Thursday, January 12, 2006

Her name is Eva

We are back from the cruise. Ninety of us worshipped together, prayed and laughed with each other. It was good. And then I met Eva. Eva was one of the two young women who were our guides on Jamaica. As the day wore on I saw her rubbing her temples and muttering about having a terrible headache. I offered her some aspirin which she accepted gratefully. After she took them she looked at us all on the bus and said, "Who are you people?"

Before I go on, a cultural note. Jamaica has more churches and more bars per person than any other nation. It seems you can get the spirit -- any kind of spirit -- of your choice on that island. Unfortunately, at least in the area we explored, the island is dark with crushed hopes, poverty, dirt, terrible shanties where children play in the dirt and beg under bridges, and a general anger that is seen and felt and tasted everywhere. I grieved as our bus tore past some knots of angry, bleary-eyed, lost men for it seemed that the happy Christians were all in the bus.

And that took me back to the last post. We are supposed to be in the world but not of it. I fear that we are of the world -- just like it when it comes to lifestyles, possessions, dreams and desires -- but not in it. We just don't make a dent in the lives of those who need Jesus most. We are very good at running churches and programs, but less effective in taking Jesus to the streets that lie outside our holy bunkers.

I told Eva that I was a minister and all the people in her bus were from a church. She asked what church and I told her that all of us came from different areas, but we were members of the church of Christ. "Ahh," she said, "you are the ones who don't use instruments, right?" I was stunned. This young girl who made $50 a month plus tips as a bus tour guide in a very broken country knew one thing about us: we were acapella. I encouraged her to give us a chance to tell her more about ourselves but she went on. [note: this is the gist of what she said. I cannot produce her quote word for word] "I went to the church of Christ. I am pentecostal, but I like to visit churches, you know? I loved hearing the voices. Sometimes in our churches you only hear the band, but I liked hearing the voices in your church. But during the chorus I got excited and clapped." Here, she mimed clapping loud once and then a second time while looking around in a confused manner. "I was embarassed!" she said. "I just wanted to praise God, but they told me they don't clap there."

We had one chance with Eva. She even came into our chapel. We didn't have to search for her; she visited us! And we blew it. No matter what your position on music or clapping, this has to hurt your heart. We at Rochester may use instrumental tracks to back up a video, etc. but we an an acapella congregation and plan to remain that way. Some of us clap, others don't. But our tradition shut out this beautiful, searching person when she found our tribe on Jamaica and visited the local church.

I prayed for another chance with Eva and kept the conversation going. At one point she said she had a Bible, but it was too big to carry. She wished she had one she could carry in her purse at work. I grabbed paper and pen and got her address. We are going to send her a Bible. The other young lady had a penpal in Detroit so we used our Michigan connection to give her hope when she told us that she wanted to go to college, but she had no money. (in Jamaica, all levels of schooling is paid for by the parents. If you don't have the money for kindergarten, for example, your children don't go to school) We are sending her information on Rochester College plus some learning materials. We will do whatever we can to save these two young women.

We pray our tradition has not killed our chances to bring them to Jesus. It was a horrifying reminder that when we call others to "the more excellent way" we might have to do some traveling ourselves.


At 1/12/2006 08:40:00 PM , Blogger Random Thoughts said...

Ah, vanity thy name is tradition. And us Baptists are right up/down there with the best/worst.

I still wish you'd gather all these thoughts together and publish them!


At 1/12/2006 09:02:00 PM , Blogger Jesse said...

Words cannot express how mind blowing this post is! There is so much power, and sadness at the same time. It makes me feel terrible, with the fact that I and many other people take what we have over here for granted..I hope someday...that sadness like that forever vanishes..I don't know if it will happen on this planet, but I know for sure in heaven, it will be wonderful and no more sadness! God Bless you on this topic! It opened my eyes a little further.

At 1/12/2006 09:37:00 PM , Blogger That Girl said...

That does hurt me.

At 1/13/2006 07:50:00 AM , Blogger DJG said...

These are the stories that make me hesitant to tell people that I worship with the church of Christ.

How much harm...can we get it turned around?

At 1/13/2006 09:49:00 AM , Blogger Kevin J. Bowman said...

I think your comment about being of the world, but not in it could be the most convicting sentence I have read in a long time.

We live in a world of Christian T-Shirts, Christian Bands, and an array of other "Christian Products." We merchandise the name of Jesus so we can be "of the world but not in it." We create pathetic knock offs of the "real thing" to avoid the reality that our Christianity is a pathetic knock off to the "real thing."

At 1/13/2006 09:50:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

Patrick, what scares me to death is to ask how many others have had the same experience as Eva? May God have mercy on us.

Thanks for sharing this special encounter with us.


At 1/13/2006 11:40:00 AM , Blogger TCS said...

