re-learning, re-discovering, re-inspired

I’ve had to re-learn a few things these last few weeks. It’s kinda like starting again. I’ve had to re-learn what life was like before facebook. A few weeks ago, my dear boyfriend asked me, “what did you do before facebook?” I couldn’t even give a real answer. Now the question of the week is, “what did I do before I had a car?” If you’re not in the know, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, I lost my car. It’s complicated and the blogosphere isn’t the best place to discuss it, but it happened and that’s all there is really. At the moment, I’m re-discovering what life was like before the convenience of my vehicle. I guess there was the bus, and I walked places.
Actually, while it seems incredibly inconvenient and IS incredibly inconvenient, there’s a part of me that is quite relieved to be without those conveniences. I’ve had to learn to stay home when I’ve wanted to drive across town and save people from their own despair. I’ve had to learn to keep it simple.

I’ve also been re-inspired, re-learning what it was that got me into this profession that is youth work. I think it’s one of those things I have to keep re-learning. And the more frequently I do it, the more I find I can survive another week, or perhaps even another month. Last week, we as a collective brother/sisterhood of youth workers got together and as I looked around the room, I thought, here is a group of people committed to the same cause I am. They’re my family, the people who not only get why I’m doing what I’m doing, but the people who do it. I’m constantly asked by people when I’m going to go back to uni, get a degree and find a real career. I HAVE a degree. I HAVE a career. It may not be the hugest money maker but it’s what makes me feel closest to God’s heart.

And it’s interesting how much more I know people I’ve been associated with for a long time. It’s like I’ve been connected with peoples realities and i’m rediscovering that people are more than facebookers. Sure, it’s easy to hide behind a happy face, but it’s even easier to hide behind a happy status update. It’s impossible to read between lines when your status update is simply one line.
That’s not to say that the virtual world doesn’t work as an unsuperficial medium. I know of fantastic twitter communities consisting of people who tweet up (meet up) and share elements of life together. But how easy is it to forget that there’s a person behind the words that appear before your screen? And how much beauty is there in a conversation of smiles? There’s something amazing about how a computer monitor works but there’s something even more beautiful about the intricate workings of the human person. There’s a genuine smile, a loving embrace, the sadness in eyes, the fury in vocal tones, etc.

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in the world…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been involved in numerous conversations expressing the frustration around the willingness to serve in a community and yet not quite fully commit to being part of it. Tonight, I heard preach that we should blur the lines between inside and outside; that there should be no distinction between what goes on inside and what goes on outside, because essentially, we should reflect our community.

This frustrates me because I know we don’t reflect our community. We serve in the local high school and yet are unwilling to commit to sending our own to the local high school. I kept getting frustrated thinking that as a church community, we’re hypocritical.
Then I looked at myself…
I am willing to commit to serving a community 15 minutes out of town but I’m unwilling to move there. Part of my reasoning is that I’m comfortable where I am. And yet, in terms of where my heart is, it’s not here. I’ve been commissioned to work “over there” and my heart’s in it but I’m not budging.

I’m scared I’ll have no friends.
I’m scared I’ll become one of the many who feel isolation.
I’m scared of living with non-religious folk.
I’m scared of not being able to afford a decent living.

So I’m still here. Freaked out and yet convicted that maybe the right thing is to buy into the place and instill my own hope into that community. If I love it and show that I love it, perhaps others will learn to love it too.

more reflections on the job…

The past few weekends of youth group/youth programmes have highlighted for me the pain involved with this line of work. A month or so ago, reflecting on Eastercamp, I told of how the beauty of youth work is that you get to experience life with young people. When they discover Christ, we see him with them.

But then…
…the pain of youth work is that you get to experience life with young people.

Yes, I did just say the same thing.

I’ve spent the last year and a half journeying with a young person who has more rough edges than anyone we could ever know. They have a thick rock solid shell that seemingly protects them from re-experiencing pain. On the surface, this young person is just your average bad-ass. They swear, drink, stay out all night, and at 14 one might be worried. But I see more than just a ‘bad-ass’. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in this job.

The other night, we ran a disco and while I was there, I had a chat with their younger sibling. Young sibling was absolutely the most beautiful kid anyone could ever meet (I say that about a lot of kids I know). They were friendly, talkative, and just a pleasure to converse with. They expressed that they never wanted to turn out like older siblings, always in trouble with the law and always so broken.

