Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why Do We Do This?

A friend and I have been put in charge of redecorating our church sanctuary in time for Easter. We were given a budget and a green light. The rest was up to us.
I've never taken on a project like this before, but it has been an exciting challenge! It's rewarding to see ideas and possibilities becoming realities.

A small portion of this project was updating the look of the communion table. This meant replacing the dusty, plastic grapes and apparently multi-grain plastic loaf of bread. They looked something like this:


But with what would we replace them?

What can be placed on a table that draws us in and reminds us that Christ is here.
Among us.
In us.
With us.
The Cornerstone on which God is building His eternal kingdom has burst into the present from the future. The kingdom is already here! Not yet in its perfect, glorious entirety... but from the moment Jesus rose from the grave, crushing death to death, the reality of "on earth as it is in heaven" began to take shape.

In Christ glorified, we see that one part of creation has already been transformed. He is the beginning of God's new world. While the whole earth is currently groaning as it waits for its own redemption, Christ has gone ahead into God's new creation. And when we participate in communion by eating the bread and drinking the wine, Christ meets us there, and the new heaven and earth break through to meet us here in this world. God's new world and glorious kingdom has already begun!

In the words of theologian N.T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope,

"Every Eucharist is a little Christmas as well as a little Easter." 

At Christmastime, we celebrate Immanuel. God With Us.
At Easter time, we also celebrate Christ-come-near. Our Redeemer restored.

And every time we take communion,
every time we look back and remember the cross
and reflect on the significance of the empty tomb...
the future and the present are joined together in a holy moment of remembrance.

This is why we take communion. To remember.

Our King and future hope is already here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"I sat in on the board meeting of a group of churches as they discussed their strategy for missions. I had to bite my tongue when they said that the whole of what they were going to do was try and get everyone in their congregation to go serve for a week or two on a short trip. 

Where is the part where we teach children about the people of the world? When do we pray with the young people so they can ask God if they are called to be a missionary? When do we say to a child who feels called to the mission field, 'Yes, okay, we will train you, and pray with you, and spiritually prepare you for a life of sacrifice and simplicity'?"

-- Gracia Burnham
missionary to the Philippines, author of "In the Presence of My Enemies"

(Quote taken from this interview.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

In Their Words

The Other Side of Missions | Bring Love In
"...being on a mission, and spreading the love of God to those in need often looks more like a business plan than you would think."

The Aim of Language Learning | Rachel Pieh Jones
"Language learning is hard, so hard that the best advice I’ve heard is: 'Anyone who wants to learn a language well must have a solid theology of suffering.'”

Sexual Abuse on the Mission Field | A Life Overseas

"Sexual abuse of children is a complicated issue world wide. In certain cultures it is endemic. Kids being raised in a second or new culture are at an increased risk."

Red Flags Wave Over Uganda's Adoption Boom | CNN 

"...there is no word for 'adoption' in the local Luganda language. Many birth parents do not understand that adoption is permanent. They believe they may get their children back later." 

MERCY mercy | Fridthjof Film Doc
"Mercy Mercy raises important questions about the ethical and political implications of international adoption, and watching it is a both heartbreaking and heartwarming experience."

(Full length version of the film can be found here.)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Preschool Presentation

A few weeks ago the preschool where I teach was focusing on "Friends Around the World." This was an opportunity to introduce other cultures, languages, and lifestyles to the children.

One teacher presented on Ethiopia (her son was born there), a parent of one of my students grew up in South Africa and had some wonderful and interesting things to show us, and I got to share a bit about living in Uganda.

Because 3- and 4-year-old children are still navigating and developing an understanding of the world right in front of them, it's hard for them to imagine people living far away in a place so different from what they know.
It's hard to imagine "the other side of the globe" when driving four hours to grandma's and grandpa's house seems far, far away.
It's difficult to even understand the concept of the world and a globe when conversations sound like this:
Boy (hold a magnifying glass and looking at the globe): "Hey! Where in the world do I live?"
Me: "We live right here in this state called Iowa."
Boy: "Yeah! I live in Iowa!"
Other Children: "Me too!" "No, I live in Iowa!" "Not me. I live in Coralville."
The imaginary life of preschoolers is powerful, yet the lines between reality and fantasy are still very blurry. They often think that what's happening in their heads is actually happening in the outside world (That's why dreams can be so scary and magic tricks so magical!). Their ability to perceive their world is proficient, but analyzing and reflecting on those perceptions is a skill that takes much longer to develop.

Knowing this about child development, I brought in lots of concrete objects the children could see, feel, and otherwise experience. I attempted to engage many of their senses and challenged them to problem-solve and reflect on their own experiences.

We talked about the fun, wild animals that live in Uganda and how you don't even have to go to the zoo to see them! We made predictions based on clues to guess which animals I brought with me, used comparative language to talk about the physical attributes of these stuffed animals, counted them, and made and extended patterns.

We counted to five in Runyankole (emwe, ibiri, ishatu, ina, itaano) and learned how to greet our friends (Agandi).  

Because many of the preschoolers have younger siblings, I also talked about how there are no baby strollers in Uganda. I told them that Ugandan mamas carry their babies on the back to keep them close and safe while they do chores and go shopping.

I brought some fabric to show how the mamas tie their baby to their back. We substituted with a teddy bear, and the children enjoyed getting a turn to wear the "baby." They agreed that the baby felt close and safe and thought the babies would probably enjoy riding with their moms.

What a joy it was to share something so near and dear to my heart with some of my favorite little people!