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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Red, White, Green

Our kids' school is preparing for "Spiritual Emphasis Week" with a journal from the group "Live Dead" (live with a short i, the present tense verb), which promotes self-sacrificing team ministry to the neediest in East Africa and North Africa.  One of the entries describes the Celtic conception of martyrdom, dating back to the time of St. Patrick.

Red martyrdom, the most obvious, when blood is spilled, life lost.  Though this martyrdom is the most obvious yet most rare, many Christians around the world still face this threat for their faith, for standing against evil and getting in its way.  Dr. Jonah spilled blood because his faith led him into a path of danger.  I read that one of our current WHM missionaries is sick once again, who serves in a difficult city where forces of evil thrive on human trafficking.  Here in Kenya I talked to a local missionary whose environmental activism, which is based on his belief in God, leads him into paths of danger as he crosses the economic interests of those who destroy.  Execution, imprisonment, illness, suffering, identifying with the poor, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, these are the color red.

White martyrdom, the horizon, the desert, the withdrawal from the familiar, the sacrifice of comfort and family to serve Jesus, is a calling for more Christians.  For some it is the asceticism of fasting to pursue spiritual awakening.  For many it is the departure from an expected path, from the direction of least resistance, to move towards need.  The inconvenience of countries with flooded roads and intermittent electricity, the daily wear of misunderstanding, the grating intrusion of rodents and insects and noise and heat.  Or the more subtle sorrow of missing milestones with family, of being far away when illness or discouragement engulfs loved ones.  This is the searing white reality of missions.

But the third martyrdom caught my attention, because it is not one we often recognize.  The green martyrdom represents the loss of personal autonomy, the rough sanctifying scrape of living in community.  Evidently the transformation of Ireland rested largely on the welcoming, productive, holy, inviting, stable enclaves of monasteries where believers in Jesus kept bees and transcribed Scripture.  And as anyone who has lived in close community soon learns, it's not all honey and beer and harmonious chants at sunset.   Living in community calls for a loss of privacy, a loss of choice, a loss of cushion and protection from our true selves.  In community we are called to lay down our lives over and over.  This is green, because it bears the beautiful fruit of our own Christlikeness and the drawing in of the wandering needy.

This concept really got me thinking about our mission teams.  I think we soberly count the red and white costs.  We expect discomfort and loneliness.  But then we expect our team community to be an unending source of encouragement and support.  When community itself shapes up as a form of martyrdom, we squirm or scream.  Something must be wrong.

But perhaps the Celtic believers got it right.  We are sanctified in collaboration with our fellow saints.  Even those whom we don't think we need are God's chosen instruments for our own good and His glory.

Our new community of saints at Kijabe has been a source of strength for us, of friendship and spiritual wisdom and practical help.  It is also a much more diffuse community than that of Bundibugyo, or Mundri, or soon Kibuye.  Life is easier to live (groceries, lights, water, phones, medical services, schooling, English, so many things); and the options for relationship are MANY; and therefore we are less pressured, less thrown upon each other for survival.  Which can be a relief, but is also probably a loss in spiritual terms.

But as of this weekend, we have a little WHM-Kijabe team again.  Miss Anna is teaching 6th grade this year at RVA, which was her original direction before a 3-year detour that took her to Bundibugyo.  Miss Bethany came for just one term to fill in for a counselor on HMA.  And the Mara family just arrived Thursday night, the beginning of long-term service.  Mike is an orthopedic surgeon; Ann works with justice issues and they both raise two lovely children.  Saturday night we made tacos and talked, in between calls to the hospital.  We're looking forward to the green days ahead, even if they require some sacrifice as yet unseen.

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