If you know who you are, you’ll know what to do. Host Gary Kendall interviews author Annika Bergen about her book, Examining the Spiritual Roots of Kansas City. Learn how the life we live today leaves a spiritual legacy for those that follow.
Donna: Welcome to the B.L.E.S.S. podcast, where we join Jesus, where He is already at work. We dream of the day when every home in America is adopted by one or more persons living the prayer, care, and share lifestyle. Your host is Gary Kendall, Catalyst for Love KC, and the National Prayer mobilizer for Blesseveryhome.com.
Gary works with founder Chris Cooper and the team at Blesseveryhome.com to equip you to live on mission where you live, learn, work, and play. If you haven’t yet signed up to adopt your neighborhood, you can do so at Blesseveryhome.com. Now let’s turn our attention to this episode of the B.L.E.S.S. podcast.
Gary: Our confidence is God goes ahead of us, so it’s not like we have to manufacture the things we’re talking about today. God actually t’s the ball up for us by working in people’s hearts, drawing them to himself, and we get to join him in that effort by coming alongside Him and be a person that He uses to speak life and truth to the child that he loves.
Today, we have Annika Bergen with us. She’s an author, and she’s a person that is living what she talks about, and we’re going to get a chance to talk about how Annika is living a life on mission, and you can do the same. So to those of you who are listening, I encourage you to lean in a bit today as we talk about not just writing books and the kinds of truth you can find in those; although, I hope that you do and I want to be sure and plug those at the end. But what I hope is you see just is a regular person who, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, is able to be used by God to draw her friends to a life that is better than they can imagine.
Welcome Annika, I am glad you’re with us today. Why don’t you start just by telling us a little bit about yourself and maybe even how you kind of arrived at this moment, some of the things that are brought you to this moment and then we’ll talk about some other parts of your life and your mission and eventually your writings.
Annika: Definitely. Thanks, it’s good to be on the show. So, in college, I majored in writing, but I always had a heart for mission work. So I went to India three different times after college and then started raising support to be a full-time missionary in Nepal. But the funny thing that happened was while I was raising support to be a missionary in Nepal, I was traveling around Kansas City meeting with people, and I kept hearing story after story of brokenness in Kansas City. I would tell them about poverty in India, and they would talk about poverty in Kansas City and demon possession in India, and they talk about demon possession on Independence Avenue.
I remember just praying during that time and saying, Lord, I feel like you’re calling me to Kansas City, but I’m going to Nepal. But obviously God knows what he’s doing and so here I am, six years later, and God’s led me along with Bill high C.E.O. of the Signatory to write the book, The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City.
I just find it so ironic that God, years before I started the book project with Bill God called me to Kansas City and gave me a heart for Kansas City and then let me stay in my hometown and be a missionary.
Gary: It’s amazing, and we always talk about God working ahead of us. Obviously, He was. So tell us a little bit about your life outside of writing. We’re going to get to the writing in a minute. But outside of that, what are some of your interests? What are some of your passions? Tell us some things you’ve been involved in ministry or anything else that you want to share with the listeners?
Annika: Well, a huge part of my life is, I’m involved in a church plant called Fountain City Church in Overland Park Kansas, and that’s just been such a blessing to be with other Christians that are really serious about living out their faith together and following Jesus together.
I’ve also volunteered with Exodus Cry, a ministry that fights human trafficking in Kansas City. I enjoy art and going to poetry readings. I enjoy running. I find new coffee shops. I like to hang out with friends and explore the city.
Gary: That’s great. Good. So I want to ask you a question. I ask this of most of our presenters on our podcasts. Who prayed for you?
We always talk about living this life that’s on a mission for Jesus. When we do, we grow to be like Jesus, but we usually raise up at least three things that anyone can do–and that’s to pray, to care, and to share. Then we talk a little bit about how those things feed into the life of a disciple. We define a disciple as a person who is willing to also disciple others.
Who was it that prayed for you? We’re encouraging our listeners to pray for others. Who prayed for you? And how do you think that prepared your heart for the life that you have now?
