And all of the beautiful people that have the privilege of calling you home.
Jesus, I believe in you
and I would go,
to the ends of the earth
to the ends of the earth
for you, alone are the son of God…
and all the world will see
that you are God…
We were singing that at my church in downtown Toronto yesterday.
I realized something that I thought was kind of ironic.
Right now, the end of the earth that I’m being called to is… my hometown.
I love Toronto.
But right now I really feel that God wants me to go home. I’m excited to be with my family. Plus I know there’s a lot of things I have to learn that are best learned there. I also have high hopes for lots of Jesus time in there in the midst of family and working.
I’ve got a little less then a week left in this city. It’s almost time to say good bye to my Victory kids, to try to see some of my Peace kids one last time before I leave, and part from friends who have become family over the last three years of my life.
Then it’s Kingsville. Finding a job. Getting my license. Growing up a little.
Learning from the wisdom of my parents. Hanging out with little Philip-ay. Bothering Ronald and Toady. Getting to know my not-nearly-as -little-as-last-time-I-saw-her niece.
And serving Jesus right where I am, in my little hometown.
I think I might be ready for this.
God, what is your will for my life?
Last week in Intern class our director wrote “What is God’s will for my life?” on the board and then left the room to allow us freedom to discuss. How do we know God’s will for our lives?
Usually when in a group of young adults looking at the idea of God’s will I see nothing but confusion. People waiting for God to give them a revelation that will send them towards their vocation and hopefully the perfect school to prepare for it at.
The interns this year are great. Really it’s such a godly group, I’m so blessed to be a part of it.
Anyways, I was thinking about how much confusion I see around the topic so I thought I’d share some of the things we talked about that day:
-God’s shown us some of His will already – in His word. If we’re waiting on His will and not following what He’s already said we have a problem.
-God has given us gifts, skills and talents. He’s also given us desires in our hearts. He wants us to use them for His glory. He wants us to be who He made us to be. (So in seeking His will, we’re also seeking to see who He made us.)
-Sometimes God will give us times when we are supposed to wait on Him. Not every time will be like this.
-God doesn’t want us to sit around waiting for His will and doing nothing for His kingdom while we wait. Not many of us felt a specific calling to Urban Promise. We saw that God was working there and we joined in.
-Being at Urban Promise doesn’t mean that we’re already ‘in God’s will’ and don’t have to seek it any longer. We should wake up each morning and ask how we can join in his work THAT DAY.
-We should be prayerful about everything we do and make sure that it lines up with scripture.
-Speaking of which:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” -James 4:13
So, from that we see that we shouldn’t think that we have solid plans. We should always be open to God changing the plans we have and bringing about His will in that way. (My dad says that we don’t use the phrase: “Lord willing,” as a close to explaining our plans enough anymore.)
By the end of our class we had changed the question all together, the question we as interns want to ask is this:
God, what is your will for my DAY?
Yesterday my roommates and I sat in our living room talking about how wonderful our fathers are. Talking about some of the loving things our fathers have done for us. Talking about how grateful we are to have our fathers. It was a bittersweet conversation, it was driven by the knowledge that so many of the children we love are growing up without knowing their fathers.
The first summer I was at Camp Peace one of my boys asked, “How many times have you seen your dad?” As if it was a typical getting-to-know-you type question. I’ve seen my dad nearly every day of my life.
A little while before I moved to Victory the father of one of our ten year olds died. He was in Jamaica and I don’t think the boy actually knew him.
Yesterday Pipes was talking to another of our ten year old boys. She told him he was an amazing leader, and she told him that he surely knew himself, “I don’t know myself… I don’t know my father…” His father passed away when he was four. They talked awhile about how God is our father, “I know that God’s my father.” he told her, “But it’s just different to have a physical father.”
And we just can’t understand.
One day we listened to a song for a presentation. That song told a very meaningful story: A women has a child only to have the father claim it isn’t his and leave. The child grows up and starts living the same type of life that his father had.
The father sees a young man on his turf and tells him to leave, the boy does not budge.
“Instead he pulled out a newer thirty-eight snub
He clearly had the drop but the boy just paused (hold up)
There was somethin’ in this man’s face he knew he seen before
It’s like, lookin’ in the mirror seeing himself more mature
And he took it as a sign from the almighty Lord
You know what they say about he who hesitates in war”
So the story ends with the father unknowingly killing his own son. Not something that’s likely to happen.
