It's been a little over a month now (4 if you count the summer) since I've been here in Memphis and it's been an excellent experience so far. NEVER would i have thought that I'd be living in the inner-city farming and doing construction. That just goes to show that God is in control and not me, and that this is all his doing. I'm still trying to get my head around everything I've been taking in and hopefully even this blog can help with that. There are just so many aspects I don't don't even really know where to start.
I guess the most visible part of my internship is my jobs. It seems as though I've been going pretty much nonstop since I got here. My typical week so far has been working at the farm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday morning, and Friday then I go to SOS Wednesday afternoon and Thursday as well as Saturday and Sunday for Fall Work Weekend camps. I don't tell you all of this to feel sorry for me because I've actually quite enjoyed it despite being pretty physically exhausted. I already feel like I've gotten a lot of stuff done. I built a chicken tractor (photos to come soon hopefully) shelving, raised flower beds, fences for our fainting goats, and filters for the fish tank at the farm. I'm in the process of building a deck for our office space and have two more hoop house green houses on my to-do list. I've also gotten to do a lot of projects with SOS my favorite of which was building a 24' wheelchair ramp for Ms. Betty whose house we worked on this summer as well.
And while these are good things and are helping the community visible ways, the most exciting part of what I've gotten to do is just being a part of this neighborhood. These people are the whole reason we're here. They have to be. If we're doing what we're doing to make ourselves look good or to make ourselves feel better we're missing something. God doesn't get the glory for that. Now I'm not saying that I don't feel good about what I get to do but the focus has to remain outward, God and other people. This is one of the most significant lessons of the Bible. When asked what the greatest commandment is Jesus replied love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind. He followed that up by saying the second most important is to love your neighbor as yourself. (Mat. 22:36-40) He wasn't asked what the most important two commandments were, but they are so connected together that he wouldn't separate them. That's what I'm here to learn and do. James 1:22 says "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." So, how do we love our neighbors as ourselves? The Bible gives the example of the good Samaritan, a guy who sees someone in need and goes way out of his way to help. Maybe a good question to ask is how do we love ourselves? I don't think it means that we have gushy feelings for ourselves or think that we're just so great. I think it's as simple as getting ourselves food when we feel hungry and water (or Starbucks) when we're thirsty. It's as easy as buying a new pair of jeans when we rip a hole in the seat our old broken in pair. It's putting on a jacket when it's cold so we don't get sick. It's stuff we don't even think twice about. So I ask again. How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? We go out of our way to give to those who don't have the little things that we wouldn't even consider not doing for ourselves. Now you and I both know that that sounds a lot easier than it really is, at least at first, but it's something to strive for.
Sorry, went on a little rant there, but that's why we're really here doing the work that we're doing. The beautiful thing is that you don't have to live in a Binghampton or work for an SOS to do it. Don't get me wrong, people are needed here but they're also needed there (wherever "there" is). And it's not just the physical needs. It's the spiritual need that's probably even more important (although they're often hand in hand in the Bible). I read in a book that we've read through in the Academy called Restoring At Risk Communities that the inner city is often not seen as a legitimate missions field, at least not in the same way that foreign missions are. I'm in no way trying to diminish the importance of reaching the nations and would actually argue that that is of the highest priority among people doing urban Christian Community Development. In our cities lie pockets of different cultures; Indian, Chinese, Hispanic, African, etc. Not only can we GO to the nations, but the nations are coming to us as well, and in some cases these people would have a greater chance of meeting a missionary had they stared in their native country than they will living in an American city. Even in Binghampton there is a large 1st generation Hispanic American population and hundreds of African refugees who will potentially return to their countries later taking with them the message of Jesus Christ. Now how much more effective will that be than a bunch of whities going over there not fully understanding the culture and pressures of that nation.
Well this is getting lengthy so I'll start to wrap up. This month plus some change has been exciting, tiring, challenging, even confusing at times. I came looking for answers and have gotten mostly more questions. I've felt pressed for splitting time between the Academy group, my house, SOS, the BDC and other relationships that I've began to build. I've even struggled to make time for God and reading my Bible often times putting my laziness and personal desires before seeking after God. I could use some prayer for that. Support raising continues to be on my mind. While God has been faithful so far in providing for me I've been able to raise about half of my goal and will have to continue that process again soon. Nevertheless, I'm still very encouraged and thankful for the blessings and opportunities that God is continuing to give me. Thanks for reading, your prayers and your support. Please seek me out and let me in on what you're up to and how you're doing. I really want to be praying specifically for all of you. I just bought a little prayer notebook and I need to fill it up.