Annika: I feel really lucky because I had a lot of people praying for me. The first ones that I think of are my grandparents Alan and Helen Bergen. They are 90 and 91 right now, and they told me that they prayed for me my entire life, every night by name, which is absolutely phenomenal. I know their prayers made all the difference.
There is also my Dad, Mike Bergen, is faithful at prayer. He has a list of names that he goes through every single day, and so I know that he is praying for me all the time too.
Gary: Very cool. How’s that affected you? And are there people that you’re praying for?
Annika: Yeah, I do, I have a prayer list. I would say that I feel like I’m not as big of a champion at it as they are. It’s definitely a struggle to be faithful to it. I feel like prayer is the invisible work because Jesus tells us when we pray, go into a closet close the door. So you really don’t know who is praying for you. So you see things happen in your life, and you think they just happen, but you don’t know if they’re happening because of people praying for you.
Gary: We have such a privilege in prayer. That’s one of the things that I often think about when I’m praying for others is that for some reason, I can’t even understand, God has chosen to honor the prayers of his kids. Now, as a parent, I get that because I want to honor the requests of my kids and my grandkids. If I can meet their needs, I want to do that, of course. But here we are, people who have in many ways failed God, and yet He’s never given up on us and He won’t.
It’s not just that he saves us. I mean, He does save and redeem us but it is a reclamation project! Sometimes we can see the redemptive work of God in our lives, and we say thank you for that. But then even on top of that He’s still saying, ask Me for what you want. Ask Me for what you need. If you lack wisdom, ask God, and He gives it generously, James 1:5 says. He’ll give it without shame.
God is begging us to ask. The book of Revelation gives us pictures about our prayers being recorded in heaven filling big golden bowls. I know it’s a metaphor but our prayers are collected. All of those things say to me that prayer might just be more important to God than to us.
What if we would value prayer as much as He did? That thought inspires me. It inspires me to pray for my friends, co-workers, and neighbors. I know you do that too.
So on this podcast we are talking to a bunch of people and saying, if you’ll lean into prayer God will answer your prayers in ways that you can’t even imagine.
Gary: So tell us a little bit about yourself. You mentioned Exodus Cry and sex trafficking. What was it in your heart? What kind of passion pulled you into that? Not everybody is willing to venture into that.
Annika: It’s the Lord. I was in college, and I was just reading through the book of Job, which can kind of be a dry book if you don’t understand what’s going on. But I was reading through, and eventually, Job’s three friends speak. Near the end of the book, there’s a fourth friend Elihu that speaks.
I was reading that, and this verse popped out to me. It said, but God does speak in dreams and visions of the night. I don’t even remember the rest of the verse. But I remember that specific phrase– dreams and visions of the night.
I prayed. I didn’t come from a charismatic church that really talked about that very much. They mentioned visions and dreams, but it wasn’t emphasized at all. I remember telling God if you want to speak to me that way, I’m open to it. That night I had a dream that men trapped me. It wasn’t actually sexual abuse, but I knew that what was going on stood for sexual abuse if that makes sense.
Then in the dream, these people came in. They broke into the room and rescued me. That feeling of being rescued was so powerful. Then I woke up from the dream. The first thing that popped into my head was–God does speak to us in dreams and visions of the night.
So, that just planted a little seed. I thought, oh my goodness Lord, I have no idea what You’re doing or what you’re saying to me through this dream, but it feels like it was from you. So it just kind of sat in my heart for a while.
Then in college I had a friend who had a Major in social work. One evening she heard domestic violence going on in the apartment next to her and so she couldn’t come to our discipleship meeting that night. She was scared to leave her house.
Later I talked about it. I asked why didn’t she call the police. She said the neighbors would have known it was her who called and then she was scared. She feared that they would attack her. So since she was a social work major, I started talking with her about how trapped women are.
I had never realized how hard it is to get out of an abusive situation. I would always ask, why don’t they just leave? It was really eye opening and heartbreaking to hear her explain to me how the system works and how the system really doesn’t work.
So I started volunteering at a shelter for domestic violence while I was in college. And later I did the same when I was at a church plant in Pittsburgh. We had an outreach to women who were being exploited through prostitution. We just walked around the neighborhood handing out sandwiches and water bottles and inviting women to the women’s shelter; they had there.