Patrick, I take it that Eva said she was not following Jesus, that she was not a christian.

Yes, "we" blew it, and I think it is WONDERFUL that you are going the extra mile to try and make that up. But, I don't think we have a lock on Jesus, He may have or be using others as well to reach her.

Having said that, she was in your path and you are making her world a better place. That glorifies God. Glad your cruise was good.

At 1/13/2006 11:51:00 AM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

You are right -- we don't have a lock on Jesus. That is the only thing that comforts me about this situation. I also know that God can send others into her path and I trust Him to do the right thing in her life.

I appreciate the comment from Dave, too. Tradition and hidebound-ness aren't just CoC problems. Visitors to Catholic churches can be frustrated with not knowing when to stand or sit, when to speak, etc. Pick a church and you will find a way they do things that keeps others out.

Perhaps this is unavoidable, but just in case it isn't I plan to keep working on it.

At 1/13/2006 04:01:00 PM , Blogger Jeff Slater said...

I have to agree with Kevin -- the quote about being of the world but not in the world is powerful. Very powerful.

Excellent, convicting post.


At 1/13/2006 04:17:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Kevin and Jeff, credit to whom credit is due... I know I did not come up with that phrase. I think it came from the current Christianity Today magazine in an article on Christians an culture. I don't have it in front of me to properly credit the author but I will try to do so. Thanks for the comments... but I didn't come up with that phrase originally.

At 1/13/2006 04:31:00 PM , Anonymous Renee Cutts said...

That's what I've been concerned about, how a stranger preceives what we feel inside about worship when we seem to have some unwritten rule about not showing on the outside how our spirit feels on the inside. Let's face it, there are some songs that almost demand standing up and clapping.

I remember my husband's grandfather singing louder on some songs, even off-key and at times with tears, and he moved his leg and he swayed sometimes, too. They were just quiet expressions that few probably noticed but they made his worship seem more meaningful to me.

I think one reason singing at our Christian camp just feels more spiritual is because when we get to those songs, somehow the relaxed camp environment makes it ok to do more than just use our voices, we have movements that go with the songs, clap, and stand up when the nature of the song implies it. I think we sang one song this past summer that implied being on our knees and we got on our knees while singing and another song where hands were raised. It took a couple of people up front that seemed to be confident doing it and then the majority must have decided it felt comfortable too because they joined in.

Back at church it's funny to be in the back and see how many people are, unbeknownest to themselves, lightly tapping their toes or swaying while singing. I think there must be a happy medium where we can meet others halfway by allowing more outward expression of what we must be feeling on the inside.

We seem to have no problem encouraging our children to smile joyfully when they are singing "If you are happy and you know it clap your hands" at a VBS program but somewhere between there and adulthood it is suddenly inappropriate to do the same thing. Why?

I think we could show more how our spirit feels if we want to without it being considered disorderly. Then an Eva coming into our midst and deciding to clap won't be an issue because at least a few will feel comfortable enough to join in and make her feel at home. Sort of the way it seems to happen at camp when someone from another congregation gets up to lead a song the way they do it at home not knowing the majority of us don't do it that way.

I love to hear the "Amen brother" and "you tell em how it is" and "I hear yah" from people in those settings also because inside that's what my spirit is saying, too. I'm not so sure I'd be bold enough to do it with them because of my personality and worship comfort zone but I'm thankful for their outward expressions.

I'm concerned in considering these kinds of issues that we don't get to a point like what I heard from my mother yesterday about her congregation, where their preacher was in conversation with other church of Christ preachers, apparently 35 of them, on-line. That on-line community decided that my mom's congregation's preacher shouldn't be preaching in a church of Christ anymore because he was questioning some of the long held traditions and doctrinal teachings of the churches of Christ. They formed a committee and went down to talk to her congregation about their on-line discussions with the end result He resigned.

I'm on-line with a bunch of Christian college kids on a debate forum and you better believe they are questioning everything and they want the scriptural proof and logic and reasoning to back up the answers. Are we ready to do this in a loving way or in a way that pushes people away? Are we ready to challange what we think is the truth or just hold on to "that's not done here"? If we're not ready yet, we better get ready, this next generation isn't going to wait.

At 1/13/2006 10:09:00 PM , Blogger TCS said...

sorry if that previous comment had an edge to it. That has everything to do with me and nothing to do with you. Been in converstion with some folks that do think they have a lock on Jesus. I hope I didn't offend you.

At 1/13/2006 10:39:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Not at all! I didn't read your original comment that way, my friend. If you want to offend me you have to work MUCH harder than that. What you said was right and needed saying.

At 1/14/2006 12:47:00 AM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

God forgive us where we've failed.

May God have led these young women seeking him to places where they were welcomed and learned of Him and became His children. I pray that Eva was one who found God in a pentecostal fellowship.

