Sunday, June 27, 2010

Industrious Farmer or Mighty Warrior

 So today in church we started a new sermon series entitled "legends" where we're basically learning about the lives of biblical legends. Today we kicked it all off with Gideon. I was super stoked about this because Gideon is my favorite old testament figure. (Not including Jesus, because he should be everybody's favorite, Peter's my favorite new testatment guy) 

There are a lot of parts of Gideon's story that I could talk about tonight but then this would probably be longer than one of Sadie's posts and I wouldn't want to do that to any if you ;) 

When we first meet Gideon he's in a winepress, threshing wheat to keep it hidden from the Midianites. He's an average farmer working hard to keep his crop from his oppressors. And then an angel just comes and sits down under a tree and says to him " The Lord is with you, mighty warrior" or "mighty man of valor". Nobody had any reason to believe that Gideon was a warrior. Let alone a mighty one. He was just a farmer. But, as Pastor Mark said today, God loves to give nicknames. But these aren't names for things we are or have done. They are names for what He knows we can and will do. (I mean, Abraham was childless when he was called the father of many nations. Peter was anything but solid and strong when Christ told him he'd be the rock on which the church was built) Gideon was by no means a mighty warrior when that angel met him under that tree. But God knew what was in store for him. He knew he would go on to glorify Him by defeating the Midianites with only 300 men. 

I know I am not God (shocking, right?) and I do not have the ability to see or know what people will do in the future. But what if I started thinking like that. Not so much in an "I'll like you when you change" kind of way but in an "I'm going to love you now because of who you will become" kind of way. How differently would my interactions with people be if I truly considered their worth in the Kingdom of God? 

I've realized that I have no trouble feeling compassionate towards the weak and downtrodden. I know that I have a heart for the outcasts of society. It is not hard for me to see Christ in the lowest of the low - and that makes it easier to see them as the warriors they can become instead of the farmers they may be. But I am not a very merciful person. Especially towards those I feel have control over their situations. And I saw that this week. When my group didn't answer my questions during debrief or seemed uninterested in digging deeper into their experiences to see what God was showing them, I got frustrated. They had all the resources they needed to make this a meaningful experience but they weren't willing to put in the work. It was their fault. They deserved whatever they got out of their time here. I saw them only as the young, immature junior high students I saw in front of me. But what if I had taken some time to consider the men and women of God these kids are going to grow up to be. What if I had taken time to think about how this experience would shape the people they would eventually become? Maybe I would have been a little more patient. Maybe I would have probed further. Maybe I would have gone out of my way to help the kids feel comfortable opening up to me. I don't think it was a bad week by any stretch of the imagination. But it definitely could have been better. I think the group learned a lot and they certainly worked hard and had hearts for all God's children. But I don't think they quite grasped the purpose behind their service. And I can't help but wonder how much of that is my fault. There's nothing I can do to change this past week, but I can learn from it. The next time I see somebody who appears to be an Industrious Farmer* like Gideon, I need to look deeper for the Mighty Warrior they will become.

When that transformation from farmer to warrior occurs there is room only to praise and glorify God. Gideon led 300 men into battle against the Midianites and came out victorious. Abraham fathered Isaac from whom an entire nation was born. Peter, probably the most ridiculous of all the disciples, became the leader of the early church -the best model of Christian community we could ever ask for. Joseph, the arrogant young dreamer, saved multiple nations from a deadly famine.

In each of these individuals God looked past the farmer to the warrior He designed them to be. I'm not God. I can't know what that warrior looks like for each person I encounter this summer. But I can look for it. And I can have faith that God knows the warrior inside each farmer. And He knows how that person will eventually be able to boast only in His triumphs.

*I do not think there is anything wrong with being a farmer, I am merely using an illustration from the story of Gideon to make the point that the Children of God are more than they appear in the here and now*

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oh Hey YoCo - Welcome to DC!

I had a whole bunch of stuff I wanted to post about last week and this past weekend. But time kind of got away from me with all the fun I was having. Sorry. I'd love to go back and reflect on last week with you, but I can't because that would be taking away from this week.

