I say this, first of all, because I know them. I got to know Isaac when I volunteered in his kindergarten Sunday School class, and I've known Erin since she was a brand new baby who visited us at worship team practice. These kids are the real deal. They are the kind of kids Hailey Joel Osmont played in movies (think more Pay it Forward, less Sixth Sense). I was reminded of this about ten days before I left for The Canada, when their dad approached me at church.
"Look," he said, "Isaac has this idea. He really wants to do a lemonade stand."
"Go on..." said I. (Spelling is hard)."And he really wants to give the money he makes to missions. Specifically, he wants to give it to you."
Now, think about that.
STOP. NO. WAIT. ACTUALLY THINK ABOUT IT.
NO, I DON'T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND. This kid is TEN. His sister is NOT EVEN SEVEN. We live in 2013, the age of iPods and iPads and iDon'tCares and Whichever Starlet Was Naked this Week and anti-discipline campaigns and self-entitlement and me me me me ME. And these kids want to do a LEMONADE STAND (adorable) and give the money to ME, the missionary intern who is addicted to Bollywood movies and can't tell the difference between a pound and a kilo.
I am proud to know Isaac and Erin, not only because we can now purchase $125.00 worth of markers, pens, and tea for our Centre, but also because I am humbled by their self-sacrifice and desire to put others first. You know what that is? That's living like Jesus. That's thinking about the world. That's really rare in 10- and almost-7-year-olds.
I've been thinking about Isaac and Erin a lot because I know them through the Church, and the Church has been heavy on my mind these last couple months. When I say "The Church," I mean both Greater Gresham Baptist Church (my home) and the global institution that is The Evangelical Christian Church (note the capital E and C. It's getting serious, y'all.) Recently, with
And sometimes, I totally get where the haters are coming from. People actuallly have done some awful things in the name of Christianity. Really horrible. And it's easy to hate a lot of dead, old, white men who screwed up the world with Colonialism and sucked fun out of things. And Jesus and Macklemore really do disagree on several points, and that is just not the thing to do right now. I mean come on, Jesus, the man has Grammies.
Except that Isaac and Erin aren't horrible, and they aren't old, dead, white men, either. And neither were the 12 people from Greater Gresham who came as volunteers in August. This was a special group to me, because they're from my home church. I count all of them as part of my personal history, even though they are a pretty random mix of ages, professions, statuses, and et ceteras. I grew up with them. They've known me at every stage. And having them with me in this new, adult stage was a reminder to me of God's faithfulness to me--the way He never wastes experiences, and makes bad things into good things, and never leaves me alone.
Kyle, Katie, Garren, Matt, and Bobby, whom I have known through youth groups, mission trips, birthdays, and funerals, carried heavy boxes up the approximately 1 million steps to my new apartment. Jonathan, whom I met during GGBC's worship team, saved my butt and became a 1-man worship band at Sunday service. Janice and Tanya, who have known me since before I had braces, washed and found a place for everything in my new kitchen. Janice, who's known me since age 6, stocked my first-ever adult fridge. Eli, whose children I taught in Sunday school with Isaac and Erin, and Jim, who taught my own Sunday school in 5th and 6th grade, did their darnedest to assembly the Ikea Dresser of Doom. Jeremy and Lance, who still liked me during my awkward stage, took care of me when my window broke. These people are part of my family, and they are the Church. And you know what? They're not horrible.
Everybody say, "Institution of Western Oppression!"
And then there's Zendeh Living Church, here in BC. We currently meet in a Chinese E Free Church in Burnaby, and have a congregation of about 20. We have service in Farsi, English, and (sometimes) Spanish. This is Church. And after we sing and pray and share what God's been doing in our lives, we have tea. And this is Church, too. During this hour and a half, we find out what's really going on in each other's lives. Who is sick? What do we have that we can give? When can we visit again? Where are the needs? How do we help? This little community has quickly turned into the people who call me when they hear I'm sick, who find extra bags of groceries to give me for no good reason, and who give me a reason to be excited for Thanksgiving (which is in October in this heathen land). They're the Church. And they're not so bad, either.
But hey, isn't it all just about the show? And the money?
One of the ways the Bible describes the Church is as a young bride, waiting for her husband-to-be to return so they can start the marriage celebration. Sometimes, she's not a good bride. The Church is full of people like me, and so she is often cruel, lazy, quick to judge, and slow to listen. She is imperfect and undeserving of her bridegroom. But she is also filled with people like Isaac and Erin, and so she can be generous, self-sacrificing, and willing to serve. Jesus loves her. And because of that, I'm going to love her, too. I'm going to stand up for her, and stick with her even when she acts ugly. I'm going to find ways to make her beautiful again.
So the next time you start to criticize the Church, remember that you're not just talking about dead old men. You're talking about my friends Isaac and Erin.
And you don't get to talk bad about my friends Isaac and Erin.
You're talking about Isaac and Erin, and 12 family members who visited me, and 20 Farsi speakers in a borrowed sanctuary, and me. And, if you are a Christian, you are also talking about yourself. Perhaps we, as members of the church, should take our own advice. Isn't the Church judgmental? Well, Believer, aren't you? Does she need to be more welcoming? Don't you? Does she teach oppression? Are you oppressed? Are her Christians unlike her Christ? What have you done to change that?
I've grown more and more convinced in the last two months that it's time to stop commenting on the Church's ugliness and started doing something to help her. I thank God for all of my different manifestations of Church, because I find comfort in the fact that the next generation has some good ones to help us.
To Isaac and Erin: I am so happy God put you in my life. When you give to other people, like you've given to me, you are acting like Jesus. I think Jesus is crazy about you guys, and I think he loved your idea even more than I do (which is a lot, because I LOVED your idea). When you act like Jesus, things aren't always easy. Sometimes, it is really hard to be generous, and it's almost always really hard to think about others before yourself. But acting like Jesus is a beautiful thing, and if you live your life like Him, He will take you on amazing adventures. He will make your life into something special. I am praying that you will continue to act like Jesus for your whole lives, and I'm so excited to see it happen. Thank you again for your precious gift to me, and expect to hear from me soon.
As always, donations are needed. Thanks for being my Church, guys. You make a beautiful bride.