Saturday, July 28, 2007

Talking, Talking, Talking

A promised post- Lesson #3. I decided I should write it now, before I forgot or learned anything new.

I was sitting at the park, working on writing up a Bible study when I saw this guy. This Guy is someone I have never seen before, but he kept staring at me. He smiled and said hello, as did I. I felt that God was telling me to talk to This Guy. That he was waiting for something which he shouldn't be, and that I was to tell him to go- to go home. So I did. I invited him over to me and asked what he was waiting for.
This Guy: "how did you know I was waiting for something? I might just be hanging with my friends."
"You shouldn't be waiting for that. You should go home."
Yes, it caught him off guard and we talked breifly- how did I know that? how did I know that he was waiting for something? why should he go home?
He refused to go home. He walked around the corner and bought about $20 worth of crack before heading home.

A conversation- even one so random, supernatural and direct- wasn't enough to change him, or even his next moment's decision.

I have a friend- P----. I've learned lots from him. He challenges me all the time and I value his friendship a great deal. He is the most honest person I know and will say whatever he thinks no matter how it might hurt or compliment- so honest that when talking to him, one is forced to be honest in the same way. Brushing anything lighter than reality he can easily see through, and any tip-toeing around a direct answer simply isn't tolerated. (as my dad might recognize- this friend is not Canadian).

However, despite all this, I often find myself at a loss of words around him. After spending time with him, I think of a sentence or word that would have been seemingly so fitting at the time of our conversation- however, when we were talking all of it seemed to be out of the window. Perhaps it's his direct way of forcing the conversation towards something without the normal slowly building up to an intense conversation or me having to bring up a topic. Whatever the reason- I find myself praying for words and clarity of mind before our meetings. Stuttering and stammering during our talks as well as too long of pauses before I respond. And still- replaying our conversation and regretting that I hadn't said this or that.

However, I learned a great lesson through this: a conversation cannot save. P--- and I would have great talks. We would talk about the future. About God. About what it means to live. We have chatted and nearly debated over parts of scripture and he sometimes finds the verses faster than I do. But despite my great talks with P----, even God-directed talks, his life still is screwed up. He still has made bad decisions. Life hasn't treated him any easier, he still faces obstacles and problems no matter his knowledge and understanding.
Because understanding about God, or talking about Him isn't enough to change anyone's life. It has to be something more- something deeper. Words- or even intense conversations aren't enough.

I went to visit P---- about a week ago. We talked for 2 hours- I expected a guard to come and tell me that I had to leave, but no one did. We looked through the Bible, talked about what it meant for us today. We chatted about life, the future, family, relationships and so much more.
I felt compelled to finally tell him the verse that continually comes to my mind whenever I pray for him. It's the one about the single lost sheep out of the 100. How the Good Shephard leaves the 99 and seeks after the lost one and rejoices when he finds it. (And then it also mentions how that's how God rejoices over one sinner repenting than over the many righteous who do not need to repent- which is something that always intrigued me a lot.) I've wanted to mention this to him for a while, but always had a sense that I shouldn't- not just yet.
However, I finally did that day. And it led into me talking about how Jesus continues to pursue us and other things that began to pour from my mouth.

Afterwards, P---- said "That wasn't you talking, that was God talking." In a sense of awe, not telling me I was being preachy, but in acknowledgement that what I said was coming not just from me- but because it had hit the mark with what he was going through or thinking over. And I treasure that, even though I don't see it as a change or a hope.

However, after our two hours- I still walked away from the Center and he went back to his room. Now, I know that there can be affects of the conversation that I don't see or realize or know- ever. But I do believe that a conversation does not save. It might seem so obvious, but for me, it was this underlying idea that seemed so solid.

That's not to say that indepth talks, deep conversations or God-led talks are a waste- of course not. However- they are not enough.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Tomorrow, my mom will drive to the airport

... which will be the 4th trip to the airport for her this week.

I had been praying about God's intervention in the 15 minutes from when my sister's plane took off to when my plane landed. A simple delay, something so that I could see my sister.

Well- He is a God who goes above and beyond. So, not only do I get to see my sister, I get to share a bed with her and chat all night because of bad weather she isn't flying out at all tonight. You can hear more about that on her blog.

I'm back in the United States, back with my family, back with my parents. I'm not sure what is more strange- the overflowing fridge (not because of a food shortage, but because I am rarely at home this month), a television, air conditioning, big open space, quietness, my little sister's cookies, knowing that there is a hot tub downstairs if I want it and, of course- being with my family. It's a great feeling and a wonderful change.

