A NEW CHAPTER
I’ve realized over the years how much I love being in control. Most everything I do revolves around this. I like having my own car so I can go where I want to go, visit with the friends I want to visit, and leave when I want to leave. I like spending my money on what I want and eating the food that I want to eat. There are so many things at my disposal that it comes as no surprise that my ability to put faith and trust in God has been affected.
This revelation has ended up launching me in a new direction. Last year I went to India to broaden my worldview, to love those who had been neglected or forgotten, and to get out of my comfort zone. All of those things happened but then something unexpected began to rise up in me. As I read about people like Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi and Shane Claiborne, I was struck by their focus and devotion to God. I was also confounded by their simple obedience. When Mother Teresa was released to begin her work on the streets of India, she just walked outside and began to love and help people. She didn’t have a set plan on what she was going to do, she just walked blindly into the streets while trusting God the whole way.
Stories like Mother Teresa’s have been a huge source of inspiration for me. It gives me a modern context of what it could look like to live a life similar to Jesus’. It also challenges me to surrender my own selfish desires in order to grow closer to God and to follow in the footsteps of so many Christ-followers who came before me. This is an unbelievably daunting task though. Surrendering to God means giving control over to him, and that can be a very difficult thing to do.
I know this because I have agreed to give some of this control over to him come summertime. Ever since the India trip I have felt called to a different way of living life. The idea of living in community and being intentional about interacting with those who are on the margins of society have really been enticing to me. The more this desire grew, though, the more I realized I would have to give up. Many of my habits would have to change. I would need to be around the house more. I couldn’t hang out with as many friends. I could even lose some friends because of the people I would be around—given the difficult nature of loving the hard to love. These were really tough obstacles to get past in order to give God more of me, but as time went on I began to understand how crucial it was for me to follow God in this endeavor.
The other major worry I had before jumping into this new way of life was my vocation. Because I felt so strongly about this new venture I asked to take the summer off. This is a big deal because camp is the biggest thing YouthFront does each year. Thankfully though, after many conversations over the past couple of months, we came to a compromise. As of June 21st I will be done with my role at camp and will be on my way to Amsterdam. I am going there to see how a 25-year old community lives out the command to “love God and love others.” While I’m there I will be engaging in their community life while interacting on a regular basis with homeless people, drug addicts and other locals. The intent is to glean as much as possible from that community, as they have been doing for 25 years what I have been yearning to do for only one.
Once I return home the next big test of my faith will begin. I have talked many times about a man named Kenny. He is 62, lives in KC and is a rather unique man. Last month I wrote about how Kenny had confessed to being incredibly lonely since he had no family living anywhere near him. Upon hearing this a friend of mine and I were so moved that we decided to act. After a lot of discussion and prayer we decided that the only thing we could do was invite him to live with us. After talking with Kenny and his social worker we were given the green light to have Kenny move in with us come August. This was incredibly exciting news because it gave our house an initial core group of people and a mission.
All throughout the Gospels Jesus cared for those who were unwelcome and unloved. Together my friend and I have agreed to step into the unknown, to face our fears and to trust God as we try to love those who are strangers and outcasts in Kansas City. We don’t know exactly what will happen once we begin this endeavor but neither did the disciples when they responded to Jesus’ call to “follow me.” There are many logistical things to be worked out but we are trusting that God will provide.
In order to better grasp the way we are feeling led to live our lives, below are just a few of the ideas we are adopting as our own rule of life:
1. Realistic community. Jesus hung out with lots of people. He interacted with thousands of people but within that group He had only twelve disciples whom He shared his life with. Within that group He had three people He confided in even more than the others and within that there was John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. We recognize that we cannot share all of our lives with everyone we meet so we are agreeing to share our lives with the people who live near us regardless of their beliefs. This will require time and sacrifice but is essential to building a truly missional community.
2. A rigid routine. My friend and I have always loved the discipline of those who have lived their lives in monastic communities. Much of this probably has to do with the fact that the monastic life is very simple and routine while the American life is very chaotic and busy. In an effort to be more present to each other and to those living around us we are choosing to rebel against the busyness of life by adopting a basic schedule that will include times of work, study, prayer, silence, play, fellowship, and the breaking of bread. We yearn for balance and are developing this schedule so we can love God and others out of an overflow of the heart rather than out of a sense of duty and necessity. Jesus is the wellspring of life and if we aren’t close to that then we can’t love people well.
3. A generous community. Both within the house as well as within our community we are wanting to be radically generous. We want to have a house where people can come for relief, a good meal or a conversation. To provide for the hospitality we are wishing to readily give, we are creating a “common pool” where we will put some of our paychecks together to purchase things like food for community meals and clothing for those who are homeless and looking for employment. Beyond that we are agreeing to offer our time to those who need it most. Whether it be playing with the children or teaching a twenty year old how to read, we want to offer our time as a currency as well.
Kenny is kneeling in front. Micah and I are featured directly above him.
Those are just a few of the things that will define how we go about living our lives in the fall. To be honest, the whole thing is rather exciting to me but also frightening since it will require so much sacrifice and time. At the same time, I also know that this is exactly where God wants me to be so it helps me to give that control I so desperately crave over to my Father. Please pray for my friend Micah Waters and I as we begin looking for houses to rent or buy near Westport. Also pray that God will guide us as we further shape the rule of life that we will adhere to now as well as once we move into the house in the fall. Thank you for your continued support and I look forward to sharing more stories with you. If you would like to get more heavily involved please let me know and I can let you know what our immediate needs are. Thanks!