Stalking for Jesus

“You came for us!” Mari blurted out when she opened the door. She called to her sister as I stood on the shaky balcony of the back apartment in the dark. It had taken me a while to find the place and as I stepped inside I could see sheets and bunk beds to make separate spaces for different families partitioned off the room. Mari and her sister had been absent for a couple of weeks from the teen center I directed at the time. “No one has ever come to our house to find us before, “ she told me as I perched on a chair, eager to catch up. She seemed so surprised and glad to see me.

This memory comes to mind as I stand outside another door early in the morning looking for a young man who has asked for help. He came asking for help to overcome some difficulties but now he is impossible to find. I call. I text. I go to his house. I swing by his work. I want him to know I care, that I am following up on his request. I tell myself I’m “stalking” him for Jesus.
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Life Together- With Whom?

Who is my Christian community? This is the question gnawing at my mind. Who are the people I have to hang in there with and eat with and pray with on a regular, daily basis?

There are different groups I spend time with and different people I feel committed to for a variety of reasons. There is the Body of Christ worldwide that I suppose in some sense I am accountable to. There is my church- the people I study and serve and worship with. There is our ministry team that I choose to walk out my faith with most days. There is my nuclear family that I grew up with but don’t live with. There is my roommate who is a dear sister in Christ.

It makes sense that all these people are my community and I love having so many different kinds of people and groups in my life. Looking at the idea of Christian community though- a group of people committed to study, worship, being witnesses of the Gospel of reconciliation in the world, and caring for all among them- I wonder who that group is.
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Life Together- The Hanging In There Part

"How many times did we apologize to each other this week?" Caryn asked me the question kind of laughing. It felt like it had been hundreds. I actually had started tallying the conflicts and miscommunications of our team but when the number was so high by Wednesday, I stopped counting. Counting was not helping. The only thing to do was to hang in there with each other.

Galatians 6:2 says we will fulfill the law of Christ by bearing one another's burdens. Continuing to delve into Bonhoeffer's Life Together we see the invitation to what he calls a Ministry of Bearing. "To bear the burden of the other person means involvement with the created reality of the other, to accept and affirm it, and in bearing with it, to break through to the point where we take joy in it."

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Life Together- The Food Part

Let's be honest- when someone invites you over the first two questions that come to mind are- "Who's going to be there?" and "What are we having?" In the past week I hit the jackpot on both accounts: good company and amazing food. I have sat on four different patios laughing and sharing and LOVING summer food.

Food is one of the best parts of our community. It is often what draws us together. You may not feel like hanging out with me, but you won't pass up Mayola's potato taco. Thus our love for tacos and our neighbor Mayola set us up for some shared experiences that begin to bind our hearts together.

Today I share some of this summer's favorite recipes:

Corn Salad ( I got this one from "Real Simple"):

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Life Together- figuring out this Christian community

We fed 12 people with leftovers today. Me, four interns, one volunteer fresh from a year of touring the world, our ministry team, and two fellow ministry leaders dined on pizza, beans and rice, peanut butter and jelly and chicken soup. Welcome to Mika’s weekly team lunch.

Since last November we have been seriously considering what it is to be a Christian community. So far we have decided it has to do with prayer, eating together, and mostly just hanging in there with one another even if you want to rip each other’s head off. Bonhoeffer says it much more eloquently- “ Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it.”

Like many ministries (and everyone else) we have had to recently lay off some of our team. The question arises- who is our community? How do we maintain that when salaries and jobs are involved? What really marks Christian community? The work of our ministry, Mika, is community development. It has become increasingly clear that if we are to develop the communities in our city, we need to be able to develop a community among ourselves.
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Simplicity for Fun

I just spent four days in a hallway sized space with four other people.  We lived with food from one ice chest and two grocery bags and wore the same clothes over and over.  This wasn't some sort of urban plunge, this was our family vacation on Catalina Island. 