Tomorrow I have the pleasure of mailing out letters to the people who have supported me since I've been in Winnipeg. Probably the most fun letter to ever write- after asking for support for so long, I get to ask them to 'stop sending me money!'. And then, spend the rest of my day will be relaxing in the sun, reading Peter Pan in Scarlet (it's the sequel to Peter Pan) and enjoy a refreshing break.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Oh the irony!

The theme of our summer program is 'Lazarus- wake up dead man!' It's all about us being dead in our sin and Jesus calling us out of the grave and giving us life. So, we decorated the sanctuary for the sessions (the times when we have worship, our 'talks' and such) as a crime scene.

We made a chalk outline of a body on the floor.
We put police tape all around the pews.
We put fake bullet holes in random spots.
We set up blue and red flashing lights that look like police lights.
We had some of our staff dress up as police officers.
And we were going to use a fog machine.

I say going to, because during our test run about a half an hour before the session began, we did a test run to make sure that the fog machine was working.
It set off the fire alarm.
We are guests in this church, so we didn't have any of the security codes for the alarm systems. While someone called the leader of the church to get that information to turn off the alarm, one of the team leaders came in to tell us that the fire department was on it's way. 30 seconds later a siren stops just outside the church.
I run out to tell them that there isn't an emergency, that it was an accident- but the cheif still wants to check it out.

The look on his face when he walked into the sanctuary! Remember- there are fake police car lights flashing, 2 people dressed as police officers, a chalk outline on the floor and police tape everywhere.
Oh, was that ever funny! The younger firefighters thought it was humorous, but the chief didn't crack a smile as he marched away. I slightly suspect he thinks we set off the alarm to add to the drama of our set-up.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lesson #2

There is still a bit of black grease remaining under my fingernails, which simply refuses to be removed.
It's from my friend, L----'s hair, which I was twisting as we sat in the park.

Was it absurd? For me, this is rather normal. What a great example of how I have changed in the past year and a half. Put me in this scene 2 years ago, I would think that these people were heartless and thoughtless. I would have never expected a deep conversation as I twisted their hair.

But, again- an example of me changing. 2 years ago these were just creatures in baggy clothes with my pressumtions hanging all over them. Now, they are people with names and faces and inside jokes and beginings or actual friendships formed.

As I told my new friend, CJ tonight, just after he asked me if I 'pushed koosh' (which means- do you sell pot?) and 'are you in with the mafia?' (not THE mafia, it's a nickname for a one of the local gangs)- obviously this guy was a new and didn't know me at all. He walked me home. I guilt-tripped him about making me go alone when the area I live in is popular for prostitution and that if something happened to me, it would be his fault. What can I say? We had a good talk on the walk home. So I cleared up a few things: explained what I do, details and examples about actually 'what I do' to help people and my thoughts about some of the things we were talking about, gangs in particular.
"I am friends with those people- those guys. But I hate the gang. I think gangs are wrong and awful. I think that God hates gangs, too. However- I think when he sees those people he sees just that; people- and he loves them. He hates what they do, but he loves them. Same as me- what they are doing is wrong, and I hate it. But as for them as people- I love them."

(Back to me and L----) I was sitting on a picnic table at the park, surrounded by friends who are part of a local gang and invovled in 'sales'. I had just finished telling my other friend he can wear those same clothes he has on, he doesn't have to dress up to come to church with me.
To my right was a group of people who had been heavily drinking and now were laughing and talking- loudly and slurred.
To my left were two other friends, listening in and occassionally sharing their opinions to our conversation. Like when one of them yelled 'special!' when I mentioned that humans were special because we had the breath of God in us, and souls (which I do not believe rocks and animals have).
I was twisting L----'s hair (because you just can't do that back part on yourself- properly) L---- and I were discussing Buddhism and Christianity- from how Christianity deals with pain and suffering and what Buddhism's response is. And then we talked more, debated less- Buddhism's different types of nirvana, Christianity's heaven and why I thought Christianity was the only true religion.
It was a casual conversation between two people who have both read up on the two religions, me in a class over the topic and he in a search for answers.
Then, he suddenly jumped up, said a quick good-bye and dashed away when a police car rounded the street.

I stayed put and the police arrested someone sitting right by me (no one I knew). It was a bit unnerving as the officers kept walking straight at me.

