Monday, September 29, 2008

Another one come and gone...

Today I spent in rest...after a weekend of Urban Mission Adventure with my students and fellow leaders. I have to admit that I have a fascination for the city, an admiration and dare I say, a love? Coming from small-town Island life...I had always feared the's fast cars and business suits and panhandlers. I only knew that as part of the city, and not part of my small safe town. And so, these UMAs (as from day 1 almost 8 years ago) have changed my perspective...
This weekend, I was privileged to once again bring a team of 40 students (and leaders!) into Vancouver to learn and listen...and to be changed.
I always marvel when I'm sitting with all these students on Sunday, hearing their stories, and hearing their words change from "those guys, those homeless, prostitutes, drug dealers" to "those people that are really just the same as us", and for some, even words such as "there is no 'them', it is only 'us'". I have to smile...knowing that these are the same words coming from those that dreaded coming on this trip, maybe even tried to convince me that they didn't need to come, or for some reason I should excuse their credit.
Do you know what Sodom's sin was?

Our Sunday School teachings come to mind...and we resoundingly agree: Homosexuality and sexual sin! But are we right?

We are reminded of the story in Genesis, when Abraham apparently barters with God for this city. "Let me find 50 righteous, and save this city!" God agrees. Abraham keeps throwing out numbers, and finally God agrees that if Abraham can find just 10 people in the city that are righteous, God will save it.

God did not save Sodom.

And I think you may agree with me, that growing up, I had always assumed that because the stories in Genesis were about the people and their dysfunctional sexual acts, that that must have been Sodom's sin.

But look at this:

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen." (Ezekiel 16:49-50)



Did not help the poor and needy.

These were Sodom's sins. For these, God destroyed Sodom. And Abraham could not find 10 righteous people among them. My question now is: would he be able to find 10 among us?

Arrogant. Proud. "I deserve what I have."

Overfed. The unbalance of full cupboards and growling stomachs.

Did not help the poor and needy. The very fact that we have poor and needy tells me that we are not helping them. Or at least, we are not successful in our attempts, and therefore our attempts are not accurate at what the help that they need truly is.

And so, I struggle with this all. I hope you do as well. We need to...we desperately need to.
One of the students this weekend made a great point after listening to a guest speaker talking about the downtown eastside (DTES) of Vancouver and the role of the government. We sat after the speaker left and chatted about what they all had just heard. The leader of their team asked them, "what do you feel after hearing what they had to share?" The response from one: "I hate government." But quickly, another student jumped in and said, "No, I'm not angry with the government. This is not their responsibility. This is our responsibility. If the church was truly taking care of the needs of the people, this area would not exist."

Do you know that there are 30,000 "unadoptable" children in Canada? They have been born into addiction, or they struggle with fetal alcohol, or some other consequential disability. Aaron White from the Salvation Army came and shared with us about this fact. In response to "what can we do about the DTES?", he shared, "adopt and love these 'unadoptable' children". If we as Christians truly believe what we are preaching, we should be the first in there, adopting these children.

Oh there is so much more to say. And I could go on and on...
This is the struggle that goes on in my mind day in and day out. How do we live the gospel? Especially in North America, with mutual funds, big houses, lots of unnecessary food, and of course, new cars. (!!)

I love that my job continues to make me struggle with it. I fear the day that I stop.
Did you know that turtles live in the city?I love Chinatown. I think it is my favourite part of the city. And it reminds me that God has brought the nations to us. China, a closed country to the Gospel, lives amongst us.
Bryan (my boss) told the students as we left on Thursday that they were only allowed to go shopping this weekend, if they found something really cool. On the left here you see dried lizards on a stick. Bryan owns one from a previous UMA trip - he showed it as an example. To the right, you see entire dried snakes. This particular store also had dried starfish on a stick, but the lady stopped me from taking any more photos... The idea is that you plop either of these into boiling water and drink it down...evidently they have great medicinal properties! (I'll leave that up to you to try)
So that is that. For now, I will continue to struggle...and will be bringing another group of 40 into Vancouver again in 4 weeks.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The biggest purchase of my life to date...

Let me introduce you to my new friend (yet to be named): Can I just share with you for a moment the ways in which God worked to get me this car? I have to say that while my dear Wanda has been a great car for the last four years...I was getting tired of the calls to the mechanic (who knows me by first name...not the best sign?), and the "what's next?" that for some would not be a big deal...but for a single female trying to live a life with missions options, WAS a big deal.

As difficult as it was to admit, it was time to say goodbye to Wanda, and start looking for something newer. (But isn't she beautiful?)

Anyways, this all lead me to start the search...and start the prayers. Funny thing is that Chris's constant reminder to be praying before each activity this summer in Costa Rica, translated to me here in Abbotsford. I have programed my phone to say 'pray first' on the screen...I see it every time I check my phone. And so, as I looked online to search for cars, I prayed first. As I booked an appointment to talk about loan options at the bank, I prayed first. As I made an appointment to test drive the new car, I prayed first. And at each point, I saw God working.

I walked into my bank appointment, really unsure if what I was going for was feasible. I mean, I may have a new big office, but I work for a private Christian college that fundraises more than 60% of the budget every year. This does NOT equate for a great salary. But, wouldn't you know it, my loan officer ended up being a Christian lady who remarked on my career choice...and after hearing about my summers in Costa Rica, decided that I needed this loan. And so, I walked out of her office with a whopping $17,000 loan to my name. I had a hard time breathing at that point.

So, on to the test drive. I had found this car online at a Ford dealership in North it was an hour away, but it sounded amazing. And...they had already started lowering the price online. I sent an email, and within the next week I received 4 phone calls and 3 emails from the salesman, asking about a test drive. In his last voicemail he actually said "let me know if you want me to stop calling you". I knew he was determined. I definitely knew he was determined when he agreed to meet me halfway for a test drive. Thankfully Misty and Sandra were with me for the test drive, and could ask all the necessary questions, while I simply drove the thing, and fell in love.

So then, two days later I had had to resubmit my loan application - turned out I had mis-calculated my income, and had to hand in a letter of employment with a lower number than anticipated. And so, I prayed first. And guess what? Loan STILL went through.

I prayed again, and sent an offer to my friendly salesman. And guess what? After a few emails back and forth, I ended up being offered than $3000 less than the ticketed price. So, I sat in my room, in awe that this was really happening, called the dealership, put down a deposit and then quickly called the bank to finalize the loan process. Whew.

Can I tell you that this has all been by God's hand? I started to doubt myself last week...wondering if I was asking too much, and if this would really end up being my car. I even told Misty and Sandra after the test drive, "well, that was fun, but it's probably a pipe dream".

And then I prayed.

What I heard so clearly in response?

"I like to give good gifts to my children."

And so, Saturday afternoon, Gary graciously drove me the hour into North Vancouver, I signed papers, shook my salesman's hand, and cruised home in disbelief...and thankfulness.

After driving my trusty 92 Jetta for 4 years, now at 237,000kms, I am the proud owner of a 2007 Honda Fit, with only 13,500kms. I practically pinch myself every time I get in. But I also remember to pray first.

Oh, and I have to tell you all as well, that Charlee was incredibly excited when I drove up. I don't know how much a 2 year old grasps concepts, like new cars...but she squealed and jumped in...and even put on her own seatbelt. Here she is enjoying the car almost as much as I do: