It happens every June 15th – I recall and reflect on the original calling that God gave me at the Uffizi Museum in 2002. While the calling came that year, my first official day under the banner of Uffizi occurred on June 15, 2005. I had begun a new life working with Christian Associates to consider what “liquid church” looks like – filling the gaps where the Church of Santa Barbara is not currently engaged.
I did not have any of the correct “missiological” language at the time, but I knew God was asking me what it meant to live in the midst of marginalized sub-cultures, and rather than asking them to come to the building, go to them and live the message of the good news.
If you have followed Uffizi from “Mission Project” to “Missional Order,” then you have witnessed us in the midst of the Eastside and Westside of Santa Barbara City working with low-income families and establishing kids clubs, tutoring centers, reading programs, empowerment groups, and libraries. We have established one meal sharing with Friends without Homes and now partner with Westmont’s Bread of Life meal sharing at Alameda Park. You have traveled with us as Kyli engaged the issue of local sex trafficking and helped create the county’s first needs assessment to bring valuable data and awareness to the community. We have walked with Veterans and helped them find housing and needed supports to remain housed.
I believe Uffizi still exists for three primary reasons. Primarily, I hope our existence ensures that those who live on the margins will have a voice and receive resources from the greater community that will ultimately bring about prosperity for them and their families. Another purpose we have is to engage the local church in the Biblical mandate of both bringing the good news in deed and word while ensuring justice occurs – this ultimately necessitates system change. This means more than serving the 60 regulars from the street who come to our local meal sharing, it means asking the question, “Why are there 60 people who need this food and are living on our streets in the first place? How can we change this story?” And finally we exist to collaborate and coordinate all county partners to serve our marginalized populations well – based on best practices and solid partnerships.
We are now eleven years old and far from perfect. I learn more every day as I travel this county and keep my ear to God and to the ground. I am thankful for you my friends, partners, and supporters for how you have shaped who we have become. I am thankful for the Uffizi Board and staff who are now steering the ship anew!
I saw a bumper sticker today that said, “Live a Good Story.” Ultimately, I hope that is what Uffizi is doing.