Tag Archives: World Relief

A Five Year Walk

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She walked for five years.

A few weeks ago, we attended a meeting for volunteers of World Relief at church.  Our trainer was excellent, and had much wisdom to share about interacting with newly arrived refugee families.  She told many stories to illustrate her points, one of which yielded a refrain that has been rolling around in my head for days and days.

She walked for five years.

This refugee woman, of whom my new friend spoke, walked for five years before she reached a camp.

Can you imagine running from danger, leaving everything, fleeing pain, and then walking FOR FIVE YEARS?

I am an arriver.  This week is packed with necessary arrivals.  I need to arrive at the school (about 15 times, to be exact), at work (at least five times this week), at the bank, at the dry cleaners, at the dog groomers, at the grocery store, etc.  And, each time, I will arrive back at home, open the garage door, step in the kitchen, throw my things down on the desk, and take up the task of all of the mini arrivals within my home.  Arriving at the washer/dryer, arriving at the computer to catch up on emails, arriving at the sink, stove, and refrigerator to make a meal, arriving at the mailbox, arriving at the recycle bin, arriving (thank God!) in my bed, etc.

Really, I’m addicted to loops that close, I think.  To going and to coming.  To leaving and to arriving.  To asking and to answering.  To wondering and to knowing.  To seeing and to understanding.  To planning and to executing.  To wanting and to having.

The last month has felt a lot more like a dusty walk than a neat arrival.  My dad had unexpected quadruple bypass surgery.  I got an out of the blue job offer that was a gift and a crisis, all in one.  Our Clarkston building process has been all question and no answer.  We have an official driver in our home (if that doesn’t create open-ended fear, I don’t know what does!)

I keep thinking…

She walked for five years.

If four weeks of lack of closure has torn me down and eaten me up, what would five years do to a soul?

This morning, I read a sort of caustic assessment of American Christians, but it hit home.  “The problem with Christians is that they have the answer…but haven’t lived the question.” (Ron Austin, quoted by Winn Collier in Holy Curiosity)

Jesus made a habit of asking questions.  When he answered others’ questions, He often did so with confusing parables.  I’m not thinking He was sold on the incessant departure / arrival feedback loop to which I am apparently addicted.  I think He was probably more into the value of a five year walk.

Scripture, especially the Old Testament, is replete with beautiful promises of God planting His people in cities where they will flourish.  He says things like, “He turns a wilderness into pools of water, and dry land into water springs.  There He makes the hungry dwell, that they may establish a city for a dwelling place.” (Psalm 107:35-36)

I ache for those who walk and walk and never find a settled place.  I also ache for those of us who drive and park and pull in and out and never get much from the journey because we’re too focused on the next arrival.

Somehow, the grace of Christ is that He causes us all to dwell, to be established, to be planted, to come home

Thy Kingdom come.

 

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Keller – Friendship

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Quotes from The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, with Kathy Keller (Dutton, 2011)

“However, there is a third quality to friendship, and it is not as easy to put into a single word.  The right word, literally, is ‘sympathy’ – symp-pathos, common passion.  This means that friendships are discovered more than they are created at will.  Ralph Waldo Emerson and C.S. Lewis each wrote well-known essays about how a common vision can unite people of very different temperaments.  Lewis insisted that the essence of friendship is the exclamation ‘You, too?’ While erotic love can be depicted as two people looking at one another, friendship can be depicted as two people standing side by side looking at the same object and being stirred and entranced by it together…The paradox is that friendship cannot be merely about itself.  It must be about something else, something that both friends are committed to and passionate about besides one another.” (p. 113)

“Have you ever traveled to a mountainous part of the world when it was cloudy and rainy?  You look out your windows and you can see almost nothing but the ground.  Then the rain stops and the clouds part and you catch your breath because there, towering right over you, is this magnificent peak.  But a couple of hours later the clouds roll in and it has vanished, and you don’t see it again for a good while  That is what it is like to get to know a Christian. You have an old self and a new self (Ephesians 4:24).  The old self is crippled with anxieties, the need to prove yourself, bad habits you can’t break, and many besetting sins and entrenched character flaws.  The new self is always a work in progress, and sometimes the clouds of the old self make it almost completely invisible.  But sometimes the clouds really part, and you see the wisdom, courage, and love of which you are capable.  It is a glimpse of where you are going.” (p. 121)

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Our foggy view this morning

This weekend we spent time in the North Georgia mountains. The above photo was our foggy view this morning.  While there, I read the chapter “The Mission of Marriage” in Timothy and Kathy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, and discovered the above quotes.  Also while we were there, my mother-in-law visited with me and Doug about what exactly we were moving to Clarkston to do.  “What will your ministry be?” was her question.

As much as these two quotes have to do with marriage, they also express so beautifully one of the hopes for ministry that we wish to see fulfilled in Clarkston.  You see, so many people think of the world in terms of “us” and “them.”  “If my spoiled rotted child (“us”) could just see the poverty and hardship that poor teenager endures (“them”), my child would suddenly become grateful.” (cry of the suburban American parent)  Maybe.  Probably not for very long, though, unless they encounter something so precious and so valuable…friendship…with that other person.  With “them.”  So that, the “us” and the “them” gets so blurred that WE become friends.  We find common ground.  We see the clouds part in each other’s lives, and we rejoice at what could be…what will be.  Then, as we stand shoulder to shoulder, we are both grateful for the grace of friendship and the peculiar way that God uses friends to show us more of Himself and to make us more gracious, grateful folks.

Our desire through moving to Clarkston is to call families into friendship with refugee families.  To erase the “us” and “them” lines so that common passions are discovered – so that the glory that is mostly obscure in a fellow sojourner becomes obvious just once in a while, and both parties cry “Wow!  God is Good!”

This afternoon, I got an email from the very first family that has taken a dip into the waters of refugee relationship alongside of us.  The email was sweet and tender and so dripping with relationship and shared  passions of life.  It also broke my heart.  The young mom in this new-to-America family tells her new friend from suburban north Atlanta that she is eating and sleeping a lot, because that is all she knows to do. She is finding herself lonely and even depressed in her new home. Friendship is a priceless, free, gift that erases loneliness and opens doors to views of God that are impossible when standing alone.  I am so grateful that this new family has a friendship partner.  I pray their friendship grows and community ensues, the gospel is lived and shared, and common rejoicing takes place.  More than that, though, I pray that in five years, every family that is resettled to Clarkston will have a friendship partner to stand with them, to break down “us” and “them” barriers, and to gaze passionately at future glory made possible through Jesus Christ.

The picture below was our view before we left today, from the same vantage point.  What a difference the parting of the clouds can make!

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Our viewpoint after the sun broke through this morning