At community church on Sundays people from the congregation share their stories. I love it. People are supposed to base their talk around these four question:
Who am I and what do I do?
How did I come to faith and what has that meant since?
What do I feel passionately about?
A recent faith story
Anyway on Sunday Fuzz asked me to share my story and I did, I think it went quite well really poeple were very kind about it. Anyway I thought I would post it and if anyone else would like to make a post answering those questions I think they would really enjoy thinking about them ( I certainly did, unfortunately I think I need to be forced to speak about these sort of things to really think about them and I for one would be really be interested.
So here it is.
Who am I and what do I do?
Well why not start with one of the great questions of life.
My name is Emily.
I am one of the members of this church that come that community up in Hornsby. I have been involved with St Johns in some way for about five years now. Firstly I would come up to Rough Edges when I was volunteering with the SOTS team fro the Wayside Chapel. Through Rough edges I met some of the people from the church and started attending Community Church. More recently I have become a volunteer and part of the streetwise ‘congregation. In streetwise I have found a church where I can seek Jesus in a way that I feel comfortable and honest and real.
I am daughter, a twin sister, a step daughter and step sister and I am fiancé.
I work in administration at a large medical clinic in Chatswood. My role primarily is dealing with Medicare payments and training of staff.
I am a student at UTS. I am studying Adult Education in International Studies. When I finish I hope to live and work overseas in with a small community.
I work in a pizza shop.
I teach Spanish.
I am a volunteer with an association called Ayni. Ayni is a small grass roots organisation based in a little town in the north of Peru called Piura. It was started by a Canadian woman about three years ago and is made by a small number of volunteers. Ayni works with a local primary school, a local orphanage and a local organisation called Manitos that teaches practical skills like cooking, sewing or hairdressing to adolescents who work in the markets begging or selling nic naks in carrying bbags for people. Ayni works with these organistion teaching English, offering financial aid when people are sick or supporting families to start little business in order to have an income and just being friends and playing with the children. Ayni means ‘Hoy por ti, Mañana por mi’ in English ‘Today for me. Tommorrow for you’ and this expresses for us the desire to support people tday in such away that they will be able to support themselves their community and us tomorrow. It was a dream come to true for us to see some of the adolescents we teach with Manitios become volunteers in Ayni and work alongside us teaching the children in the primary school. I was living in Piura and volunteering with Ayni for about 18 months and now here I am involved in recruiting and am looking into fundraising.
I am a Christian. To be totally honest it is hard for me to say that sometimes as I struggle with so much of Christian doctrine with and the exclusivity of it and many Christians. But I guess I also believe the church has an important role in our society and I know that it and the many people I have met through it have helped form so much of who I am. I also love Jesus and I want to follow him and while I can’t say Christians have exclusive rights to him I have learnt a lt about how to do this through Christianity.
I am a friend.
I am an extrovert and I talk a lot. I am a lover of music (not that I know anything about it) and dancing, food and wine, theatre literature and language.
I am passionate but we will get to that later firstly
How did I come to faith and what has that meant since?
I grew up thinking about God. My mother took me to church and talked fairly openly and honestly with me about God and what she believes. She has fairly unique ideas about God and I am grateful for the fact that she always encouraged me to read and pray and to think in order to develop me own beliefs rather than what I was told. So I did this and my faith developed as I grew.
I remember however the first time that I really met Jesus for myself. It happened in Rough Edges actually. One night I was sitting around with some people down there and Dave got out the guitar and started to play. Sally requested that he play ‘ I believe in Jesus’. This is a song that I sang many times in church growing p but had never really thought much of it but that night as we sang the line ‘I believe he is here now standing in our midst’ I actually believed it, I felt it, I knew it to the core of my being that Jesus was there with us.
I guess in that moment I connected all the stuff that Jesus talks about the meek inheriting the earth, the poor entering the kingdom before the righteous and about Jesus being a servant king. I realised that being a Christian means following Jesus and following Jesus means living like him and living like him means feeling passionately about him and I guess that leads to the next question.
What do I feel passionately about?
I feel passionately about Jesus. I am in love with the person he was, the person he is and I long to follow him. I believe this means taken up the mission that he took up and lived when he announced this in Nazareth.
The Spirit of God has gripped me and has singled me out for a special task:
To share good news with the poor,
To free the prisoners, to help the handicapped,
And to smash the shackles of the oppressed.
I must let the people know that the day f God’s grace is upon us.
Dave Andrews describes eloquently what I believe this meant for Jesus.
