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Samaria: It's No Bed of Roses

Church, 

We are missionaries in Samaria.  You know how in Utah they name things after geographic places from the Bible.  You've been to Moab. . . Utah.  We could easily be baptized in the Jordan River that cuts through the city (although nobody would because it's so polluted). They even call this area the land of Zion.  Only, they forgot one.  If they really wanted to be honest, they would call the area where we live and serve, Samaria.  

The biblical Samaria was a place of shame.  Jews didn't travel through Samaria.  They didn't talk with Samaritans. Remember the parable Jesus told?  It was far more revealing because it was one of these "less than" Jews that helped the beaten man when the religious Jews would not.  Remember the woman at the well?  The well was in Samaria because she was a Samaritan.  It was the place those living in Jerusalem prefered not to think about.  And when they did, surely stereotypes drove their discussion.  Racism was a part of it, as were bloodlines and family ties.   It was a matter of money.  It was about pride.  But for the Samaritans, it was about shame.   Samaria was a place relegated to the insignificant.  

We live in Samaria, Utah.  The west side of Salt Lake City, specifically west of I-15, North of I-15, and East of I-215 is a pocket that's entirely different than the rest of the Salt Lake valley just like Samaria was entirely different than Jerusalem.  It is given names it doesn't deserve by people who have never been here.  We don't live in 'the hood' we live in Rose Park, Fairpark, Westpointe, Jordan Meadows, Poplar Grove, and Glendale.  These are our neighborhoods and we call them home.  When politicians talk about doing something with the homeless population, they talk about pushing them to us, to Samaria.  When the more affluent area wants to relocate the State Penitentiary to make way for high-dollar industry, Samaria is where it goes. . . in our back yard.  

But this area is not really like most urban areas of big cities.  This isn't the Tenderloin or Skidrow.  It's a good place that doesn't deserve the reputation it has now.  Like our neighbors, we're hard working, blue-collar types.  Right?  Some of the people here are older and retired because the place was different when they first moved here but they never had the money or desire to leave.  That will probably be most of us .  Who could blame us -- we love Rose Park.  But there is a problem that's blackening Rose Park.  It is cancer and it's name is drugs.  

As a church-planter in Utah, most outsiders ask me questions about the LDS.  I'd like to show you a different side of Utah and the LDS in a "This is Life" episode with Lisa Ling called "Unholy Addiction."  You guys understand it.  You know it.  Many of you are ministering on the streets and see it every week.  But this video might help you explain it to friends and family living outside Samaria.

I think what you saw here does a nice job sharing one of the problems we are dealing with in our mission field.  I've met enough drug dealers in this area to start a Baseball league and you could probably start a football conference.  Seminary never taught me what crack smells like when it's being smoked. I didn't take a counseling class about grandparents raising grandchildren because of overdoses; but now I know a few families like this and most of them are LDS.  I'm learning by simply hearing from the Lord and following him.  You are too.  Where is is leading us is not far.  The little retired lady that lives next door to me sells prescription drugs out of the house she's lived in for more than four decades. And it's as if nobody cares about any of it.  As long as the rest of the valley doesn't have to know about it, it stays just as it is.  So church, I think it's up to us to be salt and light in this place. 

We believe God wants to redeem this place by the power of his gospel! 

This is a good community full of good people. I love them.  I know our church loves them.  Because Jesus loves them.  Sadly, there's a drug problem threatening to kill Samaria.  You see it every week when you're out on the street ministering on North Temple. You know what I'm talking about.  And some of you have lived it. . . some more recently than others.    

As we move forward, we will have a great need to help new believers with addiction.  Some among our church now are struggling with various addictions.  We need to start a recovery class, or maybe more than one.  I believe it will draw many, many people and we will do it in such a way that it is driven by the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Will you join me in prayer?  Let's start praying for the recovery mission we haven't yet been able to start.  Let's pray for the many people in bondage to drugs ?  And please pray for our ministry needs, specifically, for a building.  

If you are not a part of Redeeming Life Church but would like to partner with us in this ministry, you could have a huge impact in Samaria.  We have a tremendous need for space we can use not just on Sunday, but throughout the week.  Among many other ministry things we plan to do, we will have an addiction recovery ministry.  We can get into a strategically-located, 6,000sqft building for less than $2,000 per month.  (You can learn more about it and see a video here.)  But as a new church and a new mission, we do not presently have funds for this opportunity.  

Is God asking you to partner with him to help us see this happen in this Samaria?  If so, please consider helping us financially.  You can make a financial donation on The City, our online communication system by following this link:  https://redeeminglife.onthecity.org/give.  (Please select the "Properties and Equipment" fund in the dropdown options.)  Or you may send a check to Redeeming Life Church.  901 Nocturne Drive.  Salt Lake City, Utah 84116.

Soli Deo gloria! 
Pastor Bryan