Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Shalom, Esperanza, and Love"

Each day my group serves at "My Sister's Place" in the morning and the "Esperanza Center" in the afternoon. My Sister's Place is a Women's Center close to the Basilica, and our team serves breakfast to any women who came in to the center. It is interesting serving there because I dinn't realized the intimacy of touching someone's food. The people there were all so polite and at the same time I feel so awkward about food service. I probably shouldn't be a waitress! However, I love doing dishes and working with the kitchen staff there.

The afternoon (well, not really afternoon, 9:30 am is still morning, just not as early and 5:45) is so cool. I took something like 6 years of Spanish, and I was always annoyed by the time it took to learn and how very little I use it. Visiting the Esperanza Center made my Spanish skills useful as  I connected with Hispanic immigrants learning English. One of my team members pointed out the similarities in her own frustration with learning a new language and the frustrations of these students learning English and trying to understand the idiosyncrasies of our language. Even though I'm a native English speaker and I would certainly consider myself fluent, I only scored Intermediate on the fluency test that I took (the one that is given to students when they "graduate" from the center). That was eye-opening, to say the least. I am starting to think that every US born citizen should have to take the citizenship test. Not to revoke their native born citizenship or anything, but just to realize what it's like.

I've decided that my theme for the week is "Shalom, Esperanza, and Love". Translated, loosely that would mean Peace, Hope and Love. Which I know is cheesy and cliched, but let me explain it. Shalom in the City is, of course, the title of our program. Shalom applies to the stress free feeling that this week is giving me. I'm not thinking about school, I'm thinking about other people, and I'm connected to God through my journal. Esperanza is not only the name of the center where I'm working, bu also the feeling I get when I work there. I love watching light bulbs go off, watching how hard the students work and the other teachers, who have been doing this much longer than I, patiently explaining English to them so that they have a mre hopeful future. And then, of course, Love, which applies to all three,but especially for the feeling I get in the evenings, when all of us come back from our site and the giggles and games and group discussions are rampant. It's so hard to believe that I haven't known all the other students for my whole life, because they are all so social and we automatically formed a community. If we stretch the meaning of Shalom a tiny bit (and my application of it works better for this anyway), you could say that my theme verse for the week is 1st Corinthians 13:13.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Urban Monopoly"

If you read my blog a lot, you'll remember last spring I wrote a post about Monopoly in AP Econ. I talked about supply and demand, and "house rules' of the game. I thought that was going to be the most interesting game of Monopoly I'd ever played, and the first I'd ever play to completion. Well, I was wrong. The game we played last night was definitely more interesting than the game I played last spring in AP Econ. Since most of my blogging audience will not have heard, let me explain a little bit about where I am - I'm in Baltimore City on the Intervarsity urban plunge "Shalom in the City" trip. 16 college students are here, working with different service ministries in the city for a week, to experience the atomosphere.

Last night we played Monopoly. But not a normal game of Monopoly. The game was rigged from the beginning, giving some teams advantages and some teams next to nothing. As a member of the "favored" team, I took the various offers that the bankers gave me, but got very frustrated because I felt the unfairness towards the other teams and their anger at the unfair treatment. But at the same time, I didn't want to take too much from my own winnings to help them. And they, in turn, were so frustrated that they didn't really know what to do with our "assistance". In short (because I don't want to give you all the hours of details) the wealthy team won and all of the students ended the game frustrated. We spent nearly as long venting about the experience as we had spent playing the game. But, as we discussed, we learned some really neat things about the parallels between our game and the city. And although I had ended the game frustrated and even ended up in tears during our discussion, at the suggestion of another team member, we ended the night in a prayer circle, which calmed me down and I think brought us together as a team.

This morning I has the opportunity to return to New Song Community Church, the church I generally attend while I'm in college. The sermon this morning was exactly in line with our Monopoly game last night. It was the last part of an eight part sermon series about the eight principles of Christian Community Development. Today was about "Empowerment". And the idea of Empowerment is the idea that "the goal of christian community development is the empowerment of the individuals in the community and the community itself." The three points from this morning's sermon were "1. Empowered people Need a mission greater than themselves", "Empowered People need Power Greater than themselves" and "Empowered People need hope greater than their suffering". Based in the passage of Acts 1:6-11, each point showed how Christ was the answer to empowerment. After my eye-opening Monopoly experience, it was wonderful to be pointed back into the arms of Christ. And I can't wait to see where he takes us the rest of the week.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Religious vs. Christian

Brief post on a thought that I've been having for a while - Often people will assume that I will like something "because it is religious". According to dictionary.com, "A religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."  While this certainly is true of Christianity, using the term religious is so ambiguous. I would think that everyone is religious, based on the definition. Everyone I know has a belief about the creation and nature of the universe. Everyone I know has a moral code that they believes should be used to create laws and govern human affairs. I will agree that not everyone believes in a 'supernatural agent', or has 'ritual observances', but, according to the definition, those are "especially" and "usually", but not required. In short, someone who is religious is someone who holds a belief about the world. Which is everyone.

Someone who is Christian, on the other hand, is defined as "a person who believes in Jesus Christa person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ" (still from dictionary.com). This definition is quite simple. She (or he) who believes in Jesus Christ and follows his teaching is a Christian. This is far more specific than "religious". So, yes, I am religious. But more importantly and more specifically, I am a Christian. And there is a difference.