Friday, October 20, 2006

South Africa Feedback



Here is an open letter from Chrisy. If you said even one prayer for her trip to South Africa last May, then this letter is to you:

Hello everyone!

I wanted to write you a letter to express my gratitude for your support and prayers for my trip to South Africa. I am sorry that it took me so long to get this to you. I also want to give you a short description of my trip so you know what I did while I was there. The trip was amazing and I am so glad that I had that experience. I really feel like I connected with God during this time. One major point that I learned while I was there was to just "be" and allow myself time to listen and really learn what others need. This helped me understand how to better love people in that culture. It made me want to really get to know people better as well.

We did a lot of things while we were there. We spent a lot of time with children. We spent three days in an orphanage called House of Joy (one of those days was my 36th birthday). The children loved to sing and dance and play with us. We helped them fix up their house and backyard, making it safe for the children to play there. We also spent time in the townships, where most of the poverty is. We visited homes of people that welcomed us like we were family. It seems like everyone had a smile on their face despite their circumstances (i.e. no electricity or running water). We visited a place called Tutela which is a home for abused children. They loved the crafts that we did with them. I could tell they appreciated the simple fact that we had taken the time to do something with them. We also went to a school in one of the townships and played games (I played volleyball) with the children there and they enjoyed it so much. It was an amazing time spent with these people and I felt loved and welcomed everywhere we went.

That was a time I will never forget. I think I was better off for going than anyone that I helped or spent time with. When I left I thought I was taking Jesus to these people, but what I learned is that He was already there and alive in their hearts. It made me grateful for what I have when I live in a place that is very "me" oriented. It makes me look around now and really "see" what is going on. I feel more aware of the hurt that is all around me. That awareness has me searching for ways to help. Thank you so much for making this trip possible for me. I know my life was touched and I believe that I touched others as well. I pray you are all doing well and will be in contact with you soon (Christmas is coming up so fast).

Love,

Chrisy

It's Doah again. I have two points to make. One applies to Chrisy's letter and the second is about the trip to South Africa in general. The first relates to Chrisy's statement that she learned to just "be" and allowed herself to listen. This seems to be a big take-away for all the people who went to South Africa. It has rubbed off on me too. Even the other day, a friend of mine had to go visit somebody who was in a deep state of need. The friend, in preparing for the visit, told me, "If you have any advice as to what I should do for this person, feel free to tell me." My response was: "Just go and be there." Here is a quote I just read that relates to this concept:

The Spirit-filled life is not an endless round of exhausting activities in which we are trying to do it all by ourselves. Thinking we will become more spiritual if we try harder is a typical error of many believers. If Satan can't tempt us to be immoral, he will simply try to make us busy. --Neil T. Anderson (chapter 5 of "Victory Over the Darkness")

My second point is about safety. Some people expressed concern for Chrisy's "safety" before she left for Africa. She's a mother of four. Should she be going? As I sat here typing out her letter above, I was thinking, "I'm so glad she didn't play it safe." Some of the same safety concerns came up regarding both her and Max as they prepared to go to Mexico this weekend. After all, Max is only ten. Here is another quote from the same source as above as it applies to these concerns:

Being filled and led by the Spirit may take you places you never planned; but the will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you. I think we need to "pull in the oars and put up the sail."

This issue of safety has been very present in my life right lately. For instance, not too long ago, some parents of the junior highers expressed some concern for the safety of their children as it related to some future service activities I had planned for their kids. This got me thinking about what it means to be "safe" in the first place.

Aside from Chrisy's trip to South Africa, one of the things that has most shaped my views on safety is the book, "The Barbarian Way," by Erwin Raphael McManus. There's so much about playing it safe in this book (especially chapter 2, "The Barbarian Call"), but here are a bunch of my favorite quotes:

If the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God, then how do you explain the life and ministry of Stephen--one sermon and then stoned to death? Was he really that bad? If the safest place to be is the center of the will of God, then why is it that the biblical word for witness is actually the word for martyr?

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If the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God, then how do you explain the experience of Paul? Paul walked with God, and certainly whatever the center of the will of God looks like, Paul had to have visited there at least a few times in his life. His journals, however, described not a life filled with safety and certainty, but a life of adventure and danger. (read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 please)

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Instead of concluding it is best to be wherever God wants us to be, we have decided that wherever it is best for us to be is where God wants us. Actually, God's will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution. God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance. God created you so that your life would count, not so that you could count the days of your life.

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Is it possible that the transforming power of the church has been lost because we keep inviting people to step into the comfort, safety, and security of Jesus Christ? . . . . Maybe we need to step way back to the beginning of this movement. The orginal call of Jesus was so simple, so clean, so clear: "Follow Me." He wants us to surrender our lives to Him and follow Him into the unknown. And if it means a life of suffering, hardship, and disappointment, it will be worth it because following Jesus Christ is more powerful and more fulfilling than living with everything in the world minus Him . . . . I wonder how many of us are in that place of John the Baptist, at that crucible where God is asking: "Are you willing to lose everything on My behalf to gain everything I desire for you? Rather than living a long life, are you willing to live a life worth living?"

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Okay, that's my two cents. It's not that I have this stuff wired. I do, however, firmly believe this stuff. Yet, not too long ago, when a good friend of mine, Christina, confronted me with a totally hypothetical choice, I quickly gave the safe answer.

She had asked, "What if God called you into full-time ministry and wanted you to quit your teaching job?"

Without even thinking I have to confess that I said, "I would never do that!"

Dumbfounded she said, "What? Why?" and I think she threw in a "That's horrible."

I told her I wouldn't do it because, "My job offers security and many jobs in the ministry don't have a retirement package, guaranteed income, or health benefits." Even as I type this I am surprised by myself. I can't believe I am sharing it.

Later, I stopped and actually thought about and considered what Christina had asked me. You know what blows my mind? She had said, "What if God called you?" That means that God would be in the adventure. That very notion makes it desirable if not safe.

I had to go back to Christina and say, "Remember when you asked me that? Well, I hereby amend my answer to 'I would seriously consider it.'" Can you imagine that? The notion that God told me to do something and I'm patting myself on the back because I would now "consider it"? I frankly remind myself of a guy name Jonah. How safe is that?

The point of these particular ramblings is that Chrisy's trip to South Africa and her subsequent trip with Max on Project Mexico are shifting the paradigms around our home. And, not coincidentlly, much of what I am reading is echoing all the nudgings of the Spirit. So, what's next on the reading list? Well, another friend just handed me a copy of "Ruthless Trust" by Brennan Manning. I'm going to stop writing now and begin reading that.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Summer said...

Shenan...Best post so far, by far! Thought-provoking and REAL.

Chrisy, thanks for sharing your thoughts about South Africa. Thank you for being real and transparent, and for investing your life in eternal matters on our behalf as we supported you in prayer!

God bless!

Love,
Summer

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