This morning, like most Sunday mornings, I went to church at Grace University Lutheran Church, LCM’s home. It was a lovely walk over and a beautiful service. Today, we sang and heard Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd. This morning, one verse in particular stood out to me.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
It seems a little odd, I’ll admit, thinking about the shadow of death on such a lovely and sunny morning. The ice is melting and life seems to be returning. However, if I’ve learned anything at college, it’s that our world is entirely unpredictable. Heart aneurysms happen. Suicides happen. Accidents happen. Life is incredibly fragile and we never know when we’ll be walking through the shadow of death.
But we never walk alone. God is with us through it all, although it’s easy to forget and oftentimes hard to see.
After Psalm 23, 23 read John 9:1-41, the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. Again, one line stood out to me.
“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
I don’t pretend to know why bad things happen. But in every situation, God is present and powerful.
Today, the sun shone and the birds chirped. At Grace, we celebrated Peg’s 100th birthday. God’s love is all around us, even when life is difficult and unexplainable.
Describing my semester abroad in Argentina using a few words is close to impossible, but for the sake of this blog post, here’s what comes to mind: surprisingly spiritual, intense, growth, and community.
First of all, I saw some of the most breath-taking, absolutely stunning parts of the natural world that I never thought existed. Granted, I haven’t ventured much away from Midwestern US, but let me tell you… Argentina offers a lot in the department of natural beauty. Needless to say, I was spiritually moved at the mere sight of a lot of this beauty and was definitely able to feel God’s presence thoughout my travels
I was fortunate enough to volunteer in La Boca, a neighborhood in Buenos Aires known for its soccer team, poverty, and drug use among young people. In LCM, we talk a lot about where we see brokenness in our communities, and, at first, my volunteer organization was a clear example of brokenness. After getting to know the community members and the children, I decided to add ‘beautiful’ in front of the word ‘brokenness.’ God was clearly at work in this community, and although I said goodbye with a heavy heart, they left me feeling hopeful that poverty doesn’t have to be destiny.
I was absolutely blessed with a wonderful host family that was full of life and as much love as a cheesy sitcom. My host dad, Carlos, got sick at the end of October and was in the hospital for the remainder of my stay until he passed away the day before I got on my flight back to Minnesota… this is where the word intense comes in. Being present for such an emotionally intense experience in a family that wasn’t biologically mine took a little bit of patience and a lot of extra love.
The culture and lifestyle in Buenos Aires is something that I still find myself missing each day, but I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to spend an entire semester in such a surprising and alive city. SO THANKFUL. Because of these experiences, I had quite a bit of anxiety returning back to the US. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to bring my experiences back to my life here in Minnesota.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Returning to Minneapolis and to ‘real life,’ the LCM community has been my trampoline… bear with me here. Picture a crazy girl falling in slow motion down a waterfall, asking questions about God and life, yelling stories, and being frazzled (that’s me). The girl gets to the bottom of the waterfall and gracefully bounces off of the trampoline (LCM) back in to the questions, stories, and state of frazzleness. The girl feels encouraged to ask the questions, tell the stories, and be okay with feeling frazzled. She’ll keep bouncing up and down, trusting that the trampoline will let her rest for a moment before sending her back up… supporting her and being present the whole time.
Before going back to school for spring semester, a handful of us went on a retreat to Urban Immersion which is an organization based out of Minneapolis that provides volunteer opportunities along with learning about poverty all around us. This was a great experience for all of us because it not only brought our group closer together but also showed us how much work there still is to do in helping others acquire basic needs. It was really cool meeting people who were involved with volunteering and doing their part to help others, it was clear that they had a real passion.One of the big things that struck me was how difficult it was to support a family with a low income. We did an exercise that simulated what it was like in different scenarios that many people that live in poverty face and it was not easy. It’s amazing how much money goes toward just the essentials, and then with unexpected factors such as illness, job loss, medical care, it seems like the problems never end. People who are poor often get the negative stigma that they are lazy, but I do not think that this is the case at all! When many people think about hunger they think about third world countries but the reality is that it is in our own backyard. While we are worried about all the stuff we need to get done and homework that needs to be completed, there are people around us who are less fortunate and are suffering from hunger. It felt great to help out these organizations that do great things for people in need, but it is clear that there is much more that needs to be done. -Drew
Recently I have been thinking about vocation and what this world has to teach me after leaving the comfort of school. I’m hard pressed to think of a day in which the thought “what am I going to do with my life?” hasn’t crossed my mind. The realist in me refuses to fall into the romantic state of naivety in which I can leave college, find a job that will make a big difference in the world, and live happily ever after. I want to believe that it will be this easy, yet deep down I know that there is much more to be done. That change takes time and effort and can be incredibly draining. Yet all I want to do is follow this path. To change the brokenness I see around me.
This is part of the reason I participated in an Urban Immersion put on by the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches over winter break. During our few days there we were confronted with staggering statistics of poverty, hunger, and homelessness and taught about the current systems that cause such symptoms. When confronted with so many barriers it is hard not to be intimidated. After all, the easier path would be to ignore such things and go on with our lives. I came away from the experience with a lot to process which was immediately followed by a LCM leader retreat. It was at this retreat I was blessed with the prayer for discomfort (which you can read here). I was struck by one line in particular:
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world
There is so much power in this line, in this idea that foolishness is a valuable attribute. Often we are taught that foolishness has no place in the road to success, that it is in fact a distraction to be avoided. Foolishness more often than not connotes idiocy, rather than being seen as a catalyst for change. This prayer reminded me that in a world where brokenness is commonplace, a cure can be found in foolishness. The foolishness to overcome great struggles though the reward be small. The foolishness to fight systems deeply ingrained in our culture, to make them change despite great resistance. I like this idea that in the setting of academia and intellect that surrounds us at school, that perhaps the most useful attribute to help us find our vocation and direct our future is some simple foolishness. It is comforting to know that wrapping myself in naivety, when paired with hard work can yield a direction and hopefully change that if not meaningful on the large scale, will be meaningful to someone.