Archives For Laina Schneider

This week I’m in Guatemala with a service team from my church. We’re beginning work on a multi-year sanitation system for a Maya community, Chuicutama, in the Highlands. Our reflections for the week center on the theme of Jubilee, the biblical commandment mandates forgiveness of debts and economic restoration as part of God’s New Creation.

     Jubilee is what Jesus announces as his Gospel in his first sermon in Nazareth in Lk 4. According to Torah, a big part of the good news of the Jubilee is reconciliation of wrongs in the world- a theme Paul picks up in 2 Corinthians.

To complement this theme, I’ve asked Laina Schneider, a friend and college student at Virginia Tech to post her thoughts on Jubilee. Laina studies agriculture at Tech and has served as Aldersgate’s mission intern in both Guatemala and Cambodia. Perhaps more importantly, as a college student her wrestling with questions of faith and life are just what the Church needs to hear. I’d encourage you to subscribe to Laina’s blog here.

During my time in Cambodia, I realized that everyone thinks Westerners are really lazy. 33526_1549442418229_3208720_n

Every time I stepped foot out of my hotel there were a group of motodops and tuk-tuk drivers yelling for my attention, all wanting my business. “TUK TUK LADY???” Often I just wanted to go on a walk, or the restaurant I was going to was only a few blocks away. They thought that any Western person wanted a ride everywhere, and they would charge high prices for even the shortest rides, thinking we didn’t know any better.

Although this demand for attention was annoying, it also made sense. In a city of nearly 3 million, where most of the vehicles on the road are mopeds, it is a very competitive business. Tourism is a blossoming industry, and many locals, from the city and surrounding provinces see this as the most realistic way to make money. It is not a cheap investment. Many drivers spend their entire life savings on a moto or tuk tuk, in the hopes of earning just a few dollars a day. There is often no profit involved; the money made from one ride will be immediately spent on street food, or go to their children’s school fees. After purchasing this expensive vehicle, especially if they have come in from the province, it is all they have. They live on their moto. Drivers will pull over on the side of the road and sit, very uncomfortably, to sleep on their moped. Tuk tuk drivers will sling up small hammocks from the bars of the cart to sleep in their off hours. It is hard for me to imagine literally having only one possession. What if it breaks? Or needs expensive repairs? Even if you can somehow afford the repairs, that’s at least a week of no income. These drivers’ lives are only their work; they’ve given up everything for the business.

The city is a jungle marked by patterns Darwinian survival.

They are literally enslaved to their poverty.

They have no choice but to keep working where they are, the risk of stopping to find another job is too great, and jobs are hard to come by, especially if you don’t speak English.

This is just one example of enslavement to poverty, people across Cambodia and the world, struggle everyday just to make ends meet, and often have no other choice.

We are so lucky, to live where we do and have so many blessings. We have been shown unbelievable grace, and now it is ours to share. Not only do we have time, money and skills to give, we can grant people grace just by showing them compassion and respect.

By building relationships in a process of empowerment we can simultaneously release them from their enslavement and define their lives with love.

 

33526_1549442418229_3208720_nThis week I’m in Guatemala with a service team from my church. We’re beginning work on a multi-year sanitation system for a Maya community, Chuicutama, in the Highlands. Our reflections for the week center on the theme of Jubilee, the biblical commandment mandates forgiveness of debts and economic restoration as part of God’s New Creation.

     Jubilee is what Jesus announces as his Gospel in his first sermon in Nazareth in Lk 4. According to Torah, a big part of the good news of the Jubilee is reconciliation of wrongs in the world- a theme Paul picks up in 2 Corinthians.

To complement this theme, I’ve asked Laina Schneider, a friend and college student at Virginia Tech to post her thoughts on Jubilee. Laina studies agriculture at Tech and has served as Aldersgate’s mission intern in both Guatemala and Cambodia. Perhaps more importantly, as a college student her wrestling with questions of faith and life are just what the Church needs to hear. I’d encourage you to subscribe to Laina’s blog here.

Each mission trip and organization that Aldersgate involved with is founded some level on the concept of reconciliation. Though how that element affects the overall purpose and role of the organization varies, we can see throughout, a tendency towards service with an oppressed people.

In Cambodia, the working class is one that only a short time ago was scarred by the powerful Khmer Rouge regime, who inflicted a genocidal wound in the kingdom no one could heal.

In Guatemala, the Mayans have been pushed out of their homes and told that their culture and language is lowly for hundreds of years. They have been forced out of their fertile fields and pushed into the last livable place high in the mountains. Their war-stricken country has taken the lives of so many men, leaving women and children to fend for themselves.

The Ft. Apache reservation was formerly a U.S. military post, chosen specifically to trap the Apache tribe and control their actions and interactions. American Indians, Mayans, and the Khmer people are all injured. They are calloused from a history that we today may not have had control over, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend it never happened.

Jesus’ message of Jubilee is centered on forgiveness, the forgiveness of debts, neighbors, and all wrong doings.

So what is our role in this Gospel?

