Sunday, March 16, 2014

{Freely we've received, now freely we will give - That's one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite songs, God of Justice (We Must Go) by Tim Hughes. Click! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TCh31xg4vA}

Well...wow what a week. (And what an alliteration lol.)

I think my mind is still trying to wrap itself around all that we were exposed to and challenged to think about, so here's a little glimpse into the past week of my life.

For those of you that don't know, I spent the majority of my spring break participating in an InterVarsity urban issue immersion program called Urban Plunge.We were housed by an awesome loving and hospitable church in Anacostia (that's where the picture up top is set), a low income and predominantly African American suburb of DC. Located east of the Anacostia River (most of DC is on the west side), it's a very underdeveloped part of town and oftentimes known best by its crime statistics - so basically people who don't live there don't venture down there.

With that said, I am so glad that we spent a week living there. It's crazy how you can literally watch both the landscape and the demographics of the bus change almost instantaneously as you cross the river. Even so, during the daytime Kate (our director) sent us into every neighborhood of DC possible - serving as a reminder that the underprivileged are not just east of the river, but they're just as present on the very streets we walk in our everyday lives.

I'm not going to go into detail on the plethora of service activities we engaged in, but providing company to those without a home, witnessing the negative effects of gentrification, sharing in the joy of an underprivileged immigrant child - our experiences were diverse, they were eye-opening, and above all they were so, so humbling. (But if you want to know more about them, you can hit me up in person so I can convince you to go on Urban Plunge next year.)

{Continue reading for my genuine reflections and convictions.}

Another thing I liked was how Kate continually reminded us to look at the world and specifically this city with our 'Kingdom of God' eyes - through the lens that our Father would see his beloved children. Because Jesus calls us to live out the kingdom of heaven on earth, which means spreading the good news but also entails providing for both the spiritual and physical needs of those we're ministering to. And it's to the scum of the earth, to the last of the least, to the poorest of the lacking - that's who he calls us to. Yet because we can't bring ourselves to venture out too far from our stability from settling into the material riches surrounding us, we fail to see that we are no better. That it's the poor, the underprivileged, the lacking that are the closest to His heart and can oftentimes most wholly receive and give of his love.

Which brings me to the internal/conceptual discussions Kate challenged us with (essentially the talks, seminars, bible studies, reflections, etc. we had inside the church in the evenings since we didn't go out after dark).
"The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position..." (James 1:9-10a. Don't know what version though.)
The original Greek for pride in this instance can also translate to rejoice in confidently. Also notice how he doesn't say poor; he says humble circumstances. I would say the 'one in humbler circumstances' often compares most consistently to the poor in this world, but dang it's so true. The poor, the homeless, the weak and the weary - this week has shown me that they know far better than we do how to give with genuine generosity and love with a pure heart. Because they outwardly own close to nothing, they can give so much more freely of their inward self - they can give or and share their hearts so authentically.

As believers, we should long to see the kingdom of God manifest in everyone of every race, ethnicity, gender, background, perspective, personality, intellectual capability, and every other identifier you could name. And it's when we pursue genuine relations with the poor in spirit and in physical need that our hearts can actually be broken and softened. It's only then that we can find joy in sharing life, love, God, and everything thereafter and forevermore with the whole community, casting aside any and all presumptions and prejudices. For example, say you think you're helping out a community in need by opening up an art gallery in the area. But as great as the arts are, little did you know that the community doesn't have quite as pressing of a need for an art gallery than an actual grocery store. That's where the relational aspect comes in.

Anyways, I'm still digesting a lot. But what I can definitively say is that I am so glad InterVarsity is a part of my life. As aptly phrased by inner city pastor Peter Chin, "While the charismatic church engaged my heart, the reformed church (his words lol) IV engaged my mind." The challenges of practical application of God's commands have really made growing in my faith a much more holistic learning experience.

And on a side note, shoutout to the moms who cooked us dinner the whole week - talk about nourishment for both our soul and our stomachs (y'all da best!). On another note, half of me is dead sick of cereal for breakfast, but then the other half misses the memories made over that...and bad coffee.

Lastly, as for one of the most rewarding aspects of the trip - and also because I'm bad at physical goodbyes, shoutout to all of you guys that made this spring break my most memorable yet:

TO - You aite I guess...haha just kidding! I don't know what this week or consuming that banana pudding would have been without you, but both of those definitely would not have been as enjoyable without your energy and general feelgoodness. You're one of those people that just exudes good vibes, and I'm still happily surprised that we connected so well.
IL - Just puttin' it out there that you would be such a good husband what with your willingness to do dishes LOL. But seriously though, you mad cool (notice the diction). Through the dish spraying and all the late night jamming/talks and Father East's misunderstandings, I really felt comfortable around you, so thanks for listening to my ramblings haha. Then again, you're also the closest MB personality twin I've met yet, so go figure.
QB - Thanks for not judging about the cupcake preference; really, what an example of true acceptance of others. But all jokes aside, I'm glad we at least got to brew bad coffee together before you had to leave early! But hey at least we're still in the same city, so we have no excuse not to hang out again.
SMJY - (yeah you know what those first two letters stand for) - Qurl you saaaasssy. Next time imma be the one to pick you up and throw you across the street. See ya around.
LJ - From sassing me in the shower to being the ideal taboo teammate to making suga momma jon a thing to dancing to timber zumba style, um yeah girl I love you. I wish I'd gotten to know you a little earlier on, but at least you live nearby, so further girldates are a must.
AO - I know they usually use this term to describe babies (LOL), but you are seriously a bundle of joy. Keep on balancing those financial statements.
TDD - It was nice being almost married, even if just a short while. There's nothing like bonding over six straight hours of spontaneous busing and wandering, getting relationship advice from a homeless man, and texting your mom during GED tutoring breaks - hehe we definitely had some good times.

And to my fellow Hoyas (you guys get first name status) - Anna, you are one of the most inspiring and loving leaders ever. Whether bringing me a towel so I could actually shower or sharing advice and guidance on like every aspect of life possible, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. And Victoria, I'm glad we got to know each other a little better this trip; let's continue to keep each other accountable in all that we've learned and committed to.

And Kate and John, thanks for everything. For opening up our eyes, for humbling us, for teaching us.

Alas, I have come to the end (finally LOL kudos to you if you actually read through all this). Love y'all. Love God.


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