“What are they building over there?” a lady at a bus stop asked during a hot day in June as she looked at the construction site of our new church building. I was sitting at the bus stop at the corner of Arlington Boulevard and Annandale Road having lunch while I waited for the bus to take me to the Willston Multicultural Center where I had just started working. A gentleman who attends our church was at the bus stop with me. He looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure he went to our church until he excitedly told the lady that they were building a church, his church.
Someone recently told me that our church’s presence in its local community is more palpable now that we have a structure that is growing closer and closer to completion every day. But this hasn’t been the only thing that our church has been building in its community. Up and down Arlington Boulevard, our church has been building relationships with our neighbors, and this started happening before we broke ground on the church building, and even before the first car parked in the church garage. While our church campus is clearly visible, and we can see new beams and parts of the roof being added to the church building almost daily, the relationships the Lord is building through our church with the local community are not always easy to see, even though they are very much there and are becoming more and more prominent. This is because these structures live and grow inside the hearts and minds of our neighbors and parishioners. This past December, however, the extent of these relationships became much more visible to me as we celebrated Christmas with our neighbors through different events.
Two Surprise Connections
On the first Saturday of December, when I saw one of the students I tutored walking with his family down the steps that lead to the Ministry Center from the parking garage, it was as if I could hear a nail being hammered into the relational structure of our church. We both smiled at each other with great excitement. “It’s so nice to see you here!” I told him as he reached the Concourse. “Is this the church?” he asked me. Yes, this was the church, the one he had asked me about last school year when I and other members of our church started going to his high school once a week to tutor him and other ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students in different subjects. I had never told him that I was a tutor from The Falls Church Anglican, but he must have made the connection because at his high school, if you are a tutor then you must be from church.
This student’s local high school is one of our church’s local community partners, and that day he had come to our church campus to go to a Christmas party that another one of our community partners was hosting in the Ministry Center. Before that day, I had no idea that this other church partner knew this student or his family, but I was so grateful that they did. Actually, the fact that his family had this other partner organization in their lives was a huge answer to prayer and a testimony to the Lord’s faithfulness. Last December, I had felt so helpless as the boy’s teacher had told me about the struggles that his family faced. There was nothing I could do at the time except pray, and I did and asked others from our church who don’t even know him to pray as well. I never knew what became of that situation, but that day at the Christmas party it was clear that the Lord had heard our prayers and He had brought help. I remember being so afraid last year about what would become of this student’s family that was special to me, but as I look back, I can see how the Lord was there looking out for them the entire time.
A couple weeks later, I found myself in a similar situation at another Christmas party in the Ministry Center when I spotted a student who had attended Summer Blast. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was there because it was one of his parent’s ESOL class that was celebrating. “Do you remember, this is where we had Summer Blast?!” I reminded him. ‘Summer Blast’ is how the kids at the Willston Center refer to our church’s Vacation Bible School, which is more simply known as ‘Blast.’ The student was quite surprised to find me celebrating with his parent’s class along with the teachers and volunteers. I had gotten to know him and many other kids from the Willston while I worked there over the summer. Although I’m no longer an employee at the Willston, whenever I see other kids I’ve met through our church’s programs, they ask me where I’ve been. When I tell them that I now work for the church that ran ‘Summer Blast’ they smile at me excitedly because of the fond memories of our church team and all the activities.
Laying the Groundwork in Hearts and Minds
Encounters like these are some of my favorite things about being involved in building the Lord’s kingdom because it allows me to see what God is up to behind the scenes. It’s so beautiful how He is simultaneously building the physical and relational structure of our church in the greater community. Bit by bit, The Falls Church Anglican is becoming a local church in this community. And while some of the neighbors we love and care for don’t necessarily know our name, and instead know us as “the church where the tutors are from” or “the church where we had Summer Blast,” that doesn’t mean they don’t know who we are. While they may not yet know us by our name, they know us as the people who taught them how to find x, who made them sing and dance, the girl who painted her face blue to make them laugh, the man who loved them enough to give them the coat off his back, the lady who found them in the museum when they were lost, the boy who looked at them when they were new and called them his sister, the ladies that taught them how to read, and the people who simply took the time to sit with them and listen.
We want people to know us, because through us they get to know our Savior. Yet, we also want to know them because, as I’ve found, our lives are more full with them in it. It’s a beautiful thing to ask the Lord to put the love that He has for others in our hearts because we will rejoice when they rejoice, and we will celebrate when we watch the Lord work in their lives. As Christ followers, we know what an amazing thing it is to watch our lives be transformed for the better by the Lord, and it doesn’t end there! The Lord has even more for us, and He invites us to join Him on the wonderful, supernatural adventure that is building His kingdom.
Roxana Vaquero Blanco has been attending The Falls Church Anglican for over a year and is on staff as one of our administrative assistants. She was previously a Nehemiah intern in the youth department at our church through the Youth Ministry Leadership Project, a nine-month program designed to train future youth pastors. Her background in ministry and her heart for the young people who live around our church inspired her to work with our Discipleship and Outreach team as we buid relationships with the local community. Interested in volunteering? Contact Roxana to join us on mission!