So it was natural that when I returned to Kansas City, and was told about Exodus Cry, through from multiple people that I eventually reached out to their team and got connected with their outreach here in Kansas City.
Gary: Well, one thing I love about the story you just told is, God will lead his children into places where their passion and life experience will match up with the needs. God gave you a dream to prompt you into looking into it. But then as you did, you felt something inside that kept drawing you to it.
What I often tell people as we talk about living this pray, care, and share life is to look for the things that speak to your heart. If there is a cry in your heart of human longing or human need pay attention to that. What are the things that you can’t, NOT do?
We talk sometimes about the things that we want to do, but what are the things you can’t, not do? For what do you have a deep passion? In those situations, it’s almost like you can’t help yourself; you have to do something.
I’m guessing that when you were feeling led in Pittsburgh and then later in Kansas City, there was something that you felt like, I’ve got to do this! I can’t know what I know and not do something.
Annika: The timing of it is so strange because I moved from Pittsburgh to Kansas City and the first year in Kansas City within a month of being in Kansas City; someone told me about Exodus Cry. At the time, I didn’t feel any draw towards them. I knew that was so strange because historically, God it always burdened my heart for it. But he didn’t do it until a year later, so I didn’t reach out to Exodus Cry for a year.
Then when I did, the team leader said to me, this is perfect timing because our old leader left a year ago, and we haven’t done anything for a year, and we’re starting up the team. So that was phenomenal for me to see that God knew I wouldn’t have any place to fit in until a year later. So he didn’t burden my heart for it until then.
I always think it’s so important to rest in God’s timing and not feel like you have to do ministry, and you have to do outreach. But God will lead you into it when it is time.
Gary: Absolutely. I agree with that we can rest in God’s timing. I think we can we can over-do it if we move just in our strength. Whenever I feel the urge that I have to make something happen, I will fight back against that urge. My experience says when I let it happen in the way that God wants it to happen, it’s so much more effective.
In the sense of needing to prove myself or needing to tell this story or some sense of personal need–I’ll get in the way. Doing that makes it about me instead of the other person. I think that God will put His hand on my shoulder and say I love the zealous heart that you have to help but let Me lead. Let Me prepare the way for you, and then He does, in amazing ways!
Gary: I’ll tell you one thing that happened to me. I just recently went to China and served there. This is now my eighth year to help lead a soccer camp there in China. There are a lot of things that I can’t share about that particular experience, but I will tell you what happened on the plane. I was getting ready to go on this trip, and the weather was terrible in Chicago. The flights were being canceled. The airport was full of people who are frustrated and angry. I thought if I miss my connecting flight in Chicago, I’m going to miss my flight to Hong Kong, and who knows what happens after that? How will I connect with my partners?
All of those things are going through my head, but I’ve been in that situation enough to know that it hasn’t helped to worry or fuss because I have so little control. I’m just sitting there telling God, You got this and do what you want to do. Like whatever happens, happens, and I’m trusting that You’re going to make the most of it.
Well, I barely made the plane. I actually wouldn’t have if some things hadn’t happened. God just opened the door and got me on the plane. I sat down beside this lady who was from India. You mentioned India. This lady worked for the National Bank of India. She’d had been on a trip to Kansas City for fact-finding. India would like Kansas City to be a trading partner.
She had a good four or five days here, and now she was headed back. It was her first experience in the U.S. So I sat down beside her, and we just exchanged hellos and things like that. My wife, Belinda, has been to India twenty-six times and she loves India. So I started there, saying how much my wife loves India, which got her talking. We had a great conversation.
I asked, what did you think of America? What do you think of Kansas City? She said some things and then she asked some questions. I asked if there was anything she wanted to know but couldn’t find out while she was here? There were some things that she wondered about. She asked simple kinds of questions, the kind that is fun to talk about.
Then I said I want to know more about India, so tell me some things about India. I started out asking questions about India, and we talked about that for a while. It was a straightforward, naturally flowing, conversation. Then I told her that I’d like to know more about her faith; her religious faith. I don’t know a lot about it the Hindu faith. I said, are you Hindu? She said yes, so I said I don’t know a lot about how the Hindu people practice their faith. Can you tell me?
