Saturday, March 3, 2012

“Standing Firm” and Pilgrimages

World Medical Mission "Chariot"

"It is always instructive to observe the life cycle of the First World aid worker.  A wary enthusiasm blooms into an almost messianic sense of what might be possible.  Then, as they bump up against the local cultural limits of acceptable change, comes the inevitable disappointment which can harden into cynicism and even racism...”  from When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin. 2006 Little, Brown and Co. Publishers
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”   1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)
Later God's angel spoke to Philip: "At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza." He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah.  Acts:8:26-28 (The Message).

One of the benefits of “getting away” is the reassessment of the direction and purposes of your life.  Being in Africa is a long distance from many of the assumptions that we hold about who we are and what we are doing in the world.   The dislocation takes time as you are confronted with people, places and beliefs that you may or may not share.
Pilgrimages and Lent share the common goal of reflection that prepare us for rededication and resurrection.   The tension is how we “stand firm” and yet “move”.   Will we see new opportunities, have new courage or just keep doing the same thing?  There is also the reality described by Peter Godwin that we could become cynical and discouraged.   
It seems to me that during these “trips” both are happening.  The foundation is rediscovered as well as new opportunities.  Not just doing the same thing, but finding those new people and truths that give us direction for the rest of the pilgrimage.  The larger context is we see the Isaiah story of faith that gives us courage and sends us on our way!
Tenwek in Kenya, Aftrica
See Posts:  Oct 31, 2010 - An International Healing Parable
                    Feb 27, 2011 - Pilgrimage and Healing

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