Massive amounts of cardboard provide for good aesthetic contrast to the lush spring green grass. All different shapes and sizes each box displayed a bit of the inhabitants personality, and so became the cardboard box community- my home and foreign family for the week.
I was unable to spend much time in the community due to an abnormal number of meetings added to my regular front desk work hours. I arrived at the community around one in the morning most every night. Because of these meetings and shifts, I also was unable to make all but 2 of the sessions. I needed the two sessions that I attended however. Chris Lahr, spoke directly to my heart, and I was captivated. As he spoke I couldn’t help but think that he must have been a lot like the apostles: scraggly, rough, but full of passion and love for those who have been over looked by the world.
I was forced to face my own biases and misperceptions. He challenged us to live what we say we believe. He challenged the concept of ministry, and spoke of how we need to be careful that we do not turn those we desire to help, into projects. He brought up the lack of commitment that the church shows to those they involve themselves with through ministry. “Jesus never mentioned anything about ministry- he spoke about the way.”- a life style.
It hit me again- hard, that those sitting on the streets in the cold are God’s creations- loved ones, and no more deserve the street than I do. How many times I have walked by avoiding eye contact and walking on in a hurry- pretending to not see the outstretched begging hands, and choosing not to hear the plea for change or food. I was ashamed, this was not the way God was calling me to live. I am meant to reflect the love Christ so unconditionally has spread to me.
The timing of Social Justice Week was interesting. I had been frustrated with God at how many conflicting passions I seemed to have. I had always wanted to work with refugees. When I hear about refugees, my heart beats a little faster- and I get excited- heated even sometimes. I want to go- now. But God has opened my eyes this year to the need EVERYWHERE. There is an incredible need in the inner city, the church, developing nations with orphans, widows, the poor, families, the elderly, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and even beyond that -the wealthy. I started to feel as if the wealthy in the west were the most unreached people group. I didn’t know what to do with this overwhelming desire to be fully active in all of these areas. To top it all off, I could even less understand the feeling that God was telling me to major in studio art- that did not (and still does not) seem to fit into any of these areas.
I brought all of these frustrations with me to the meeting, and as Chris spoke, I felt God gently saying, ‘List your passions. List your passions.’ I did. They filled up a whole page of my small notebook, and I hoped for revelation, but none came. Yet as Chris spoke and as he referred to our own Calcutta’s, I realized, that God does have a plan, place, and purpose for me, but for now I just need to keep seeking God in ALL areas of life, and to continue to learn how broken this world is, and how much God is calling his children to BE PRESENT, ALIVE, AND WILLING WHERE THEY ARE AT!
I still think about what Chris said, and wonder if I will ever work with the inner city, or the homeless, I don’t know, but I pray for them- and whatever opportunity rises I am now- more than ever, determined to act on it, and to be of service.
The next speaker- the pastor of the church, was wonderful as well. I loved how he was able to help me once again see even the dirty drug addicted, alcoholics, on the streets as my brothers and sisters in Christ. He humbled me again, and helped me remember that God loves them so incredibly too. I loved the story he shared in chapel of the mentally handicapped man who desired so much to be a part of the worship, and how they enabled him to be a part of it by simply not plugging him in to the sound equipment. The body of Christ, as I am continuing to learn, is larger than race, gender, and social class – but even the mentally disabled are included in that. God loves them and died for them too. It is so encouraging- especially having worked and made friendships with those who are disabled- to hear of a church incorporating them like that in such special ways. That is truly the body of Christ.
People still ask me why I would participate in Social Justice Week, especially since I cannot truly experience the hardship that any truly homeless person would through it. To be honest, I signed up because I figured it wouldn’t hurt, and could only help me learn and grow- even if it was only a tiny taste. As the week went on however, I began to understand how little I really was experiencing the homeless lifestyle. I could still change clothes, shower, have easy access to technology, education, food, and friends. Once I realized that I realized the real reason I was out there. It was not to simply become grateful for what God has given me- although I do have a much greater appreciation for the roof over my head and the mattress and sheets I am blessed to be able to sleep on. I was there to learn, and to focus in prayer, thought, and discussion, on those in the situation we were attempting to replicate. I was a part of a community dedicated to praying for those suffering around the world, and as a community, seeking for our hearts to be broken for them.
I miss my box, oddly enough. I got so much closer to my good box mate, and I miss waking up for sleepy, yet honest worship as the sun rose. I miss being able to wake up and being surprised at my own joyful attitude, and thankfulness that it had not rained.
It was such a beautiful thing to be with people who were simply searching for God and understanding.
I am walking away, with lessons learned, thoughts still to process, convictions, great stories to tell, and with hope, that God will continue to move through campus, and break our hearts for the needy.