My wife and I moved to Elko, Nevada a year ago. In that time, we have enjoyed the rugged beauty and pace of life in a rural environment--but that is not why I care about Elko. We have many friends and are part of a great family at Cornerstone Baptist--but that is not why I care about Elko. Why I care about Elko is based on something written almost 2,600 years ago.
In 586 BC, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Babylonian army. All of the politicians, educators, religious leaders and other persons of note were dragged off to Babylonian exile. Settling in Babylon, this Jewish remnant was discouraged, frightened and didn't know what their future held. Their natural tendency was to withdraw into their own 'safe' Jewish community to preserve what little religious and sociological culture they had left.
But God had a different idea. He sent them some specific instructions that are found in Jeremiah 29. In verse 7, we read this, "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have sent you [carried you into exile]. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."
The Hebrew word shalom is a word rich in meaning. We often translate it using the word peace, but it means so much more than the absence of conflict. It can also be translated (and often is depending on context) to wholeness, completeness, peace, prosperity, health, wellness--that which is a gift from God. Using shalom in its original context, verse 7 reads as...
"Seek the shalom [wholeness, completeness, prosperity, health, wellness, peace] of the city to which I have sent you. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it has shalom, you too will have shalom."
I care about Elko because God cares about Elko--and He has commanded me (and every other follower of Christ) to care about the shalom of our community. Shalom involves so much more than just the spiritual--it also includes the physical, psychological, emotional, and relational aspects of our community.
I read in the paper daily about the problems we have in our community--there are many. But as lovers of God, we are to insert ourselves into the community to be salt and light. When we become actively involved in being shalom-makers, we not only benefit as members of our community, we have positioned ourselves as a people who can "give a reason for the hope that we have." (1 Pet. 3:15)
For that reason, I was involved in recently chairing a Community Ad-Hoc Homeless Task Force. We issued our report last month (you can request a copy from me at PastorJohnElko@gmail.com). I organized this group specifically because I saw a need (after God revealed it to me) where I could bring some leadership to bear and be an instrument for bringing shalom. I do not know how God may use this report--but I do know that the experience was invaluable for the community connections that were made as well as the opportunity for my own personal growth and understanding of this tremendously complex issue.
Being a carrier of God's shalom usually means that one has to go into the community because the community probably won't come to us. Love God, love others, love Elko.
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