This post was supposed to be on the lesson I learned about how conversations don't change people, no matter how great the conversation (because L---- and I did have a really good talk, as did me and CJ).
But I guess instead I explained the lesson I have learned about assuming about people verses just being with people and getting to know them before pre-judging them. It also pretty amazing to me how people treat me differently when I come off as wanting to get to know them as a person besides just assuming so much without any background info.

38 days to go...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Screaming

Yesterday I was late to dinner. I hardly ever eat dinner with the rest of the team, and it seems that when I do, something has to happen to add some excitement or make me late.
Yesterday that 'something' was a group of little kids who were in trouble. In tears, they begged me to get their mom. So I went to get her and after doing so, came back to sit with them until their mom arrived. I was trying to calm them down, comfort them that at the age of 6 they would not be going to jail, and just be there.

Suddenly a lady who I have never seen before came up to me and began screaming and swearing at me.
The long and short of it, minus the swear words- she asked how I could work with kids and also spend time with people who sold drugs.
So I told her that I was a missionary so I tried to help anyone I could. That God calls me to love those people and that God loves everyone.
She scoffed at me and asked, "God told you that? He says to love those people?"
"Yes, God says to love everyone."
I don't remember her exact words, but it was something about me making it up or lying. Actually, the majority of our conversation centered around that topic.
She swore at me some more, said some really awful stuff and walked off in a huff.

I'm not used to strangers cussing me out or treating me like that, especially when I was there helping the kids. The stress of my week, mixed with this lady screaming at me was overload and I started crying when I finally arrived at dinner.

However, after a dish of the best peanut butter gelato ever, I felt better.

When I was reflecting on it later, I suddenly became very sad for this lady. She thought I was inventing the idea that God loves everyone! She had looked at me in alarm and confusion when I said that God loves everyone and tells me to love everyone. I know that some people don't believe that, but most people have at least heard it before. This lady honestly thought I was making it up, that I was lying when I said that.

How could we have failed this lady so much that she doesn't even know the foundation of Christianity?
She knew about the Ten Commandments and spouted off how I shouldn't spend time with them because 'how many of the commandments are they breaking?'. She believed in the existence of God, understood about evangelism and missions, sends her daughter to one of the ministries I volunteer with that has Bible camps and such for kids in the city- all that, and still she didn't know the platform that it all is built from: that God loves all people and tells us to love all people, too.

It's what Christ calls the most important commandments, the two which are so interlocked that they are inseparable: love God and love others.

I kinda hope I see the lady again. But then, another part of me doesn't want to be cussed out again. In a little over a month, I should be back at school, studying and looking for a job. I can't foresee too many instances where someone would be cursing at me; it's a Christians school- but you never know.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I was never very good at math...

Tomorrow I have another friend coming to stay with me. That means there will be 4 people staying in my one bedroom apartment. Where someone is already sleeping on a couch and two of us sharing a bed. Bumping butts to get into the fridge in the tiny, tiny kitchen and attempting to coordinate showers and everything invovling the bathroom.
But I am really glad to help this friend out, and I think we will have a blast together- all crammed in my little apartment where there are only 2 keys to be had between us all. How much fun it will be to organize letting people in late at night and who has the keys and fun stuff like that!

The 4 of us will only be living like that for 5 days, because my 'sisters' got their own apartment. I am relieved that the boxes and boxes will be gone, the pile of shoes absent and the endless mess that follows them will be gone. On another note, I will miss not seeing them everyday. And it's kinda sweet that they worry if I am out late, despite that it does annoy me most of the time. And to clear up the confusion between me and my parents- no, there will be no bed when you come to visit me. It belongs to one of them and they are taking it with them. Sorry- how do you feel about a couch?

But, God also knew I didn't want to be living alone- so he arranged everything so that my friend is moving in and I won't be lonely! Also- it means that someone is helping out with food and rent- which is always nice.

It's so strange to thing that in May, I was living with friends. I hadn't had a place of my own since September and now not only do I have my own apartment- but I get to in turn give hospitality and shelter to others who need a place to stay- some of whom were that same blessing to me a few months ago. What a boomerang world we live in!

Biruk is coming to church with me tomorrow. I feel sorry for him because he is working from 7pm-7 am Saturday until Sunday morning. Sleeping for maybe 2 hours, then coming to church with me. And I feel sorry for him because he is sure to be bombarded and interviewed and all that by my loving church friends who have been asking to meet him for months now. Poor guy, I hope he's not too sleepy to defend himself!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Frustration translated into sarcasm



I was at the park, chatting with a friend when he showed me the paper rolled up in his hand. It was a Christian teen magazine and about the only article that looked interesting was about "has Christianity failed?". So I open it up and start skimming the lines- talking about if we(Christians) have or how we have strayed away from Christ's original teachings. And said something to the effect of, "There is not even a hint that Jesus attempted to challenge the social structure of the society he was living in." I yelled something at that point and my friend asked me what was bothering me.

