Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Alumni Jacob and Suzanne Simmons in Chicago

I got to visit with Jacob and Suzanne last month at Pequod's
Pizza: their favorite Chicago deep dish pizza place.
Last month I traveled to Chicago to set up a future CCMP option for Beeson students. It was great to re-connect with Jacob and Suzanne Simmons and see what God is doing in their lives.  Chicago is definitely a strategic  and challenging place to live on mission and I'm grateful for their sacrificial service!  

I asked Jacob some questions to help me explain to others what they are doing and how to pray for them.  

What exactly are you doing in Chicago? 
Suzanne and I are on staff at Armitage Baptist Church in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.  Our church recently celebrated her 50th anniversary.  Logan Square was known as a very rough, urban area but the neighborhood has seen a very prominent transformation over the past 5-plus years.  Gentrification is changing the neighborhood and our church is working to change with it.  My responsibilities are Missions and Evangelism, and Suzanne works in Communications and Connections.  I joined Armitage in the hopes and anticipation of church planting with Armitage being a parent church, and we are still working and discerning to that end.

What is your favorite aspect of living there?
My favorite aspect of living in Chicago has certainly been the magnitude and opportunity of the city.  My year in London with the London City Mission gave me a passion for cities, and Chicago has scratched that itch and more.  In our neighborhood alone, an area of 2.5 square miles, are over 62,000 people.  All of the racial cultures, the city culture, generational cultures, all mixed together in one place.  It's great.  But mainly, the pizza.

What is most challenging about living there?
The most challenging aspect of Chicago is certainly the weather.  Chiberia is real, and it's terrible.

Where do you see God working?
God is certainly working in Chicago.  He's working in Suzanne and I, having been recently married, as we learn what a life in ministry together looks like.  He's working through local churches, many of whom have developed a passion for multiplication and evangelism, seeing Gospel-preaching churches planted throughout the city.  He's working cross-culturally.  One of the greatest things for me is to see how diverse the church in Chicago is.  To see Latinos, African-Americans, Caucasians, Asians, Africans, South Americans, and many more come together to exalt Christ is incredible.  And to know that it's just a glimpse into the greatness and creativity of God and a foretaste of heaven is deeply encouraging and enriching to me.

What is your greatest challenge in ministry?
The greatest challenge we face, in addition to the never-ceasing issues of sin, are the issues of the city.  We see poverty, crime, violence, addiction, and brokenness daily.  In big cities everything is magnified, multiplied, and intensified, and this includes sin.  People can get lost, find ways to hide, find more things with which to distract themselves and run away from God.  These are our challenges.  Praise God that His good news liberates us from slavery to sin!

How did Beeson help to prepare you for this?
Beeson helped both Suzanne and I to establish a Biblical foundation from which to do ministry.  Learning the Bible and learning how to teach the Bible are the greatest resources an urban ministry has, and Beeson wonderfully prepared us both for this calling.

How can we pray for you?
Pray for our marriage, that God would continue to grow us closer together and that we would minister out of the overflow of love that He has given us.  Pray for our spiritual development as we long to be more intimate with the Lord.  Pray for us as we discern God's leading in church planting; for timing and location.  

Okay, tell us about the Improv!
One of the opportunities God has provided is a chance for me to be involved in the improv community in Chicago.  Chicago is the home of improv, and for the past two and a half years I've been a part of the iO theater, which is an historic theater in the city.  If I had to guess I would say that 95% of the improv community is unchurched.  This has been, as Dr. Lyle Dorsett would say, my "hook into the secular world."  Improvisers, by nature of the art form and the people it attracts, are open and receptive people... Everyone is looking to connect with someone else.  And so it's been easy to make friends.  I love hanging out, hosting people in our home, and developing deep relationships.  It makes for better improv, but it also gives plenty of opportunity to share about Christ.  Alot of times people will ask what I do, and when I tell them that I work for a church I also try to include the Gospel.  One friend, after hearing about my job, said that she understood by saying, "Oh, so you do PR, but for God!"  "Well... ummm, yes... kind of..."  But the greatest opportunities have been in the deep friendships, when a friend that you've sat with, created with, opens up about their life and you get the opportunity to speak Truth into their life by pointing to Christ.  These are the ordained moments where you can see God working, and I'm thankful to be able to be a part of them.