Tom's older half-brother and his wife are pentecostal and very strong Christians over in Florida, so I hope Eva found such a group in Jamaica.

I hope you can help she and her friend both along their way toward heaven with a college education and a small Bible Eva can take with her wherever she goes.

In fact - Patrick, if you will email me Eva's address, I will write to her as a sister in Christ to try to encourage her in her Christian walk. How can I do any less, you know? I mean, we can all comment here and lament about oh, how awful some of our "brethren" are, but what are we - what can we - do about it?

I may be stuck at home for months at a time with stupid physical health problems and limitations, but I can still pick up a pen and write, and encourage, and reach out with a note, all right here at my desk. And I will. And I will pray for Eva, too. And for you, Patrick, in your ministry.

May God bless us all in trying to carry out His will to the best of our abilities. Thanks for telling us about Eva.

At 1/14/2006 10:26:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

Renee, you go girl! Amen!


At 1/14/2006 12:09:00 PM , Blogger LEM'S Politics said...

[note: this is the gist of what she said. I cannot produce her quote word for word] "I went to the church of Christ. I am pentecostal, but I like to visit churches, you know? I loved hearing the voices. Sometimes in our churches you only hear the band, but I liked hearing the voices in your church. But during the chorus I got excited and clapped." Here, she mimed clapping loud once and then a second time while looking around in a confused manner. "I was embarassed!" she said. "I just wanted to praise God, but they told me they don't clap there."

I don’t know that much about the Pentecostal Church but as I understand they do believe in baptism and have faith in Jesus Christ, they do worship more vigorously than we are prone to do. I loved her statement “I just wanted to praise God”
What does disturb me is your statement where you indicated this young Christian lady was lost unless you could get another chance to save her. Why is it that she is lost she wants to praise God in her way ---you may consider me lost also I just want to praise God in my way. I do agree with one of your statements, I too pray our traditions are not keeping sinners from God.

“We will do whatever we can to save these two young women.
We pray our tradition has not killed our chances to bring them to Jesus. It was a horrifying reminder that when we call others to "the more excellent way" we might have to do some traveling ourselves.”

Brother Laymond Meredith

At 1/16/2006 05:09:00 PM , Blogger lee said...

In the process of learning to recognize the beauty of God's grace, my faith has survived the confines of church legalism.

I like what Philip Yancey said in Soul Survivor: "If I had to define my own theme, it would be that of a person who absorbed some of the worst the church has to offer, yet still landed in the loving arms of God...I have spent most of my life in recovery from the church."

I do believe authentic faith is of God and while it may be temporarily neglected or suppressed, it will not be killed.

At 1/18/2006 02:33:00 PM , Blogger Lynda Bee said...

I was raised Catholic. Most of my family are still members of that church. My mom is more of a faithful Catholic than many of the CoC'ers I know. I can still walk past her room at night when I'm there - and see her on her knees in prayer. She ALWAYS attends mass. I can't remember the last time she missed church. Wish I could say the same for myself....

But I just don't understand why some individuals can still consider her "lost". Just because we were able to "luck out" and find the church and the truth....

I had always wanted to bring my family to church - but always uncomfortable as to how they would be received. That fear became reality at one congregation.. I had invited my family to a function at our church. During the announcements, one of the deacons was acknowledging a visitor who was checking out local churches. Seems his brother was Catholic - and they wanted to help him find a "Christian" church to go to. I wanted to crawl under the pew. My sister just whispered "EXCUSE ME?!" under her breath. I was mortified.

Now - I would love to have my family get closer to the Lord - as I do for myself, my husband and my children. But there are positive ways to do that..

That being said - Patrick - I have absolutely no doubt that you were the epitamy of love and tact for this young lady. It wasn't that she wasn't a Christian - it was that she appeared to be struggling and was looking for a church home - and saw something "different" about your group ("good" different - not "crazy" different! :-)

My family has seen this at Rochester also. This is the first congregation I've ever felt comfortable enough to say "hey - you should really come" and KNOW that they would be loved as soon as they crossed that door. Jim & I feel very blessed that God has led us to this family.

Again - thanks for your thoughts & wisdom!


At 1/18/2006 02:34:00 PM , Blogger Kirsten said...

I thought about you all so often the week you were on the cruise, wishing I could have joined you as I'd hoped. It would have broken my heart to meet Eva. She is like many of the women and girls I met when I last went to Jamaica, on a missions trip in high school. I've been on a lot of missions trips - but that one impacted me most. I was conflicted at the immense beauty all around me in nature but the tremendouse heartache and suffering found in the Jamaican people I met.

Also, a work sidenote: international students at Rochester are handled mainly by Scott Cagnet, so he'd be a good person to talk to about the student you met and trying to have Rochester help them out.


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