I just wanted to say hello to everyone back home in Lexington. I am leaving tomorrow night to begin the long journey home. I will be seeing all of you again in just a few days. That is a good feeling. I am glad to be coming home and more thankful than ever for the home that I have. The last month spent travelling through Africa has truly been another in a long chain of life changing experiences for me. What that change will entail in the long run remains to be seen. Whatever it means I hope that I can seize the opportunity contained within it. Here are some of the prelimary (personal) reflections that I wanted to share as I look toward home.
The first thing is how much this trip has deepened my awareness of how blessed I am to have such a wonderful combination of family and friends. I will be returning home to a safe and comfortable home with a family who love me and have supported me wonderfully in this time. And I have an opportunity to take advantage of what I've learned and love and support them with renewed commitment and purpose. I will also be returning home to a loving and supportive community who have also supported me wonderfully and have labored with me over the years as I've slowly begun to grow into maturity. Those two things are the most important expressions of God's love and goodness. In the past month I've walked among people who've both killed and watched their loved ones be killed, hundreds of thousands of children (many of them HIV positive) who have no family or home, and whole communities of people (indeed a whole nation of people) who've been brutally ripped from their homes, businesses & neighborhoods and forcibly resettled...leaving them with nothing, and unleashing a process of healing and restoration that even in the best of circumstances will take decades to unwind. I've never had to contemplate and witness so much human suffering, injustice, corruption, and exploitation in my life....and at the same time I've never seen so much hope, promise, strength, vital faith, courage, and opportunity........the perennial question, what will we choose to see and seize?
The second thing that I would say is that this trip, more than any other, has convinced me of how little I deserve to have this kind of opportunity. As I've travelled from place to place, seeing the extremes of beauty and ugliness, I've always been mindful of all of my friends and family who may never have this kind of opportunity. That has weighed upon me every step of the way...not so much in the sense of guilt, but in the sense of recognizing that this is a precious gift, that it comes with a responsibility, and that it is not something that I've earned. I need to make the most of it.
The third thing that I've learned is that I owe a huge debt to all of my brothers and sisters around the world who've been building relationships for years, the fruits of which I get to enjoy without any effort on my part. Some of my best, and most needed memories from this trip, have been the moments hanging out with people like Fuzz Kitto, Mark Pierson, and a whole host of other Aussies that I only know or are connected to through Geoff & Sherry and John and Glenna Smith. That has been a precious gift. Also, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Daniel Leffel who made our time in Senegal very smooth and very meaningful through his amazing knowledge of the languages and culture of the Senegalese people. And of course, I owe huge debt of gratitude to my friend Richard who made it possible for us to start this ongoing experiment in truth.........I've been riding on the coattails of others my whole life......most of all, I have to thank my wife and daughter for their patience and love in this time..it would not have been possible without them.
Fourthly, I would say that this trip has been the most intellectually and emotionally challenging trip of my vocational life. It has given me many things to ponder and many reasons to be grateful. I've done well in some respects and been made aware of the need for progress in others. My thinking about faith has really been challenged by the people that I've met, and I've really been convicted about the laziness and lack of focus in many areas of my life. I've really been challenged by people who are being much better stewards of their God given gifts and graces. I need to grow significantly in this area.
Lastly, this trip has been a great opportunity for me to reflect upon my identity as a Christian worker. When I first got involved in this work in Lexington, my focus was pretty narrow and my view of the world very small. Hanging out with guys on the street at all hours and working to try to build bridges between them and others was pretty much my focus. I was also single and had no children. In hindsight, I can now see just how simple and elegant the rhythm of life was during that season. Now, things are much more complex and there are many more things to balance. My view of the world, my faith and the relationship between these two variables has been significantly altered-and at times it seems like it has been ruptured. And now my first responsibility is to my family. I find myself wondering if I need to return to some form of that initial simple rhythm and minimize the bigger picture stuff. But I know that it is not that simple. I come back again and again to a thought from the Catholic writer, Cardinal Suhard, who once said (paraphrase), "A priest is a person who joins together in their own life the very things that tear them apart." I will be continuing to think on these things.....thanks for allowing me the space for this raw reflection.....look forward to seeing all of you soon.....