Friday, June 24, 2005

There's Good News and then there's Bad News

And in that order:

There's hope for Africa in debt relief. Real, genuine hope. Here's one article I found while blogging around about Senegal's development of the $77 million they have been forgiven of their debts so far. Hopefully, hopefully...

Speaking of hope: There has been a group of suburban middle school / junior high youth staying at the church where I work and worship at for the entire week. One of the leaders was talking to one of my friends in the office this morning. My friend is originally from the suburbs also. The lady leader is starting up some small talk with my friend ('L') when she finds out that L's husband works at the local high school. She's a bit taken back by that. And, sans awareness, goes into a bit about how the kids that she has been working with - for the whole week, she stresses, again obliviously - seem so hopeless. At this point, I take L's lovely baby and try to focus on her, rather than yelling at the ignorant leader out of sheer rage. L tries to explain things to the leader. That, for example, in no way are the youth or children or inner city inhabitants without hope. That it's not such a necessary thing to lock your car doors all the time. That we shouldn't live in fear, etc., etc. I don't know if the leader (Which role she plays in the youth group is unclear, but she is not the director / pastor. I thank God for that.) was actually in a place to learn anything. It seemed to me, from my experience being near and with missionaries, that she was going through some major culture shock. And it's often extremely depressing and alienating. Maybe she'll learn more as she reflects. I know if she had talked to me like that... o help us please. Good thing L, although quite sensitive and obviously hurt by this lady's remarks, is more patient and could see where she was coming from.

Maybe she'll also learn something as the youth start reflecting also. Younger folk have a way of more easily identifying, even as they - much like us adults - aren't quite sure what to do with their preconceptions and misconceptions. And they got a chance to spend some quality time with kids - and some adults - from all over Chicago.

Speaking of preconceptions: Tonight I did a little labor, ripping and cutting pages of coloring books because there aren't enough to go around. It's for crafts time that some peeps in my church are going to lead in Haiti during the summer. I was talking to one of the leaders of this short term mission (STM. No jokes.) trip. Since he was the only one there who had actually gone to Haiti, let alone the region they are going to, I asked him some questions about the general standard of living, education, etc. I don't consider myself an ignoramus. But of course I am. He told me of genocide. Of the impossibly high unemployment rates. Of the I've spent a total of three days out of the grand old U.S. of A. Everybody always says that I should travel more. At this moment, I only see two reasons to travel. One of them involves my mama and some resting, some getting away. The other one, well, it has nothing to do with the Eiffel Tower or the L'Ouvre. I need to see real need. I need to cry.

I'm praying that our team (which will include a couple of my youth) will be broken of any pre- and mis-conceptions while they are there. I pray for as easy a transition as possible, including knocking any misgivings out of their minds now. Any feelings of superiority, of patronizing or paternalizing may leave now. I thank God for their movement, for their preparation, for their willing hearts up to this moment. For their willingness to raise much of their own money, open up and speak before the church (and trust me, there's a group of ladies going on this trip that are overcoming in just speaking to any group, let alone a congregation of 100-150), pray, fast. They are nearly complete in raising the money they need. Much more so if pledges come through. (Don't tell anybody that, though. It's just between us at this moment.)

I was reading some disparaging news on STM's this week. Apparently, most STMers do not fastidiously hold on to their initial excitement for long once they return to life-as-is. They fail to maintain relationships they promised to. They generally do not become life-long missionaries. They tend to be a drain on the existing churches (This we here can speak well of. Not in a mean sense, but logistically.). And the rates of giving do not have a large, sustainable increase. The question is posed: what does this mean and how should we respond?

And finally: Tonight the youth of the Haiti group went and spoke, along with our associate pastor, of the STM. Many of the visiting STMers, who were going on a little R&R to Navy Pier gave freely of their spending money. And they gave well, too. Not just for having heard of it, or not just because it wasn't their people, their friends, their church heading out. They gave well. Bless their hearts. Maybe they've learned even before they left.

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