November 6, 2011


Lately, I have been reflecting on missions. This makes sense considering that my current calling in life involves running a mission trip center. I have also been considering taking a trip to Zimbabwe for my own mission experience and I am wondering if I am able to do this.

I struggle with missions. My biggest problem is that I see them as colonizing. It is so easy for a bunch of white Americans (because let's be honest, because of our broken economic system it is usually people who are white who can afford these trips) to travel with the intentions of helping the "poor, innocent Africans/Mexicans/etc." We believe that we have the answers and think about what these poor people would do if the mission team did not come. We dehumanize the people we help. We want a great story and pictures to bring home. We may learn some of the names of the people we are helping, but they are really "that person I met on my trip." We rarely continue contact following our visit.

We want to choose the projects that we do. What is fun for us and what shows the biggest change to the community is most important. We want to leave our mark. If we don't, we feel that we have failed. But what if the task that most needs to be done, is not the giant construction project, but instead sitting under a tree with an elder and learning about the environmental degradation she is facing?

Or perhaps we choose not to go at all. Instead, we write a check to feed orphans in China. We have done our part and feel better about ourselves.

We come, we do our work, and we return to our lifestyle of abundance in the United States. We bring back stories, souvenirs, and photos but how often does it affect our lives? Shouldn't we feel convicted about the fact that we have so much and others have so little? Shouldn't we begin to ask questions about the systems and structures that prevent people from living full and abundant lives?

Despite the problems I see with missions. I don't think that we can stop. People need the resources that groups bring. But I do think that mission trips need to reframe their thinking. What if they decide to use their money to pay local workers to do a project and instead commit to listen and learn? And then the important part; groups must be so fully impacted that they return home and begin to make changes in their lives. If they realize that they must change how they function, then the trip has been a success and the work towards making the world a better place has begun.

November 5, 2011

I now have a reminder of my goal to create communities of shalom that I will see daily.

Searching for Something

I am searching. I long to meet with God and yet I don't succeed. One would think that as a seminarian, I would have this figured out. But unfortunately, this is a misconception.

I attend church almost every Sunday, but I only feel stress and am unable to worship. I believe this comes from working in the churches I attend. Though I am not technically working, I see the people who I work with while I worship and I cannot focus on God. Instead of focusing on God, I am focused on what I should be doing for work, past experiences, or anything but the present task at hand.

I need to find a neutral space. A place where I can be nurtured and grow rather than be stressed. I think back to the evening vespers at Holden Village and I long for that community. Each evening, after dinner, the community would gather together in worship. It took a variety of forms. Sometimes it was upbeat. Other times it was solomn. But we gathered in community to pray, sing, laugh, and commune before our maker. I long to find this again.

October 31, 2011

Building Communities of Shalom

I have been preparing for next summer at Red Line Ministries, the ministry I am currently directing, and this has led me to dive headfirst into the Biblical concept of shalom.

In English speaking contexts, we typically translate shalom to mean "peace". Yet this translation does not capture the depth of this concept. In the Bible the word shalom has many different meanings and very rarely does this word speak of peace in the way we know it. Shalom is not just a lack of war and violence. Instead shalom is a concept rich in abundance and justice.

According to Perry B. Yoder in his book Shalom: The Bible's Word for Salvation, Justice, and Peace, "Shalom defines how this should be." Shalom exists when all is in the full and abundant state that God created it to be. It is when every last child has enough to eat, we do not judge a person's value on how much they own or the color of their skin, and we live in harmony with the earth.

This thinking about shalom has me pondering, what am I doing to build shalom on Earth. I feel that our calling as Christians is to build communities of shalom. This is how we share God with those around us. I live a very content life right now. I have a job and go to school part time. I am learning constantly and yet still have time to relax. But what am I doing to make the world a better place? How can I ensure that each day I contribute to the world each day?

This is my new goal for myself. To give of what I have and share it with others. It is so easy to be a consumer in our world, but I am called to create. And so I commit that each day I will commit to create something. To do something that builds shalom around me and contribute to building a world that is the way it was intended.

April 7, 2011

Corruption, Bureaucracy, and all those other lovely things

It's funny to think about where I am now in my view of the world and where I used to be.

I remember traveling in India and learning about the corruption and bureaucracy that exist there and thinking, I'm so glad we don't deal with that in the US. I had a rosy vision of the US government and thought that things worked the way we learned about in school. Politicians listened to the citizens who elected them and enacted the bills their constituents wanted enacted. If a politician didn't follow what the people wanted they would lose their seat and all would be fixed.