What Bible were these people reading?



Then I remembered- there was
that translation.
It's the one where Jesus doesn't unlawfully touch the leprous men- he touches perfectly healthy ones.

It edits Jesus calling a woman forward in the synagogue (to an area women weren't supposed to enter) and instead it's a young man that he calls forward.
Jesus heals on Tuesday afternoons instead of the Sabbath.
The 'Good Samaritan' story is actually the 'Good, upstanding Jew', to not draw controversies with choosing a despised people group as the heroes of the story.
He associates himself with a woman who was widowed several times- that's why she had so many husbands. His feet are washed by a good, moral woman of the town.
He yells at Mary because she has no place to be learning like a man and tells her to go into the kitchen and make them some food.
He does go to the home of a tax collector- but he is first invited, and it is after the man repaid the people cheated.
He tells people to invite the rich and powerful to their parties and to ignore the poor, the crippled and the blind.
He encouraged to rich to take places of honor and to further demean the lowly in status by having them sit in practically servant's seats.
And my personal favorite: He said that to enter the kingdom we were to become like the religious leaders of the day- and he brought them forward and had them sit on his lap.

And the list of alterations could go on and on.
Don't bother purchasing this version of the Bible- it's so much easier to take a pair of scissors and cut out the parts where Jesus did something against the social structure of his day- because really, it's not that important; then or now.
And it makes it a much quicker read- just a few pages or so.

Despite my frustration with reading this, there were some definitely positive outcomes: It allowed a great avenue to talk to my friend (who is a social outcast) that it is exactly who Jesus sought out to spend time with!
And it got me to thinking about the society I live in and what Jesus' response to it would be. And that its not enough to just be dissatisfied with a social structure- or even against parts of it, but what ways am I actively attempting to change it or fight it?


Note: Sometime I will post about the tract we got that represented the terrible sin of thinking of baseball while in church....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Frustrated- on so many levels

I had to laugh at some of the response I got from my 'riding in cars with strangers' post and how dangerous that was. I guess it's a good thing that I moderate what I post on here.

I have less than 2 months left here in Winnnipeg! So for this next while, I am going to thread in some final things about my time here- lessons I have learned. Stories didn't get to tell yet. Favorite memories, ect.

Last week, at the park, one of those groups that comes with their mega phones and begins preaching, "You are all going to hell- accept Christ and you will go to heaven and avoid eternal damnation and burning and searing of your flesh from the flames of hell." (okay, not those exact words, but the main point). Now, I do believe that without Christ we will go to hell and that his gift to us is heaven. However, I don't think that we should follow Christ just as a scapegoat to avoid hell, and I think that almost encourages people to abuse his sacrifice by living however they want, knowing that God will forgive them and still let them go to heaven. I don't think the focus of our faith should be on heaven- I think it should be on God/Jesus Christ. Anyways- before going on too much (because I deleted like 8 lines that I had written, which I guess is my personal statement of faith and what I believe and why)- I had serious qualms with what this guy was saying.

Since my friend and I were chatting right beside where they were setting up their 'service' he turned to us and handed us a tract. It was a magnet with John 3:16 on it and a red corvette as the background..... hmm... Jesus loves the world so much he gave away his corvette for us? or, for God so loved the world that he sent his only son to die for us so that we could have eternal life, and each with our own red sports car?
My friend and I had been talking about talking with God. He was reading my journal- and particuarly a prayer I had written to God where I had said and asked some things that surprised him. So we were talking about how God isn't afriad of our questions, about how he knows our hearts and we can be real with him about everything we are thinking and feeling. This friend is one of the 'non traditional friends', as my mother calls them. He has two names which he goes by, a watchful eye on passing cars and would not qualify to be a security guard.

I inherited a love of arguing from my father's side of the family and bull-headedly started the conversation with this pastor. I asked him what he was going to preach about, and he told me. Then he began practicing his sermon on me a bit. I told him that I thought that method presented people with a shallow faith, his reasoning was that Jesus was mighting enough to turn our shallow faith into a strong, vibrant one. So of course, that justifies presenting the Gospel badly, right? And we should keep on doing so, so that Christ's grace for us may abound even more... right.
He mentioned that he supposed I had some understanding of Christianity and the Bible- but never asked about me at all. He never tried to get to know me.