But there’s so much truth in it. One of the last lines is: “Be a father, you’re killing your sons.”
Later that same day Pipes handed me an ear bud to listen to the song “Best Day” by Taylor Swift. It’s a story as well. A story about how a dad who was there her whole life making every problem melt away, just with his presence. That’s a story I can relate to.
I couldn’t get over the contrast between the two songs.
I can’t get over the contrast between the way I grew up and the way they’re growing up.
We pray that when these boys grow up they’ll end the cycle.
They’ll be great and godly fathers who are present in their kid’s lives.
Only God can end cycles of sin and hurt and injustice.
So mostly we pray that these boys will find Him in a real and powerful way.
That He’ll teach them what a true and loving father is.
Urban Promise Toronto isn’t the only Urban Promise. In fact it’s not even the first. The first started in Camden New Jersey in 1988. So it’s a year older than I am.
As second year interns at UPT you get the opportunity to spend a week in the city of Camden working with the Urban Promise there. I returned from said trip last night.
Please forgive me if my thoughts are a bit… Fluttery. Going on a missions trip near the end of your two year mission trip has proven to be rather tiring. I was stressed for awhile wishing so much that I could bring the kind of energy to Camden that I’ve so often appreciated from Mission Teams here, “But how can I bring them energy when I’m just as drained as they are?” My director encouraged me to just abide in Christ, and basically to just chill.
Due to the fluttery nature of my thoughts I’m going to try to glue down the things I saw and heard that hit me the most this week in a somewhat disorderly fashion in hopes that they still make sense to you:
Before leaving I typed “Camden New Jersey” into Google, looking for the weather. Their first two suggestions were ‘camden new jersey crime’ and ‘camden new jersey ghetto’. Weather was the tenth suggestion. When typing in Toronto the first two options are our newspapers. Weather is the third directly followed by ‘public library’.
Camden is a poor city. Often rated the poorest in America.
There were so many abandoned buildings, just boarded up and left to rot. I’d never thought of how expensive it is for a city to tear down it’s dying buildings, until I saw a city cluttered with them.
We sat down and talked to some of the UP staff who are youth from the area. They told us about how being from a Camden High School makes it harder to get into College. How their teachers often seem to just give up on trying to teach them. How at one of their schools if you’re caught cutting class you’re handcuffed and brought back to class by the police patrolling the halls. (So many kids from my high school cut class and didn’t even get caught for it…)
There was a man there who had grown up in Camden and was given the opportunity to go to college and had now returned to give back to his community. When contrasting his high school stories with those of the current students we could see how much the city is really improving.
When this man was in High School his principal stood in front of them and asked those with the hopes of going to college to raise their hands. She looked at those with raised hands and told them to do themselves a favour and: get jobs.
He says he sees now that she was being realistic. He and his brother (who works for Urban Promise Camden) were given the opportunity to go to College by a Christian man who owned the school.
Some people call it a hand out,” he said, “I call it a lifeline. So I grabbed a hold of it.”
When we got to Camden I stood in awe looking at all the buildings with the words “Urban Promise” on them. Our Urban Promise has no buildings. We have an office out in the middle of somewhere and we have our meetings and run our programs out of amazing Toronto churches that allow us to do so. They even have a grade school, and a small high school! It’s pretty different from UPT. Not better or worse, but different.
We saw a lot of injustice in Camden New Jersey.
We also met many people of God who have been called both to and from Camden to show their city how the Grace of our God will allow His Justice to flow in and throughout it.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
1:30 pm – The Camp Victory interns leave their apartments and head to camp. Luckily the Freedom interns have already left. Otherwise they might have questioned Pipes’ completely black outfit or Dallas’ dress shirt and blazer. (The SWAT Team and Spy Team leaders have to look the part.) As it is, they suspect nothing.
2:30 pm – The plan has been perfected. The staff are just gathering their materials. Synchronizing walkie-talkies, gathering ropes, checking over the fake registration forms… preparing snack. (Cookies and juice boxes are a necessary commodity when your teams consist of 7-10 year olds.)
4:00 pm – The children have arrived. The excitement level is at a new high. Trip forms are collected. Only eleven children have made it through the rigorous training week to embark on our adventure today. Eleven children. Eight leaders. SWAT Team leader Hoopz steps forward:
“WHAT IS OUR MISSION?”
