A year ago, I would have been home in Cleveland, Ohio, chasing kids around to come face to face with unjust and broken systems, revolving around privilege, and keeping certain populations trapped in a cycle of poverty. A year ago, my heart would have been linking up to the rhythm of smiles and summertime sunshine, as I prayed away darkness. Two months later, I would be gone, back to Pennsylvania and Lehigh. As I head to the Philippines for the Global Urban Trek, I am reminded of the temporary nature of my past internship caring for those kids at a women-in-crisis shelter and that it will be a similar experience in my current journey to Manila. I may never see the kids I worked with last summer or the people I will meet this summer again. Temporary.
Before this week’s orientation, I would have felt discouraged about this reality and it would have made me question why am I going. But now, my frame of mind has shifted – God’s work is definitely beyond what I can perceive and only when I realize this, can I begin to grasp the fact that God’s work is beyond me. For so long I’ve seen God’s work in my life as small pieces of an incomplete patchwork quilt. I would gather moments like strips of fabric, then stitch them into where I felt was best, then, try and decode a vague image of God’s work in my life and in the world. How small I’ve made God! While this guilt can help me to better understand certain patterns and workings of God, it cannot be what I define God’s work to be. He is the God of the seen and unseen. God, how easily I forget you are beyond my field of vision. You cannot be reduced to moments of time, as you are beyond time. You are beyond me.
My time at stateside orientation (yes, there’s more orienting to be done in the Philippines) has made me all the more grateful for InterVarsity and its commitment to cross-cultural relationships, inter-denominational ministry, and leadership development. I arrived here in my head, dissecting my thoughts and trying to make sense of the space I was in and I am now on a plane to the Philippines at peace, comforted and trusting God, as well as my leaders. I don’t have the safety net of my lovely Mid-Atlantic Region friends. I don’t have my staff worker, my leadership title, or my Lehigh IV culture. Yet, I am at home with these new friends. This is just one more example of the transcendent work of God. He is here on this plane with this team, he is still in San Francisco at the retreat center where we stayed, he is back at Lehigh with the summer IV Bible study, and he is there in Manila. I can trust that Jesus is unchangeable, his words are alive and working, and his breath is in the mouths of every IV leader I have met this week.
Thank you, God for IV. Thank you for peace, but also the excitement sitting in my stomach. Thank you for teaching me to lament, and still planting hope in my heart as I read that you have overcome the world. This summer will not be easy. I expect heartbreak and anger to emerge as my soul yearns for shalom. I expect to be challenged, by you, by my leaders, my teammates and the people of the Philippines. And while I expect, I ask that these things would come to be. Be among the communities we are choosing to enter into. Provide us with your heart, your eyes, your hands, and your feet. Remind us that you are beyond what is seen. Forgive us when we forget.