She spent 15 and 20 minutes talking about her faith. I listened and interacted with her about it. I asked about the afterlife and a variety of questions. She was very willing to share.
In the end, I asked if she was interested in my faith and how I practice it. I’m a Christian, I said. Are you interested in what we believe? She said she knew a little bit about Christianity, but she said yes, tell me what you believe.
So there’s a perfect opportunity after listening for 45 minutes, to share about the Christian faith. So I did. You know I’ve heard a lot of these things before, she said, but you know what I don’t understand about Christianity is why Christians make such a big deal about sin.
She went on to say that many of the things we call sin they would just say, we are all human. For example, if we tell a lie or we do something inconsistent with us when we’re at our best we just say that is normal. But you call these things sin. She said it sounds very demeaning. It’s like you have this big deal about what’s wrong with people.
I thought this was a perfect segway to talk about Christ and the faith He has in us as people. He knows who we are. He knows that we aren’t perfect and yet he came to pay for the sin that we can’t pay for. I was able to explain Christ on the cross and a whole lot of things, which, to me, was where I would have wanted to go anyway.
She opened the door wide for that. I can’t say that at the end of it that she said, I want to pray a prayer but I think that she gained a lot of understanding about who Jesus is and about what Christians believe. Maybe she has a little better understanding of how that we, as Christians, really focus on grace and life and freedom. Those are the things we gain by what Christ did for us and our focus isn’t with sin. We are actually rejoicing in the freedom that Christ gave because he paid for our sins.
I tell that story to say that we need to be available to God. We need to trust His timing and His way by saying to God, just do what You do. Then we need to be ready. It is like you’re talking about. We must be prepared to flow into the stream of what God is doing.
Tell me a little bit about when you share your faith with people. You don’t have to go into any depth about people’s personalities, but what are the things on your mind? What motivates you? How do you talk about your faith?
Share with our listeners some of the things that go through your mind as you live this life of being on mission.
Annika: I think the biggest thing is to be continually praying for what God has to say to them. I mean it’s so essential. I’ve heard the phrase–share the Gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words. It’s always crucial because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
There is something so powerful in loving people. I remember one time I went to the Plaza where I was meeting a friend. I had arrived early, so I was walking around, and I prayed as I walked around the Plaza; Lord, if there is anyone here that you want me to talk to, will you please lead me to them?
As I was walking around, this girl with a clipboard stopped me and asked if I had a few minutes to listen to her. I’m not exactly sure what she was sharing, but it was something to do with pro-LGBT rights. So I stopped and said, no thank you, and kept walking. Then I felt this little nudge. I’d just been praying for someone to talk to so I went back to talk to her. I went back and said I actually would like to hear what you had to say. She started explaining to me what they stood for and the whole dynamic involved with that. I was continually praying, Lord, what would you have for me to say to her. I was a complete blank. The entire conversation, not a word, came to me for something to say to her, and I thought; this is a wash. I’m just standing there listening.
Then at the end of the conversation, she said to me you’re a Christian, aren’t you? I said yes, how did you know? She said because you just listened to me.
Annika: The whole time, I had felt like, I’m such a failure because I don’t have anything to say. But God knew what she needed was someone to listen to her. Then she said I used to be one of you. So, at that moment, I realized she probably has already heard the Gospel, and there’s probably something else going on in her heart, and God knew what she needed was just a Christian to listen to her.
That’s so important to not ever put pressure on yourself, as you said, but always be in prayer because God’s faithful, and He says words will be given to you to speak at the time you need it. So listen.
Gary: Yes, I believe that. That’s great. You did the right thing at that moment. Let me ask you a question like this; So Annika, if you had the chance to say to your friends, this is what I wish you knew about Jesus, what would you say? I know it that may be tailored differently toward the life needs of different people, but overall, I mean, this is a free shot. If someone asked, why should I follow Jesus? What do you believe? What’s special about it? What would you say?
