Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lent: Settle @umrethinkchurch @TOTH_Augusta

The theme word today confronts me with settling with my usual ways versus the ways of God.  That took me to Micah 4:1-3 & I like the way Eugene Peterson shared the text in "The Message."  The work of God and our response, my response, is powerful imagery for Lent.
"But when all is said and done, God's Temple on the mountain, firmly fixed, will dominate all mountains, towering above surrounding hills. People will stream to it and many nations set out for it, Saying, 'Come, let's climb God's mountain. Let's go to the Temple of Jacob's God. He will teach us how to live. We'll know how to live God's way.' True teaching will issue from Zion, God's revelation from Jerusalem.  He'll establish justice in the rabble of nations and settle disputes in faraway places. They'll trade in their swords for shovels, their spears for rakes and hoes. Nations will quit fighting each other, quit learning how to kill one another."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rethink Lent: Day 4- Injustice

How do you think about the injustices of the world?  What is justice from God's perspective?  If you are like me, that's a tough question any day, but especially on a Saturday.  Flip through the Bible, & your life, and the answer picks up some clarity.  I'm amazed as I go through this process that I often label injustice as something of interest to me or that offends me.  There is some truth to my perspectives, though I wonder if there are some bigger issues that I just overlook or miss because of my selectivity.  After all, we all tend to have a soap box or two.  Is my anger, or emotion about some U.S. issues, really a focus on an injustice when I think about the word in terms of the larger world? 

When our mission team was recently in the Dominican Republic we visited a sugar cane village.  Batey 7 is the "company" village for the sugar cane workers who work acres upon acres of the stalk that produces sugar for the world.  In many respects Batey Siete has made great strides in recent years and is a model of what the other cane villages might become.  In the batey they can't own the homes, can't have gardens, have few of the basics, make very little salary, and many are undocumented Haitians.  Think of deep poverty, lack of water, education, and many, many children.  We found ourselves at the intersection of consumerism, company workers and their lives and lifestyle, and the modern hunger and consumption of sugar in this village of poorly paid workers.  But they were not without joy or hope, and they were very hard working.

We also met the lead construction man for the long term UMVIM missionaries who were hosting us.  The man was being forced out of his house & was quickly building a new place for himself and his family.  He had all the construction skills, but didn't have any funds.  His request of the missionary was for an advance on the cost of the tin.  He was hastily making a "stick built" home of available local materials.  If he could get a roof on it his family would at least have protection from the rain and elements.  They would be living on a dirt floor and with no water or bathroom in the house.

It would make much more sense for me to ask one of my neighbors in the sugar cane village called a batey what #injustice means.  

@umrethinkchurch @TOTH_Augusta #rethinkchurch #40days

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rethinking Lent: Day 3- See

I'm taking the "Photo a Day Challenge" thrown down by @umrethinkchurch.  It's already proving to be a good addition to my day as I start on the journey of Lent toward Easter, and think do the personal reflection that involves Scripture, daily life, and who I really am.  Go to Lenten-photo-day-challenge if you want more info or frequent social media and want the list.  You can merely post your photo on your favorite site, or add some information to explain yourself.  If you are on Twitter include @umrethinkchurch (and @TOTH_Augusta if you are a member of my church) with #rethinkchurch and #40days tagged on your photo.  The beauty is there are no wrong or right answers.  It's a personal spiritual journey shared with others who are also on the path.  I'm already finding it is helpful to me to get more in touch with God, focus my thoughts through the day, and take the time for some honest assessment. 

The word for Day 3 is "see."  Like many of the words it's easy enough.  And I can quickly think of many ways to explain that to someone.  But how do I see... or not see?!

I'm still struggling to get back to "normal" after our recent Dominican Republic trip.  After all, how do you integrate what God is doing, what needs to be done, and our life here with a life "over there?"  My mind and emotions are here, there, and everywhere.  So, I left sunny weather with so many opportunities to serve and returned to cold, yucky weather.  Fitting, huh?  I don't know if I'm tired, or getting sick, or just dealing with enough that my soul hasn't quite caught up with where I am & where I need to be in life and faith.  At any rate, I'm into a "winter funk" and eager for spring!

Here's my photo from the Dominican visit last week:

Too often I don't see clearly.
Too often I'm out of focus.
Or worse yet, I'm looking at all the wrong things!
Maybe I'm looking at everything all wrong.
And I can't tell if my vision is a thing of beauty or a monster.
Too often I've got my priorities all wrong,
my expectations all wrong,
my vision distracted and too busy trying to do too much.
Lord, help me to see!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Following Christ... in the Dominican Republic

It's Ash Wednesday today.  And it's a rainy day in Augusta, Georgia.  I'm in a funky mood as I'm trying to get back into a routine AND trying to get into the mood for Lent.  Ready or not, here it is!

After our huge mission event I had a day to clean up for our celebration, a half day of regular church meetings to push forward in ministry, and then had to pack for a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  I'd never been to the DR before, and was looking forward to touring the mission work of our partners John & Donna Bearden.  They are long term UMVIM missionaries from Waynesboro, GA, and my congregation has supported their efforts to transition from working in the DR on mission teams for a decade to more of a full time presence coordinating short term teams.  Our "vision team" was looking to see how we could be better partners to the Beardens & to think through the best resources our church could offer as well as the necessary contacts & logistics of our teams working in the DR.

Here's our veteran team of missioner scouts at the Batey 7 medical clinic outside of Barahona, DR.  A batey is a small village set in the middle of acres upon acres of sugar cane fields.  One description is that a batey is a "place of suffering."  The villagers don't own anything that belongs to the company & in comparison to our lives are in a very, very meager situation.  This location in southwestern DR had many Haitian families mixed in with Dominicans.  In many respects this place reminded me of west Africa.  Thanks to the work and ongoing support of mission teams and support churches & organizations they've made improvements in Batey 7 over the years, so that this is something of a model they hope to replicate in other bateys.      

We saw sugar cane in all stages of growth and harvesting.    

We met one of the local men who is often a crew leader for the Bearden's projects around Batey 7.  He was losing his home and had to quickly construct a new home.  He had limited funds, but lots of construction knowledge and drive, as he had to provide for his family.  This is the stick home he is building out of local material.   

Here are some of the children the oldest member of our team, who is a "young" 83 and fluent in Spanish, met in Bani, DR.

We have much to consider as we saw many needs and opportunities in the Dominican Republic to follow Christ, and to help our brothers and sisters in the DR.