May we be prophets
proclaiming the Reign of God in all things.
May we be mystics
experiencing a real sense of at-one-ness with God,
With all humanity and all of creation.
Mission is to go to a no-place, serve God’s nobodies
and (in the eyes of the world) accomplish no-thing.
In this may we realize we are at the center
of what time, meaning and history are all about.
O God, give us the courage to dream new dreams,
think new thoughts and go forward into the future
with the Spirit.
O God, fill us with the joy of the Gospel
and may we pass it on to others, pressed down, flowing
over, full measure, above and beyond.
By John J. Walsh, MM
Word Made Flesh Bolivia, in partnership with The Mission Society, hosted a national mission conference for 135 pastors, missionaries and church leaders, representing 95 congregations from throughout the country; some had traveled over 24 hours by bus to arrive. In a successful and challenging time together, we confronted realities within Bolivia and beyond our borders.
Monday morning, the group huddled into the conference room for our first full day. We sat in rows with our puffy coats, as the temperature outside had barely climbed above freezing. Missiologist, Dr. Darrell Whiteman, began with what appeared to be a safe-enough doctrine: the incarnation. For those of us who have spent decades warming pews, we were plenty familiar with the idea of God becoming man to reach man. Whiteman however, explained that the incarnation was a model to follow. Just as God adopted the Jewish customs and limits to show us His love and truth, we were to take on the customs and limits of those around us to show God’s love and truth.
The idea of eating, dressing and talking like those outside our door was a new idea for us, to say the least. Over the following three days, Dr. Whiteman and Dr. Denny Heiberg continued to challenge our preconceptions and give us the tools to begin to “incarnate.” As a group, we brainstormed social groups in our midst that we’ve mostly ignored as a church. The list sprawled across the whiteboard: “street performers, the LGBT community, members of the military, shamans, ex-inmates…” The idea of reaching our neighbors had become quite real.
As we grappled to rediscover the meaning of the gospel (the “naked gospel” as we called it), many reflected on the rules that had replaced it. One man commented, “We always taught that the dances of the Jews were holy, and that our traditional dances were evil.” Another shared of his frustration that young men who found the courage to enter a church were often rejected and told their baggy, low-hanging pants were “unbiblical.” One young woman teared up, recognizing the oppressive set of guilt-inflicting rules over her own life.
This wasn’t a pursuit of liberation in and of itself, it was God freeing us as He showed us His plan to restore and transform our cultures (and our neighbor’s cultures). His plan was not to belittle or condemn culture. It occurred to me that this was what Jesus wanted to show us all along, but we too were much like the teachers of the law to really listen. And the false beliefs and prejudices that had clouded our view of the gospel could only be changed through years of discipleship, Heiberg explained.
After the last day’s meal, we rolled up our sleeping bags and climbed onto the buses to head home. The dry, mountainous landscape rolled by on the road back to La Paz. The areas to change in my life seemed endless, and I repented for my carelessness in my interactions with others previously. The power to change would have to come from God and from the refining process of community. And more than anything, I wanted to share it with others. I quickly identified with a comment on one man’s conference evaluation: “My only complaint is that I didn’t bring my wife!”
Over the last few months, we’ve been praying – quietly, fervently, patiently awaiting the Lord’s provision.
And then the ground began to rumble as I started to receive a string of e-mails, “You’ve been nominated,” “We’ll need a personal bio” and “Yes, you need to be present to win.” So the next few weeks were full of excitement and activity, nailing down details and nervously wondering about what might lie ahead.
Still reeling from long flights and a bit of cultural re-adjustment, I’m getting a manicure with flashy red nails and pondering it all.
I was that girl — comfortable being sassy and all prettied up. The doctor’s daughter who for the majority of her growing up years, didn’t realize that most people don’t have their own swimming pool in their backyard. And then….. I moved to Bolivia. And I saw the world for what it is. My nails got dirty, my heart broken. I confronted evil in the lives of my friends and within myself. Lived in the midst of the suffering.
By Andrea Baker
Then I walk into this Gala, in the Fox Theater no less, where I once dreamed of performing on stage there. My family nearby, because this is my old stomping ground. And like many who return home changed, I felt like a fish out of water. Numb, overwhelmed, wide-eyed.
I smiled, I chatted, I enjoyed the amazing food and loved briefly connecting with these world changer’s whose bio’s and work I had poured over.
I teared up as we sang,
“Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us.
You’re with us in the fire and the flood.
Faithful forever, Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us.”
For all that our community holds, all that we’ve seen and lamented and fought for. I prayed and declared again, “Yes, Lord. You are faithful.”
(and then I worried about all my smeared mascara….)
I’ve spent a good portion of this year reflecting on God’s faithfulness. My husband and I recently celebrated 10 years of service in Bolivia. And I’ve reminisced over the hundreds of ways the Lord has manifested His goodness. I don’t ever want to forget.