It's been different. Very different. But this week has not been without it's challenges. We have not had any real complications and on the surface it would seem that this week is running very smoothly. Last week's group was very mature. Not always in their day to day activities, but when it came to their relationship with Jesus, they were strong. And not just individually, but as a group. This week, the group (from my home town) is very young. In age, and I'm assuming in their faith. They are quiet. Not so much right now, as they just finished attempting to dye a kid's hair red with kool aid, but when it comes time to talking about the real stuff. I know very little about the heart of these kids. And that's been hard. Because I feel very responsible for their growth while on this trip. Which, while technically that's in my job description (you know, help the groups process their experiences through a Biblical viewpoint), is slightly insane. Because I know that God has to open their hearts for anything to happen.

I've come to the conclusion that just about every challenge anybody ever faces can be boiled down to an issue of trusting God. Last week we had to trust Him to handle our physical circumstances. This week I have to trust Him to handle the hearts of these kids. And I know He will. He told me. "'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" Jeremiah 31:33

Welcome to DC, YoCo! You ready to meet God? He's here, keep your eyes open!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

" was we can't look in the glove compartment..."

I'd say that after this week the rest of the summer should be a breeze, but I'm afraid I'd jinx myself. Especially since on Sunday morning I said I felt prepared for the week. And then this week happened. Now it hasn't been an awful week. Quite the opposite, actually. It's been an incredible week. But, we've had just about every possible curve ball thrown our way. So that's been fun.

I think the best way to go about this is just to give a general overview of the week. And then we'll talk God things. Which are always good.

So...the groups started to arrive during/after our staff meeting on Sunday. Our group was the last to arrive, which was good because Steph and I needed to pack up the food and stuff to take down to the alternate housing site in Anacostia. We met the group, recruited some boys to carry food to the vans and after cramming our stuff, the food, and 12 people into the 12 passenger vans, we drove down to the church we stayed at for the week. As the kids unpacked, I met with the leaders and Steph took dinner orders. Good thing we called the order in only to find the restaurant closed early on Sunday. So instead of starting the trip off at one of our "family owned ethnic restaurants", we took 24 people to IHOP. I should have known it was going to be a long week. From IHOP we went our our prayer tour around the city. Which was great. Until half our group took 395S into VA instead of 295S into Anacostia. I was with the half that stayed in DC so we finished the prayer tour and met the rest of the group back at the church. The leaders split the kids into two serving groups, we went over schedules then went to bed.

On Monday my group went to Food and Friends where I went with one of the leaders and two kids to make deliveries. After driving all over Maryland (not really, but it certainly felt like it) we picked up the rest of our group and met Steph and her group at a park for lunch. The kids enjoyed the free time and actually rented roller skates and skated around Steph and myself as we ate our lunches in the middle of the outdoor roller rink. After lunch we went back to the church and sent the kids out to deliver fliers for VBS and a summer camp the church runs. We ate dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant and then went down to the (National) Mall to debrief and talk about the day. Debriefing went well and the group took some free time to walk around and check out the monuments. In the middle of walking around, it POURED and we found out that the church had lost power. Great. Luckily by the time we got back to the church power had come back on and I went with the leaders to buy ice cream for the kids. I may or may not have bought a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream for me and Steph. And we may or may not have sat on the floor in our room eating out of the cartons with plastic spoons And we may or may not have almost finished the entire pint. After our first full day with the group. As I said, I should have known it was going to be a long week.

Tuesday my group went to work at DC Central Kitchen, which really was a great experience. You know, except for getting stuck in traffic and waiting 45 minutes to even get on the interstate. And being 30 minutes late. But they fed us lunch when we were done. And that was really good. We met the other group at the Basilica where they were eating lunch and hung out until we went to a nursing home where the kids went around in 4 groups and visited with the residents. Steph's day was a little rougher than mine as she had to deal with a leader who was scared out of her mind to walk down a street in the city and pray for it. We ate dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl and right as the food was coming, I got a call from my boss saying the schedule for Wednesday was changed, which meant Thursday's schedule would change as well. Sweet. It's all about flexibility, right ;). Debrief at the FDR memorial was awesome and then we headed back to the church which still had power :D.