Annika: Well, I think the biggest thing is that he’s real. There is a God who created the world. Jesus did live and die. And on the third day, He rose from the dead. If someone is the Creator of the world, if that is real, and then He becomes a person who dies and comes back to life–we have every reason in the world to listen to what He says.
I think a lot of times, people view religion as; what’s in it for me? What do I enjoy? What do I get out of it? The biggest thing is that Jesus is fantastic, and He loves us, and there is every reason to follow Jesus.
But at the end of the day, you ask; well, is He real or is He not real? If He is not real, don’t follow Him. If He is real, there’s absolutely no reason to follow anything else besides Him. So for me, the biggest thing is just determining, did Jesus Christ live, die, and rise from the dead? If so, He’s worth everything.
Gary: So let’s say He did. I am going to run with that. What does He mean to you? What’s it mean in your life to be follower of Jesus? What happens inside of your heart? What happens inside of you that you want to share with the world?
Annika: Really it’s love and mercy. I think the biggest thing is Jesus has freed me from shame. I think Christians, a lot of times, talk about Jesus paying for our sins and forgiving us from our sins. I had heard that as a child, and I understood that, but I still lived with this sense of shame. God forgives me, but no one can ever know what I’ve done.
The Gospel became real to me in the summer after my senior year of high school, and I went through this prayer ministry called The Apostolic Prayer. The Lord revealed to me that He didn’t just die to pay for my sins, He died to free me from my shame. There’s never any reason that God won’t love us because Jesus, when He took our sin he took away any sense of shame that we’d feel because the old person that sinned is dead. We are entirely new people that are perfecting. God has no reason not to love us, and it’s an absolute miracle!
Gary: Yeah, that’s awesome. I love that. One of the great understandings for me–when things clicked–was to grasp that, just like Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, we’ve all chosen rebellion. Their choice against God’s way introduced a virus to the human race. The virus of sin was the cause that sent Jesus to the cross. On the cross, He paid not only the sin of Adam but also the sin of the whole world. His death paid for my sin too.
So I do not ever have to try to get Him to forgive my sins. He already has. He did that before I even knew that he did it. Following Jesus is less about trying to be able to correct all the sin in my life and more about getting to know the person Who loved me so much that he did this for me before I even knew him.
While my life was messed up and screwed up when I was doing it all wrong, He never gave up on me, and I want to get to know him. So it becomes then, about a relationship.
I think that when I first started to follow Jesus, there was a time in my life where I thought that I had to earn His salvation or maybe balance the scales or something like that. That was a difficult way to live because we can’t ever do it. I didn’t find the freedom or joy in life, but when I began to realize whether I accept it or not, He’s already paid for the sin of all humankind things began to change.
I do need to accept the gift, the invitation of relationship, and I need to accept the grace and accept His leadership in my life. That’s the choice I get to make now. As I make it, it’s not about my sin because it was taken care of long ago. It’s about the love and the relationship He has for me. This is life changing for me because there’s nothing in the New Testament about trying to make my wrongs right. He already did. This is a message we need to tell people.
Now tell me a little bit about the book. Let’s talk about that for a bit. You wrote a book that I’m reading and enjoy. So please tell the listeners.
Annika: So it’s The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City discovering our past to shape our future. I wrote the book with Bill High. It started as a history of churches in Kansas City, but as we worked on, it became a history of Kansas City. You can’t separate the history in our city from what God has done in the churches in our city.
For example, the Chouteau family founded Kansas City. They were French-Catholic fur traders. Along with starting Chouteau’s trading post by the river, they also began Chouteau’s Church, which was the first Church in Kansas City. Then Johnson County was started when Reverend Thomas Johnson came as a missionary to the Shawnee Indian tribe that had settled here.
It was similar with Westport. First, there was Isaac McCoy, who was a Baptist missionary, and then, his son John Calvin McCoy who started Westport as a trading post. Eventually, they all merged to become Kansas City.
The book begins with the foundations of Kansas City. Then it chronicles the city life through the Civil War days and how churches responded to that. Next came the industrialization. In the ’20s there was mob rule in Kansas City. The book reveals how the church responded to that. We then pick up the story again with the Jesus movement right up to modern-day. There are so many events that transformed the Kansas City. And what God is doing now has roots in the past.