Life handed this crew of siblings a hard deal. Mum walked out leaving dad to raise the kids. Whenever I talk to them, I think to myself, “how could anyone do that to you?” “How could someone not love you?”
I just don’t understand.

You know, sometimes when people ask what the hardest part of my job is, I want to say it’s the long hours and the hardcore commitment it requires, but it’s so much more. Commitment is so much more. The pain is in experiencing their pain. You don’t just get to celebrate the joys of a young person but you have to deal with the pain they experience, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll shed your fair share of tears.
As you watch the tennis matches that parents play, serving their kids from one house to another, you cry. And your tears are just a drop in the ocean of tears that the kids themselves have already cried, both inwardly and outwardly.

I won’t attempt to paint a glamorous picture that portrays youth work as all fun and games, because it most certainly isn’t. It’s painful. It takes a huge degree of commitment because if you walk out, you’re just another one on a list of many. Friends and family keep trying to lure me out of Christchurch with this idea that I’d be doing the same thing in another place, but I won’t have the same kids. I don’t want to be part of the list of people who walk out. I’ve done that before to a group of young people and I’ve never felt worse.

The Job

I’ve been reflecting lots on the job lately. In fact, on my desktop, I have a folder labeled “Lani’s Reflections”. This is primarily because I’m a reflective person and sometimes on the job, I have to stop and reflect in order to be productive. I may stop for 10minutes to reflect on something and then carry on working for another few hours straight. Otherwise I might spend the few hours I could be working, sitting around thinking. So long as I get it out of my head, I can carry on forward.

Anyway, when I say I’ve been reflecting on the job, I actually mean more than simply reflecting while working. My job has been the subject of much of my reflection. Two weeks ago, a colleague of mine talked about our work and the heart we’ve been working out of. Afterwards, I reflected that some time last year, my job became just a job and my reasons for doing it became loyalty to a piece of paper that I had signed when I took it on. But my colleague posed this question:

– what was the heart behind that job to begin with?

I took it further than that. I trudged my way through to the beginnings where a couple moved into a parched chunk of land and realised that here was a prime opportunity to do God’s work. They drove to a church 15mins down the road every Sunday and after some time realised that someone needed to invest in their local community. So they pushed the church they were part of. They appealed time and time again out of a heart to transform an unknowingly thirsty community. After much pushing, the church moved, applying to local government for funding to reach that community. And so the job was created, as a partnership between the church and local council.

Then my character entered the story.

I was looking for a summer job while waiting for University to re-start. Just a summer job. But I couldn’t find one. So when a 10hr position came up to work over the year with young people in a local intermediate school, I applied. I should say, I did it rather hesitantly. I didn’t want to work for a church. I guess in my mind, I wasn’t ready. I often feel like I’m still raw, like I haven’t been in the game long enough to progress to the next level. But circumstances tell otherwise. I wanted that 10hrs a week job, but I got offered a full-time one instead. You know what’s crazy. When they offered it to me officially, I said yes within seconds. It was like I barely thought about it.

In a sense though, I thought about it a lot.

When I walked away after my initial interview. I prayed two things:
1. That I would get the job.
2. That I wouldn’t get the job.

I’m not really sure what God’s hand is in all this job stuff. I mean, I was talking to a friend today and we were agreeing together that we’re not even sure we believe that God gives us or doesn’t give us jobs or husbands or mercedes benz’s or palmolive shampoo. I’m pretty sure that in the great scheme of things, he wired me a certain way and whether I accept it or not, he’s wired me to work with young people. And sure, the group of young people I’m working with, aren’t the ones I would have chosen in the first instance, but I actually wouldn’t trade them for the world. I just can’t imagine them building a relationship with another youth worker. That’s just weird.

Plus, I’m sure God’s wired me to think of my kids as my kids regardless of the community they’re from. This has always been my heart on the matter. They may not be from the community that I would choose for myself but they’re still my kids. Just like my neighbours might not be blood related, but they’re still my whanau.

And that’s really all I have to say for now. I’ve also been reflecting on the idea of “work-time” vs “spare-time” in the general sphere of time and God’s time. What is, what isn’t… etc. But I’ll save this for another post.

Peace out homies,
L