Saturday, July 9, 2011

A gift in this year: Iglesia.

When I first started attending Iglesia, towards the end of my senior year at Wheaton, I thought of it (/it was), the "Spanish service" of Rez. It has since grown and evolved from a small group of about three families which met in one family's basement, to a full-on church meeting in the ministry center, which is separate from Rez (although a part of the same family of churches as I understand it...).

My role in Iglesia has evolved and been re-defined as well. The original plan was for me to lead a group of the youth. Over last summer I started getting called in to occasionally lead the kids. And then occasionally was turning into every other week... then every week. And the youth were hard to get together...
Then we moved to the ministry center and combined with another smaller group to be a bigger group, and there were more kids, and, well, new plan... Steven and I were officially leading the kids!

Honestly, my first reaction to this development was great hesitation. I am not a teacher. Not. A. Teacher. I love mentoring. I love snuggling babies. And I absolutely love kids... but managing a room full of them, not just for fun, but for spiritual development? Um...

But, nope.
It was really, really hard. And I don't feel like I was that good at it... ever. And honestly, it was frustrating and tiring, a lot, and there are things I'd do differently now... and I have some strong feelings I still really need to think through, about the ways the kids were affected by my limitations.

It was, however, very much a ton of fun and a huge source of joy for me this year...

I'm so grateful for each and every one of those kids. I love them.
I'm grateful for their hugs and sweet smiles and funny, quirky personalities, and crazy antics (...most of the crazy antics :-P).
I'm so grateful for the privilege it is to teach kids about God's love for them, and to meet with them in His Word.
I'm grateful for the chance to try to reach out to the more difficult kids. I'm grateful for the times we felt like we were getting through. I'm grateful for the chance to pray for God's heart for them and to show God's love to them.
I'm grateful for the exhausting creative challenge of trying to come up with ways to get Bible stories and messages across in an engaging and relevant way... I'm grateful for the awesome feeling when it seemed like it WORKED! for the times when it didn't seem that it worked... and what that taught me about "doing your best, praying it will be blessed, and letting God take care of the rest" (thank you my dear sweet freshman roommate).
I'm grateful for their laughter. And for our amazing fun times together... soccer on the grass out front, for the record, is absolutely a spiritual exercise... And tickling is apparently incredibly helpful to their ability to study the Bible, they assure me.
I'm grateful for times when I came back from a few weeks away and kids immediately ran up and said they'd missed me.
I'm grateful for getting to know some of their needs and personalities and trying to tailor lessons to them.
I'm soooo grateful for the many times God taught me through their insights and questions.
I'm so grateful for the time spent in prayer over them... and with them.
I'm so grateful for how God is at work in their hearts and lives... and that we are "coming late to a party".
I'm so grateful God let me be a part of their stories.

These are our kids in the room one day we were playing around with trying to create a more peaceful atmosphere...
we liked avoiding gross flourescent overhead light, but this particular lamp did not quite cut the whole need-for-people-to-be-able-to-see-each-other thing.

Making Christmas scenes out of popsicle sticks (does that scream desperation for ideas to you? Well...), and lovin' on the leaders.

I'm grateful for memories together. One specific family's kids Steven and/or I ended up taking out after the service frequently. This was one of my favorite, favorite things. I loved that the kids were excited about it. I loved getting the chance to enjoy them and get to know them better. I hope and pray they are bright moments and memories for them. Some of my most cherished memories in my whole life are of times when I got to go out with leaders from my youth group throughout high school. (...and by throughout high school, I mean, every time I'm home now... I probably just take it for granted a bit more after a decade :-)). But seriously. Quality time is my love language to an insane degree and at least for one of these boys I see that a lot too. Getting to spend fun time with special adults is such an exciting thing to a kid and can be such an amazing way to love on them. And I look back on every one of those Starbucks and IHOP dates as just as spiritually formative (trusting spiritual leaders and feeling safe and accepted in a fellowship environment!!!) as any Bible study I ever did. True story.
....annnnd, that was a novel. In conclusion, I am so grateful we went out with them after class so often. I pray it had fruit beyond what we can see. And I'm grateful for the memories of my leaders doing it for me, which moved me to do it more on the nights when I was beat and just wanted to go home.

...Honestly, I have been reflecting a lot in the last couple of weeks,
on the ways that involvement in Iglesia was a hard area for me this year, too.
Not because of any lack of love or joy in my relationships with the members of this church.
But because of how much my own failings were present.
And that is something else I have been gradually starting to thank God for.
It is a gift to get more clarity on my weaknesses, and my sinful patterns. And to see more clearly and startlingly, how they affect me, and other people. And if you are someone who prays for me, please feel free to include in your prayers that my continued reflection on these areas turns into the strength to make actual changes.

