Friday, July 27, 2012


A couple days ago the US-2s spent a whole day separated from the Mission Interns. They got vaccines and other work done and we learned about health care and systems of oppression and injustice. The injustice piece was really powerful. We discussed wage theft and workers rights, immigration and concerns surrounding that, and the American criminal justice system and it's oppression of the poor and the minorities in the country. We watched a video of Michelle Alexander talking about her book "The New Jim Crow" which took place at Riverside Church in New York City. Riverside Church happens to be right next to our office and it's a historic place for civil and human rights. I invite all to watch the video on youtube by clicking this link

I cannot begin to unpack what all is covered in that video and what it means for us as missionaries and citizens of the United States. Today's post is short but I hope the video can provide you with the opportunity to discuss things with those around you. Also, I invite comments on this blog so that a conversation could be had with others as well. 

This is a sensitive issue and calm conversation with open minds will be key to understanding what others think and feel. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tough it out

We have been training to be United Methodist Missionaries for a week and a half so far. We have left the comforts and quiet restfulness of Stony Point and moved into the loud and constantly busy NYC. At times grace has been hard to share with those around us and some have started to notice a reluctance to talk about certain issues as a group. That being said we are welcome to those conversations in small circles. I titled this post "Tough it out" because we are at a point where we're tired and longing for rest but also because of the hard conversations we're moving into and working through.

Today we spent the entire day talking about community organizing. But perhaps that's getting ahead of myself. We started off with devotions as we always do. But for the first time we didn't come back together as a group to talk but instead met with our prayer partners. Personally I really needed that since I've been awful at communicating with my prayer partner. It's something I want to have down really well by the time we're commissioned because I know I'll need the prayer once I move and I know my partner will too.

On to community organizing. We had a just finishing US-2 who has been working with Interfaith Workers Justice in Chicago with us to talk about what community organizing is. This was especially helpful for Mistead since he will be taking over at Interfaith Workers Justice. But I also found it especially helpful. After working through a semi-serious scenario and then a real life scenario out of Atlanta we moved out into the city. We took the subway down to Union Square and participated in a rally for raising the minimum wage in New York. We heard clergy speak as well as low income workers who have a hard time living on their wages. We heard how they left a golden calf in front of a JC Penny as a symbol of their corporate greed as they practice firing workers and then re-hiring them for lower wages. It was truly an awesome experience.

I also just realized I have updated this blog in a while and that means I haven't had the opportunity to talk about Harriman UMC. I was invited on Sunday and I'll be going back next Sunday, to Harriman UMC. It's quite a ways out of the city and the bus is a long one to sit through but it was well worth it. Harriman has two parts of their service that I instantly fell in love with. The first is "Favorite Hymns" where they start off singing three of four of the congregations favorite hymns. Congregation members just yell out a hymn number and everybody sings it. Truly awesome and inspiring to see. It really touched the Methodist inside of me.

But more than favorite hymns, I fell in love with their "Scripture Shower". They put a five minute timer out and people stood up, one after another, to recite their favorite scripture passages. They do this to encourage their children to memorize scripture so that in times of need they remember them. It sounds like this particular tradition was started by Jermaine Paul who was preaching at the church that week since the pastor was getting licensed. It is his home church as well, he wasn't a guest preacher so much as a member filling in. If you don't know who Jermaine Paul is than I recommend you google him and definitely watch the youtube clips of him. Harriman UMC was so full of the spirit and I cannot wait to go back on Sunday and see all the great people there again.

We might be tired but God is guiding us through this process. Amen.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Devotional Reflections

I'm going to briefly share some of my devotional notes from the last two days. This is not long and the context is slightly removed but I think it's important. Yesterday, when thinking about mutuality in mission and what mutuality means I wrote the following:

"It means not casting people aside for differences but listening to how those differences can lead to a more whole mission. By ourselves we cannot hope to accomplish anything but self praise and a pat on our own back for mission requires the other and the other requires mutuality; for if mutuality is not there the mission will collapse, the other will leave, and even a pat on the back will seem impossible."

