Our guest blogger, Jeff, is back from Puerto Rico. This is the afterword to his post a couple weeks ago…
Last summer my 10-year-old daughter and I trekked halfway around the world to Mozambique, Africa. In the coastal town of Pemba, we stayed in the Village of Joy, one of Iris Ministries’ many bases throughout Mozambique. People from all corners of the world had found their way to this base, which provided support and assistance to the local community as well as a home and school grounds for hundreds of children who, for varying reasons, could not be supported by biological family members.
One of the missions of the base is to provide a meal to local children daily. Children from nearby villages walked onto the base barefoot in the red Mozambican dust, the older with the younger in tow, carrying containers of varying shapes and sizes so that they could take their leftovers home to the rest of the family. One of these children was Juliet, a quiet 12-year-old who slipped her hand into mine and sat beside me with contentment while many of the other children climbed (quite literally) over my shoulders, yanked my straight, unkinky hair into braids, and grabbed wonderingly at the small digital camera in my purse.
I saw Juliet many times in our two-week stay as my daughter and I served food, but the last time she came to get a meal she had a baby boy wrapped onto her back. “Oh, is this your brother?” I asked her in broken Portuguese while she stood in line to rinse her hands with a pan of water. “No,” she said, smiling shyly, “My son.”
When I go to bed in the evening and look out into the city-lit night, I am often reminded that there is a girl named Juliet looking up at a very different piece of sky that bursts with the clarity of flaming white stars above her home, most likely a simple hut that is shared with many family members. Thirteen now, she is too old to get a meal with the other children, but she has a child, a toddler now, who she will soon send in her place.
One of the inevitable outcomes of being “on mission” is that the lives and circumstances of our fellow brothers and sisters become undeniable. And while my two-week stay most likely did not make a statistically significant impact on the long-term availability of food or water or peace for many people, I am reasonably sure some children felt my love and the love of God because of my simple actions of service. But beyond that, I am ruined for living my ordinary-Iowa-life by the knowledge that a girl close to the age of my own daughter is raising a child of her own, that a boy I knew lost his father during the floods this past year, and that another 12-year-old boy we befriended was left to find food for himself and his brothers and his sisters while his father and mother worked far away from home for many days. Another conscientious young man who (anachronistically) has access to Facebook at irregular intervals is praying fervently for his school to be outfitted with one computer to enhance communication and education of the students.
This knowledge is as undeniable as my own infant crying for attention. And it begs for my response, mostly prayerful but sometimes monetary and practical. The G.I. Joe public service ads from the 80s quipped, “Knowing is half the battle.” In the case of my mission trip, knowledge has become a responsibility I’m wearing these days like a heavy jacket.
And I’m all right with that. In fact, I think maybe that’s how things are supposed to be.
It’s crazy how time flies!
It seems like last week that my family and I were discussing the possibility of joining the mission team to Puerto Rico this year! Yet here I am ready to pack and go!
I’ve never been on a trip like this and while I can’t say that I’m nervous, I can say that I’m always a little hesitant when I’m going into a situation where there are more unknowns than knowns. To be sure, I do not know Puerto Rico, but I guess what keeps me going is that I do know that I have never regretted any trip into the unknown with God.
At the core, yes–He will stretch me and He will challenge me, which is never comfortable, but He will be right there with me–which gets me excited about what’s ahead!
In the end I guess I’d rather live for Him and have some unknowns than live for me and have no adventure!
The show was on in the background during snippets of my childhood, but I caught enough to see Norm belly up to the bar on many an occasion, ready to spill a few troubles while he downed a few drinks. The most popular line of the show’s theme song, Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, is our tagline for this month’s series, Community.
I’ve experienced what it’s like to be known and loved in all of my complexity–strengths and weaknesses, achievements and failures. But I’ve also drifted through seasons of not feeling known at all–not being in close, connected relationships with other believers. Being disconnected makes the hard harder, the solitary moments lonelier, and the celebrated ones not quite as wonderful as they should be.
Community is a wonderful thing. But making good friends and close connections is a process that took time and sometimes felt risky. And frightening. Sometimes the people we love best hurt us. Yet, ironically, those same people can be our biggest fans, loudest encouragers and greatest allies. It takes a little faith to wade into the complexity of could-be friendships to test the waters, and even more faith and commitment to stick it out through differences and misunderstandings that inevitably come. At the end of the day, I’ve decided that the choppy exchanges, failed attempts, and strong currents encountered along the way were worth the treasure I found in the process. Relationships don’t always work the way we hope they will, but when you find a kindred spirit who is committed to journeying alongside you come thick or thin, hang on to that.
And if you haven’t tested the waters lately, try connecting with someone this week. It could be a perfect day for swimming.
I must confess that my wife and I are frequent Netflix users. In fact we have watched multiple shows from season one episode one to finishing what is provided on Netflix from that particular show. It is a weird sadness that happens when we get near the end. It’s almost like I want it to finish, but I don’t want it to be done either. Sometimes I’ll even avoid watching the last episode just so it’s not over yet. I recently did that for almost 6 months I left the final episode of Sherlock sitting there just waiting to be watched before I finally finished it. I kind of felt this same way with Rich’s “Christian” sermon series at Lc. I enjoyed it so much, but I just didn’t want it to be over. I feel like it is causing serious growth in me as I attempt to live as a disciple of Jesus.
This series really challenged us to live out our faith more as we walk through our weekly routines, and share the love of Jesus with those around us. This series was pretty basic, but also very powerful. It has been one of my favorites that Rich has done, and if you haven’t checked it out I highly recommend you downloading the podcast. I know our new series is going to be great too, but just like finishing a show on Netflix I’m a little sad for this one to be done.
This idea that Rich spoke on (Christian: Part 5) two weeks ago of living a life full of grace and yet full of truth is so hard for me. As I sat in my small group discussing this idea, I realized how much I have changed over the past five years. Five years ago I would have described myself as more of a truth person. For me this meant many things were very black and white and clear cut. On the negative end of this I was left a little jaded and legalistic. I was zealous and wanted to live righteously, but at the expense of sharing grace with those around me.
Now I would describe myself as more of a grace person. I love to share the love of Christ with those around me, and I’m not too thrown off by much of anything that people do anymore. I am constantly challenged with living in the tension of these two. Since I tend to lean more toward grace, it’s good to recognize where I am and try to live in the tension more.
Where do you live? What do you struggle with on either side of this? The tension is where we should live. The tension is good.