Saturday, August 19, 2017

At The Table

I have had the privilege and opportunity to share meals with amazing people around the world. I have eaten brunch in London with at least 6 nationalities represented. I have been force fed mountains of rice by my friends at Sari Bari. I have eaten many a Thanksgiving meal with chosen family in a variety of different countries. Tonight, I was given the gift of sharing a meal with a refugee family.

I was invited into a birthday celebration for a Christian with a Jewish name born in a Muslim country as he entered into his 16th year of life. His parents were so gracious in welcoming 6 americans into their home and preparing a feast from their native country. We took our places on the mats laid out on the floor as we were given orange juice to enjoy as the food was placed at the center of the plastic table cloth on the floor. The son was so excited to tell us stories of their time in South Korea and the friends he made with officers in the military while they were living as refugees there. The wife named each dish as she set it in front of us with great pride in her eyes. The husband was telling of the ways God had provided for them as they have been bouncing around trying to find a place to call home after being forced from their home a few years ago. We ate heaping amounts of rice, lentils, vegetables, roti and chicken. They laughed at me as I accidentally ate the chili hidden in the veggies and offered me yogurt to help cool the fire happening on my tongue. We sang "Happy Birthday" as he blew out 16 candles and ate the best chocolate cake I have had on this side of the world. He shared his hopes and dreams of becoming a US Marine so he can protect his family. We took pictures and said our goodbyes. I hoped on the back of a scooter and rode through the bumpy streets of Kathmandu.

As I was riding home, I realized the rare, beautiful gift I had been given by sharing a meal with this family. It would have been easier to say no to the dinner invitation because we were tired from trekking the day before or we needed to rest before starting another chaotic week in this crazy city. Once we learned we were the only people who were coming to the birthday dinner, we realized the importance of showing up. It meant the world to this family who was struggling to start over again in a new country. They were forced to move to Nepal in February after spending two years in South Korea setting up a life which they thought would last indefinitely. It allowed us to experience and taste their home culture while bonding over being outsiders in a foreign land. I was able to see the love radiating from this family as they shared what they had to host new friends. Meals bring even the most unlikely people around a common table.

I want to create a table where everyone is invited to share their story and be heard. What does it look like if we all invited someone new to the table?

Monday, August 14, 2017

It Wasn't What I Expected

Summer is anything but normal for me. As a camp director, summer is the busiest season of the year with a million different moving parts and no such thing as a normal day. I came into this summer with plans and people in place to make this summer better than the last. I was excited to have returning staff who bought into the vision of this place and new faces who were ready to serve thousands of campers. Along the ways, I learned even the best laid plans are no match for camp.

Orientation is always a whirlwind of building, playing, learning and sharing. We do our best to establish a firm foundation as a staff before any campers arrive so we can love each other through the hard times while serving churches well. I sit back at the end of this season and see how clearly God's hand was in each staff member being at Lakeview this summer. When I had nothing to offer, they would lean on each other and support each other when life down the mountain got hard. There were moments when tears were the only thing that would come or laughter at another crazy request or songs of praise when the enemy struck. This staff grew stronger as the summer got harder.

A friend was counseling with her church early in the summer and I was able to share the heartache and heaviness of life down the hill with her. She was willing to sit with me and speak truth over the situation. She said a simple prayer that God would bring people up each week who would sit with me and love me through this season. In the moment, I did not believe God would answer that prayer. Reflecting back on the summer, God beautifully orchestrated people who would listen, cheer me on and speak truth as I navigated a difficult summer. The power of someone saying "me too" was a reminder of the ways I am not alone.

This summer wasn't what I expected in so many ways but it was a beautiful reminder that God takes our expectations and blows them out of the water. I was able to lean on others who pushed me towards Jesus. I created a space of vulnerability for my staff so they could be fully known. God showed me I am not an island and I need community even when surrounded my hundreds of people. God moved in crazy incredible ways that can only point to a beautiful, powerful, awesome, loving God. The hard memories will fade but the moments that made it all worth it will burn bright.

It was not what I expected but it was absolutely worth it.