I'm grateful for realizing more of just how often I fail to follow through on things I say I will do- or things I just straight up should do.
I'm grateful for recognizing more excuses I give for this laziness, to my own heart and to others.
I'm grateful to be seeing more of how often I care more about how I come across to others than how much I am quietly and honestly just doing what I am accountable for before God.
I'm grateful to be realizing in more dramatic ways, just how much I can shirk work, prioritize my own comfort, and complain in my heart (or out loud), when I am tired, drained, lonely, or feel like I can blame a bad result on someone else.

These were also very real gifts from God through Iglesia to me this year.

But not the only ones.
(I love these little girls so much I almost can't handle it. They are the ones who are usually in my arms when I take Communion... oh they make me so happy. And I love love love their sweet and amazing mom. Which is why I feel really bad about how sad she'll be when I steal her children.)

Girls at my house making Christmas cookies! 

I'm so grateful for the girls I got to mentor. Griselda and Frances became real friends. I adore them, and I look up to them. And I have regret in those relationships, too, about not having as much time or energy as I wanted to; but thanks be to God because I have been seeing some sweet fruit in our times and friendships anyway. I'm crossing my fingers that hopefully it was a situation of God multiplying the loaves and fish I could offer. I love those girls... they brought me so much joy this year!

I'm grateful for the moms at church who became friends. (I wish I was staying. I feel more and more comfortable with them every week.) (I mean I don't wish I was staying, really, but... you know what I mean.)
I'm grateful for the warmth and care they extend to me.

I'm grateful for the times I felt comfortable and at home in that community.

I'm so grateful for the chance to get to know more about what it is like as an immigrant here; to know and enter into their stories in any way.

I'm grateful to have gotten to know the teens, even though I didn't spend as much time with them as I wish I could have. I so enjoyed the time I did spend, and the chance to get to see them on Saturdays.

And obviously I'm so grateful for the close friendships I gained through it!!

I'm grateful for some clarity I got about how to pursure church community and service in the future.
I'm grateful to be wrestling with the balance between "do few things, but do them well" and pouring out where there are needs. Still confused, but grateful to be thinking about it.

I'm grateful for the Kirmes nights where we all eat together to enjoy each other and raise money for the church.

I'm grateful for the baptisms and the first Communions we rejoiced over together.

I'm grateful for celebrating Mexican Christmas traditions!

I'm so grateful to have gotten to worship and pray and take the Eucharist in Spanish.

I'm grateful to have seen and stood in awe, of what can come of people getting to know their neighbors (seriously. That's how this whole church started. Jonathan was intentional with his neighbors.)

I am grateful for this (from the website):
"As a church we exist for the sake of the community and advocate for justice for those whose voice is often not heard..." 
 -to have gotten to be a part of it, to have gotten to see it and be formed by it and learn from it.

This was tonight :-).

...This might seem random but it was one of my favorite things. We did a lesson about Jesus healing the blind man. I wanted them to appreciate how grateful that man must have been, so I blindfolded them all and then told them to find the candy that was hidden around the room. Finding candy blind is frustrating; therefore being blind is frustrating; WOW it's great that Jesus heals! Unfortunately for the point of my lesson, they thought the blindfolds were great fun and turned it into a big crashing into each other game. But we went over how lonely and desperate that man must have been in those times, etc... wrote things he couldn't do on the board so that they could imagine how kind of Jesus it was to heal him... anyway, after the service when I went back into the room I found this on the board. They got the point. Love.

Thanking God for giving me Iglesia this year.


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As fellow travelers on this journey, we commit to this covenant before God. Lord, in Your mercy, hear these our prayers:

When confronted with scarcity, need, and inadequacy, may we be nourished by the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. Abundance overflows from Your table, sustaining all who come in faith. Father, help us.

When monotony blurs our vision and dulls our senses, may we encounter others as Christ did, through intentional presence in daily life, submitting as clay to be formed into vessels filled with the Spirit. Christ, guide us.

When wounded by the fractured condition of Your people, may we be united by Your Lordship in faith, hope, and love; seeing, as through the facets of a diamond, the beautiful spectrum of Your light reflected onto Your holy Church joined in praise. Spirit, empower us.

When all Creation groans, afflicted by injustice and driven to despair, may the promise of redemption root us in the hope of Your Kingdom: "Behold, I am making all things new!"

Holy Trinity, send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve You with gladness and singleness of heart.