Yeast. That is how Jesus describes His expectations of what the church; His people on earth are to be. It is a wonderful description, that has become less meaningful to people as time and technology progressed in two millennia. In Jesus’s time, everyone knew what yeast did. You did not have bread without yeast and if you did not use yeast to make your bread to eat, you starved. It was pretty easy for everyone at Jesus time to make the connection that the yeast in the bread was instrumental to ongoing maintenance of life. From this they could connect His people were to be critical in the creation of life giving community here on earth.
Today, few people are aware of what yeast really does. Including me. However, I got a big helping of what Jesus meant when he referred to us being yeast when I talked with my friend Pat. Pat lives in South Phoenix; a very under-served area in Phoenix. Ask people for the “worse” part of Phoenix and 80% of the time you will hear “South Phoenix”. That is where the gangs are, the drive by shootings, the drugs. That is where the highest percentage of prisoners that have completed their time is released. That is where all the relief groups have an office.
A couple of us videoed her to understand and share what she was doing in her community. Pat was initially wary; she did not think what she was doing was worth video. She moved into the neighborhood deliberately to be near relatives. A couple years ago she learned about Asset Based Community Development/ Wholistic Ministry and got excited about it. Her neighborhood association was practically defunct; Block Watches were not happening, meetings were not being held, people were not being listened to and organized to help address concerns. So she started meeting with people in her house. Unemployed, she opened here house and hosted people as best she could so she could listen and people could talk. Before long, these meetings were happening regularly. Issued moved into projects to address them fueled by the people in the community. Officers were elected, policies created. They elected Pat president.
People in her little community now feel safer to let the kids play outside. And I think that is a fantastic measure of what community transformation looks like – people let their kids play in safety in the community. They are working now on expanding and deepening the involvement in the community.
Pat may still thinks she is not worthy of a video. I would disagree because I saw in her a real life example of what Jesus meant about being yeast. I rejoice in what God is doing in South Phoenix and I consider it an eternal blessing to be able to walk with people like Pat. Perhaps God will let some of the yeast rub off on me if I do it enough.