Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bolivia Anecdote: Cinco minutos, hermanas...

Author's Note: So although I had planned on drafting blog posts while I was in Bolivia to post once I returned (because we didn't have internet at the School of Christ), I definitely didn't get around to doing that. Whoops. There wasn't really time. In lieu of that, I'll be periodically posting anecdotes, memories and revelations from God that I received in the school, as they come to mind. I hope to mix the humorous and absurd stories with the profound and serious. Buckle up!!

Cinco minutos, hermanas...

So one of the responsibilities I had during the three-week long school was to be "room warden" for a group of 20 or so of my classmates. There were two women's rooms; my friend Jessica was in charge of Room One and I was in charge of Room Two. We were chosen because of our bilingual skills, mostly (as Bolivians and Americans were split evenly between the two rooms). As you can imagine, each room had row upon row of bunk beds and our room had the special privilege of a wooden door that scraped nails-on-a-chalkboard-style against the floor every time it was open or shut. Good times.

One of the first days in the school we were instructed on the way that our bunk beds needed to be: signs with our names on our bunks (in case individuals needed to be punished for not following room regulations), towels ONLY hung onto the frames (not even jackets or coats were allowed), beds neatly made each morning (our Bolivian peers tended to bring legit bedding, like sheets and blankets, rather than sleeping bags), luggage/backpacks zipped and placed directly underneath the bed with two pairs (maximum) of shoes lined up meticulously in opposing corners.

Part of my duties were to make sure folks were adhering to these regulations, but also make sure that everyone got up on time and went to bed on time. First off, this was a bit of a challenge seeing as I didn't have a watch... but that was soon remedied as my American teammates Matthew, then Jacob, graciously lent me theirs. You see, the tricky thing was that if anyone from my room was either late to 6:00am prayer or caught up past the 10:00pm lights-out hour, my butt would be on the line AND the entire room would be punished. So the stakes were *high*.

Each morning we would be woken up by a bell ringing at 5:30am. I would quickly albeit with a noted absolute lack of coordination, fumble my way down from my rickety top bunk and shuffle over to turn on the lights. The first week or so, people would get up as soon as the lights were turned on. By week three, though, there were a handful of regulars that continued to lie there, unmoving, perhaps attempting to squeeze in a few more minutes of precious rest. I mean, seriously, some girls knew how to take it down to the wire. I tried to be fair by giving folks multiple warnings, 20, 15, 10, 5, 2 minutes and then 30 seconds out from our 6:00am call time. The same would go for counting down to lights-out at 10:00pm. I would just say tersely, "__ minutes, sisters [__ minutos, hermanas]." It became such a regular thing that my American teammate DeAndrea (who knew very little Spanish) would repeat perfectly after me, "Cinco minutos, hermanas!"

The strange thing was that even with these (what I believed to be) ample warnings, some girls seemed absolutely shocked when I would give the final warning in the evening, "30 seconds and I'm turning out the lights!" I would hear cries of alarm, followed by pleading, "Hermana, por favor," or "Ay, no, hermana!" Hermana! Hermana! and a half-hearted scrambling to get ready for bed.Without fail, though, I would turn out the lights at 10:00pm, because if not, the guy in charge of discipline would have my head for it (he would regularly be patrolling the hall at this time).

One time when the pleading was especially numerous and insistent, and I abruptly turned out the lights anyway (to further cries of distress), one of our Peruvian classmates, Eina, said, "April is a good soldier of Christ Jesus! She cares more about pleasing God than pleasing man!"

There may have been some truth to that.

Mostly, though, I was just happy to finally go to bed.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Along unfamiliar paths

I've been putting off blogging because I thought I had to have something deep, profound and well thought-out to share that was 'worth' reading or whatever. To be honest, I haven't had gigantic epiphanies or revelations lately, and I guess that's okay.

I'm leaving for Bolivia on Friday morning. This will be my first international trip since returning from Mexico last year. I intentionally cleared out my calendar to leave room for rest, reflection and prayer in the days leading up to my departure.

The past few weeks have been a bit melancholy and angst-ridden to say the least. I've been wrestling with issues of spiritual and professional identity and therein have encountered my own weakness and vulnerability. Every third Sunday at our church, we have time in service for 'prayers of blessing and anointing with oil.' This past Sunday one of my dear mentors was tasked with praying for me. "Is there anything specific that I can be pray about for you?" I looked at her, pausing before I admitted (with a noticeable tremor in my voice), "I've just been pretty broken lately."

All this to say, I'm not quite sure what my prayer is for Bolivia. Initially I was hoping that God would throw me a bone and tell me about the next spiritual assignment he has for me. I still really desire this: direction and clarity. But the frustrating thing has been my own spiritual blindness--my inability to hear God, my inability to discern his will. It's been maddening and heart-rending. I can't "fix" my own spiritual condition. I can't "figure out" a solution. Only God can heal me.

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them" (Isaiah 42:16).

Yes, God is leading me along "unfamiliar paths." I'm literally(!) going somewhere I've never been before. But more than that I believe that God is taking me somewhere new and unknown spiritually. In a big way. Please pray for me. 26 June-19 July.

In it to win it. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)

Monday, April 27, 2015

There Is One Body

"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12). 

This Wednesday will mark the conclusion of a four-week series on the subject of race and reconciliation at University Presbyterian Church. A co-worker and I have been planning it since last October. I must say, it has been a very intense experience. I knew that race was a sensitive subject, but I didn't quite anticipate the strong responses (both positive and negative) that we have received from participants and the enormous sense of responsibility I have felt in stewarding these weekly conversations.

Through this planning process I've become a bit upset about how divided the church is: particularly across race, denomination and socio-economic status. "There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6). The "church" does not appear to be "one" just yet.

In the past few weeks, we have heard from Christians of color share their painful experiences of racism in the church and in Christian settings. We have heard from White Christians who work in the criminal justice system and the ethical choices they make every day that affect communities throughout King County. We have heard in a small degree the pain and loss that the Black community experiences through systemic oppression and acts of violence that lead to the deaths of their loved ones.

The title of the series is "What Ferguson Means for Us." I learned early on that I had made a mistake in considering Ferguson to be symbolic in nature, a lesson for us in Seattle to learn about from a distance. It's impossible to look at photos of Michael Brown's uncovered dead body, desperate protests in the street and images from his funeral "from a distance." Things became very "real," very quickly when  I read a cover story article in TIME magazine, "Black Lives Matter." The published images of Walter Scott being shot to death shook me to my core. The article also lists incident after incident of young, unarmed black men being shot and killed by the police. I know for a fact that a similar situation of a white male police officer shooting and killing an unarmed young black boy has happened here in our very city. There is nothing distant about Ferguson.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?...[N]ot to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" (Isaiah 58). 

I believe that now is a time for the church to pay attention. We're going to need to be alert. We're most likely going to need to repent.

"[W]hen the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7).

Do your work, O Lord, to form us into one Body--the Body of Christ!!