So I find sometimes I write things that I'm not quite happy with or things that aren't quite as worked out as I'd like them to be. My spiritual process is to let a seed plant in my spirit and sit with it for a while before it becomes fully formed understanding. Sometimes the seed stays a seed a long time.
But still, the half-formed, newly sprouted green is worth looking at. Worth looking into. Beautiful in its own way. So the next few weeks, I'm going to publish some of my forgotten blogs. I publish them with the disclaimer that they are just barely out of seed form and not quite as polished as I’d like. But I like the process of noodling through new ideas and giving time for roots to grow. So here’s this one, written in early July just after I came home to Sierra Leone from the States.
Today I am home in Salone (short for Sierra Leone) from a too-quick visit to Texas. While I was there, I think my favorite thing was getting to hold and hug and get periodically jumped on by my nieces and nephews. I got way too little of this from my nieces Sophie and Nora and their brother Walker, mostly because of poor planning on my part. They were out of town for the first half of my trip. Sophie did help me pick out a collar for my cat after a movie and bird-chasing episode last week. So we did ok. The very next day at about 6 am, Aaron came out crying for his mother after she got up for an early morning run. He saw me sleeping on the couch. I said, "Well come over here, Aaron." And we had a nice sleep together until mom came home. We read all the books, sang all the songs, giggled all the giggles, and hugged all the hugs. All my favorite things.
What I noticed when I was with the kids this time was how often one of the them said, "Aunt Katie, watch me do this!" Mostly this was followed by some kind of ninja kick or fancy dance or a jump off of whatever thing the kids were standing on. Often it was a freefall off the couch and onto the "bear den" (pillows and blankets carefully arranged) on the floor. This was always followed by screams and giggles. And they always looked over to make sure that you were looking, sometimes seeking a response but most often just wanting a witness to whatever silly or fun or daring thing they'd come up with. They just wanted to be seen for their on-the-spot creativity or daring.
Recently I heard Rachel Held Evans point out that there is only one person in the whole Bible who gives God a name. "God names lots of people in the Bible. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob ... but only Hagar, an African slave, at her worst moment, when she'd been cast out of her home, left to die, dares to name God. She names Him, "The God who sees,” because she says, "Not only have you heard me in my distress, you have seen me in my distress."" (Quote from Jen Hatmaker's podcast interview. http://jenhatmaker.com/episode-06-rachel-held-evans)
A few minutes after hearing Evans say this, my brother-in-law Jimmy picked me up from the train. We met my sister Sara and the boys at the house they'd just moved out of to do last minute cleaning before closing the next day. I decided to keep the boys company while they did their work and minutes later: "Aunt Katie, watch me do this!"
Last Sunday I gave my second of three presentations about my work in Sierra Leone while I was in the States. It was technically a vacation, but I decided to do a little "work" because I knew it would mean something to share the ministry that's being done here. Part of the challenge for me of doing this work and then communicating it with integrity is realizing the limits of what I am doing and what I CAN do in a place that is plagued by so many challenges (or any place for that matter). I've said many times that with the new United Methodist University we are playing the long game: planting the seeds of integrity, excellence, and service into our students so that there will be a later harvest of principled leadership in all sectors of our society here. It is crazy important work of laying a foundation for a better future. But that doesn't mean that sometimes it's not discouraging to see how much need there is now. There are still hungry people. There is still a crisis of confidence born of generations of people subjected to colonialism. Education is still expensive enough that it prices out the poor, poor girls in particular. Violence against women is still an every day occurrence. Young people still can't find jobs.
These things are too big for me, and the work of transformation is slow. In my weak moments, its easy to ask what in the world I'm doing here. Even that question, though, is driving me to understand more deeply.
See, I'm coming to a slow dawning that there is another piece of missionary work that I'm not sure I expected. We didn't talk about it in training. I've read it in no books. But I'm starting to think that it's a part of the work that is maybe equal in importance to the tangible things I do day to day.
I'm realizing slowly that there is power in being a witness. I am here to see. If God is a God who sees, then we who are to be Christ to one another are designed also to see. To give witness. To say, "I'm here with you in this." Even when there is nothing that can be done. Even when it's too big for any of us, there is power in seeing. Seeing imparts a dignity. Seeing is God's work.
Even if I do nothing else, I see. And seeing is good work.
Beautiful. Dignified. Worthy.