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Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Making the extraordinary ordinary

A bit over 24 hours into the week that has so far included: two newborns (one Monday morning, one Monday afternoon) with severe congenital malformations that needed urgent surgical attention, each brought to the gate of our yard with a small family entourage looking for reassurance and advice and financial help to seek care more centrally at a more resourced Ugandan hospital than our District can manage. A meeting with the highest elected official in our district to plead the injustice of a relatively wealthy policeman (big nice house and business in the top 1%) using the courts to not only reclaim a 7-acre piece of land his dad sold the mission 23 years ago to finance this man's education, but also to attempt to extort from us fees amounting to three times the actual value of the land. (Which is money that comes right out of the capacity to buy new textbooks for Christ School students, or send those first two babies mentioned above for specialised care). Management of our Area by what's app video calls with 3 different countries, each filled with the rejoicing alertness of God's work in various lives but also with unsolvable dilemmas occasioned by living unreachable by elderly parents or living with the trauma of nearby warfare and displaced people and intractable poverty. Trekking down to CSB for a couple hours and marking the goodness of having had a "Director of Development" for the last 3 years, an experienced educator pour into the capacity of staff to change the lives of students, and hearing those staff recognise the milestone of such service with thanks. Spending another couple hours with that family's kids as they prepare to move to Kenya, taking time to verbalise the paradox of gratitude and grief. And in between all the above, sometimes during it, the peppering of lesser issues, quick meetings about schedules or strategies or needs, queries from a former student who is distressed by lack of employment, a parent who had hoped his child would be sponsored for school by us, neighbours with chronic hypertension or diabetes or a resolving infection or just a proposed project that want empathy and assistance. 

That's actually a pretty ordinary start to a week, though the nature of the rare anomalies and the sheer scale of the corruption and the deep grief of saying goodbye to 7/22 team mates within a week's time felt extraordinary. 

As we keep marching through the Jesus story in John this Lent, today's poem (Biola Lent site, Mary Karr) said 
"But we want magic, to win
the lottery we never bought a ticket for. . . " 
Yep, that's what I want. But the poet goes on to say voice of God is "small & fond & local". 

And there is the dilemma. When the broken world's edges scratch us, they feel extraordinarily damaging and sorrowful, even though we know that the entire continent is reeling with the same babies prone to early death or greedy men stealing from the poor. When we miss our own family and have to say goodbye to team mates, it feels extraordinary, even though our choices have caused that pain for others too and in 2023 global mobility is widespread.  When we, like the people of Palestine scrutinising Jesus, see that he can suspend entropy and remake eyes and turn water to wine . .  . we ask for the magic ticket to fix everything and do it now. He heals a finite number of sufferers, feeds a countable number of people on a hillside, even raises a friend from the dead. Extraordinary events, so shocking we call them miracles. But their very notoriety exists because they are the exception, not the rule.

Instead Jesus refused to call down angel armies and burn through all evil instantaneously.  He left us with an example and a mission that is small, fond, and local. Helping the two families with babies on our doorstep, while knowing there are dozens and hundreds and thousands more with challenges. Struggling to keep one school afloat, which has slowly infiltrated many aspects of this place with life even though we are a tiny drop in the national picture. Resisting one person bent on injustice even though so many others are not stopped. And not in that 24 hours but the 24 before it, praying with a family devastated by a teenage pregnancy that sent a life into a tragic direction . .  we can't fix that at all, and carry the weighty sorrow that that story is one of hundreds around us. 

But we stick with all those tiny bearing of burdens and small flickers of light, because the end of the story has a plot twist. The extraordinary will become ordinary. The exception will become the rule. The newborn will be young as a 100 year old Isaiah says, the Psalms are full of visions where justice reigns and ends evil, Revelation pictures us in a crowd of beauty with no more goodbyes. Until then, here we are.