Mission can serve as an avenue for reconciliation in places that we, or others, have done wrong. It is easy to say “sorry” or to act like because we are living now, that it wasn’t our fault. But it is our job as Christians to show love to these people. To reach out and show them that not only are we sorry, but we want to help them to help themselves.

Mission provides an opportunity for both forgiveness and tangible reconciliation in ways that not only provide relief and an apology, but also create a sustainable process to ensure empowerment of many generations to come.

 

 

33526_1549442418229_3208720_n     This week I’m in Guatemala with a service team from my church. We’re beginning work on a multi-year sanitation system for a Maya community, Chuicutama, in the Highlands. Our reflections for the week center on the theme of Jubilee, the biblical commandment mandates forgiveness of debts and economic restoration as part of God’s New Creation.

     Jubilee is what Jesus announces as his Gospel in his first sermon in Nazareth in Lk 4; one of the implications of the Jubilee, according to the Torah, is that the Jubilee year be marked by letting fields lie fallow. The land itself rests on the Sabbath year, which itself is an act of faithful trust that in that year the Lord will provide.

     To complement this theme, I’ve asked Laina Schneider, a friend and college student at Virginia Tech to post her thoughts on Jubilee. Laina studies agriculture at Tech and has served as Aldersgate’s mission intern in both Guatemala and Cambodia. Perhaps more importantly, as a college student her wrestling with questions of faith and life are just what the Church needs to hear. I’d encourage you to subscribe to Laina’s blog here.

Food unifies us. Humans, animals, plants. All life requires sustenance. Food is many different things to many different people. To some it is a cheeseburger, to others a bag of chips, and to many more a portion of grain. Our culture is one, which for some decades has widened the gap between food and dirt. Yet soil is the source of life. It is that blackish brown stuff you walk on everyday, literally supports our world, and is the medium in which all food is grown. Yet many people seem to think that the interaction of food and dirt, literally and associatively, is “gross”.

This separation is a symbolic representation of the disconnect apparent in our industrialized commercial food system. How many people know where their food comes from? Or the conditions or methods used to produce it? How about the energy required to process and ship it? Most people don’t know any of those things. Even in the middle-upper class movement towards “organic” or “local” food, most people shop based on assumptions of standards behind labels, which are often misleading. Not all countries operate this way however.

There are many cultures, like those you may encounter in Guatemala or Cambodia, comprised of people whose lives are centered on growing food for themselves, their families, and their neighbors. This life is, all at once exhausting, infuriating, exciting and rewarding. It is necessary and systematic, a physical and emotional struggle to ensure the existence of those you love. In our society, the breadwinner in a family provides the money to purchase prepared foods in a grocery store down the street, but in an agrarian lifestyle, the name is a bit more literal. Try to imagine the crushing realization that the rains are late, and your store of rice will run out long before the next harvest comes in. Imagine having to look at your children and knowing that you cannot give them the nourishment they need, and that your hands are supposed to provide.

     Christ’s idea of jubilee is directly related to farming.

Biblical stories are constantly using agricultural metaphors or themes: sowing seeds, grape vines, harvesting, gleaning, the list is endless. But the stories were written this way, because it was relevant. Everyone could relate to those stories, because they were all growing food and understood the fundamentals of agriculture. Jubilee was a time to rest and let the fields lie fallow. In fact, they were supposed to let the fields lie fallow every seventh year. This means that no new crop could be sowed, the fields could not be plowed, and that everyone would have to eat only what was in their store. This is an impossible request. Imagine being asked to not go to the grocery store for a year. You could eat whatever was in your pantry, but could not buy anything new.

Maybe God asked this because he had an intricate understanding of soil chemistry and fertility and wanted the land to build up some organic matter to recharge the humus layer of nutrients….maybe. Or maybe God commanded this so there would be a year of rest, for people to take a break, and appreciate the beautiful blessing that is His creation.

As usual, what God wants isn’t easy, but we can identify how hard it is for us to sometimes do what God commands, with this idea of the fallow fields.

 

This week I’m in Guatemala with a service team from my church. We’re beginning work on a multi-year sanitation system for a Maya community, Chuicutama, in the Highlands. Our reflections for the week center on the theme of Jubilee, the biblical commandment mandates forgiveness of debts and economic restoration as part of God’s New Creation.

     Jubilee is what Jesus announces as his Gospel in his first sermon in Nazareth in Lk 4.

     To complement this theme, I’ve asked Laina Schneider, a friend and college student at Virginia Tech to post her thoughts on Jubilee. Laina studies agriculture at Tech and has served as Aldersgate’s mission intern in both Guatemala and Cambodia. Perhaps more importantly, as a college student her wrestling with questions of faith and life are just what the Church needs to hear. I’d encourage you to subscribe to Laina’s blog here.

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On my first trip to Guatemala, I had prepared myself to work with an open mind, and to share the love of Christ with the people we were serving. I had learned at youth group that Jesus always loved and welcomed enemies and strangers, and this trip would give us an opportunity to do that.

After arriving and working with the families to build stoves, it struck me that their hospitality towards us was unconditional.