This park is full of people, especially on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. The 'good breath' section, where people drink mouthwash because they can't afford actual alcohol and drink whole bottles until they pass out. Many many immigrants live near the park, so there were people passing a soccer ball, women holding their babies and older men sharing stories- their hands moving with every word. Most of these people are still trying to learn English. The others would be those selling crack cocaine or coming to purchase it- or trade for their XBox or some other item of some worth.
So, the megaphone is blasting about how these people are destined for hell- to the passed out people that the paramedics are checking to see if they are still breathing, to the people who are here as refugees, surviving the most horrible of situations and can't understand anything they are saying, and the 'bad people' who are told daily that they are sinners and destined for hell.
It made me angry at first, now it makes me sad: they were standing in the center of all these hurting, desperate people, aware that they were dying and not reaching to any of them.

I'm not trying to just bash on this team of people. Their hearts must have been good and I know it must have been uncomfortable to go there.
But, take the time to get to know one person you are sharing the gospel with. They know they are sinners, that's not news to them. They know they are going to hell, they could tell you all the reasons why. But why should they follow your God? How do they know that Jesus loves them?
We hear all the time how we are the hands and feet of Jesus, but so often we try to be the mouth before we take any other part on. We are the ones who people see as Jesus, we walk him, we live him. Jesus touched people, ate dinner with people and spent time with them, as friends. How can I say that Jesus loves that person if I don't go and show them that myself?

A few days ago my roommate and I were walking somewhere and I saw someone I know. They said something about how I had saved them, or was going to save them or something. And my roommate piped in that only Jesus saves people. I winced when she said that- not because I think anything she said was wrong- infact, I was going to say something similar. However, she can't say it- not to him.
Because he has had Jesus pushed on him and preached at him so much that he doesn't see him as loving at all. He has had people who don't know anything about him come and condemn him to hell because of his actions. He hates when anyone who doesn't know him says anything about God at all to him. I've known him for about a year now and we talk about God together and he has told me that he is okay with me saying everything that I say because I took the time to get to know him first.

One of the most important things I have learned during my time here is that you can't tell people about Jesus without showing them Jesus in how you treat them, in how you live. You can't talk about a God who loves them no matter what unless you love them. You can't say that Jesus wants to be their friend and help them unless you too are their friend.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Our religions call us to be kind to others...

Yesterday was Canada Day and I was on my way to meet friends and wander around one of the areas set up with vendors, people pounding on drums, random singings of half-slurred, beer smelling "O Canada", balloon animals, magic tricks and hints of marijuana floating in the air.

But less than half way there it started to rain. It pounded and poured. Finally I just laughed and decided I didn't care how wet I got. So I dashed out in the rain and started a run/jog over the bridge.
A white Toyota begins honking at me and I dash towards the car.
"Do I know you?" I ask the driver who pulled over to the side of the road and opened the car door for me.
"No, but I'm Jewish!" He said with a beaming smile.

Well, Mr. Jewish Man, thank you for the ride. It kept me from being very, very wet.

Living in a storage closet

My apartment is full to overflowing! 1 more inhabitant, 50 more pounds of clothes, a few more shoes and lots and lots of boxes- reaching to the ceiling in one room. The other sister brings enough things of her own- a computer, lots of clothes, pictures and other trinkets she likes to collect. Early this morning their mother flew to Texas, and no one is sure when she is coming back. So we have all the pots and pans, dishes, cleaners, microwave, toaster, mixer, sewing machine, family photo albums and just about everything except heavy furniture- although we do have a table and chairs.
I'm sitting on a couch (love-seat, actually) that has 6 pillows on it- that's how little space we have.
However, without complaining too much I must admit it is nice to have chairs along with the table (it was annoying to always sit on the couches) and a microwave is so so handy. Now it's easy to re-heat food (and oven just doesn't work as well- if you want it to be soft, it makes it hard and crunchy, if it is supposed to be crunchy, the oven turns it all soft). So, for the next month, I am going to enjoy these 'new-fangled' convience items, despite that there is no room for anything.

I'm going to relax and savor today because it's a holiday in Canada (so I don't have to work) and as of tomorrow things get really busy: we get an office for the bookstore, so cleaning it, moving all the books and getting set up as best we can; last week before the summer staff arrive and it is my job to get their rooms set up and the house fairly clean; grocery shopping for the food for the summer program; school let out last Friday, so lots of kids with lots of free time; plus, what I do on a normal week. And on Friday, I am going to camp to help with teenage girls!