Jesus grew up with a passionate concern for the welfare of his people, particularly those whom no one else particularly cared for. He was passionately concerned about the plight of the poor, the victims of the imperial system. He was passionately concerned about the predicament of the prisoners and the handicapped, who were excluded from all meaningful participation in society by bars of steel and stigma. He was passionately concerned about the condition of the lepers, not only because of the pain of their ulcers, but because of the pain of their untouchability. And he was passionately concerned about the situation of ordinary people whose hope had all been but shattered by their soul destroying circumstances, and who, consequently, felt consigned for ever to long days and even longer nights of utter despair.
For Jesus, a passionate concern for people meant nothing less than a passionate commitment them. He became forgetful of himself, living instead in constant remembrance of those around him, who were themselves forgotten. He desperately wanted them to feel fully alive again, to revel in the joy of being loved and being able to love once more.
For me, personally, in my life today this means passionately fighting the unjust immigration laws in this country. At this time my partner and I are applying for a visa for him to come to Australia as my fiancé and I am appalled by how difficult and invasive this has been made. I am appalled by the extents this country goes to, to make people feel unwelcome. It is humiliating for me when my Peruvian friends say that would like to come o Australia and visit and I tell them it will be almost impossible for them to get even a tourist visa ad when they ask “well how did you get one to come here and I have to explain that I don’t even need one. And of course I am appalled by the evilness of Temporary Protection visas and detention centres such that contain only innocent people seeking refuge.
It means passionately and joyfully giving of time, money and self to those living in poverty. I don’t understand how in a world with so many resources that there are people without food and clean water and access to a decent education. I am particularly concerned with the children of Peru, my dear children who gave so much to me and I long to give to them.
As someone who is studying education, it means passionately teaching people and giving them access to knowledge in this world. Teaching however in the way that Paulo Friere, a famous adult educator and a hero of mine puts forward using dialogue so that the ‘teacher is no longer merely the one who teaches but also the one who is himself or herself taught in dialogue with the students who in turn also teach. This dialogue is essential, as attempting liberation without it is to treat the oppressed as objects and transform them into masses that can be manipulated. He says that only power that springs for the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both the oppressed and oppressor.
Finally it means passionately creating community with the people in my life excluding no one just because they may be a little different. Listening and sharing stories just like we do here. So I will tell a recent faith story.
A recent faith story.
This story took place in Piura, that little town in the north of Peru that I was talking about. It was a couple of days before Christmas and my partner and I were walking in the Plaza de Armas like the town square to look at the light they and put in the trees and the nativity scenes. There were many people out enjoying the cool change that comes through at night to provide relief for the stinking hot days. Then a man arrived begging. As he walked though the plaza people bean to move away and look uncomfortable. As he came closer it became clear to me that he was very sick with AIDS. Martin and I both knew we had to talk to this man and I happened to have a bag for of medicines with me as that just night I had visited with a doctor from one of the local, private hospitals who had donated them to us to give people. So we approached him offering some change and I asked him if he wanted any the medicines. He said only painkillers, he felt so horrible all he wanted was something to ease it till he died. So I emptied the bag of all the painkillers and gave them to him. He took them hungrily and we asked if he would like to come and eat with us. He declined saying that he does not really like to eat anything the illness had taken hi appetite. So we said goodbye to him and Martin put his arm around him. The man, Carlos is his name, fell into Martin’s embrace and wept. For a few minutes we stood there, people looking, the foreigner and the AIDS victim in the embrace of a young Peruvian male crying. Carlos pulled away and said, ‘nada ha me abrazado por casi años’ ‘no one has hugged me for almost three years’. In that moment I had a glimpse of how the lepers who hadn’t felt touch in years must have felt or the prostitute who knelt at his feet whose only experience of touch was out of lust must have felt when Jesu touched them with love. I knew that Jesus was there in that moment. His love and compassion was there, moving and changing all our lives.
And just this week after I had written this, Martin wrote to me telling me that Carlos had come to him asking for help as he had lost his accommodation. Martin didn’t know what to do hs he lives with his mother. That day he went to visit some friends of ours, a family with 10 children who live in a small space with two rooms between them. Martin tried to be in good spirits but they could tell something was troubling him so they asked ad he told them about Carlos. And they graciously from the very little that they have offered to take him in and care for him.
Martin writes and tells me today that he visited with them today and Carlos is looking more alive than he has since we met him 6 months ago. Living amongst the love of this family and Patricia’s cooking which isn’t much and going to church with them he has had his hope restored. He now desires to live a little longer and has asked Ayni to buy him a stand and some polish so that he may be able to polish shoes to earn a small income to help support the family. We have gladly obliged.
This family also loves having him. He is great with the children and they adore him. It has also given them an opportunity to share their faith and live it in a real and practical way. They by giving so generously and humbly out of so little have demonstrated Jesus love and passion and have thus strengthened my faith and my love for him and for people.