Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth
Back in the comfort of my apartment nestled nicely between the Medical Center and the Third Ward, I am trying to allow my memory to drift back over the course of this week, so that I might recall the soft spaces in my soul in need of kneading and coaxing so that yet even more understanding might surface. Today, a ragged band of weary missionaries, healers, builders, strugglers, saints, sinners, believers, doubters, and spiritual-paupers poured off Continental flight 590 from Peru. In the haze of this cool, sacred Houston morning, we were met by the smiling faces of friends, family, and mystical mixture of the two. Overjoyed to be greeted by one of my youth, Johnny, Susan, and I piled into the Moore’s van with Bill and Rachel. As we shared stories, I could see our breath dancing in the soft blow of the air conditioning, like the wisps and whispers of the memory and remembrances we were attempting to convey. We carried on the only kind of conversation humans are capable of after a red-eye flight and a week of immersion into another world.
What stories can we tell? What words can exhaust the experiences we share on this (or any) mission trip, journey, adventure, battle, struggle, retreat, etc etc etc…?
The difference, it seems, is infinite.
Experience is a powerful tool, and at times it makes all the difference between clarity and confusion. How many times have you heard someone finish a story with, once the story is met with faint chuckles, “Oh, well, I guess you had to be there…”? Yet, are those not the stories that bind groups of people together who, in fact, were there? Our experiences draw us together in a way that is very much human AND divine. I love the story of the Incarnation and how this idea becomes the fusion of flesh and Word, blood and spirit. God weaves us together into a patchwork of journeys–some victorious, some devastating–that allow us to make sense of our experiences together as friends and fellow-pilgrims on this road we call life. Such a journey was shared this week.
The heavenly sound of children playing, the crow of the roosters, busy echoes of the OSA House, the piercingly loud door-bell, the putter and cough of the exhaust pipes as our bus climbs the hills of Collique, and laughter and conversations shared by the team over Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches prepared by the loving hands of Charis Smith and company…these are the fragments of experience I brought back to Houston with me.
Nonetheless, these experiences are not enough. We must return not as weekend warriors who have done our good deed for the year, but as the Prophets and Preachers who proclaim into the darkness, “Behold, God is making all things new…” while still clutching onto the words of Saint Andrew at the feeding of the hungry multitudes, “…but, what is this among so many?” Marco told us today that we saw over 1,500 people in the clinic, and after the first day I spoke with Vince in the optometry office about how things were progressing, and he informed me that we had passed out 78 pairs of glasses. With a mixture of sincerity and levity, I said, “Wow, that is 78 people who before coming here could not see…Jesus didn’t even heal that many blind people in the Gospels!” After my somewhat flippant response I was immediately reminded of a verse that has plagued me for years:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do…” (John 14:12)
For the longest time, I thought this verse meant greater in quality (Resurrection, Miraculous Healings, etc), and as one who does not have much of a taste for the pageantry of Benny Hinn, I put these red letters aside for another day. Now, here I stand, a stranger in a strange land, nose itchy and throat hoarse from the dust of the waterless earth of Collique, this text emerged in my soul once again. When Christ left, he did not leave us to do what we could with what we have–Christ gives us himself. He gives us himself in the form of the Holy Spirit…he gives us himself in the form of Community…he gives us himself in the creativity of the God-searchers and Christ-followers who first established hospitals, orphanages, monasteries, social programs, homeless shelters, and so many more things We do when We are at Our best…he gives us himself the skillfulness and discipline of doctors and carpenters and the giftedness and compassion of teachers…he gives us everything we need to be all he calls us to be. Every eye exam Susan Young gave, and every pair of glasses Vince and Anna Beth meticulously organized before the whole team arrived, was one person…a whole, entire human being…given the gift of sight so that they like the blind man might declare, “All I know is I was blind…but now…I see.” Every pill passed out by Patti is a stepping stone on the journey to wellness for a people who otherwise have nothing. Every nail driven deep into softened lumber by Johnny is a building block of not just a home, but space for a family to discover dignity. Every craft Melissa helped the children make becomes a gift joyfully given to a friend, parent, or one of us by the children…for “it is in giving that we truly receive,” and these children–these dear, sweet, wounded, yet vibrant and bubbly children–who have quite literally nothing are the ones who had to teach us who have so much wealth, power, influence, treasure, and stuff.
So, here I sit in my comfortable apartment nestled in my soft chairs, watch my television, and wrap myself in comfort…and I can’t help but realize that “they” are where Christ is and are who Christ is in our world. But, “they” are not just in Collique. They live in Eagle Pass, Guatemala, China, Mexico, and Houston. They are sleeping on the steps of South Main. They are huddled in shelters trying to make their way home. They walk the halls of our offices and schools, devoid of love and human contact. They are in every city, every town, every village, every hamlet, in every valley, and every mountain on this big, blue planet of ours. So, even with all the good we do as the Church, there is so much left to do. Maybe we pray the words of our Lord, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few! Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the fields.” (Luke 10:2)
I leave you with the words of Dr. Luis Campos, one of the many people throughout history who have turned a listening ear to God and a discerning heart to the winds of the Spirit:
“…Give them Hope! Hope in Him who is the Maker of the Universe but, ‘…had no place in this World to lay His Head.’ He knows all about poverty…[for] ‘Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.'”
In the name of the God who Dreams the Dreams we are called to live out loud, Amen.
Grace & Peace,