I wish now that I could have soaked it all up a little more – enjoyed that incredible lobster and all the glamour. And as I sit back and reflect on it all now, I can’t help but be impressed with how surreal it was. All that pomp and circumstance for…. loving Diana? Choosing to enter in? How do other people do it? Move in and out of these drastically different worlds so effortlessly?
Maybe we won, because we don’t care about all the attention. I have no idea where I’ll pose that gorgeous hand-blown glass award. Maybe we won because Presence does matter. I had a speech ready just in case: Over the years so many people have asked us, ‘How many have you saved? How many have you rescued?’ And it’s always an awkward question, since we typically don’t boast big numbers. And at times, I’ve wanted to say, “No one has asked me how many I’ve loved.” And I have loved many. I think that counts for something, because in the end, love does matter. Beautiful, unconditional Love has transformed my life. And there’s nothing more significant than that. In the end, love wins; love transforms.
I’m still overwhelmed by it all. Honored beyond belief and extremely humbled. But mostly just anxious to return home to my simple life in Bolivia. I’d love for you to continue with us in this amazing journey.
I planted garlic the other day; got it all tucked snuggly into a freshly-worked bed in the garden just before the rains started to come on the north wind, andthe temperature swept down its autumn-to-winter road. It’ll be months before I see any sign of growth in this cherished crop. The actual time it took to plant it was minimal, but what happened that day in the soil is greatly significant…producing later the means for scrumptious hummus with fresh bread, homemade pesto pizza and soups and curries made delicious! Though the day which contained the beginnings of such rewards was like many a day this season – a small deposit there, a bit of seed-sewing here, dirty fingernails and a bent back, oftentimes returning in the evening empty-handedly.
But not forgetting the hope of harvest and the great returns that are sure to come.
So I came to the setting sun that garlic day, not unlike a mother who tucks her children in and turns her thoughts forward to the day to come; one day of small deposits done, another one on its way. But I have returned in my thoughts to that garlic again and again. In it, I find truth. And hope.
Life is made up of years, and years months, months days, and days are made of…moments. Moments. So easy to let slip away, or discount as insignificant to the greater make-up of life. And yet herein lies the very substance of life – the very bursting possibilities to make life new or fresh, joyful or stagnant and rank. I am afraid as people, we tend to look over the bits and pieces of our existence and give greater focus to those major signposts of a lifetime. But it is in the daily, albeit mundane, unglamorous foot in front of foot, raw material of being human that leads to (and through, and past) those bigger, brighter “events.” Marriage for example, we celebrate anniversaries of certain numbers with (due) honor and (sometimes) pomp, yet seldom do we take the time to truly honor the regular sacrifices of one spouse for the other that build the structure which can handle the weight and struggles years place on it. Or child-rearing, or walking slowly down the path of transformation with our friends in Suti Sana…moment by moment.
Unfortunately, popular evaluating questions of our day are prone to this farsightedness of life: “How many?” and “Measurable dividends produced?” With what shall we appropriately question and evaluate our efforts, our minutes, our strivings? Perhaps…”Have I this day been a slave to obedience that Christ may be the one living in my body?”…or “Is there a lady to rejoice over today who is truly understanding God’s amazing character?”…or “Is there a man who chose this hour to fill his mind with God’s WORD instead of the NBA or pornographic images?”…or “Did my time spent with someone communicate the love of Jesus?”
You see, this very moment, as you read these very words, is ripe with possibilities for future yields; whether in this life or the life to come…carefully placing a clove of garlic in the soil, dumping our small bucket of kitchen scraps into the compost pile, pulling up a weed by its roots; whether answering a spouse gently when frustrated or expressing appreciation for the regular task; whether lending an ear to a hurting friend, or visiting a dank brothel offering a cup of hot cocoa; maybe taking an extra moment to pray with someone for that nagging discomfort, or sharing a warm embrace and smile one more time as the drop-in closes its doors for the day…this moment counts. This one small deposit, just like the countless ones which have come before and the countless more to come after, MATTERS.
This just might be the one to bring into being new life next season, sprouting shoots of green!
But lo! may I remember to value it properly, lest I cast this moment aside carelessly, and fail to see that it holds the very stuff of life. For if I will not fully live now, in this moment, then I shall not either be alive in any other more glorious one. Sometimes it’s a “90’s” band that says it so well: “If not now, when?” (Jimmy Eat World, “Clarity,” 1997). Think spring!
By Laura Straniero
In our darkest days, the Lord shows us love and mercy, giving us glimpses of hope in our midst. We’ve learned that especially in this ministry, we need to celebrate the smallest victories.
Our former Social Worker, Nancy, visited the home of one of our friends, Maggie*. Maggie surprised Nancy by cooking her favorite meal: lasagna (not a popular dish in Bolivia because the ingredients are expensive). Maggie, in her own way, was responding with love for the love she has received. Another day, Nancy found Maggie reading a Bible on her own…we know that someway, somehow the Lord will bring her fully into the Lord’s arms of Love.