Monday, October 18, 2010

"Jesus Saves"

I know that this blog entry is way overdue. I apologize for my lack of updates. I start blogs but can never seem to finish them or be happy with them. So… I’m not entirely sure where to go with this but I need to give you all some sort of life update.

I have been here two months now? This city is just so strange. My neighborhood lies directly next to Paramount Studios between Melrose and Santa Monica. We are right in the heart of Hollywood (The Hollywood sign is visible from our street). If you have never been to Hollywood you may feel that this seems like a funny area for us to be situated as missionaries/volunteers. The truth is that people in LA typically do not want to live here. Most of our neighbors struggle to make ends meet monthly and our neighborhood has some drug and gang violence. But being the strange city of LA, if you walk just a few blocks south from us you find yourself in Hancock Park; a very quiet upper-class neighborhood where many TV show celebrities live. A neighborhood where you would not need to worry nearly as much about locking the doors. The city is just an incredible patchwork of people from all different countries, cultures, social classes, ages and races.

My life here has been crazy. I’m still not sure why I am here or what exactly God has in store for me, but I do feel confident that this is where I am supposed to be. I have been working at Alegria for 6? weeks now. I am working with the nurse and social worker who head the department to write monthly education classes, translate, prepare to teach ESL, help students apply to college and prepare for our annual Christmas party. I am not really doing what I expected to be doing at work, but it is good. We’ll see what happens! We have also opened the community center on Gregory Ave. The kids are incredible. Sometimes we wish we had more energy left after work for these kids. They have so much energy! We help with homework, teach ESL classes and really just hang out with the kids. We are primarily a ministry of presence, but we are praying for direction and volunteers to help with the center. I have been checking out different local churches and am hoping to be settled into one soon. Fortunately, I have found an incredible young adult small group to get involved with just a mile from our house.

I think that part of my lack for blogging may be due to an internal faith struggle that I’ve been going through since Egypt. I can’t really explain what is going on in my faith life, just that I have been wrestling with things. One of those is perhaps the image of Christianity in society. Sometimes I just get overwhelmed with “Jesus Saves” bumper stickers and what I have stereotyped as a sort of “in your face” Christianity.

Sunday I had the incredible opportunity to see the positive power that this sort of Christianity can possess. I was walking with a team from Reality LA church in LA’s Annual AIDS walk. Our team name was JESUS. I was a little embarrassed. I’m not sure why. I am not embarrassed to be a Christian, but… well…. The day of the rally we met up and began to walk. I saw that we were not the only Jesus themed team. There was one team of about 50 young adults all in purple shirts declaring “Jesus Saves.” I wasn’t sure what I thought of those shirts. I didn’t dislike them but I didn't know that I really liked them either... As the walk began we came up against radical Christian protesters holding awful signs declaring things such as “Homo sex is a Sin” with scripture references posted… one of the verse references on a hate sign was John 3:16 (they didn't actually post the verse just the reference number),For God So Loved the World that He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but receive eternal life.” I am unsure how this verse of salvation and love supported their message of hatred and exclusion. Why they needed to come and protest a walk raising money to find a cure to a disease that is killing millions of people around the world I do not know or understand. I do understand the gospel and the light that I have been studying it in. The greatest commandment Jesus gave us was to love God and love our neighbors. Our neighbors are not geographical; our neighbors are all of God’s people; every tribe and every nation. As we walked past the protesters we also walked past the group in their Jesus Saves t-shirts. Suddenly I loved these shirts. I am a Christian, but I was not a visible representation of Christ at that rally. It would have been easy for the Christian protesters to be to only side of Christianity that walkers saw that day. Fortunately, there were people choosing to show themselves as Christians preaching a message of inclusion and love with their choice to walk as Team “JESUS SAVES”

(I hope this could be followed by you all...)

Thank you God for showing me how what I often consider corny Christianity can be powerful, positive and inclusive. I pray that you help me regain faith that I seem to be wrestling with and be with my housemates and I as we really dig into this year and a better understanding of you.