Saturday, March 28, 2009


I am so dazzled by the community here. It's amazing -- everyone knows everyone else! We had a dinner at our church last night, with what seemed to me a good portion of strangers, but our designated welcomer told me of all the people who came in, only two were strangers to her.

In seminary, in university Christian fellowship, as a camp counselor -- over and over I've been taught to "create community." We do this with get-to-know-you bingo games, with "trust falls," ropes courses, deep confessional discussions, prayer partners, etc. We work hard to build our connectionality. This is one missional expression of who the church is called to be - community-builders. In an urban setting or in immigrant populations it is crucial because our sense of community is a fragmented, broken scrap of what it "used to be" in the golden days before we relocated ten times.

Tonight after a show I was talking to a friend and I brought this up -- how for all the "community building" skills I've learned, there is much more to learn here on the ground from how people already interact -- Christian or no. The community seems intact here; it hasn't been broken apart; they still know one another.
At this point I was interrupted by another: "oh, come work with me a shift in the E.R. You'll see plenty of brokenness, it's just hidden."
With those words I was humbled and realized again what I learned in Uganda: newbies always romanticize their surroundings. We see the positive, especially the positive that is foreign to us, and leave the negative unseen. In Uganda I did it, and then I got better, and I watched other people do it. I can't tell you how sick I got of short term "mission" "workers" spewing off romantic gibberish about "how happy the orphans were" and how hospitable everyone had been to them.

Yes. That happens. We get dazzled. It happens regularly, and is diagnosable as "travel magic." We take forty gigs of photos on our extraordinary two-week mission vacation because we feel "more alive" and then document the rest of the mundane year with a dozen photos and some newspaper clippings. That's my photo album, at least, and I bet it's not the only one of its kind.

So I confess I've been here for two months now and I'm still romanticizing my surroundings. The girl who grew up in the big city pointing and laughing at tourists has committed the crime of cultural naiveté. But on the bright side, "travel magic" tends to wear off at the three month mark, so I'm getting closer! Stick with me, folks, I'm busy learning...

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