Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Following Jesus Through The Mud

Our friends Luke and Carmen Schrock-Hurst's daughter Grace was recently honored as Eastern Mennonite University's 2016 "Young Alumnus of the Year". She and her husband and two young sons live in the middle of a slum area where most of their neighbors earn a living salvaging items from the huge city dump adjacent to their home.

I am beyond inspired by the way they are taking their call to follow Jesus--in the tradition of saints like St. Francis and Mother Teresa.

The following reflections by Graceanna were read by her mother at the October 16, 2016, EMU Homecoming Worship Service:

"Follow Me," Jesus said to his first disciples 2,000 years ago. "Follow me and I will make you fishers for humans!" 

What a strange invitation to those original disciples!

Jesus spoke similar words to me, but through the mouth of a fourteen-year-old Manila street girl as I visited her slum in 2009 while taking part in the Global Urban Trek. "Follow me," she said, as we trudged through mud to visit her slum. But her words were not just her own--they were Jesus' invitation to me.

"Follow me into the slums!" Jesus said to me. "Follow me into the muddy, garbage-ridden streets of urban mega-cities! Meet me here among the poor. Follow me into the slums because I have so much to teach you here!"

And so I did. For the past six years I have been following Jesus in the slums of Indonesia.

Jesus gives each of us the same invitation. The logistics look a bit different for each follower, but we are all called to follow--humbly.

We follow humbly because we know that our following is like a baby learning to walk. We are not good at this following game. We fall down. We get back up again. We laugh as we learn. Sometimes we cry.

I think of my children learning to walk. First holding both my hands, then one hand, and finally learning to balance forward on their own--but always with me close by in case they fall. We are only babies learning to walk, following Jesus. At the most toddlers. 

My two-year- old son Jeremi is an expert walker and runner now. He even has mastered riding a balance bike. And now part of my job of following God is to teach my son how to follow too. We walk over trash heaps together "Hold my hand mommy," he says. "Is there a lot of smoke today?" he asks. 

And the irony is that often my children teach me about
humility, about how to love others, and about God. Jeremi is not afraid to get dirty, run through puddles, and play with mud for hours. He forms friendships that cross religious, economic, and social barriers, without even realizing it.

Jesus gives each of us the same invitation today: "Follow me." Our Lord, Jesus, went to the cross. We cannot expect anything easier. We can trust that He will be with us through every step of the journey--but we know the journey will not be easy. 

My journey of following Jesus into the slums has been very muddy--literally. No paved roads means that rainy season
produces a muddy mess to trudge through. Rain boots are a necessary accessory. 

And the journey has been hard in other ways--fire in my first slum, followed by eviction. Sickness and physical suffering for me and my friends. Wrestling with questions of wealth, poverty, evil, and faith… Life is one big muddy mess sometimes.

But that's where Jesus calls us to follow Him.
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