Brave

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This month I will continue to write about and celebrate a decade with World Impact. 

“You were the bravest women I have ever seen.” These words were conveyed to me when Julie called. She had been visiting Chester, and one of our old neighbors asked if we were all moving back in. She said no, and then he said we were brave.

We never thought we were brave – some days we were scared. We were scared the time we huddled on the floor praying as we heard the racket that accompanies bullets flying through the back yard. We were scared the night when the police broke up an unsanctioned block party and someone fled through our open door, rushing to the back of the house. We were scared the day the women with the baseball bats came after our neighbor and we called the police. We were not brave, we were scared and trying to be obedient.

These events marked by fear were catalysts of joy and humor. As we prayed on the floor, Alex from across the street came to check on us, because he cared and wanted to make sure we were ok. The woman rushing to the back of our house was our neighbor, Shandra – she had to use the bathroom so bad she could not hold it, and then she hung out at our place watching chick flicks the rest of the night. Calling the police led to Miss Dot confirming our friendship: “Miss Candy, shit like that don’t happen in our neighborhood. Damn right to call the police – I did too. We take care of each other on this block.” We were not brave, we were laughing and trying to be obedient.

These words of bravery are not empty, but they are unmerited. We were not trying to be brave. We lived in a neighborhood with others, we dug up dirt and planted seeds, we roasted marshmallows and saw Jesus in our neighbor. We were not trying to be brave, we were obedient like David taking on Goliath, like Ruth at the feet of Boaz, like all the missionaries who had gone before us. We did not think we were brave – we were scared, confused, joyful, hurting, obedient humans.

“You were the bravest women I have ever seen.” I wish these words were owed us, I wish I felt like these words could sum up my life. I am not sure we know when we are being brave. So, we just did life together, day in and day out, with anyone willing to join us. Our home was often full, but when it was empty there was a quietness that we filled with music, pouring coffee, making pancakes, and inviting people over to join in obedience. We did not know we were brave, we were just creating a life and trying to be obedient.

Maybe obedience is bravery. Maybe trusting in the Lord to provide is braver than I think it is. Maybe I need to embrace bravery.

A Decade Later

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This month I celebrate my 10-year anniversary with World Impact (working full time). If I could rewind 13 years to my first summer as an intern, I never would have never thought that I would be where I am seated – in Wichita. I kinda thought I would live and die in Chester, PA. But God had other plans; He had a journey that I never could have expected nor imagined.

Over the years I have had some unique experiences, times that have brought joy, pain, struggle and obedience. God has been faithful; He has protected me from bullets, words, heartache, and my own stupidity. He has also allowed me to find great joy in big things, small events and people growing in His truth. I have done some math that I think you might enjoy:

I have lived in 4 homes (soon to be 5), in 2 cities, in 2 states with 4 roommates (soon to be 5) and 2 interns.

I have spent 62 weeks at camp (sleeping in bunk beds) for weekend retreats, kid’s camps, winter retreats, teen camp, family camps, and actually working at a camp. That means I have chaperoned over 300 campers!

I have hosted dozens of sleepovers with more than 75 teenage girls crashing on pull out couches, in sleeping bags, on the floor or in chairs. This equals a LOT of pancakes, hundreds of rounds of SkipBo, and too many viewings of Parent Trap and the Princess Diaries. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

My roommates and I have had 1 wheelbarrow, 1 headlight, 2 windshield wipers, 1 camera, and $500 in gift cards stolen, and only the wheelbarrow was returned. Our neighbors Alex and Mike put word out, “Nobody messes with the girls,” and within 24 hours it was back. I love good neighbors.

I have had the honor of baptizing 4 followers of Christ, discipling 15 teen girls and leading weekly Bible Studies for over 6 years.

I have driven 15-passenger vans more miles than I count, but there was one week that I logged over 1,000 miles. To and from the Poconos to drop summer staff at camp; to and from the Jersey Shore – it was some of the teens’ first time to the ocean; and to and from Maryland, where we learned about the underground railroad and walked on the roads of Harriet Tubman. That trip was life changing.

During those years in Chester I became an adult. The teens and young people I became family with grew me, taught me, allowed me to mess up, apologize, and try again. I can’t imagine who I would have become without them. Miss Kim taught me about motherhood, pushing through when it is hard, loving your kids for who they are and growing amazing people. Miss Faye and Miss Debbie – these two ladies are the picture of sisterhood and grace – spoke up for education, always lent a hand, and showed me kindness always wins. There are dozens more parents who entrusted me with their children while I was still a child myself.

For 10 years God has always provided!

So, thank you, those who have prayed, visited, sent financial support, written notes of encouragement – God has used it all to build His Kingdom in urban America. You are more than partners in ministry, you are family – my spiritual family, and my Church family – that I have the privilege of celebrating 10 years of God’s goodness with.

 

Silent No Longer

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I have been silent because I do not know what to say. I am unsure how many times we can yell, “This must stop!” to a an impenetrable wall. And yet I am not tired of standing with my black and brown brothers and sisters. I will never tire of the truth that #BlackLivesMatter. But I tire of the grief and heartache my friends and family must endure.

I have been silent because I do not know what to say. “I’m sorry,” “I love you,” “I’m listening,” “I’m here” don’t seem enough. These words spoken to the choir will not create change; they will spotlight allies and draw allegiance, but that is not enough. I know we need to talk, we need to link arms, we need to pray, but I tire of the same thing happening day in and day out.

I have been silent because I do not know what to say. There are those out there who are speaking truth, breaking down the walls and seeking peace. I admire them, I post their words, I embrace their ideas, I value them. I know I also need to say something, but I tire of the words returning void.

I have been silent, but now I speak, words from the Bible seem to be all I can muster: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” This Proverb is not to say that Black Lives are mute or destitute, or poor or needy, but today I must open my mouth and defend the rights of Black Lives. Today I must say again and again #BlackLivesMatter.