Saturday, March 22, 2014

Shouldn't I Be Taller?

Saturday morning in Africa. You have your seat on your veranda, your coffee in hand and some reading material in your lap. These are the things that bliss is made of.

Today’s location is Njewa, Malawi and my soundtrack is Malawian hip hop blasting from a sound system set up to entertain the students of Children of the Nations’ boarding school, the International Christian Academy, as they go about their morning chores. Moments of solitude and real soul rest have been in short supply as I have travelled from west to east Africa over these last few months both because of squeezed schedules and my desire to do as much and meet as many as possible. 

Today is to be different…

My reading material is an old Relevant magazine and I am turning the pages and see a familiar face – Justin Zoradi, founder of the non-profit, These Numbers Have Faces and fellow alumni of DV’s volunteer/intern programme and Capetownship. As I have been living out my thirtieth year of fallen-ness one of the things that I have noticed myself doing is comparing my position in life with that of others. Whether it is the friend with the wife, the house, the career and the kids or the one with some other perceived significance or recognition, I am tempted to stand with them back-to-back and see who is taller – a test I have never done well in. It’s a pretty human thing to do given the perpetual dissatisfaction of a creation made to look upon the divine when they choose instead to look upon the earthen. NGO/ministry types are always at it – quietly comparing each other’s “impact” and judging who is the most innovative, sustainable, indigenous or whatever is the most current measure of success. So I first have to shake that off before seeing what JZ has to say…

What I have always appreciated about Justin is that he saw what scores of us who went on Capetownship had seen before but was not satisfied with allowing it to be a mission trip that he came home from.* Instead he was broken down, re-formed and inspired to make his home amongst the challenges that he had seen. He writes that he was tempted to give up on the vision he had had and I am sure that this was the problem of so many that had gone before – sparks of inspiration got dampened. I might send a brief but accusing glance at our culture’s tendency to politely discourage the audacious, enthusiastic, optimistic attitude of an individual who has the arrogance to suggest that they might be a solution. In Northern Ireland it seems like everyone must start off with the baggage of a prophet in their own town. Thankfully Justin ignored those thoughts that would cry down his vision and These Numbers was born and grew.

What then is the point Justin is making in Relevant which has inspired me to type? Simply that the answers we can personally provide to life’s problems will never be complete. We are but part of the redemptive plan that God has for the world. There is no perfect life, no perfect ministry.

 “There is liberation in understanding that you are meant to do incomplete work… You are the worker, not the master builder… Being the worker means your fumbling progress is a step along the way, leaving open the opportunity for God’s grace to show up and do the rest.” 

Chris Clark, co-founder and President of Children of Nations, tells the story of how his mother once said that God was not in need of great men but rather men who would point to his greatness. As I seek to play my part in raising children who transform nations, this is an important reminder of my own limitations and the idea that although I should constantly strive to do the absolute most with what God has given me, there will be a limit and in that limit I can find peace not dissatisfaction. The Bible’s way of putting it is that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.

Justin ends with the story of Cardinel Danneels of Brussels and so shall I. He said:

When I get home after a long day, I go to the chapel and pray. I say to the Lord, “There it is for today, things are finished. Now let’s be serious, is this diocese mine or yours?”
The Lord says, “What do you think?”
I answer, “I think it’s yours.”
“That is true,” the Lord says, “it is mine.”
And so I say, “Listen Lord, it is your turn to take responsibility for and direct the diocese. I’m going to sleep.”

In Liberia they say that God never sleeps. That’s good. Because I'm always doing it…


*Notable exception to this would be Stocki whose vision of how to partner for change was Capetownship itself – a now somewhat forgotten ministry except to those whose lives it utterly changed forever! I also acknowledge that there were a number of Capetownshipers there from the beginning, sharing and supporting in the vision of TNHFs. 

1 comment:

Shan in Japan said...

Mark, thank you for your thoughtful blog post.
"answers we can personally provide to life’s problems will never be complete" -- I needed to hear this today! Blessings!

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