Well friends – here’s the first of many (hopefully) reflections.
A prayer of discernment
Lord, I am willing to
Receive what you give,
Release what you take,
Lack what you withhold,
Do what you require,
And be who you desire.
The reality of leaving has begun to sink in. The next month will be a constant state of transition – of leaving and arriving, of good-byes and hellos, of letting go and taking up. Relationships will change, and as I look towards what my life will look like in a few months, I am confronted by wildly differing options. According to Leo Tolstoy, the most important aspect of a story is the transitions. And as I look at my life, transition has been a constant theme (even as I search for constancy, roots, home, and belonging).
As I finish preparing to leave the city I have called home and the people who have made it a reality, I have been reflecting and remembering – going through memories both joyful and sad. I remember sitting on the street with Rafael and Jeferson on a Mother’s day, crying as we remembered and entered into loss together, laughing after soccer games, singing worship together. I remember shared meals (pizza and spaghetti were favorites), evenings in church, seeing these young men grow up. I remember Roberto, one of the first boys we met on the streets – his friendly smile, his charm, his laugh and constant joking. I remember the joy when Cleiton went home, left the streets, went back into school, and turned his life around. I remember the tears and heartbreak when Jeferson was murdered.
I tasted a bit of the heart of God – the heartache he feels when we make poor choices, walking away from him, from love, from wisdom, from grace that is freely offered. I watched these young men and women ravage their bodies and minds, choosing death over life. As much as I loved them, I couldn’t make their choices for them. I couldn’t force them to leave the streets, stop drugs, go home, go back to school, stop fighting, or transform their own lives. I could only love them, offer them hope and an outstretched hand. Many refused to take it, and it broke my heart.
How many times do I do the same to our Father? In my pride, I spurn his love, and walk my own way. Yet every time I fall, bruised and broken by the side of the path, he is there to pick me up, continue to walk alongside me, and show me the way. Yet grace abounds, for me and for them, for us all. Grace abounds.
I want to thank you all for living out the picture Paul paints of the Body of Christ – you have been that to me over these past five year through your prayers, your support, your friendship, your concern, and your giving. I would ask for your continued prayers over the next few months in the following areas:
1. WMF Community in Brazil – Be praying for the Nichols, Jenna, Dandy, and Jacque, as well as the kids on the street, neighbors in the favelas, and the youth we minister and live among. It is hard to say good-byes, entrusting them in the Lord’s hands.
2. Processing the transition, dealing with loss – I am aware that the transition may be difficult, and am looking to be able to have some time to process and reflect. WMF allows us to draw on funds from our support account for counseling after leaving the field, if the funds are available (currently they aren’t). I’m already grateful for friends who have committed to praying for me and walking alongside me as I “re-enter” American culture, and am looking for more.
3. Direction – I am currently finalizing where I’ll be for the next year – hopefully it will provide a good community and base for transition. At the same time, I’ll be researching law programs, and seeing if the Lord continues to open doors in that direction. There’s much uncertainty, which is a bit unsettling, but also exciting. Pray for faith and trust as I walk and follow where the Lord leads.
4. Ending financial obligations – I have a commitment to not leave my support account in the negative – currently, it is about 1,100 dollars in the red. On top of that there are ending costs (plane ticket back to the US, travel costs, etc.). WMF also has the provision for returning staff to continue to draw salary for three months after my return as I transition, continue the job hunt, and begin settling in. Obviously, if the money isn’t there, then that won’t happen. I am thankful for all of your generosity, even in these difficult economic times – the way many of you have gone without so that I could be here serving the poor in Rio de Janeiro is humbling. For those who currently support me, and so feel led, I would greatly appreciate your continuing for a short while. And if there are any questions, please feel free to let me know.
I will be arriving in the US the second week in May (am already here), and am tentatively planning a trip from Illinois out to Virginia (stopping at all points along the way) at the end of May/beginning of June (provided I work out transportation issues). I would love to get in touch with any of ya’ll who are even remotely in the way, reconnect, share more about the past five years, or just share a meal or cup of coffee. Please get in touch with me if ya’ll would be interested.
The prayer I began this letter with has been a constant refrain over the past few months. Uncertainty is difficult for me – it’s difficult for most people to live in the unknown, the near and distant future being veiled. I can’t see where the path that I’m following will take me, but I do know who I am walking alongside. I would ask that you would pray that with me and for me. I am so grateful for your presence in my life, and for enabling me to be a small, tangible expression of the Lord’s love for Jeferson, Rafael, Cleiton, Roberto, Serginho, and all the others over these past five and a half years.
With much love and gratitude,