This rosy vision no longer exists. I see the corruption that exists in our government. The more money you have, the quicker politicians are willing to listen to your ideas. Politicians no longer listen to and think about the people who elected them, but instead listen to who has the most money, the lobbyists who have been paid to talk to them, and their political parties.

I find it all really frustrating. Government is supposed to be the people organized to meet their needs. But more and more the US government is becoming corporations and the rich organized to meet THEIR needs. We need to take back our government so that it serves the people.

January 2, 2011

New Years Resolutions

Perhaps one of my New Year's resolutions should be to blog more....but it's not. But maybe I will attempt to more effort into it as this new year begins.

This morning I had a really great devotional time that got me fired up. As a part of that, I ended up coming up with some New Year's resolutions;

Love God more and more everyday.
My faith is defined by the Great Commandment to love God and love your neighbor. I feel like I often do a pretty good job at loving my neighbor, but less good of job in loving God. Loving God is the first commandment and the greatest and so I need to put more effort into this. I need to focus on spending time with God and thinking about what God's plan for my life is.

Talk about the hard stuff.
I hate conflict and so if conflict arises or something makes me uncomfortable I am very likely to shut down and not say anything. If I want to be a voice for justice, I need to get over this and not be afraid to speak truth to power. But I am also thinking about this goal in the personal sense. I need to be honest with those around me and say what I'm thinking and if a difficult topic comes up, we need to talk about it, not run away.

Stop gossiping. Be more positive.
I am a venter. If someone makes me angry I need to talk about how I feel with someone else, complain a bit, and then I am usually over it. I've realized that sometimes I take my venting too far and complain to too many people. I need to work on this and allow myself to vent if needed (I can't bottle up my feelings) and then need to be done and move on. I also need to identify one or two close people to vent to and that's it.

Stop wishing and start doing.
I feel like I'm pretty good at this in the macro sense of my life, but less good in the details. For example, I always think about how I want to sit around and sing and wish someone would lead it. I spend a lot of time thinking about this and being sad that it doesn't happen. I need to get off my butt and do it myself. I want to start instituting some little things in my life that I keep wishing for.

October 27, 2010

Finding my focus

Two years ago, when I decided to get a Masters in Social Justice, I looked forward to using the degree program to help me clarify my focus. Social Justice is a broad term that covers everything from immigrant rights, to race relations, to food and beyond. I struggled with trying to identify where my passions fit. Where was I called to work? To say that I was interested in "social justice" is just too broad and I knew I had to pick an area more specific.

I have struggled with picking a focus area and graduated the program without the clarification of a focus that I sought. Fortunately, through my work at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary this semester and thanks to a Christian Educators Fellowship conference that I attended this weekend, I think my focus area is finally becoming more clear.

I feel like I am called to work to build relationships. We live in a society that emphasizes individualism. Today, more than ever, we live in a world of broken relationships. Our relationships between each other are broken, weak, or even non-existent. The same holds true for our relationship with God. These two types of relationships are dependent on each other. If we do not have relationships with each other, it is difficult to have a strong relationship with God. And I believe that if we do not have a strong relationship with God (under whatever name one may call God) it is difficult to have strong relationships with each other.

And so more and more, I am feeling a call to facilitate the mending of the broken relationships that exist around me. My definition of social justice falls into this understanding of relationships. I define social justice as "living in right relationship." I feel called to examine relationships around me and to work to make them right. I feel called to help build community and to create a world of love where relationships are valued.

July 4, 2010

New Home Sweet Home

I have moved! Earlier this spring I was given the opportunity to move into a house that is owned by the church. I will be doing a rent/work exchange as a part of that will be managing a new intentional community.

A sad part of this is that my time at the Ella Baker Community has come to an end and I think it may also mark the end of the community. Everyone has decided to move on. We have replaced the people in the house and I believe they are interested in intentional community, so I hope some of the values will continue. We will have to see.

I have moved into a gorgeous old house that is over 100 years old. I am excited because I have gotten to do a ton of work on it and because I work at the church, I have more control over the house. This means that I can install things like a hanging pot rack and magnetic knife holder in the kitchen and a compost bin in the back. It also means that chickens are more of a possibility.

We have had the house back for about a month, though I just moved in yesterday, and it has been a flurry of activity. We have painted the entire house, redone the floors on the second and third floors, redone some of the kitchen (though not by choice and it'll need more work soon), and installed 4 raised beds in the front yard.

I am already seeing the wonderful possibilities this house can offer. We have met a ton of people all-ready through the front yard gardens. One of my housemates is really excited about community outreach and so we've been brainstorming all kinds of ideas. I see a bright future for this yet unnamed community and I can't wait to see what unfolds.