, even as I am not of it," and I think that's what people here sense about us. There is something about our team that is different in the way we treat people, and welcome them into our home. I love that moment when they ask, “so why are you doing this," or “why are you here?" Then we naturally get to explain to them that we are here to love and serve this city and to share the love of Christ.
Have we had any conversion experiences during one of these conversations? No, not yet. But people keep coming back! We may never see the fruit of our labor with our new friends, but watching these people interact with Christians preaching a gospel of love and truth, rather than hate and universalism, has been a joy to see. I've seen people who were scared to talk about anything spiritual, open up to conversations about it.
I have a new friend here who is an international student from Brazil. His English is not great, but we have very little problem communicating, which I accredit to God. We talked the other night and he told me, “other people are not like you generally." I said, “do you know what makes me and the other people in the apartment different?"
“I know how you are different, but I don't know what makes you," he explained.
“It's because we all really love Jesus."
His immediate response was, “I've thought about that. I think God put you in my life for a reason."
Wow! Praise God!
I hope and pray that some of the relationships we have made this summer will continue on, and that we can continue to love and share the gospel with them. And for the ones we may never see again, I hope they see God as not mystical or scary, but different – in a good way.
Kaitlyn Bingham, a student at Texas A&M University, is serving as a Go Now missionary in Portland, Oregon.