I am a missionary. In March of 2015, my family and I moved away from an affluent neighborhood in Salt Lake City to go where God called us. In Utah, they name things after geographic places from the Bible. You can go to Moab. The Jordan River cuts right through the center of Salt Lake. They even call the area the land of Zion. Only they forgot one. If they really wanted to be honest, they would call the area where I now live, 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.
I 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. It is given names it doesn't deserve by people who have never been here. The communities are actually called Rose Park, Fairpark, Westpointe, Jordan Meadows, Poplar Grove, and Glendale, but most people call it 'the hood.' I call it home. When politicians talk about doing something with the homeless population, they talk about pushing them west, 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.
But this area is not really like most urban areas of big cities. Most of the people living here are hard working, blue-collar types. They are good people. Many of them are older and retired because the place was different when they first moved here but they never had the money or desire to leave. I don't blame them -- I love Rose Park. But there is a problem that's blackening Rose Park. 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."
What you saw here does a nice job sharing one of the problems we are dealing with in our mission field. I have met enough drug dealers in this area to start a Baseball league. 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. The little retired lady that lives next door 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.
But we believe God wants to redeem this place by the power of his gospel!
This is a good community full of good people and I love them. Our church loves them. Because Jesus loves them. Sadly, there's a drug problem threatening to kill Samaria. We have teams out on the street, praying for and with people. They are sharing the gospel. We are praying walking our neighborhoods and getting to know our neighbors. And we're seeing people get saved.
Some of the new believers in our church family and many of those not yet in the family have addiction problems; so I want to start an addiction recovery class. We need to start a 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 pray for our area and our recovery ministry? Will you join us in prayer for the many people in bondage in part to the drugs ? Will you pray for our ministry needs, specifically, for a building.
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 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.
May God bless you!
Salty Believer and Pastor of Redeeming Life Church