Brief Bio

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Quezon City, Metro-Manila, Philippines
I am a runner, pastor, sociologist, teacher, and missionary. After living in Chicago for 6 years, I discerned a call to go to Manila, Philippines to live and work among the urban poor, and combine my passions for ministry, running, and the oppressed. After serving in the Philippines in 2012 and 2013, I returned to the United States for two years to finish my dissertation, get ordained, spend time with my family, and work at a neighborhood center in Kansas City. Since then, I have been working in the Philippines with Companion With the Poor as a missionary. Each day I look forward to how God will direct my steps as I live into His work of restoring a broken world.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

You Don't Have to Live Like That!

So not sure the best place to share these thoughts, but felt this might be one appropriate place. Especially since I haven’t written here for a while.

These thoughts (I'll try to keep it brief) come on the morning of an election day here in the Philippines, a day many, including the community I live in put their hope in politicians who promise to make life a little easier and provide seemingly much needed relief to hurting people and struggling communities (my own community hopeful that after six months without electricity we might actually again be able to use the electric fan, cell-phone charger, or light bulb to read and see each other at night).

While talking to my family back in the States earlier today, I found myself trying to get them to feel bad for me that I have lived without electricity for the last few months, including the last few weeks which have been incredibly hot (95+ degrees during the day and often 90 degrees still at night), not to mention yesterday as I recovered from a terrible head cold in this same 95+ degree heat.

For my sake and theirs, I'm thankful that they didn't give me the sympathy I was looking for, as after hanging up, I looked online and discovered that still today about a quarter of the world's population, the majority from Africa and Southern Asia still live without electricity today, making me only one of nearly 1.5 billion people world-wide who suffer the challenges of not having electricity. And in many ways, experience the benefits :)

My conversation with my family, and subsequent thoughts, makes me think about other conversations I’ve had with missionary friends of mine (both nationally and internationally) who have chosen to live counter-culturally, living lives of simplicity and contentment, rather than continuing to live in extravagance. Often times, following short visits home, my friends and I will get comments from our families and friends questioning whether we really want to keep living like we do, or whether or not it is really God’s will for us to be doing what we are doing. My own family has often questioned whether I should have to endure the cross-cultural challenges, and simple living that I have chosen as a missionary in a community very different from where I grew up.

I am sometimes quick to remind my friends and myself that the very fact that we have a choice to be here in the Philippines or back in the States shows the place of luxury that we come from in the first place; that many of us come from the top 1% of the world's wealth, luxuries, and opportunities. Thus, I challenge my friends, and am challenged myself, when the day will come that we too can be asking the same question to our families and friends back home.

To remind them in response to their concern for us, that they also don't have to live like they do. And in fact, that they too might question whether their own lifestyles are 'really' God's will for their lives (just as they often ask if our way of life is really God’s will).

Is it God's will that so few should live like kings and queens while so many live with so little (including electricity, but even more importantly food, health care, adequate housing, education, clean water, etc.)? Or that our lifestyles should extend past what is sustainable if everyone on the planet lived like that? It brings to mind a Bible passage from Exodus that seems to show a more balanced Economy according to how God desires His people to live.

"This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer[a] for each person you have in your tent.’ The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed." (Exodus 16:16-18)

Can you imagine Moses in the wilderness dividing the people into camps, telling a small percentage of the people that they could collect as much of the manna that they could, eat as much as they could, and end up throwing half of it away, while the majority were only able to collect and eat enough to survive each day, while many of their women, children, and elderly ended up dying because they became malnourished?

Somehow we are able to preach this passage in Exodus 16 and understand it in the context of the Exodus event, and God's deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, but we don't quite do a good job of applying it today (as Paul tried to do in his own context during the days following Jesus' ascent into Heaven – 2 Corinthians 8).

Maybe if we saw that those who hoarded extra or kept more than their share at the expense of those that didn't collect enough (not to mention those that defiled the Sabbath by trying to work on a day God specifically said not to) were called out and made Moses angry, and that on a much larger scale today the few of us that have access to more continue to hoard more and more at the expense of those who die more frequently and go hungry more often because of unequal distribution of wealth and resources, not just in the world, but more sadly in the church!

As I write this, in the early morning hours here in the Philippines, I am thankful for an electric fan and internet access, since I'm staying at a friends house in Tatalon where I used to live. But tomorrow I'll go back to Montalban, again to surround myself with those who, in terms of material things, have often got the raw end of the deal. Thankfully for them, and me by nature of being close to them, "God (has) chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him." (James 2:5) For sure life is about more than the things we possess, and maybe the higher order of things are the spiritual blessings and riches that God promises to those who remain faithful.

Brothers and sisters. Particularly those in the Body of Jesus Christ. Please think upon these things, and take this seriously. I ask each of you, wherever you live in this world, and at this point, particularly those of you who are rich by the world's standards (if you make more than $50,000 every year you are in the top 1% of the world's 'income bracket'). Do you really have to live like you do? Like kings and queens and royalty, while others merely live to survive? I know not everyone who is reading this has the choice, so to those of whom that is true, I ask forgiveness for the way I myself have in the past, and sometimes still today live, at your expense. But for those of us who do have a choice, and who often do live as kings and queens, I ask the question again. Is our lifestyle a lifestyle that is sustainable were everyone on earth to live like that? (Which, if you are an American like me, the answer is probably not, considering if the whole world lived like an average American, not just the top percentile, we would consume four planets, which we simply don't have).

It is time to ask ourselves the hard questions of life. And take the narrow road. For while the narrow road can only be walked by repenting of our sins, receiving the free gift of grace and faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, and surrendering our lives to Him, that faith/new life should lead us to loving our neighbor as ourselves, caring for the other parts of our Body as much as our own, and seeking to bring health and vitality to that Body which often means caring for the weaker parts more than the strong, and often cutting out the fat/excess from the bloated parts so that the rest of the Body doesn't have to live with the added stress.

May God hold all of us (including myself) accountable to His Word and His Will/Desire for our lives.

1 comment:

Alessa said...

I always liked the quote:

"Live simply, so others may simply live." - Mother Teresa

I feel like she sums up a lot in very few words. Reminding us all of our responsibility to ourselves and our neighbours...

Great thoughts!