As I sat on the deck of the boat, exposing my repeated outfit to the whole harbor, I realized that I was the most at rest and peace I've been in a long time.  I was perfectly happy to sit knee to knee with my dad drinking coffee, listening to the ocean and soaking up the sun.  My dad laughed as he apparently realized the same thing, "We have a huge, beautiful home and we do this for fun!"  We do this- load up the bare essentials and trek out to a harbor or the woods to sleep on the ground or the sea.  And we love it.

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Messengers of Peace

"Oh my goodnes!  I sat on your parakeet!"  I jumped up as the bird began flying around the room. 

"It's not my bird.  It's been on your back since you came in."  My neighbor said calmly as if it were perfectly normal to visit someone with a parakeet on your back.  It was my first time visiting her and when i felt the bird under me, i thought I had sat right on it.  Her son told us he saw it on my back as I approached the house.  To this day I have no idea where it came from.  As it flapped around her living room the thought went through my mind, 'She must think I'm crazy or rude or dirty.'   Instead, as the bird flew out of the apartment, she said, "It must be a sign." 

I'm not sure what she thought that bird was a sign of, but ever since that strange incident when a random parakeet rode my back into her living room, she has held me in high regard.   That bird helped me win a place in my neighbor's heart.   

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Join the Cause

Ignore-click.   I just ignored an invitation to join the cause- Help Abused Children in Orange County.  I feel like a jerk.  Of course I am against child abuse.  Why don't I join the cause?  I don't join the cause because I don't think that being the 812th person to join is going to actually do anything to help abused children.

There seems to be an increasing amount of groups raising awareness.  I wore jeans to raise awareness for rape victims.  People walked around town on a rope to raise awareness of night commuters in Uganda.  But I am left asking, "what good does awareness do?"  I haven't given any money.  I am not friends with anyone in Africa.  I don't even pray for rape victims.  What good is being aware?

Don't get me wrong.  I am all for being engaged with the atrocities of our world.  I am just curious how all these Facebook groups and Awareness nights are leading to action.  What are the steps from being aware of something to doing something about it?

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How Far Does Compassion Go?

The other day my friend asked, "Can I have a hug?"  The vulnerability of the request took me off guard.  Some days you need to be squeezed.  I thought of this as I got ready to visit another friend in jail.  I wondered what it is like to go for years without a hug.  My friend is facing 25 years to life.  25 years without feeling rain, without smelling flowers.  25 years without a friend wrapping their arms around you and holding you tight.  I can't imagine.  It seems so harsh.

Then I snapped out of my compassion and remembered that he is a criminal.   He did something to be in jail.  He shot at someone.  Perhaps my compassion is misdirected.  Would I be as compassionate if my friend had been shot at?

Perhaps my compassion springs out of witnessing the arbitrary, seemingly unjust system my friend is entangled in.  There are some people who murdered and got seven years.  Then there is my friend, who shot a gun but hit no one.  No one was hurt and he is looking at 25 years to life.  It doesn't look like justice to me.

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Another Crazy Making Irony

We say it's a "Win-Win"- those situations where each party involved benefits. As cheesy as the term sounds sometimes, it is nice when things work out well for everyone. I heard of a potential "win-win" a couple of weeks ago when one of my neighbors asked me to look over some paperwork.

My neighbor has been working as a Nurses Assistant at a convelascent home for 21 years. He makes $10.63 an hour and works full time. He has been in the process of getting his permanent residence status. He has paid a few thousand dollars in legal fees and gone through all the steps. He is in the homestretch.

What he needs to seal the deal is a paper signed by a "potential' employer stating that they will hire him once he has his papers. It seems fairly simple considering that he has been working under the radar at this company for two decades. I imagined that his boss would gladly sign the paper and congratulate my neighbor on becoming legal and thank him for his years of service doing the dirtiest jobs in the hospital.

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I love our world- the sights, noises, and flavors of it all. I've found the best way for me to make a difference globally is to be rooted and engaged in my community. Every day is 1 more adventure in loving God and loving my neighbor.