Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will come often. It is my hope that these stories and reflections will be helpful in your spiritual journey. I look forward to your thoughts, questions, or suggestions. Please leave your comments and join as a follower so I will know you were here. It is a privilege to share the journey with you.

If you wish to know more about me, spiritual direction or retreats visit my website. www.bunnycox.com. Blessings, Bunny

*See first posting in January, 2011 to learn why this blog is called "From the Big Red Chair."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Youth Sunday - Part 2

Rarely will an adolescent boy permit a glimpse of his view of God or the world, but if he does, pay attention, look carefully, he may show you the kingdom of heaven:   

Youth Sunday Service Honoring Graduating Seniors - Sermon by Spencer Cox:

Last year during spring break, I was able to take part in a truly incredible adventure. The Diocesan Youth Department had planned Spring Break Conference, which is always held at Camp McDowell, but this time it would be held at some place other than camp, some place called S.I.F.A.T. At the time, I viewed this to be borderline treachery. Spring Break Conference anywhere but camp was unthinkable!  I grudgingly signed on to attend and to stay the three extra days at this silly S.I.F.A.T. thing.

I soon found out that S.I. F.A.T was actually an acronym, and not just a very bizarre name. It stands for Servants in Faith and Technology, and the primary purpose of this organization is to educate missionaries to third-world countries in the wonders of appropriate technology. This “appropriate technology” term can be summarized in one sentence, “You don’t give someone a refrigerator if they don’t have electricity.” It sounds simple to remember, but you would be surprised, or so I am told, at the amount of woefully wasteful, unnecessary, and sometimes harmful tools missionaries bring into their villages.

But another thing that this place did was put on a little camp—a three-day event, complete with a 12-hour simulation of life in a third world country. We lost more than half of the people who came to the Spring Break Conference, so the total participants who stayed for S.I.F.A.T. numbered about thirty people. These thirty people, most of them friends, but not great friends, were in for a truly life-altering experience, equivalent to the first time you see the picture of a white candlestick surrounded by black, and it suddenly transforms into two black faces staring at each other with a white background behind them. You suddenly wonder if your eyes are broken, but you are in fact, just seeing the world a little clearer.

These thirty people arrive on day one, and nothing special happens. We learn how to make a stove out of two coffee cans, two bricks, sawdust, a piece of pvc pipe, and a lighter, and contrary to everyone’s expectations, it burned at about 400 degrees for three hours, and we cooked stew over it. We all go to bed that night a little confused as to what exactly we’re going to be doing the next day, but excited nonetheless.

The next day comes and we are asked to carry our pillows, toiletries, and sleeping bags with us and to follow Nate, our guide for the weekend. Not knowing what’s going on, we follow and are separated into groups called “families.” 

We walk about a mile and then we come to this ramshackle town that was built out of anything and everything, car hubcaps, plywood, chicken wire, with unpaved streets and jagged rocks underfoot. It was a frightening place, and it seemed there were no friends. 

We had arrived at the slum simulation.

Immediately, we are questioned harshly by a “border official” and asked what we were doing in the town that we were told belonged to “Bolivar.”  We mumbled something about camping.  He laughed and pushed my family on through. I was with four other people, all youth except for one adult.

As soon as we put our stuff down, we learn we have to buy our dinner that night or we won’t eat. A chicken breast costs $250, fish the same, a cup of rice was $300.  Fruit was $100 each. All the food was outrageously and unfairly expensive, and we began to complain. Nobody cared.  In fact we were laughed at openly. So I took my "family" aside, and I told them that obviously we weren’t going to be able to do things normally here.

One of the more memorable moments was about halfway through the simulation.  I was walking through the crowd, and a seedy looking man came up to me and offered to buy the women off of my hands for $5,000 dollars each. I immediately pushed him into a wall and told him, as I brought my fist up, to get lost before I made him regret it. I was genuinely furious. I forgot it was a simulation. This man was trying to hurt my family and to do that he was going to have to get through me. He cowered away, and I gradually went back to normal.

Earlier in the day something similar had happened, I was selling “drugs” to some people. I had to if my family was going to eat. I got caught and thrown in jail. When my family came to bail me out, I told them no, to go buy food and a house for themselves and only come to me if they had enough money. We were all shoeless at that point too, because we sold our shoes for money. But what mattered to me most was my family’s health and safety.  I would be fine for the time being.

Eventually the ordeal ended, and it was like a blanket lifted from my eyes. There are people in this world who deal with this every day--places where right and wrong are a matter of necessity and perspective, and caring for those you love is your highest priority, next to surviving.

The gospel today preaches there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. I can’t say I’ve ever faced a situation where someone pulled a gun on my friends or something, but I believe that without hesitation I would throw myself in the way. I didn’t believe this before S.I.F.A.T. though. I didn’t understand it. I thought that asking for that kind of commitment was a little insane. Loving one as someone else is easy to grasp, but actually sacrificing your life for another to live on is a little more complicated.

I realized though, that it doesn’t necessarily mean giving up your life. It may mean going hungry for a friend so they can eat, taking the blame for their mistake, staying in a filthy jail with no shoes and freezing so your friends can provide for themselves first, and almost punching a college student in a simulation who offers to buy your female friends from you.

God truly opened the doors for me on love. Before I knew God, I only thought I could love people. But when he guided me with his patience and his word and his trials and rewards, I began to understand what it is to truly love someone, to truly be there for someone. I couldn’t have done this without God’s help. To learn to be selfless, to treat others as you treat yourself, to sacrifice for them, that is what God’s love is about. If he sent his only son to die for the entire world’s sins, a little kindness and following his directions shouldn’t be too hard should it? But we still find it difficult, myself included.

At S.I.F.A.T, I got a small glimpse, a tiny taste, of some of the dilemmas Jesus faced. How do I lay down my happiness and my comfort for people I don’t know, and still love them? I found the answer there, because everybody has some valuable quality. I discovered that the members of my simulated family during S.I.F.A.T, who I had deemed as less than useful, had many talents. I grew to love and grew close to strangers in three short days, so it can be done. And I urge you all to try it. 

Next time you meet someone who you want to be friends with, make an unnecessary gift, a sacrifice for them without expecting anything back. Lay down, not necessarily your life, but your wall you have toward strangers. Lay down your hostility. Lay down your suspicion, and truly be open and honest with them. 

For I truly believe that there is no greater love than to sacrifice yourself, not just for a friend, but for a total stranger. And all in God’s name.  

The word of the Lord.

1 John 4:7~"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God."
"You don't need a college degree to serve. . .You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."~Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Prayer: Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor be taken away. 

No comments:

Post a Comment