Jesus & the Marginalized: Andy Kinomoto, Part 1

As we continue through the Gospel According to Mark we see Jesus choose to engage, rather than avoid, marginalized individuals. We've asked some members to share what this means to them and how it impacts their daily lives.

Last week, PT Tidwell wrote about the Gospel and marginalization. Following the same topic, we have a two-part series where Andy Kinomoto (Kino) shares what this has practically looked like in his life.

Maybe I’m the only cold-hearted person who also manages to look like a complete dork. When you live downtown, it’s only a matter of minutes before you will encounter people asking you for money. My behavior began to change as I grew tired of these awkward encounters. Before heading out, I would empty my wallet of all cash so I could have a legitimate excuse to not give money to those who asked. And dorkiest of all, if I saw a street-worn person coming my way, I would pick up my cell phone and begin talking to an imaginary friend on the other line. Yeah, one hundred percent cold-hearted dork.

Jesus recently jabbed me in the heart on this issue. I didn’t behave this way when I was a poor college student - in fact, I looked and prepared myself for spontaneous Gospel encounters.

Many of us have probably missed out on opportunities to let the Gospel take us out of our normal context and reach the marginalized. We fall into the trap of minimizing our role in Kingdom work because we, in our minds, minimize how Jesus works. We fail to pursue meaningful relationship with our neighbors, our community, our city.

It Begins with Awareness

You don’t have to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous to know that change only begins with an awareness that change is required. Jesus followers who live radically for the sake of the Gospel are compelled to do so because they are aware of the radical change the Gospel has made in their lives.

The moment I moved to Colorado, I knew I needed to find a youth ministry to plug into - It felt instinctual - like a wilderness survivor who knows to first locate water and shelter. My greatest fear, as a single dude with no family or relational responsibilities, was wasting these prime years of life by establishing a pattern of self-indulgent and purposeless living.

I realize now that this was evidence of the Gospel driving my desires - unless you could really believe that my first thought out of the womb was, “Sorry Mom, I really need to go share the Gospel with disadvantaged high school students right now, feeding time is going to have to wait.”

We can probably agree the above scenario would be ridiculous. And so is the desire for this career-life Millennial from Seattle to prioritize time and resources for urban youth in Denver.

But the Gospel has a rich legacy of scratched heads and raised eyebrows. And I love it! From the beginning, Jesus counter-intuitively modeled how an out-of-context messenger can deliver an in-context message and trigger eternal life change.

It Continues with Struggle

I thought it would be easy for a young and motivated guy like me to get connected to a youth ministry. But six intensive months of searching, networking, applying, interviewing, and training with multiple youth organizations only led to dead ends and rejection letters. I became angry with Jesus. Pride suffocated my head as I thought Jesus deserved me because nobody else in this city my age was trying to live selflessly (ha!).

A good friend told me that I belonged in the city and so I left the suburbs behind still battling poisonous thoughts of anger and pride. But one week after moving into City Park West, I received a phone call that would change my life.

The call was from a guy named Eric Ebel - a man with the craziest love for kids that I’ve even seen and Area Director for Central Denver Young Life. “Hey man, I heard you wanted to become a volunteer leader with Young Life! Want to come see what’s happening in the city tonight?”

I had nothing going on, so I accepted Eric's invitation and asked where to meet. “Do you know where Church in the City is?” was his response. I burst out in laughter. In an instant, what Jesus had been orchestrating these past six months made total sense. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Eric. I just moved to the city last week and my new apartment is literally like five doors away from Church in the City!”

Turns out Jesus wasn’t holding out on me. With every youth ministry rejection letter and dead end, Jesus was redirecting me to something better. That something better was a ministry with Young Life at East High School which was just steps away from my new home.

Want to hear more of Kino's story? Check back tomorrow for Part 2!