4:30 pm – Camp Victory boards the first bus on their journey to Camp Freedom. Juice boxes and cookies ensue.
4:55 pm – Camp Victory boards the second bus, now only minutes away from their goal.
5:00 pm – They file off the bus and start to march in formation. Camp Freedom is within sight. The leaders warn them to ‘look casual’. “Try not to look like a camp!”, “Oh wow, if they look out those windows…”, “Look at us, we just scream CAMP VICTORY.” One SWAT team member is overcome with excitement and does in fact scream “CAMP VICTORY”.
5:06 pm – The group arrives at their meeting place. A bridge on Driftwood Ave. They need only turn left and walk approximately two minutes to arrive behind Camp Freedom. We split into our teams.
Rumour and Snoopy stand with two children. These children were especially chosen for their incredible acting abilities and the fact that the Camp Freedom staff will not recognize them. Code names: Kimberly and James. They will walk directly into the action.
In their pockets: Fake Camp Freedom registration forms and an emergency walkie-talkie.
They are the Diversion Team, they will attempt to become a part of Camp Freedom.
Dallas and Bartowski also stand with two children. The only two to make it through their training. They will enter, but must not be seen.
In their pockets: Walkie-talkies, binoculars… and a whole lot of stealth.
They are the Spy Team, they will sneak in and find Freedom’s supervisor: Kuya.
Pipes and Hoopz stand with the rest. Seven kids. Will that be enough to capture Kuya? No one is sure.
In their hands: Ropes and all the strength that a week of intense training can offer.
They are the SWAT Team, they will complete our mission. They will GET KUYA.
5:12 pm – Victory is behind Camp Freedom. Pressed against a brick wall. They are ready. If the excitement level was high back at their camp… Well I can’t even think of a word to describe it now.
5:13 pm – The Diversion team is going in. They run down the alley to the front of the building. The leaders ask if they will run around the fence, or climb over it. The brave young ones decide to climb. The leaders cannot go further, if they are seen, the operation is ruined. As the Diversion team disappears their leaders run back to the group, turn on their walkie-talkie and wait with some degree of nervousness.
5:20 pm – Double Agent George has been contacted. The side door is opened and the spy team is going in. Their leader brings them to the door and gives last minute instructions. They run straight to the washrooms as planned. They then go on their search for Kuya. Now our only contact is over walkie-talkie.
5:23 pm – The SWAT team leaders are listening intently to the walkie-talkies. The spies have found him, but what are they saying? As soon as the words “The Fireside Room” are heard the SWAT team moves forward. They run into the building, this time the leaders follow.
The SWAT team hesitates as they see their target in person. His confusion grows as he starts to realize that Camp Victory is in his building. Finally one of the members runs forward and the rest follow. It’s a difficult task but with some prompting from Victory’s supervisor Kuya is captured.
The spies are retrieved from their hiding place. The Diversion team didn’t make it into program, but they were not recognized, and Kuya was fooled.
Camp Victory says a peaceful “Hello” to a slightly confused Camp Freedom, takes a group picture, and departs.
[Camp Victory out]
I like it when I’m in blog writing mode. When I’m in blog writing mode my eyes are open and I’m searching for what God’s doing every day in my life. That mode has been turned off for awhile now.
I wonder if it’s because after the closing of Camp Peace I shifted into a sort of survival mode. So focused on getting through each day that I haven’t been paying as much attention to my wonderful Lord as I desperately need to be. He is after all what gets me through each day.
Yesterday, I told a fellow that I work with that it was of unfortunate and difficult circumstance that I came to work with him. Not that it was unfortunate and difficult to work with him… Just that the events that brought me there had been.
He looked for a second as if he was about to argue with me and then he paused and said, “We’ll talk about it in about three years.”
I thought it would take years for me to understand too. I wasn’t sure I’d ever really understand why God would let Camp Peace close.
I’ll probably never understand everything that God was doing. But still only a couple months later I can see the immense good that He’s been doing in my life – and that just strengthens my knowledge that He will use this for the good of my kids too. My Peace kids, and my Victory kids.
The kids of Camp Victory have been through a lot of change and a lot of difficult and seemingly unfortunate things this year as well. How fortunate that I could join the team that was working so hard to show them that even when they feel abandoned and confused there’s a God who loves them and is NEVER going to leave them.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
-Psalm 139: 11, 12