For every story I included in the book, I felt like there are at least 100 stories I wasn’t telling. This is hard for me, especially as I go into modern-day, and I talk about ten ministries but not the 200 ministries here that are equally awesome. But it’s just like a small taste of what God’s done in this city.
Gary: As I was reading, the thing that kept standing out to me was the individual people and the choices that they were making. For example, what was the name of the woman who was one of the early founders? Was it Bernice?
Annika: Bernice Chouteau.
Gary: Even though she was a wealthy person, she was investing in and helping others who didn’t have much. Then there was some sickness, or I forget what happened.
Annika: There is cholera outbreak so she traveled to the neighboring Native American villages caring for the sick. When children died, she would provide burial slots for them. She used up all her fabric, and so she took her wedding dress and cut it up to use.
Gary: I know that stood out to me. I was thinking, you know we’re always teaching pray, care, and share today. She was doing that; she was caring on a deep level and showing Christ to the people in this situation.
Gary: I love the stories like that. It’s interesting how many of the streets in Kansas City that are named after people that you wrote about.
Gary: I’ve seen the names growing up in Kansas City for years and never knew the stories. I suppose they were someone’s name, but I never knew for sure. So to go back and read them and then see how many were people of faith–it was astounding to me!
Annika: That’s one thing I decided to add as I was impacted by that too. I would be reading history and then think; Wornall Road is named after John Wornall. I saw he was one of the top three church builders in Kansas City. The same is true with Holmes Road. Robert and Mary Ann Holms were two of the first ten people to found The First Baptist Church of Kansas City.
Gary: I don’t know how you came up with the idea of adding the little grayed–in sections that are like a parenthetical thought, but I like it. It’s almost like you’re writing a story, and then all of a sudden you say, when you see this or see that–think about this. Then you would give a parenthetical thought about it to help place it.
That was so cool because you’re looking at history and then you’re thinking about today. And then you look at history and then you’re thinking about today, which is what I think the reader does anyway. But your little thoughts–they were so poignant to kind of sum up and clarify things.
You say, here’s the prevailing principle or truth that we learned out of that, and here’s a way to remember that stuff. That’s so good. That was one of the best experiences I had when researching. I love the little connections. As I drove around Kansas City, I would see Armor traffic way and think of the Armor family. So I wanted people to see it not just as history but also as the city today and to make those connections.
Gary: That’s inspiring. I mean, when I read it, I was so inspired, and I kept thinking, what will history say about today? That is what kept going in my mind. What are the things that we’re doing today that will be history tomorrow? How can we honor God and fulfill his purpose as well? God has a purpose for every city. I think we would say that, but it becomes very apparent God has an excellent use for Kansas City, and we get to serve into it.
Annika: I think what struck me the most regarding that was what people say today I learned, and as I did research, that change always came from the person who chose to do what was hard and unpopular. That was true in the Civil Rights movement or for standing against the mob or during the Civil War. The person who instigated change, that we all later praise, was often the person that everyone hated, or almost everyone hated it when they lived.
I’m talking about people that took an uncomfortable stand or something like that. They did what was hard, and they stood against the entire flow of society. They got the flak for it, and they did the hard work to convince other people to change and to follow them.
Gary: That speaks to us today.
Annika: Me, personally especially being involved in a church-plant and with social justice issues like sex trafficking, it’s one thing to say yes, I’m against sex trafficking but then to say actually pornography and even movie industries and our entire culture regarding sexuality fuels sex trafficking. Well, people don’t like hearing that if it’s a part of their life and its actually fueling abuse. So it’s inspired me to say the hard things and challenge people.
Gary: I appreciate that. One of the thoughts that I had, that just jumped out at me was, and you’ll have to help me with the person who did this, was the story of the person who conceived what he called “the City beautiful.” He pictured the future in his mind and then worked to see it come to pass. Some of the things that we love the most about Kansas City, the Boulevards, the Fountains, and the Parks were things he pictured in his mind. He called his vision–the city beautiful.
Annika: Reverend Hopkins.