Today we struggled with doubts and encouragement. We read the call story of Jeremiah and I found that so refreshing to point out the call of somebody who is not Isaiah. This is my reflection on it:

My doubts are numerous and constant.
Can I live the life of a missionary?
Can I do what's expected of me?
Will I fail for lack of trying or fail even with my whole self being devoted?
Can I stand up for my faith?
Will I crumble under pressure?
Is there no one better?
There must be for I am too broken and frail. 
My comfort is not words.
It is not trust.
It is not.
No, I know God will be there.
I am not so foolish to think God would abandon me.
He stays with His prophets.
But prophets die and they cry out: 
"My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?"
Even Jesus cries out in this way.
My call is not so large.
Not so difficult.
Me message is not so dangerous as:
"Repent o' Israel for you have broken your covenant."
But if that should be of any comfort it is not.
No, indeed my comfort is scripture.
It is Jeremiah, and Jonah, and Jesus.
I am not the first to doubt.
I am in good company.
"Not I Lord" is Biblical. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012


We used a hymn as a launching point for devotionals. The hymn comes from The Faith We Sing and is number 2130 called “The Summons”. It goes like this:
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?
Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Lord Your summons echoes true when You but call my name.
Let me turn and follow You and never be the same.
In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grown in You and You in me.
Is is a frightening hymn. The first line is “Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?” I am a missionary. Called by God and I listened. But the answer to this question is not so easy. 
The answer is “Yes Lord. But...” 
I struggle mightily with this. I don’t know if I say yes to follow God or to show others that I follow God. That “but” hangs me up. I don’t just say yes. Just saying yes is scary and not just for myself but for all who are called. God never calls you to keep doing what you’re doing which means you have to change something and that’s hard.
Perhaps the rest of the hymn is needed to alleviate this fright. But the second verse is only more scary. Can I leave myself behind? Can I care for those who are cruel just like I care for those who are kind? Can I put myself at risk in dangerous places for God? This call is not a simple one but one that is dangerous.
The third verse is still too frightening to bear.
Lord can I even let the blind see? How can I set the prisoners free? And isn’t kissing the leper dangerous again? I cannot heal them. What can I really do? And this is the problem. The entire hymn has 14 questions in it. I have already responded with 7 of my own.
Yes Lord but...
But there is more. There is the sweetest verse left. The fourth verse, and in my mind the last verse for the fifth is to be our response but it is clearly not mine. But the fourth verse? It is so sweet. 
“Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?”
My God, why should I love this person that says “yes Lord, but...”? who says “can I even do what you ask of me”? How can I quell the fear inside of me when your call is what gives me fear? And how can I hope to reshape such a broken world?
“Will you love the “you” you hide?”
You see I hide these doubts these “buts” these “I don’t knows”. I don’t respond with “Here I am Lord. Send me.”
But then I remember the prophets of old. I remember Isaiah responding with those words “Here I am! Send me!” but I remember that Isaiah is not the rule in the Bible but the exception. I remember Moses saying that he could not speak well and would not be a good servant. I remember prophet after prophet trying to say no. Jonah, who tried to run away from his call but was forced to follow it anyway.
“Yes Lord, but...” doesn’t seem so bad any more.
Doubts are not so bad. Doubts are Biblical.
So yes Lord, I can love this hidden me because I know you do. Yes Lord, I can heal the sick because you have called me to. Yes Lord, I can leave myself behind and enter into the dangerous places because you have called me. Yes Lord, I will go because you are with me.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Missionary in Training

I am in Stony Point, New York right now. Just north of New York City and a little southwest of Albany. I'm in a very strange place right now. Detroit is fresh on my mind and indeed I will be going back to Detroit before all is said and done, but I'm also so close to my new home. But I am getting settled into training. We will cover a great many things while I'm here. Not to start off lightly we have already covered Missio Dei, or the Mission of God, and the theology of mission. We have begun to share our call stories with one another as well as our life stories. Needless to say the people here are pretty awesome.

And so I'm in my third day of a training that will last for three and a half weeks. Next Friday we will move back to New York City and then on August 1st we will move to Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia. All of this is on a Charter bus. Which I suppose isn't too bad. I just hope that traffic in Albany is nothing like traffic around here. We are so geographically close to NYC but it took so long to travel out here. It's amazing how many people are constantly traveling to and from the city.

We have learned our top five strengths from Strength Finder 2.0. I read the description of my 5 strengths and laughed as I realized how awesome I sound coupled with the fact that everybody else sounds equally as awesome and how there are so many other strengths that make you sound awesome that I do not have. I think it would be good to hear where a few of our weaknesses were too but that's not the purpose I guess.

Tonight we will have a campfire. I'm on the campfire committee (because we're United Methodists). I'm looking forward to it. I'll just need to take my semi-free time today to make sure I know some campfire songs on my guitar. And I'll have to try some strange and intriguing concoction called a banana boat which is essentially a s'more but on a banana instead of graham crackers. I'm looking forward to it.

God has brought me here among some amazing people to learn some amazing things. I pray that my heart may be open and my ears attentive. That I may hear and know all the things and all their nuances being taught. May I be a servant of the Lord and may I join into His mission to do what I can and then to get out of the way. The best thing I can hope to do over these next two years is make sure that nobody needs to follow me. That the Albany United Methodist Society is in a good place to continue accomplishing great things and being open to the people that God would bring into them.