Broken, then Restored

broken-jarBorn and raised as a missionary and pastor’s kid, I always knew the answers to all the church questions. I knew what I needed to say to sound genuine and theologically correct. And as I have grown more independent in the last years, I have carried that mindset with me in other areas of my life. In college, I am actively involved with numerous service and social justice activities. I often read articles and have discussions about what it means to do “healthy service.” By the time I arrived at Grace Church this summer, I had mentally attached a negative connotation to the idea of “church missions.” I had seen and personally experienced what it meant to have harmful mission trips.

I came into this summer uncertain what the ‘Culturally Engaged’ internship would look like. I had never personally been to Allendale, nor had I ever organized a mission trip logistically. So when I was told that Rachel and I were going to be working on the trips for most of the summer, I started feeling anxious. Honestly, I was skeptical at the idea that I could lead a mission trip. It was something I had placed intellectually lower on the “effective community development” totem pole (and yes, I realize now how pretentious this all sounds…). Yet even through my pride, I had a feeling that I needed to be working with CE this summer.

Day by day my doubts started to dwindle as I saw the full-time CE staff engaging their partners in Allendale. Our first initial planning trip to Allendale this summer really demonstrated to me this trip was more than a regular ‘short-term mission trip.’  Our conversations with our community partners, who I realized were more like family friends, opened my eyes to see how God was working through these trips. This wasn’t something Grace Church needed in order to check off the “missions” box on their “healthy church to-do list,” but it was something that was naturally growing and developing.

When we went on the first high school trip to Allendale this past June, God showed me the ways that He was working in the community and that His work is better than any model of community development. Not only was He working in Allendale through our work, but He was working in the hearts of the students and of the leaders on the trip. Whether it was teaching kids how to swim at camp, having conversations with people in the nursing home, or even singing “Colossal Roller Coaster” at VBS, God was working to strengthen and restore the relationship between two places that seem so different.

Through all of these experiences God showed me He wasn’t only restoring these communities, but He was also restoring my broken view of missions.

More than anything, healthy change can only happen when you place Jesus at the center, and that is something that I continue to learn this summer.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith. – Galatians 6:9-10

- Michael Zuch, CE Kairos Intern

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A Taste of Heaven

IMG_0564To the casual observer, Allendale lacks the marks typical of a beautiful city; Allendale isn’t marked by the amount of pretty buildings, Starbucks on every corner, or a surplus of grocery stores, but anyone who has spent time there will agree the people are what make Allendale so beautiful.

This Summer I had the responsibility to plan 2 of the mission trips for Student Ministry to Allendale. From a CE standpoint; I’ve learned things I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to be administering this trip. It was a different kind of an experience than I’ve had previously, but one I’m glad I had the opportunity in which to partake.

Through these trips I learned about the bigger picture of Grace Church’s role in Allendale. Our purpose is to build a relationship, create a family, and ultimately empower the leaders of the community. It’s neat to see the attitudes of the leaders at Grace come in and kindly say, “What do you need us to do?

Before this Summer, I never took into consideration the ways helping can hurt. I’ve learned many churches or groups come into a place like Allendale expecting or planning things they want to achieve before they build relationships and gain credibility. Instead, the relationship must be formed before an organization can be effective. Even though we go to Allendale to build relationships and serve however we can, the return effect is two-sided. Our students left affected by the kids, the hospitality of the people, and ultimately the love of Christ exchanged between the people of Greenville and the people of Allendale. I wasn’t working with students and didn’t see the interactions that took place during work sites, but even hearing stories about the bonds made with the kids and the people and how they didn’t want to leave was enough for me to say, “there’s a reason we’re here in Allendale.”

During my Kairos internship, my view of the gospel has been reoriented. The gospel is in every aspect of our lives, spiritual, emotional, and even physical; a new idea for me to consider. Restoration is not only focused on the restoring of our souls and spirituality, but also a restoring of creation, including the communities around us. Before this Summer I never thought the restoration of a community could be an expression of the Gospel.

For me, this experience has been really neat and encouraging to understand the bigger picture of our purpose in Allendale. Allendale is a beautiful place because of the hearts that make it up. Building relationships, connecting, and worshiping with the people of Allendale County gives us a taste of what heaven will be like. It’s a reminder that God is in control; He’s a God of relationships, God of love, and a God who is making all things new.

-Rachel Varughese, CE Kairos Intern

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ballotWe are just coming out of election season, a time notorious for anger, disenchantment, or passive resignation, depending on your views. Often times we as Christians are perplexed when it comes to engaging culture through politics; separation of church and state, choosing the lesser of two evils, general lack of knowledge or interest on issues are all significant road blocks to our entry into the political sphere. When we do engage it, it is often a reaction of fear, anger, and dismay at the current degeneration of society.

For years I found myself cynical, disenchanted, and frustrated by all parties involved – friends on all sides of issues spouting ideological dogma, politicians falling short, or worse, ignoring their commitments all together. It seemed to me the best way to “fight” was outside the political sphere – best to spare myself and others the blood bath inevitably following a foray into politics.

My mind began to change, however, after reading a biography of William Wilberforce and studying the American and British abolition movements. For Wilberforce and other abolitionists, the courage of conviction began in their understanding of who God is and their understanding of man as an image bearer of God. Yet, these convictions were so great as to be worked out in every sphere of life – including political. For abolitionists, the political sphere was a public opportunity to reach large masses with revolutionary ideas, but it was not confined to politics (or slavery).

Women’s rights, the rights of the poor, suffrage of all, caring for orphans and vulnerable children were all of deep concern to abolitionists; they not only fought for political rights, but also lived with compassion and showed mercy in their daily lives. For abolitionists, if Jesus was Lord of their life then He was Lord over all of life, politics included.

Learning from these men and women has forced me to reconsider my own passive resignation – perhaps there is room for both the church and state in my life. At the least, I have found new conviction to use every available resource to fight for truth, justice, love, and mercy. In choosing to not abdicate from the political sphere, I knowingly walk into frustration, misunderstanding, and disappointment. Fortunately, we have the example of Wilberforce, who waited and fought his entire adult life to end slavery in Britain; victory narrowing succumbing to defeat on more than one painstaking occasion. My hope is we, as Christians and Grace Church, emulate Wilberforce who never wavered in his conviction or pursuit, but worked tirelessly within his cultural framework to affect change – one person, one city, and one nation at a time.

If women, African-Americans, children in foster care, and the poor are all created in the image of God then so is my friend on Facebook passionately declaring his views in direct contrast to mine, and the politician who sold-out. If Jesus is Lord of my life then He is Lord over all of life, political conversations included.


- Taylor Beard

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