Gary: The way he described it; I thought he was talking about kingdom-come kinds of things. He gave them very physical realities. But I’m sure he was thinking beyond that. He asked himself questions like, what happens if we’re living in a place of peace? What happens if we’re a place where people live with justice? It seems like all of these things were probably in his mind I would love to hear the sermons from his day because he inspired a whole bunch of people from his congregation. They all did various specific things that have made our city what it is today. That was such an exciting chapter.
Annika: Reverend Henry Hopkins is whom you are speaking about. What I loved about his sermons is that he just emphasized that Jesus is for every day of the week, whatever career you have. So from that, He affects every job that you have in part of that which is our physical environment.
Then Kansas City became known for its parks and Boulevard system because a member of his Church A.R. Meyer, which if you drove through Brookside, you recognize the name, Meyer. Meyer heard this sermon started the Kansas City Park Board, and four of the five members went to Hopkins’ Church. They hired a man named Kessler. Kessler designed Kansas City. Another fun fact with Hopkins is that Thomas Swope went to Hopkins’ Church, and was also inspired by the sermon he donated Swope Park, which is the largest park donation at that time.
Gary: I think that one of the mistakes we make in life is–sometimes we divide the sacred and secular. I think God sees it all as sacred. I believe that there are people who say that the main work of their life is their work. They want to be a Christian at work, but they often can’t figure out how the things that they’re doing in their work could make the world a different place or a better place or how that feeds into the Kingdom of Heaven.
I know there is a connection, and I would love to encourage people to pray into it. If you’re an engineer or you could be working as a health provider in the health profession, or pick any job, there are things that you’re doing that contribute to the well being of others. What are those things? How can we think about seeing the kingdom of heaven come into our workplace? How could our workplace be more like a kingdom of heaven? I believe that when we begin to think those thoughts that are God-honoring, it takes us beyond, and things like you’re describing get created.
Annika: Yes, quite inspiring.
Gary: If there was a story that if you could pick as a favorite, which one would you tell?
Annika: Well, one story I like to tell is a story that I originally had in the book. It was cut out in one of the edits. I will tell it on the podcast.
As I was writing the book, I stopped at a coffee shop in Olathe called Sweet Tee’s. I was standing there ordering my drink, and as I was waiting for my vanilla latte to come, there is this cluster of four or five people at a table next to me. I looked over, and their heads were bowed, and they were praying, and it just struck me that this prayer meeting right here is the history of the Church in Kansas City. I didn’t interrupt them, so I have no idea what church there were from. I don’t know their names, but they are the history of the church.
Part of what I do with Spiritual Roots to take people around Kansas City to key historical spots for church history, and the last stop is Liberty Memorial. I have people look out at the Kansas City skyline and the buildings, and I talk to them about how, when we look at the skyline, we can’t see the bricks that make the buildings. Each brick is pretty much invisible, and yet we know what the bricks hold the building together. Bricks build is the skyline. Some of those have been there for 100 years or more.
I love that analogy because the Lord said that we are living stones building His Church, and so we, for the most part, are invisible. We bring food to potlucks, we pray, and we go to prayer meetings. We paint the church, we clean the church, and our work is invisible. But it’s just so powerful to remind people that what we do lasts for generations and people won’t see our lives they won’t remember our names but what we’re building will stand for eternity.
Gary: I love that. That’s great. When I’m encouraging, equipping, coaching whatever it is I do with Love KC, one of the things that I say is, never forge, we stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before us. We may think we’re innovating, and hopefully we are. But someone has prayed for us or we wouldn’t even be doing what we’re doing. I get to lead a ministry like Love KC, where we’re equipping people to live on mission every day, believing if we do, we’ll grow to be like Jesus.
Yet the truth is that probably people prayed for a ministry just like this years ago. I’m coming in answer to their prayers, by the grace and power of God. The good thing about thinking about that is, first of all, it brings gratitude and humility to the surface, but also it reminds me to leave this wide pathway for others so that they can follow and I encourage people to do that.
I always think that what we do at Love KC is, we’re not the heroes in the story, and we are the guides. We want the everyday person to be the hero. We want them to find their place of fulfillment.
