Friday, January 21, 2011

How About a Simon And Peter Encounter?

I've always really liked the individual callings of Jesus' disciples callings to join him, and Jesus has always really liked to these exchanges to inspire, convict, and motivate me. Most likely they knew of Jesus when they were called, surely news had spread of the radical man stirring up trouble and preaching ridiculous parables. But each story gives the impression that they did not by any means know him personally. Yet they would drop everything--their means of living, family, friends, and...everything to follow this man who promised a different life? a different way to live life, more accurately.
I am soundly ashamed after reading the callings of the first disciples, every single time. Perhaps we all should. While I was in Romania, I poured over anything about the apostles, trying to learn more about their journeys. It wasn't like I was anywhere near being a disciple myself while I was in Europe this summer, but as the Lord refined me, and called me away from many things I was attached to, I was motivated by the obedience of the twelve disciples in their immediate response. I didn't want to gnash my teeth and wail--which I was--, I wanted to be more like them, and taste a bit of the radical living that accompanies us when we're walking in the Lord's set path for our life.
Today, however, as I read over the same passages, I got something so different out of it.

Let me set the scene: Not many people moved around in those days ("those days" meaning before A.D.), and usually the village you lived in had also been home to a huge chunk of your families lineage. But not just you lived in this village. So did your entire family (extended a lot of times, too), and friends. And acquaintances. And oh yes, the pesky neighbors who there was no chance of leaving since they had been there for a hundred more years than your own family. Darn. They didn't switch jobs like we do now, they learned a skill at a young age and stuck with it. They didn't get divorced, either; so unless your spouse randomly died, that arrangement wouldn't change either.
Can't you just imagine what it would have been like to be Simon or Andrew? They went to school together every morning, which was at the synagogue. Then they graduated once they were like, what? fifteen? sixteen? They were then apprenticed in catching fish (if you can even be an apprentice in that skill), and soon enough had their own small boat and crew. They lived in the same village their entire life, and probably from their childhood days had learned all the shortcuts and alleyways during games with the other village boys. Their routines probably stayed the same everyday, from their house to the docks, and back. Maybe a stop here and there to talk to an old friend of the family, or off to the markets to sell their days' catch. A lot of people would know them, if not by name, by sight. But everyone knew everyone back in "those days" in those small villages (you can thank the bored, gossipy wives and those pesky neighbors whom will never move for that). Things probably never changed in a drastic way for either brother, and if life had went on in that way, it never would.
It didn't go on that way, though. On one day, just like all the others, while walking the very same streets they did nearly everyday (except the Sabbath), Jesus literally got in the way. They had an encounter...with God's Son made flesh. (Wait, wait, it gets crazier.) And oh yeah, he wanted to talk to them.
As I saw all of this for the first time, this, this unpredictability of Christ and the way he moved, I became so...excited. Maybe that's too understated... Invigorated is closer to it. Yes, invigorated. Here were these two men, just going through the motions of a day that would be exactly like the one before and the one to come. Just walking down the same streets they always did, and then they encountered the Son of God, or the Son of Man as he preferred.
If Simon and Andrew could have such an encounter with Jesus on their way to do what? Catch FISH? How else might God show Himself to us when we least expect it? I can't wipe the smile off my face as I now realize that whenever I step out the door, maybe to go babysit or drive with my dad ("drive" = nearly head-on hit a Jeep and then tree simultaneously; it's not pretty), or go shopping, or play practice, or something just as day-to-day...I could experience God in the flesh. It's kinda radical.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It Has A Face

98 days. Only 98 days now. Some days, it feels impossibly far away. And then at other times, I don't know if 198 days, let alone just 98 are enough, are a big enough amount of time for me to be...ready for this.

Two nights ago, I Skyped (don't you just love technology?) with the lady, Mrs. Chrissy, whom I will be living with while in Thailand. And for two hours, she painted a brief glimpse of what I will see, experience, hear, and feel in Chiang Rai, Thailand. She told me about the weather (it will be, on average, 110 degrees during the day while I'm there, not a big deal), products that are very essential for living that they apparently don't sell in Thailand (they don't sell shaving cream?! Wha-aaa?), and the many sub-ministries N.T.I.M. supports that I will be involved with while there. Since I'm most excited about working at the two Children's Homes they run, I asked a lot of questions about them and discovered a few things.

One of them, Baan Oon Raak (<--they like to double their vowels), only currently houses fourteen children: one boy, and thirteen girls. I also discovered that a few of the thirteen girls had actually been rescued from the sex trade and brothels. None of the children are any older than twelve or fourteen. Twelve...or fourteen? When I was twelve, the most important thing on my mind were boys...and, well, not much else. I also played softball and clogged. When I was fourteen, well, that was only five months ago. When I was fourteen, I babysat, went on mission trips, and thought about...boys. (Ah, so ashamed.) Mostly everything I do was so...shallow, and exterior. And pointless. These girls, however, spent their twelfth and fourteenth year losing something so precious underneath the brute, crushing weight of demanding complete strangers. Their dignity, their self-respect, their homes, their families, their life.

Me and my naivety believed that we would be deep enough into the sheltered mountains to miss the very worst Thailand had to offer. In the big cities sex was sold like candy, but surely in the smaller villages and towns, even if it existed, it was a very hush-hush business. In smaller villages and towns where everyone knows each other, surely people would be too ashamed to participate in such a shaming act. So I thought I might go for two whole months living there without once having to face the hideous, rearing heads of Sex Slavery and Child Prostitution. I thought I might be luck enough to avoid witnessing those monsters firsthand. Not that I want to try to ignore something just because it's heartbreaking and ugly, but my heart is already broken for the women and children enslaved by the chains of inhumane lust...and I couldn't possibly be spiritually mature or mature PERIOD enough to see that yet, I'm sure. I'm not presumptuous or arrogant in my abilities.

Obviously, I was wrong to assume so much. I will witness the aftermath of the sex trade. I will see its victims. I'll hang out with them, and maybe, if I'm lucky, eventually call them my friends. The "hideous, and rearing heads of Sex Slavery and Child Prostitution" will take on the sorrowful, beautiful faces of girls with names, with personalities and likes and dislikes. Girls not much younger than myself. Girls, that I will soon meet face-to-face.

P.S. Please be praying for these precious girls, and if you feel called to help them (because they do need help, all of Baan Oon Raak does), please contact me.

“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” -Mother Teresa