Yesterday, instead of leaving at 5:30 we got to sleep in and leave at 7:15 to go to ThriveDC to work in the kitchen and serve breakfast. We had lunch at the National Arboretum and hung out there for a while. We then went to our last site for the day, the World Vision warehouse out in Maryland. One of the leaders had gotten a really bad headache so she stayed in the car and slept. She woke up and came in to help around 3:20ish. Around 4, right after I had called and made reservations for dinner, we found out that the groups rental van had been stolen out of the parking lot. Yes. Somebody came and stole a 12 passenger van. One of the girls in the group is convinced the thieves are taking it to Mexico to transport people across the border. Probably. So. Reservation cancelled. Carryout ordered. New rental van waiting at Reagan (yeah...the 1st person we talked to at the rental agency really did ask the leader to get a form out of the glove compartment. Hence the " was we can't look in the glove compartment...") While the other van drove out to pick my group up, Steph kept the news from her kids and kept them working. She was now by herself with the group. When she finished up, they walked to a place where she felt safe and they could get picked up after we were dropped off at the main housing site. Good thing they witnessed a man getting mugged. Yeah. Long debrief last night.

Today, my group went and worked at our other alternate housing site (about a 15 on the sketch scale from 1-10) and Steph and her group went out to a farm to "glean". Just like Ruth! Now we've sent them out around the city to do their Urban Plunge where they have $2/person to feed themselves and hopefully at least one homeless person. Steph and I are chilling at Ebenezers and enjoying some relaxation.'s been a great week.

For real though. It's been a crazy week, but it's also been blessed. More on that later :D

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Moment of Truth

So this is it. 5:00 today the first groups come. At 5:00 today Steph and I will be leaving the main housing site and heading down to Anacostia with our group from Kansas. And that's about all I know right now. Come 2:00 we'll have our first official staff meeting and get our schedules for the week. But right now I know next to nothing about what this week will hold. Not only do I not have a clue what's going on for the week, we're also not going to have Internet for the week. Which wouldn't be a huge deal if I hadn't been planning on mapping everything out on google maps to get from site to site. I told the staff that God is probably laughing in my face right now. I'm not a huge fan of not knowing what's going on. I like to plan and be prepared. But there's only so much prep work you can do when you only know your cohost, the state the group is from and where you're living for the week. "You said you wanted me to challenge you this summer - you've got it. I'll start by making you as uncomfortable as possible going into your first week. Get ready!" I'm pretty sure that's what God's saying through this. 

And don't get me wrong. I am SOOOO excited for this week. I'm ready to meet the group and show off this city I'm falling more and more in love with each day. I'm just feeling slightly out of my element. Which is a good thing because I can't expect to grow if I'm not. As Steph said at dinner last night - I want to be uncomfortably guided by God. 

For me, last night at church and even dinner afterwards was the perfect culmination of everything I've been learning these past two weeks. Pastor Mark preached out of 2 Corinthians 13:5 "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" Basically he talked about the importance of examining our spiritual selves. And using scripture a the mirror through which we see ourselves. If I could only come away with one thing from these last two weeks it would be the emphasis on doing everything for the Glory of God and how necessary it is to be in the Word to know what brings Him Glory. Anything I learned about hosting will go back to that idea. Getting around DC, maybe not. But also not quite as important to the overall significance of the trip. And that's why they make maps. We ended the service with communion, after reflecting on Colossians 3:1-17 (the same passage we discussed in training last week) and then recited the Apostle's Creed. After church Craig Steph and I went to dinner with a group of people from NCC and Will, the small group leader who also happened to spend two semesters hosting for CSM in DC "grilled" us with some thought privoking questions regarding our first week and why we're here this summer. Talk about self examination. It was pretty perfect actually. 

Training has been great. We've spent a lot of time getting to know each other as a staff. We've worked the different ministry sites, eaten dinner at some of the restaurants and circled DC probably about 50 million times. And it was awesome. I loved having the opportunity to serve along side the rest of the staff and taking time to get to know this place I hope to call home in the future. But it's not about us anymore. I mean, it never really was, but as much as these two weeks were about God and serving this city, they were also very much catered to what we needed to know and do to be succesful at our job this summer. But now, after serving God, it's our job to cater to the needs of groups we host. My will, my life, is hidden in Christ and it will be hidden in the people I serve this summer - both residents and guests to this city. It's not going to be an easy summer. God's pushed me too much already for everything to be smooth sailing the entire way. But I am prepared. Jason and Kristen have made sure that we know everything we need to know to host this first group. And God has made it very clear that this summer isn't about me and He is the one guiding each and every group that comes to DC this summer. 

So this is it. Training's over. Jason and Kristen have handed over the reigns and I'm handing them right over to God. This is the moment of truth. I'm not quite ready for 5:00 tonight. But God is. And He's ready to move. And that's a truth that I can cling to.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Short & Sweet & To The Point...

