Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Church Can Be Beautiful

The Church can be beautiful. I am as sad as anyone at the behavior and divisions that can come from organized religion. For anyone that follows things like that, and I do a little bit, the last week has produced news about these divisions in the form of the presidential inauguration and who will or won’t be praying at the presidential inauguration and what one, specific belief they hold in order to qualify or be disqualify them to do so. But the Church can be beautiful. It pains my heart to see friends being pushed from organized religion, But the Church CAN be beautiful. 

1 John 4:21 – “And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

It is in fulfilling this command that we see the true beauty of the Church and not the often times pettiness of the church.

Yesterday I met a child that was obviously closer to death than any child I have ever seen before. At six months old he looked like there was nothing holding him to this world other than the life in his eyes and the little bit of food he would occasionally keep down. His mother, HIV positive, died when he was three weeks old. And his lack of nourishment from that point on is obvious in his skeletal frame, and lack of activity. Kaleb was with us, and his strength, active smiles, and size (even though Kaleb is only in the 10th percentile for growth) made a strong contrast to the unhealth of this child. But the Church can be beautiful. The Church was made beautiful yesterday in the faith of the people caring for this child. They don’t have the tools, medicine, equipment, or even all the food they need to care for Jacob, but they ARE still feeding him, still caring for him, still trying to keep this child alive. At one point in history he probably would have been left outside to die with no mother to love him unconditionally. And in some other places maybe that still happens. These people though have faith, even when hope may be low. They have faith that this child, loved by our Father, is worthy of trying to help live. That is why today the Church was beautiful. Faith often succeeds where hope and rationality does not.

The Church was beautiful today in the unshed tears of my wife, of the friend that was with us, and the love that will motivate their actions in the coming weeks to see what help we can find for this child. The Church is always made beautiful by the faith of individuals, the love of the few, that works together sometimes across barriers of race, language, and culture, to make evident the love of a weeping God for a broken world. The Church is made beautiful when the strong actions of individuals are passed on from one to another until love is able to be shown to those unloved, unwanted, unaccepted, uncared for by the world. That is the body of Christ that keeps us in our work, despite the divisions, mistakes, and sins of a sometimes broken church culture or church organization. Knowing that it is the small lights and NOT the large fires that will keep the world warm and safe for children like Jacob and children like Kaleb.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Coming Back To It All

I had a friend recently email me and say that he enjoyed the newsletter and reading about our progress, but he often wondered how things really worked out, how they looked on the ground, in the community of Christ that we are working in. That is a good question, if more than a little difficult to answer, but it is a very appropriate question as we review the last year and get ready for 2013. How are things REALLY going?

This last year has been hard, and messy, and well…life. We have made big transitions, learned a lot about ourselves, and started many new things (Liz would probably say I have tried to start too many new things). As we have returned to Tanzania with new roles, new jobs, and a new family we have experienced that things are different and we have had to adjust to our new everything. In this adjustment I, at least, have grown distant to our first call and the thing that brought us all this distance in the first place. I have found myself being less patient with my family, the community I live in, and even the people I am called here to serve. My sense of service has diminished and my sense of entitlement (shouldn’t I be recognized for all we are doing) has grown. Yet this inward focus is not the type of love we originally came here for. We came because of love for others, love for the community we hoped to experience, and love for a God that calls us to follow Him with our actions and put him and others before our own desires for the comforts of this world. In the midst of all of the good and bad, smooth and rough happenings in our lives lately, this one most important thing may!?! have been lost.

However, this realization, this stop and think peek of a wonderance, has also lead to many good discussions about our new year and our goals for 2013. We have both agreed that this love for others and for God needs to be renewed in our lives. That this original and sustaining call in our lives needs to go back at the top of the list of considerations when we look at our schedule, our plans, our lifestyle, and any new projects we look at this year. We have become good at looking at our resources, our time, and the ability of those around us to carry out plans and projects. In doing all of that though we may have lost in the shuffle, the biggest question we should be asking, “Can we do it with love?” This may seem like a sappy or overly Christian question, but it is the difference between starting a program and actually helping others; it is the difference between working with someone and being in community with them; it is the difference between burnout and sustainable ministry in what can at times be a hard place.

Our prayer for 2013 goes something like this…

Lord, I repent of the times in the last year that I have failed to show your love, even through a kind work or greeting.

I pray for your help in this coming year, to focus on loving your children and your creation. When this becomes hard or starts to interfere with my life, help me to not draw back from the task of love, but to change my life to be more consistent with your will for it.


Please pray with me.