By GERALYN WARFIELD
Honoring one another
More than in many places, Mississippians often easily connect with one another. We may unite over crawfish, football or other sports. School functions. Where our families are from.
While it is important to nurture these relationships, Christians are called to more. Not only do we nurture relationships with those who share our interests, but God also calls us to put our faith in action and reach out to those we do not know. To those with whom we disagree. And to those around whom we might be (if we’re honest) a bit nervous.
Jesus inspires us to be a beacon, to “love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10, New American Bible, Revised Edition). For nearly three decades, Mission Mississippi has led the way in providing opportunities to go beyond the secular and take action that connects us in meaningful ways. We can find common ground with anyone, although the search might take some effort. Thanks to the presence of God in our lives, we can relate — in ways small and large — to others and honor them by putting their needs before our own. It is not just in marriage vows that the word “honor” holds significant meaning, but in our everyday actions.
The folks I’ve met through Mission Mississippi are inspirational in how they honor others. From the very first Mission Mississippi prayer breakfast I attended in 2011, I was made to feel welcome, and was inspired by the sense of community among people who otherwise might not have connected with one another. They were intentional, grace-filled, open, and willing to share even difficult conversations. They exemplified JOY: focusing first on Jesus, then Others, and finally themselves (You). What a countercultural idea!
Since being involved with Mission Mississippi, I have been empowered to focus even more on others, particularly on brothers and sisters who are homeless. I work to take time to have honest, heartfelt interactions, listening to their stories and thoughts as I meet them on the street. I’ve heard God’s voice in my heart and shared coffee or meals with a few individuals. Getting to know someone’s name and story can be a powerful way to honor them and be a light in the world.
These interactions are an extension of my intention to make the day better for every individual with whom I interact — to honor others as we are called to do in the gospel. I’m the stranger who smiles at you as we pass along the street, and I could even say hello. I am also the person who offers aid if you drop something, stumble, or have been in an accident. And I am that person who will pray for both the first responders and those in need when I hear a siren (thanks to my mom for sharing that gem).
God calls us to expand beyond cursory relationships and love everyone. Is it easy? Not always. But every time, His grace allows us to be successful in putting our faith into action, to honor others no matter their background and circumstance.
It is thanks to Mission Mississippi that I continue to be blessed with opportunities to listen and learn alongside incredible people.
Geralyn Warfield was a member of the Mission Mississippi prayer committee before moving out of state. She and her husband live in Lincoln, Nebraska. They have one daughter and two grandchildren.