Missionary Stories

Nevertheless We Persist

Mark 7:24-30

I am not interested in picking up the crumbs of compassion from the table
from someone who considers himself my master.
I want the full menu of rights
.
Desmond Tutu

I love this Gospel story plain and simple because it features both a bold and persistent woman and a Jesus who sometimes doesn’t get it right away but is able to change.  I have come to love this difficult story of protest and reclamation in which a displaced woman reclaims her place at the table. I love the fact that Jesus starts out not looking so good but gets saved by love, the unconditional and relentless love of a mother for her sick daughter. He was saved because he heard the injustice of his rebuke in her willingness to accept even the crumbs. His hearing restored him, which allowed for mutual healing to occur.

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God's life-giving and life-renewing Spirit Revives our Souls

Jordon_-_Makari_Spr_2017_IMG_2598_(2)_(3).JPGDespite uncommonly cold temperatures that penetrate to the bones in these stone buildings, Bethlehem’s winter has been replete with celebrations: Christmas (December 25th for the Roman and Western Churches, according to the Gregorian calendar; January 6/7th for the Greek, Oriental and Armenian Orthodox Churches, according to the Julian calendar), Epiphany, the Baptism of our Lord and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Now we can look forward to the spring and its commemorations: Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter.

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Modern Mission

Egypt_-_O_Brien_Spr_2017_20150612_135136_(2).jpgI struggle with the “M” word. I have been uncomfortable with the words “mission” and “missionary” for quite some time now. I’m not certain whether my hesitations stem from my Catholic friends’ confusion about the concept of a “mission trip,” studying African history as a student of religion, or reading The Poisonwood Bible a few too many times. However, I’m certain that, in accepting a position with the word “mission” in the title, I have tied myself to a concept that is often associated with, and criticized for, a history of colonialism, cultural appropriation, racism, and my personal struggle with the “M” word. Of course, mission is much more complicated than that, but the term is laden.

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Marhaba "Greetings"

Lebanon_-_Waggoner_Spr_2017_pic1.pngMany of you saw me this summer back in the States, but may not know that I’ve switched continents and am spending this year with the Middle East Council of Churches in Beirut.

It was a whirlwind summer, and I continue to be grateful for the time to reconnect with friends and family. My five-year- old nephew was a little confused when I showed up at his door and not on the iPad screen, but he came around. I’m not sure I realized just how much I missed you all — so distracted by daily life and the Augean task of integration — until I was again in your presence and fully felt the emotional weight which had accumulated during my absence.

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Moving Forward - and Back - to Beirut

Lebanon_-_Bakalian_Spring_2017_IMG_6648.jpgIt felt more like a homecoming than a new arrival as we stepped out of the Beirut airport’s customs area and heard a cheer go up from a small crowd holding floral bouquets, gathered to welcome us to Lebanon. Since our arrival only 2 days ago, our time has been filled with reacquainting ourselves with friends and colleagues we have known over the past 34 years, ever since our first excursion to Lebanon.

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Unbind

John 11:1-45

Israel_Palestine_-_McGrail_Mar_2017_Pic1.jpgIn our Gospel story about Lazarus, Jesus comes late to Mary and Martha's home. Mary chastises him for not getting there sooner because he might have been able to do something to prevent their brother's death. 

I identify with this passage because we who are activists working on a just peace in Palestine hear about tragedies here after they have occurred. So there is always this sense of deep sadness that if we had been able to come earlier, done something more, we could have prevented this. If only we could have done more to stop the violations against human rights, to have challenged the narratives that say this land belongs to only one group, signed more petitions, divested or invested more, just done more period.

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Holy Resistance

Israel_Palestine_-_McGrail_We-Refuse-to-be-Enemies.jpgMatthew 5:38-42

“When Jesus said love your enemies he probably meant don’t kill them.” So the bumper sticker says and our Gospel text from Matthew 5 too. Jesus is interpreting the law for a new group of exiles who are feeling more persecuted than blessed; he is giving them a set of instructions on how to be co-creators for God’s kin-dom.[1]

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Volunteering with Perichoresis

From February 20-27, 2017 I had the pleasure to volunteer in Katerini with the Evangelical Church in Greece’s affiliated refugee-aid non-profit, Perichoresis. I first served with the ECG in Katerini in August 2016 after meeting Alexandra Nikolara, the team leader for refugee aid work there, at a Consultation on Migration hosted by the Reformed Church in Hungary in June 2016. I was moved by the work that her church is doing for people on the move and I knew that I had to get involved with them and see what refugee aid work looks like in a different context. On my first trip to Katerini, in August 2016, Nikolara’s team was six people – on this trip, her team now numbers around fifty. The work used to be done under the umbrella of the local ECG congregation there in Katerini, but the need for their services has continued growing and so they have restructured their work and are now a church-affiliated non-profit.

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Accompaniment

Hungary_-_Bailey__Kearstin_Spring_2017_Photo_Jan_24_23_27_59.jpgMy placement in Budapest, Hungary looks much different than what many may initially think of when they hear that I’m serving the church as a missionary. My work is rooted in a deep sense of critical presence and accompaniment that are key to the relationships that I have developed here. This accompaniment is realized in a multitude of ways; some days I am literally accompanying someone to a meeting, other days I am accompanying the people that I serve in spirit as they go through a rough time, and a few months ago I was packed into a bus with international church guests as I accompanied them to the opening of the Reformed Church in Hungary’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

 

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How the Light Gets In

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Leonard Cohen

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