I realize Jesus is the hero with a capital H, but the beautiful thing about what He does is He allows us, when we’re fully operating the way that he wants; to be a part of something divine and eternal. There are people in heaven because of the way we live. Just like the heroes in the Bible, He enables us to be heroes in our everyday life. Everyone can be one. You don’t have to go to a movie where you watch the Avengers be superheroes; you can be a part of what God is doing in your everyday world.
You might be the difference-maker for someone who ends up in heaven because of the way you lived or because of the words you spoke or the time that you reach out to someone. I think that’s so exciting. Is there anything that you want to add that you were hoping you would get a chance to say before we came on this podcast? If you thought, if I get a chance, I want to be sure and say this; what would you say?
Annika: Well, I was thinking about prayer and about the difference that prayer makes. Then one of the questions you had said to me was, for whom do you pray? So I was thinking not necessarily about that, but I guess I pray for strangers all the time, and especially when there are sirens that pass, I’ll pray for the people. I just wanted to share a story about that.
Usually, you never hear what happened, but so there is a family in my church where I grew up in Maryland, and they passed a car wreck outside of their apartment, and so the whole family paused and prayed for both the physical and the spiritual well being of the person in the car wreck. I don’t know how many months later there is a lady that visited my parent’s small group, and she had been in a car wreck, and what led her back to Christ, she just woke up from a three-week coma and just trusted God. She had a heart change.
Later she visited the church, and I’m sure you know where this is going, and then the family met her and figured out that she had been in the wreck they prayed for. Usually, we don’t get to see the difference that praying for strangers makes, but that’s just such a cool story. God hears it.
Gary: My wife and I do that if we hear a siren will often stop and pray. We see people pulled over beside the road or something more often, so we stop and pray; we know that God honors prayer. It makes a difference. Thanks for sharing that. Well, Annika, thanks for being on the podcast today. Thanks for living your life in a way that you’re living on mission.
I look forward to other books you’re going to write. Do tell people where they can find this book. Remind them of the title again and again where can they find it.
Annika: It’s The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City; Discovering the past to shape our future I, Annika Bergen, wrote it with Bill High. It’s on sale on Amazon, and we have a landing page http://www.thesignatry.com/kcroots, and it has the book for sale.
We’ve also created sermon outlines that pastors can use and photos for stories about church history if they want to preach a couple of sermons. We are offering Spiritual Roots tours of Kansas City, and I mentioned we go to five different stops in the city and share stories. So that’s thesignatry.com/kcroots.
Gary: I’ve told you that I’d love to bring the Love KC team on an outing and go through your tour and think about the legacy that we’re living into. I’d be fun to then dream about the legacy that God would have us to live, in light of the way we live our lives.
Thanks for your stories and your inspiration. For those who are listening, it is a reminder that we encourage you to live a life that’s on mission every day where you live, learn, work, and play. Follow Jesus and know He’s already working ahead of us. We don’t have to manufacture things; we live into them.
People are not projects; they’re dearly loved children that are finding their way back toward God. God helps them find their way back to him, which is the ultimate desire of their life, and we get to be a part. It’s an awesome thing. So thanks for listening.
I encourage you to go to the podcast and subscribe. Please subscribe and if you would please write a review. Tell your friends and pass it on. Go get the book, The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City.
Thank you, Annika.
Donna: Thanks for joining in today for the B.L.E.S.S. podcast. People often ask what do the letters stand for in B.L.E.S.S. We like to think of B.L.E.S.S. as a lifestyle where we “B,” begin with prayer. “L,” listen to God and to others. “E,” Eat together. “S,” serve, and “S,” story, share your story, and the story of Jesus.
We not only pray that every home in America will be adopted by a disciple who lives this lifestyle but also those that do, will join their efforts to build missional communities where we live, learn, work, and play.
If you haven’t yet signed up for Blesseveryhome.com, you can go there now. You can find more from host Gary Kendall including ways to connect outside of this podcast at LoveKC.net. Thank you for being a part of this B.L.E.S.S. podcast today. We invite you to subscribe, to like it, share it, and write a review. Now let’s join Jesus, where He is already at work.