Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thoughts from a Coffee Shop

For months, since I came home from a wonderful summer, I've struggled and fought against the mundane.. The feeling of being pressed down while the breath in my lungs keeps lifting me upward... It was a rough semester, but that was my fault. The funny thing about college is that you also have to work a lot to pay for it, and that leaves no time for anything else. I guess I'm pretty self motivated because I went at it hard, wanting to accomplish something, and it seemed to make sense. If I'm not working hard at something, I feel like I'm wasting the days I have here on this earth.. But now as my 20th birthday is less than two weeks away, I realize that with all my ambition, wanting to push forward, forward, forward every day, I've neglected my spirit, and time that should have been spent enjoying life and enjoying people. I want to slow down and laugh more, like I was able to do last summer :)
On Monday I'm leaving for Portland, where I will be meeting the people at Lahash International and going through a bit of training before I board a plane for Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania on Thursday. These days I'm clinging to the mundane things that have plagued me.. That doesn't make sense, but it is familiar and it is safe. That's the baby in me.. 
But it's a choice we have, I think.. to make our lives comfortable and familiar, or to step out and allow yourself to be carried by the will of God.. As William Shedd said..  "A Ship is safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships are for." I know the things he has put in my heart, that's why I'm going to Africa. I always knew I would.
I'm going so that I can learn. Because I can read thousands of books and learn every fact, but nothing will ever teach me as much as stepping into the lives of people who live there, and doing life alongside them. You'll never know as much about how a program is run until you learn from the people who run it. If this is the direction of my future, then the things I learn on this trip are so very important. I'm going with questions that can be answered best on that side of the world.
I'm going that I may use my time, my hands, and my heart for the purposes God has for me and His world. I won't go off rambling about the history of Africa and why things are the way they are in so many parts of the world, (maybe some other time) but I will say this - it's an immense injustice and I feel a great, passionate responsibility in this area. We cannot see and then turn our hearts away just because it is too overwhelming. I've been overwhelmed by Africa for years, and that's a burden I am willing and responsible to carry. God will never give our hearts more than they can handle. If you know me well, you know that it is a big part of who I am.
So.. if I can use my smiles and laughter to make a child who has lost everything happy, even for a few hours.. If I can come alongside someone who has become sick because of forces they can't control.. If I can do anything to help those who are working hard for these people, then that is why I'm going.
Is it scary? Yeah. I've been putting it out of my mind lately, because this is probably the most scary thing I've ever done. I like to find encouragement in other peoples words. Dan Haseltine, front man in Jars of Clay, whose Blood:Water Mission works to bring clean water to communities in Africa said this:

"I was quickly reminded that it is both a matter of choice, and a
matter of where God has placed me in the history of the world.   It
will always be tempting to slide away from the pressing stories of
injustice, suffering and devastation that crowd our minds, and seize
our hearts.   For those of us who have been given the curse of choice
in this area,  it will always be a hard decision...the one to press
inward, even as we sense that we just can not take anymore of the
We simply can't do that.   We can not shrug our
shoulders,  not walk away.  There is no where to go that frees
us from the turns and developments in our own story.   And there will
never be a peace if we pull a Jonah, and run the other way.   To run,
is to lie to ourselves about what we know to be true.   Our story is
not our own.   Just as Mother Theresa so wonderfully illuminated, "
IF we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong
to each other."  We can try to usher in a willful forgetfulness, as a means to
breathe a little more easily,  but it will not end in peace.
This is why I choose to keep moving inward, this is why we all walk
closer to the flame. As we consider this week, this next year, the
next decade... we are hopeful that God is orchestrating something
brilliant.... find hope, and
courage to walk with shoulders left un-shrugged and crisis kept
unabandoned.  Peace to you.
- Dan Haseltine

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