At least, that's the plan for tonight. I know I haven't been here in a few days, but I promise you, I've been busy. We're still training but we've gotten to that point where we are supposed to have a general idea of what we'll be doing week to week and how to get around the city. So...we've been spending our days visiting a lot of the ministry sites that we work with. Some of these places we just drove to, switched navigators and continued on our way. At other sites we stopped and met with the volunteer coordinator and talked a bit about what groups will be doing when we bring them there. And at some other sites we have actually volunteered ourselves. Like today. We went and served breakfast at one of the ministries that does meals Tuesday - Friday and provides clothing to the clients. It's an awesome ministry. Only thing is we needed to be there at 6. Which meant we had to leave our housing site at 5:30. Which meant that my alarm went off at 4:45 this morning. All this to say that I'm a bit tired. It's ok though. This is just my warm-up for when I get to do this with middle and high schoolers. They're going to hate me. Because I can play up the peppy morning person like it is nobody's business. And I plan on doing just that. To keep myself awake and to get the kids ready to serve God at what will certainly seem like an ungodly hour.

We have another early morning tomorrow or I would try to update more. That's my goal for this weekend. Prepare for the first groups and provide an actual legit update on HOW I'm doing not WHAT I've been doing. Until that post comes I'm just going to ask for prayers for the groups that are headed our way on Sunday and prayers for the interns here. Instead of rambling on about my amazing coworkers, I'm giving you the link to our staff bios so you can pray for each person by name if you are so inclined. :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Brain Purge - Sorry!

Ok. So I've been trying to figure out the best way to blog about my summer here in DC. Honestly, I still have no idea how this is going to work. Especially since I've never been the type to just record events. Mostly because, as I'm sure you've noticed, I have a tendency to ramble and I get bored talking about things I've already done. I like to reflect on things and talk around the events. But, since I would greatly appreciate your prayers throughout this journey I will try to be a bit more specific as I write about this summer and my time here in the city.

This week has been a full one thus far and I can only imagine how crazy things are going to get once we actually have groups here. We've been in a lot of meetings with our bosses talking about all kinds of different aspects of this job. Things from what we can expect to see at the ministry sites to how to read a map and give directions to the drivers. We've also had the opportunity to experience some of the things the groups will be doing when they're here. We went on the prayer tour around the city. We've been to a bunch of different resturants. Yesterday we did the urban plunge in pairs. Basically, each person was given $2 and we were assigned a specific area of the city and told to go find dinner for the two of us and another person who looks like they need food. We were supposed to talk to this person and get a feel for what it is like to be living on the street and try and get this person a new pair of socks. Today we did a prayer walk down H street and had another opportunity to experience the city in a brand new way. One of the best part of the trip has been taking time to get to know the other 7 members of the staff. Along with the "scheduled bonding time" we (and I say we with the assumption that the other staffers agree with me) have had a great time hanging out together in our free time. Monday night we sent our designated driver (Thanks for having a car Craig!) and a couple others to target and they came back with ice cream and a movie from red box. Tuesday night we all went down to the national mall and just walked around. Yesterday we watched Finding Nemo and ate more ice cream. Tonight, the president of CSM was in town and he treated us all to some awesome fro yo downtown.

The greatest thing about every single experience I've had so far is how it has just reaffirmed the fact that I know this is where God wants me to be this summer. I wouldn't say that I'm entirely comfortable with all the work we've been doing, but I'd be scared if that was the case. However, I am constantly being reminded that this is the kind of thing every Christian is called to. Maybe not to serve directly in the city, but to somehow have a ministry of love for all God's children. And this summer I have the incredible opportunity to work with a very diverse group of His children. From the residents of DC and the ministry sites we work with to the youth groups that roll through here each week. The opportunity to both serve in the city and share this passion with young Christians is a unique one that I am excited to experience. In all honesty, right now there is nothing about this summer that does not excite me. God is here in Washington DC and I cannot wait to see how He reveals Himself. I've already seen Him in both of my bosses, in each and every member of the staff here, in Creed who so graciously allowed Lukas and me to share a meal with him in his living room. I don't want to lose this passion and desire to serve just because I've had a long week. I don't want to have my heart hardened and eyes closed to God's children because there is a particularly difficult group. If I could ask one thing of you it would be that you keep me, this staff, our ministry partners, the groups and the people of DC in your prayers. I'm going to try and be specific when I can, but just be thankful that the Holy Spirit is more articulate than I and capable of directing our prayers to fit God's will.