As many of you know, getting my visa for my upcoming Global Mission Intern (GMI) placement has not been easy. My term in Hungary ended at the close of September 2017, and I have been back in the United States ever since, preparing for my next placement with the Evangelical Church in Greece. During my time in the states, I’ve been itinerating and traveling all over the country to speak with congregations about my work with the Reformed Church in Hungary. So far I’ve spoken at churches in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, Massachusetts, and more.
In each of these communities I began with this poem:
irreplaceable by rupi kaur
the universe took its time on you
crafted you to offer the world
something different from everyone else
when you doubt
how you were created
you doubt an energy greater than us both
Then I share with them about my three placements during my two years in Hungary (with the Reformed Church in Hungary’s Ecumenical office, at Kalunba Social Services Association Nonprofit, and with the RCH’s Roma Mission), and the key lesson that I learned about connecting to the diversity in a community through the practice of radical vulnerability.
Radical vulnerability is the process of being totally open about who you are with those around you – and not being conditional about it. The year before I moved to Hungary, when I lived in Westford, Massachusetts in the UCC’s Young Adult Service Communities program, I started being intentional about opening myself up to people more readily. I learned when I moved to Hungary though that this wasn’t enough – I had to learn how to open myself up to everyone, not just those that I thought would reciprocate my authenticity. I had to be okay with opening myself up to folks and taking the chance that they might not share a piece of themselves in return.
This is real, intentional, difficult work. And I struggle with it every day – because it’s terrifying to bare your soul to someone, to give away a piece of yourself, and have no guarantee that they’re going to reciprocate and make that connection back with you. Every time I reflect on this in a new church community, I am putting this concept of radical vulnerability into practice – standing in front of a congregation that I don’t know, baring my soul to a large group of strangers and hoping that something I say will resonate deep within them.
I read aloud First Corinthians 2: 1-5 (NRSV), a passage that touches me and reads, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
My time in Hungary made one thing abundantly clear – dropping the façade of the perfect life is critical to honest connection, and so I have continued to be my most authentic self as I itinerate at UCC and DOC churches across the US. I try my best to share deeply and connect authentically with congregations who welcome me, and hope that they can feel this too. Now that I’m back in the United States, my communities look much different than they did in Central Europe, but the need for radical vulnerability has stayed the same.
I have found that I adore itineration much more than I ever could have anticipated. Not only does it give me the amazing opportunity to see the rich and varied communities of the UCC and DOC, but it also allows me to connect with some amazing people and process my GMI placement in a way that I hope is inspiring for those around me.
Continued prayers are always appreciated as I continue to try and speak the truth in love to those communities I am called to walk with.
Blessings and peace,
Kearstin Bailey serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Evangelical Church in Greece. Her appointment is supported by Week of Compassion, Our Church’s Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.