They didn’t just allow us to come into their homes because we were helping them build a stove. They would have welcomed us, just as anyone else, because they were a loving people.

The Mayans were and are an extremely oppressed population, and the fact that their love shone through decades of calloused hate and hardship, made their kindness all the more admirable. I realized that we weren’t welcoming the stranger by serving people we didn’t know, but that we were learning how to love our enemies from the example set by the Mayan families. They were graciously building relationships and working with us, all the while showing us how we should be living. So who was really serving whom?

This was a lesson that a lot of us learned on that first week, and we allowed it to really transform our understanding of what mission was. We talked about the trip being a time when we should step outside our comfort zones and empathetically don the practices of those we working with. This made perfect sense, and we eagerly practiced and discussed our efforts every night with the group. We were on a mission trip “high” as they call it; giddy with the vitality that accompanies devotion in the truest sense to what Jesus asked of us: to drop everything and go to serve him. We were happy when we were there, even if not in recognition of the reason. We caught a glimpse of the rich character that defined the Mayan people, and spoke excitedly of living more like them. Humans are fashioned by and after God, to be self-giving creatures, and when we did give freely of ourselves, we were filled with joy. We traveled and learned from the poorest of the poor, and saw lives and relationships defined by the richness of Christ’s love.

Even after that transformational experience though, we sunk back into our isolated ways of thinking and living.

Why did the mission trip high come to an end?

And why did we fail in our attempts to mimic the character of those faithful families upon our return to Western culture?

It is a hard question to answer.

Is it because we were bred into a culture of convenience and privilege?

Is it because we let the minor details of our lives overwhelm us?

How much do those things matter in comparison to richness of character and a life filled with love and joy?

Even if it may not be what we want to hear, I think the answer is right in front of us.

     A one-week mission trip shows us the quality of life we could have all the time, if we shift our focus away from material details and agree to give ourselves fully to God.

We should not only recognize the prevalence of God’s blessing in seemingly unexpected places, but also take it back with us into even more unexpected places, our own communities.

 

This week I’m in Guatemala with a service team from my church. We’re beginning work on a multi-year sanitation system for a Maya community, Chuicutama, in the Highlands. Our reflections for the week center on the theme of Jubilee, the biblical commandment mandates forgiveness of debts and economic restoration as part of God’s New Creation.

If you’d like to support our work, as it’s a multiyear project, you can do so by clicking here:

Guatemala Toilet Project.

     To complement this theme, I’ve asked Laina Schneider, a friend and college student at Virginia Tech to post her thoughts on Jubilee. Laina studies agriculture at Tech and has served as Aldersgate’s mission intern in both Guatemala and Cambodia. Perhaps more importantly, as a college student her wrestling with questions of faith and life are just what the Church needs to hear. I’d encourage you to subscribe to Laina’s blog here.

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Being a college-aged Christian is really weird. College is often the first time people are really challenged in their faith, or confronted with they actually believe, as opposed to what they think they are supposed to believe.

You are suddenly thrust into the middle of a huge basin of conflicting ideas and beliefs, when very often, your “faith” is still based on a religion handed to you as a child.

There are dozens of organizations and churches, and it is hard to distinguish which one is right for you. This past year, I attended 4 churches, and 5 campus ministries, and found myself confused about how they were different, or sometimes, how they were similar.

     One of the main focuses of campus ministry is the Gospel.

     Everyone talked about it, but no one could get down to telling me exactly what it was.

     I learned plenty of names for it: good news, Christ’s message, the New Testament, the story of Jesus, and that there are gospels according to several people – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

But in all the Bible stories, and in all the ways we learn we are supposed to live like Christ, which one is the true gospel? You don’t have to be in college to appreciate this struggle either, Sunday school didn’t help me to deduce the true meaning, and I would venture to guess that there are plenty of churchgoers of all ages, confused about what the gospel actually is. In Jesus’ first sermon in Luke, he reveals that the gospel, the good news, is the consummation of Jubilee, as foretold in the Old Testament. Jubilee is a celebration and rest period where the fields lie fallow and all debts are forgiven. That doesn’t seem so confusing.

So why is it so hard for people to articulate it? I think people get caught up in the details. People might say you are a sinner for lying or cheating or a thousand other things that are “wrong”. But look at the over-arching theme in what Jesus is saying through the good news in Luke 4 in his first sermon at home.

He came to institute jubilee so that all people might live in love and abundance. Jubilee is the idea of perfection made abundant in Jesus, where we follow his example and forgive our neighbors, rest in honor of creation and do away with debts.

     Basically what it comes down to is love and forgiveness.

     That doesn’t seem so complicated.

      So maybe all the confusion surrounding the gospel is just reluctance to accept its simplicity.

If we are continually confused about what the good news is, and in turn, how we should live like Christ, it is a lot easier to act however we want. If we accept the simplicity of the gospel, it creates expectations around how we should be.

But no one ever said faith was easy.

And none of us are perfect, which is why we are already forgiven by Jesus, who was and is a perfect example of living the good news.