October 6 was the 3rd Annual Care Fresno Fall Ball, with the theme of “Masquerade.” The theme was intentionally an extension of Care Camp’s “Mask Off” theme as our team continues to delve into uncovering what is beneath the masks that make up our neighborhoods and are worn by our kids. A resident from each of our residential sites had a table at Fall Ball with information about their apartment complex as they talked about their experience and neighborhood. They shared with guests that the “masks” that cover each of our neighborhoods are the buildings, environments, and first looks that may not leave positive impressions. When we take the masks off, however, we discover the kids, families, volunteers, and Mission Care residents who make up these neighborhoods. We discover their strength and resilience in the midst of poverty, crime, and brokenness. The masks that make up our neighborhoods highlight an obvious need and may draw people into getting involved, but it is the beauty behind the masks that keeps me and many of my teammates involved in the ministry of Care Fresno. It was a special evening where our residents and staff got to share the heartbeat behind what we do and stories of those whose lives are intersecting with ours, while inviting those in attendance to join us in what we are doing.
The day after Fall Ball, I brought my mentee Alexa with me to serve at the Fresno Rescue Mission with others from our church. She has a heart for serving people who are homeless, so she was so excited to be a part of this serving opportunity and she dove right into every project that was part of the day. The Rescue Mission staff led our group on a prayer walk that included offering prayer and feet washing to those we met on the street. Alexa was the first to volunteer to pray and wash feet. Even though she got nervous and deferred to me when it came time to wash the feet of a lady we met, she paid close attention to her story and allowed the stories and specifics of various people we met to deeply affect her. The day’s itinerary also included helping with Saturday Sports through ENP and serving meals at the Rescue Mission. Through all of this, Alexa noticed and held on to details about individuals. She saw beneath the masks of the streets and neighborhoods these individuals come from and focused on unique characteristics of individuals: the sickness one lady had, the comments another woman made, the way a certain man carried himself. She asked questions as she served and she opened herself to learning new things while serving without judgment. It was a delight to serve with her and to invite her to be a part of a serving opportunity that is in line with her God-given passion.
It’s easy to notice exterior masks of people and places; it takes time and energy to see behind a mask. As I’ve gotten to know what’s behind the mask of my mentee and other Care Fresno kids and neighbors, they continually bring me face to face with things within me and things and people I encounter that I treat like a masquerade, failing to see what’s really there. But when we all take off our own masks and look beyond each other’s masks, we come closer to seeing the image of God in each other and treating one another as His image bearers worthy of love, and actions motivated by this perspective can change the landscapes of our neighborhoods.