Monday, July 14, 2008

I've Been Thinking

I've been thinking all day about whether or not our society has become completely blinded by injustice. It is something I feel that we may have become accustomed to. Being at CSM this summer has really opened my mind to that possibility. It almost seems at times that we only see what we want to even after we've been exposed to it, served in it, lived in it, and been educated about it. So I guess my question is how do we not become immune to such a massive systemic issue? How do we expose teens to something that doesn't make them feel guilty and get stuck in the guilt? It's okay to feel guilty but to get stuck there is not okay.

Sometimes I get distracted and lost in guilt myself. After hosting day after day and seeing the same problems happening to the same people, you get a little lost and feel a little hopeless. BUT there's hope! There is hope in the smiles of people walking through the lines at Midnight Mission, hope in the smiles of the kids at Central City, when I see Oscar, Vanessa, Tatiana, Keylou, Devante, Jaevoni, and the others my heart breaks for them. I know that God's heart breaks for these kids, and I'm starting to understand some of the things that really do break God's heart. As I pray more and more to be exposed to the things that break God's heart, I realize more and more how blinded I am by my own situations.

This week has been interesting because I have had a small taste of finally understanding what breaks God's heart. But I also realize that once I realize some of the things that break God's heart, I have to begin to think about what to do with it. I have had a good group this week that's really challenged me to think a lot. The leaders have been asking deep questions which has been awesome. So after thinking through some of those I have really begun to wonder what is our place in the midst of injustice? What have we been called to do? The more I think about this the more I find the answer in our talk at the City Hall stop in our prayer tour in LA, when we talk about how small things make a big difference in the life of broken people. I am reminded of Mother Theresa who says, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

Sometimes when I get lost in guilt and hopelessness I feel as though I can do nothing and make absolutely no difference. I fail to remember conversations from the day, smiles, laughter, time spent with kids, and opportunities to watch groups grow. I fail to take into account that God has been working in the midst of those things. It's equally as hard to watch groups become hopeless but to be able to remind them that they are driven by the love of Christ is awesome.

My group has been at Central City Community Church this week in skid row. They have been working with kids who live in skid row to help them with reading, math, and other school work. Sometimes it was really frustrating for them because the kids at Central City have a harder time with school work. So we've talked a lot about how this is a place where encouragement, love, and "I believe in yous" is really important. The kids at Central City live in a place where they more commonly hear "I can't" "You can't" "Your not smart enough," ect. What they don't hear as much is "You are smart" "You can do this," and "I believe in you." So this week I have really been encouraging my group to be the extra ounce of encouragement in the lives of these children. I have really seen God at work here. My groups has gone from frustration to sorrow, to 100% love, and to just really laying encouragement on the kids @ Central City. It is truly a beautiful thing when God is at work.

I feel as though we get to the point where the limit of what we can do is to expose and to educate. Beyond that every person has a choice to ignore what they've seen, acknowledge it but stay stagnate, or see it and join what I like to call the hiking team. Allow me to explain the hiking team concept. My fellow host and friend Kendra likes to get really active with a story about a waterfall. I'll give you the idea of it and hopefully one day you can hear her tell it. Right now we are at the point of being at the bottom of the waterfall. There are bodies falling into the water beside us. They just keep falling and falling. We now have a choice to make. We can stand there watching the bodies fall next to us or we can climb to the top of the waterfall to see who or what is up there throwing them off. This is much like injustice. To join the hiking team means to begin to climb up through the system to be able to understand what is happening to these people. Injustice is not caused by just one thing, it is very much a systemic issue. The way I see it we've been given a choice to climb the waterfall or stay at the bottom and watch the bodies fall. With God on our side we have the strength to climb but it is our choice to make.

Injustice surrounds us, it's what we do with our knowledge, and what we do in the midst of our surrounding that make the difference. We can expose our groups and educate them, it's what they take with them, implement in their lives, and in the places that they live that makes the difference. The question becomes, "What do I do with what I know, and what I've seen?"

I'll leave you to decide that...

-Mandi, CSM Los Angeles City Host Summer 2008

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