Archive for June, 2014

Rest and Trust

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At the beginning of June, I was aware of my own need to take some time to rest but also believed that I simply could not. I am running a youth mentorship program at another location this summer. While I have much to build on, still a good portion of the work is from scratch. It is a new neighbourhood, with its own uniqueness, and different needs and hopes in the community. Sometimes I feel like I could easily split my job into multiple positions to cover the many facets that go with starting up a new program with primarily unchurched groups of people. In other words, there is no end to the work and not enough hours in the day.

I developed a serious infection called cellulitis in my non-dominant arm. It is a deep tissue infection that had spread to the tendons and I was put on a high dose of antibiotics in attempt to stop the infection from spreading. In addition, my arm was in a hard splint for a few days and then a soft splint for a week. I was under strict orders to rest. Stubborn is my middle name and so I tried to work still… and the pain got to be too much. I tried to do things on my own but it’s really hard without your non-dominant hand! The family I live with and the friends in my neighbourhood helped me with getting the various things done that needed to be.

And I rested.

I think one of the difficulties of resting is trusting God – trusting that He doesn’t rest, that He can operate without me. That might seem so basic to some people but it is something that I struggle with. Partly because I don’t have answers to why he didn’t stop the many things that I’ve endured – including times when I abandoned myself to sleep as a young teen. Can God really handle this if I take a leave of absence?

The infection sort of forced me to take a break. The consequences of not resting could be really problematic and result in time off. I’m happy to say that it is all under control and other than still tiring easily, I am back to normal. But a break was actually not a choice – whether I felt like I could afford to take time off from a work perspective, I knew I couldn’t afford it from a health perspective.

I’m not sure that I’ve grown in my trust through this experience. Especially the past 24 hours as I have felt panicky about the summer program and whether it is even possible. I’m not sure taking breaks will be an easier.

But I do know – I’m better off with the time to do nothing but rest. I was able to connect with people in ways I hadn’t. I had time to reflect and pray about life. I was forced to ask for help and in doing so gained a bit of perspective on life and work. And I do know, that if this is going to be sustainable, I need to take breaks.

Interesting, during some of that time off – connections were made with the public and in the church and people signed up for camp – and I really didn’t have much to do with it. God is faithful. Even when I can’t trust, can’t rest, or can’t do anything but rest.

the wrong crowd

on the subway today, I was reading about the rules that many of us have grown up with as to what it means to be a Christian. one of them is to not hang out with the “wrong crowd” or as we used to joke, “I don’t smoke, don’t chew or hang out with those who do.” I am aware of my need to be around Christians, to be held in my faith journey by the prayers, wisdom and presence of other sojourners on the way. I need people to encourage me when I’m discouraged, cheer me on when the going gets tough, challenge me when I need to grow. Sometimes I need to be surrounded by Christians  just simply know that I am not alone.

also, I do know that youth is a time when you are quite impressionable combined with wanting to be accepted in a social sphere. it’s probably wise to be careful who influences you – not just in your youth.

But as I was on the subway, I found myself wondering – what does it mean to be with the “wrong crowd”?

who would count as the wrong crowd? obviously those sinners (not me, of course!)

who did Jesus hang out with? prostitutes and tax collectors. heathens and the unclean. lepers and the demon possessed.

is it possible that as a follower of Christ I hang out with “the wrong crowd” if I merely hang out with people who are like me, believe as I do, etc?

and perhaps a more humbling question: am I – a sinner – part of “the wrong crowd”?

Harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few

I’m heading up another youth mentorship program, this time in an area of Toronto that I am just starting to become familiar with. While youth programming and mentorship is not new to me, it has felt like a steep learning curve to quickly meet and learn the congregation and to investigate the neighbourhood. Some of what I am doing builds on last year’s program and so I am able to save time that way. Still, the greatest challenge in setting up a program that is designed to reach the unreached is to find the unreached! This area is a wealthy area and so people have cottages and places to go to on the weekends and during the summer. It is very different from the area where I worked last year where families were a little more desperate to find affordable programs to occupy their children and youth. Networking is time consuming and in all honesty often feels like a necessary waste of time! This is what I enjoy doing and I don’ t think it is actually a waste of time. What I mean is is that you spend all your time experimenting and talking with people and you never know if any fruit will come out of it.

My living room wall has my ‘to-do’ list on post it notes, ordered according to “stories” or different components of launching this program. The style of this to do list is meant for a team to tackle, yet, there isn’t really a team. Last year, I put in an insane number of hours into launching the program and I am pleased to say that my hours are not extraodinary this year. Yet. I have been taking time off – going to the beach with my cat, hanging out with the family I live with, exercising both on my own and with friends, and trying to rest up as much as possible. Still, as my to do list expands and time decreases, I am reminded that without sufficient help, this program cannot be launched.

I’m often pondering about how to increase the workers. If you had two or three more people doing the work that I am doing, it would mean that there are at least 2-3x more people connected with. It seems that in just about every setting I am in, people encourage and support outreach to families – and are grateful for the professional to carry out this good work.

I think this is a problem that the church is facing across the board. We’ve professionalized ministry – we have professional sunday school administrators, and the pastors are run off their feet. We want our churches to continue but we seem to have lost the priesthood of all believers. Last night I heard about an older man who recently passed away and eight men from his church had taken shifts to care for this man and his wife. I was surprised and responded, “Wow – that’s the church being church!” Indeed, that is pretty incredible and I am encouraged every time I hear stories of that. I’m sure the man and his wife were blessed by this care and support. I can’t help but think of the incredible witness that these men had to the neighbourhood.

I’ve had a few different conversations around special needs kids, particularly ones that will need lifelong assistance. I’ve heard pretty strong comments in my life against abortion by Christians and I have spouted these words too. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m very prolife. But – do we who pass judgement offer to help the family that carries the baby to full term? do we provide respite care for a family whose parenting is required 24/7 with medical appointments and stress? Do we support the unwed mother who doesn’t have a husband to rely on?

I think it’s easy to pass judgement. It’s also easy to pray. But getting our hands dirty in the lives of others is a totally different thing. I am grateful for the people in my life who have shed tears, sacrificed so much and who have been the body of Christ to me when I’ve needed to see “God in flesh”.

But it still catches us by surprise when we hear stories of people being the hands and feet of Christ in our world. And this is to Christians – people who already walk through the doors of our church and who we know. What about people we don’t know? People who live in our neighbourhoods but would never walk through the doors of our churches? As we leave the work of outreach and pastoral care to the professionals, how do we be the body of Christ in the world. How do we show with our lives the gospel to those who have not heard and have not seen? Or perhaps they have heard but do not believe or who have been badly hurt?

As I go into another setting to connect with the neighbourhood and with those who do not know Christ, I am reminded of how much work needs to be done and how necessary it is for  all (yes, all) of us to use the giftings God has given us to build up the kingdom of God. Every time i have a significant conversation with one person, I begin to dream of what would happen if ten more people had similar conversations. Or what if everyone in the church proper invested in one family that is not churched and show them in practical ways the love of Christ?

As Jesus says – the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Lord, send us workers. Teach us how to build up workers in our midst. Thank you for those who do labour and give of their time, resources and gifts. Help us to offer all of ourselves to you, to each other and to those whom you call us to love.