Ever met folk and wish they were related to you? No, the wish may not happen often, but it does happen sometimes, and it happened for me last week. A spring break group came in from Salem, OR. They left after worship on Sunday and arrived around 5:30 in the afternoon. I wasn’t there to meet them, but Katherine had signed on for the week to work with them and was.
One thing about workgroups is you never know who is showing up. How they experience the world socially or theologically, most times is a mystery. For some mission centers this is not such a big deal, but for us it is. It is important because during a group’s time at the Mission, physical work is only one aspect of the week. Beyond the physical is intentional time to talk about and contemplate reasons why there is such disparity in our community. Talking about the disenfranchisement of others is always hard. Hard, because at some point in the conversation a person begins to realize that the disenfranchisement of another often benefits them. When one begins to realize that they, themselves, are part of the problem, it never feels good. The degree of hurt one feels when this realization becomes apparent has much to do with their social and theological viewpoint. Thus, not knowing where folks stand is important because it is equally important not to create hurt to relieve the hurt of another. Creating dissatisfaction is fine; hurt is not.
Three twelve-year-olds and two adults made up the Salem group. An interesting group for me. I find Twelve-year-olds are always thinking, but seldom expressing their thoughts—at least verbally to me. I think it has something to do with them knowing they are on the cusp of adulthood (at least from an historical perspective), but no one takes their thoughts seriously—certainly not as adults. I’m not here to say these twelve-year-olds are a lot different from other twelve-year-olds, but I will say the blend with the two adults was unique. A thoughtfulness imbued the group—a poetry.
During the week, the work this group did was a little different. The hands-on, physical work time, seemed typical. Yet as Katherine and my conversations developed through the week it was apparent there was more. The dynamics of the group was one of being well blended. The adults and youth outlook on life were certainly different from one another, but together, they were able to think and process physical and thoughtful work in a manner that worked well and encouraged growth for all. That does not happen all the time. But when it does, you want to be a part of it…you want to be one of the family.
And maybe that is the best of this faith we call Christianity, when we do it well, when we use terminology—sisters and brothers—well. For at the end of a week I can truthfully call them, family!