Sunday, May 7, 2017

Seeing the world a bit differently...

It's amazing to me that at the ripe old age of 48, there is still so much to learn.  Maybe I'm a bit slow...I don't know.
Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI

Last week I was invited by a dear friend to meet for lunch at the Meijer Gardens.  To be honest, in my heart I grumbled a bit.  I already have a difficult time carving out time for lunch, let alone add in a walk in a garden.  Plus I knew that Meijer Gardens is expensive and in twelve years of working in Africa, almost everything is weighed in terms of "is it stewardly in light of what the people I know and love have?"  But I hadn't seen this friend for a while, so I agreed to go.  As I pulled up and saw the packed-out parking lot, at $15/person, my heart became agitated, thinking of all the money spent to look at flowers.  Had I been there by myself (which wouldn't have happened of course), I would have cruised through that place in a few minutes, thought about how it was nice but definitely something for the middle to upper class people, and shook my head in a judgmental way at American consumerism.

But the friend I went with was the perfect partner for me that day.  As we entered one of the gardens, she stopped for quite some time to look at three very different plants that were placed in proximity to each other, and wondered out loud about why they decided to put those together.  She noted the differences in the leaves.  Trying to not check my watch, I joined her in wondering out loud.  But as that happened, I found myself beginning to relax.  I began to see through her eyes, and very soon, began to see through my own eyes.  I was struck by the creativity of man to take resources made by the Creator, to put them together in a way that could evoke wonder, allow for deep breaths, and slip out of the darkness of the world, into the beauty that I believe the Creator meant for us to enjoy.  I wondered whether people I know who love plants so much will be making gardens like this for us to enjoy in the new earth.  I realized that just because many can't enjoy this type of beauty, it doesn't make it bad for those who can.  I get so caught up in the tragedy of poverty sometimes that I miss the beauty that God created this world to be - a reflection of Himself.

Our view in Antigua
As I write this blog, I am in Antigua, Guatemala.  There is a volcano in front of me (!), flowers around me, birds singing.  Yesterday, Michael and I walked around the city and saw the ruins from four thousand years ago, the beauty of vegetables and fruit that were unknown to me, and a colorful and beautiful people busy with their work of being fruitful and multiplying.  They experience a natural beauty carved out by volcanoes all around, a lushness of vegetation, and a rich, long history.   We walked through a large outdoor market and while Antigua is a tourist area (declared a preserved city by UNESCO), there were very few tourists in there, which made me feel like we were enjoying some authentic Guatemalan life.  We have been blessed by a colleague to have a couple of days to enjoy Guatemalan culture before beginning two weeks of non-stop workshops.  It is very helpful to have this time before teaching to create a deeper understanding and passion for the people. 
Market in Antigua

We serve an amazingly creative God.  He created us in His image to be creative like Him.  He told us to be fruitful (creative) and multiply (the work part of it).  Some of us are more creative and some of us are better at multiplying (replicating the creations).  But He declared it good before the fall, and sin did not wash all of the good away.  His idea of the promised land, the land flowing in milk and honey (Deuteronomy 8), involved work and creativity.  But He also wants us to enjoy what we see and give praise to Him when we see it.

It seems I should know that by now.  It's very likely I will forget again as I get "too busy."  I love how God made me but also know that while my eyes are open to some things, they remain closed to others. 

Nance, a fruit of prehispanic Guatemala.
This week we begin trainings for pastors and church leaders in the ministry of Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  We will then have a training for trainers (two from the US and a number of Guatemalans) who will take this material to other churches.  We will then spend time with successful business people who want to help with poverty alleviation to learn about "Asset-Based Community Development" so that the work of poverty alleviation can be done "with" people rather than "to" people.  Next week, we will travel to a different part of Guatemala and do a training with pastors and church leaders there, and then do a three day microbusiness training for a number of entrepreneurs from the churches.  Please pray for these days together, that the Holy Spirit may join us, and that the previous months of laying the foundation may produce solid opportunities to build and grow!
Vegetable that looks like corn, called "pacaya."

Overlooking Antigua

This is one of three active volcanoes in Guatemala.  We saw it smoking and belching.  We were able to roast marshmallows from the hot rocks.  It last erupted in 2014.

Beautiful mountains and volcanoes in the distance - Guatemala is a lovely country.