Friday, November 12, 2010

Trekking the Himalayas

Often it is on the mountaintop that we see clearly the valleys below- both behind and onward.

This is certainly the case for me as I just got back from an 8 day trek through the Himalayas to pray and relfect. I set out alone, but by the second day I realized that was an unwise choice, one that others have lost their life from. Luckily, minutes after this realization and a humble prayer, God provided a wonderful man named Isreal to lead me the remaining 6 days.

Some highlights; eating wild-berries in lush meadows, walking over wooden bridges suspended over blue wild rivers below, through cloudy pine tree forests, passing Buddhist temples and indigenous villages, standing at the highest peak of my trek as the sunset on my right and a clear view of Mt. Everest on my left, making superglue out of acorn sap to fix Isreal's shoes, hiding in the mountains from 3 angry oxen, late night conversations about world politics, God, and empowerment around lodge fires with trekkers from all over the world, and about 30 hours of praying and thinking along the way.

I feel this time allowed God to do many things in my heart. I was able to interpret the value of my time at Freeset as well as what God is calling me to next in my journey. Unfortunately I am learning the lifestyle of simplicity (living at the economic level of the people we come to serve) the model I learned in my Global studies courses at Azusa Pacific is quite rare among western Christians abroad, even among the wonderful Christians I met at Freeset whom I really care for. This is not a judgement statement on anyone's character or a comparison to my own self-righteousness, this is my observation on how all of us rich Christians fall short of the style of service Christ modeled for us among the poor. Even in my limited experience in Uganda and Kolkata, I see how affluence creates unnecessary barriers for building authentic friendships and empowering local people to take initiative for the betterment of their own communities. I feel this quote very much summarizes my purpose in Kolkata. I am not here to save the world but to be liberated alongside others....

"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, let us work together." Lila Watson (Aboriginal educator and activist in Australia)

It is amidst the little bit of suffering that I have experienced in living alongside the poor (mostly induced by my own inaccurate standards of "success") I have begun to see myself more honestly as a selfish human being desperately in need of God's grace. Christ came to be with the poor and I am learning to meet Christ in my own poverty. It is wonderful!
<----(Pic of Sumita who is my language teacher who has begun to pray to Christ during our friendship)

My greatest suffering is becoming the source of my greatest joy- something I feel we easily miss out on in our quest for "effectiveness" by western standards of achievement. It is living with Shikha and Papya that God has brought me the most healing and joy because it is here I must choose to die to my desire for wealth, comfort, success, fame, productivity, pride, and convenience. It is here I am liberated from those things. And it is also here that I see God resurrecting the most love and change in the lives around me. When we loose our lives we find it. And it's true, I have never been a more joyful and alive human being, and this is only the beginning!

I was delighted a few months ago to find a community of other westerners that are also striving to live simply and empower in this way. I know it is dangerous to spend too much time with like-minded folks, as it easily taints the selfless nature of love when I begin to "love" what I see of myself in other people. However, even with this temptation, I am seriously considering applying for their organization, which would mean a 3 year commitment to journey together. Feel free to peruse their website and send me your thoughts on all this

It just seems fitting to do life in community with people of similar journeys, much like trekking the Himalayas. ha

Below is my favorite sermon because illuminates the up-side down model of Christ that so many of us miss in our quest for doing "good to the poor". We must realize Christ did not come to do good to the poor... he came to join them and then consoles us by saying "follow me". I believe this is where the western evangelical church has misunderstood the model of Christ (as I so often do). By western standards, Christ model was not powerful, effective, or convenient by any means and that is precisely why it prevails! Love has the freedom to die for the life of the world because it believes in power of God over one's own efficiency, power, wealth, or fame! Enjoy and be challenged. Peace.

Money and Power: Oscar Muriu from Urbana 09 on Vimeo.