Saturday, June 25, 2011

Reflections - Pastor Heidi Johns

Heidi at the Moucecore guest house

As we make our way home I find myself feeling several emotions at once.  God surprised me in many ways in Rwanda, as I learned both about the people who live there and the challenges they face and as I learned about myself.  I was surprised to find people filled with joy while facing such challenges.  I was surprised to find bountiful forgiveness in a land that has been through the evils of genocide.  I was surprised to find hope amongst the ruins of poverty and struggle.  I was surprised to find resounding faith in God when God's blessings at times must seem distant.  I will continue to process all of my feelings and reactions in the days and weeks to come.  My strongest resolve at this point is my commitment to making this trip mean something, both for my life and in our ministry at Faith.

I am thinking a lot about what will come next.  I have been thinking mostly about the ministry we already have in place at Faith with the Refugee community.  Being at the refugee camp gave us all a glimpse of the life they experienced before coming to America.  I am in awe of all they have accomplished with their lives, given the struggle they have come out of  one of my top priorities will be to continue to invite members of Faith to join in relationship with the refugees in our community.   We have so many great ministries already at Faith with the refugees.  I believe those can be strengthened, new ones developed and more friendships can be formed.  As our refugees acclimate to life in America it will be made so much easier as Faith members walk alongside of them.

I am also deeply committed to telling the story of our group's experience.  I believe there will be many invitations to talk to various groups and my hope is that we will take full advantage of having people hear our story and then we can see where God will lead the congregations ministry.

I am also dreaming of doing a congregational "read" of the book "Beetles and Angels" and then having the author, or his sister who lives in Wheaton come and speak on a Wednesday night at Faith.  This event will be "required" for the confirmation families, but the rest of the congregation will also be invited to join in.  My hope is that this book/discussion will get more families at Faith fired up about the opportunities God is placing before us with refugees.

What I am struggling the most with at this point, and so the issue that most touched me, was our visit to the refugee camp.  I am really really trying to make sense of the situation there, but mostly right now, my heart is filled with despair.  It was so very difficult to find hope there.  The problems seem insurmountable.   People are living in conditions that only dance along the border of being humane.  So many children facing a bleak future, with not enough food, not enough space, lack of education and no opportunity.  I am coming away with a strong belief that no matter where you live you deserve to have a dream and to have an opportunity to see that dream realized.  In the camp people sit and wait, wait to go back home, wait to be resettled to a new country, wait for the chance to further their education, wait for the next UN truck to arrive with the monthly food rations, wait for someone to care.  We were asked in various ways to simply care, and in that caring to take some sort of action to try to improve their situation.  I continue to struggle with what that means.

The way I look at new immigrants in our church and in our community will be different.  I think I will wonder much more about their stories and may even have the courage to ask more questions.  I think God will continue to tug at my heart asking me to help and to mobilize others to help the least of these among us.  I think I will have such a greater appreciation and humility about the wealth and opportunity I live with, mostly because of where I was born.  I pray that the power of this trip to change me will continue to multiply and expand rather than diminish with time.  I am very thankful that I was able to be a part of this amazing group, and will continue to ask God to surprise us in how he will work through it.

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