Monday, September 28, 2009

always learning

Last week, my second week at my service site, was....frustrating. The thing about working with the Children's Ministry is that the ministry part really only takes place on Sunday. The rest of the week is preparation - organizing, photocopying, researching, planning...definitely not relational. And definitely not what I'm here for. So I was frustrated. And close to tears a couple of mornings. I'll hopefully be starting at another service site this coming week and things will become more concrete and routine...

Saturday was a joyful day filled with sidewalk chalk, snow cones, snoopy comics, and flute/guitar improvisation. It was an encouraging day and I praise God for that. He definitely used that day to lift my spirits.

The other night I was thinking about how much I'm learning about the way I see people and the way I should see people. I'm learning to love people for who they are, no matter where they've been or what they've done. I'm learning to love them because I see Jesus in them, not because they are broken and need to be fixed. I am broken, we are broken, and we all need to heal, to heal each other and depend on one another. We are all made in the image of God and if we learn to release ourselves from the chains of judgement, self-righteousness, comfort, status quo, social boundaries - we can see Jesus in everyone. We can see him in the devotion of a homeless couple who stick together even when things would be easier if they separated, in the creativity of a homeless artist, in the contentedness of those who once lived in abundance and now have nothing. When Jesus hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, He wasn't hanging out with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners - He was hanging out with His friends, beloved children of God.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's a God thing :D

Tell me, what are the odds of this: On Thursday I was introduced to a woman who is a refugee from East Africa, my favourite part of the world, where I grew up. She doesn't speak much English, but speaks Swahili, so when the people at Ecclesia heard that I knew some Swahili, they introduced me to her. My Swahili is extremely rusty, but we manage to communicate in Swenglish with a lot of hand motions. She has lived in Houston for two years now and is struggling. Her husband left her to care for her 5 children alone. She is living in government housing and until recently has not been able to find a job because her English is not very good. Praise God that Ecclesia is giving her a job cleaning the church once a week, which will provide her with enough money to pay her rent and more. She is an extremely sweet woman who hugs a lot. ;) This was definitely a God thing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Homeless in Houston

I apologize in advance if my thoughts in this entry are scattered and lengthy. I've been in Houston for a little over 2 weeks now and we have done SO much! This is my first chance to update this blog and I know I can't fit in everything I'd like to. *deep breath* Here goes:

Before coming to Houston I had tried to track down what my mailing address would be with no success. My brother Robert teased me, saying that our directors were going to make us experience homelessness firsthand. He was more right than he though, although that wasn't the way it was supposed to be (but since when do our plans work out anyway? "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." ~ Proverbs 16:9). So our first two nights were spent in a small apartment above the pastor's garage. It was awesome bonding time, with all the girls staying in a small bedroom with only 2 beds and the guys sleeping in the living room.
2 days later we were off to Atlanta for training. It was there that I discovered that everyone who signs up for Mission Year is insane. For real. Seriously, giving up the comforts of family, friends, money, and familiarity to live on an extremely small budget with a team of other insane people (8 others, in my case) in order to form relationships and community with homeless people, broken families, poor families, people affected by racism, abuse and other forms of injustice. Who would do that? Jesus would do that. And He is the center of our faith, He is our example, and He is our comfort, the One to whom we cling when everything else is stripped away. It isn't easy, but it's worth it. Comfort has become uncomfortable in light of the injustice and need that so many others face.

I have so many things I could write, so many thoughts and stories swimming around in my head. I'll share just 2 of them with you now. Both stories are from Sunday afternoons when our team helps out with a ministry to the homeless called "Simple Feast". A group from Ecclesia church here in Houston takes a meal to a park where a lot of homeless people go and we serve it to them and eat with them, talking to them and learning their stories.

The first time we did Simple Feast we met a family with four children. The youngest boy was full of energy and was doing all sorts of cartwheels and handstands. After a while he sat down next to me and I said that he must be tired. He looked at me and replied, "No, I'm just resting for a while and then I'll get right back up. Because I never give up, whatever I do, I never give up." I was so impressed with his perseverence.

Yesterday we helped out again. One man we met only spoke Spanish, but communicated his story to us with the help of translation by Katy, one of our team members. He told us how he came to faith and then sang worship songs for us in Spanish. Right before we left he prayed for us. I have no idea what he said, but it definitely left an impression on me. We were there to help them, but he blessed us so incredibly. God is present in surprising and beautiful places.

Our team is made up of 9 people. 5 guys (David, Isaac, Sean, Steven, and Stu) and 4 girls (Andy, Bonnie, Katy, and me). It is a huge blessing for me to have Katy on this team. Katy is also an MK. She grew up in Mexico and was working in Paris last year. The craziest thing is that her brother, Peter, graduated with me from Black Forest Academy! That connection was a confirmation from God that this is where I'm supposed to be and that God is watching out for me. :)