Friday, April 12, 2013

What Now?

Today has been an exciting day on the Internet.  Thanks in huge part to Lutheran journalist Mollie Hemingway, the media is starting to approach the story of the Kermit Gosnell mass murder trial.  Gosnell is an abortionist in Philadelphia.  His clinic was raided when there was suspicion about prescription fraud.  What the authorities found instead was blood, urine, fetal body parts everywhere. Unqualified workers tell of multitudes of babies aborted after the age of 24 weeks, often born alive, crying, screaming, including a 30 week, and then the doctor or other workers would cut the spinal cord, causing the death of these babies.  He would save feet and heads in jars.  He didn't sterilize his instruments, spreading STDs to other patients.  He would drug minority patients, but for his own protection, give white women informed consent.

So, since the media has not covered this, my friends and I have tried to help in our own little way by posting the stories that do come out over and over again.  We've also been praying.  Kermit Gosnell is a monster of epic proportions, but the difference between him and other abortionists is really a difference in degree, not kind.  Gosnell was messy.  So many babies have been aborted and survived, only to be left to die or killed in order to protect the ones who wanted the procedure and to protect those who performed it, and failed.

But truly, what now?  One pastor says not to be surprised, "but weep and pray that the Lord will come soon, and repent lest we likewise perish."

But there is more.  Luther insists that God does not want us only huddled in prayer, hidden from the world.  God put us in the world to show the world the love that He has for it.  There are so many who have devoted their lives to serving those who would be targets of abortion -- the poor, single women, the developmentally disabled, the lonely, the young, the neglected and abused, those in 3rd World nations and our own; but so much more are needed.  Persecuted Christians in ancient Rome still had the compassion to rescue babies who had been left on hills to die and raise them as their own.  This kind of compassion and devotion, in many ways is still needed. 

There are many ways to show God's love to those who are considered worthless in this world and who would be targeted by those who think abortion is a big part of the answer.  Standing outside a clinic with signs or volunteering at a crisis pregnancy clinic are not the only ways.  We serve God through our vocations, but sometimes we define vocation too narrowly -- because as Christians, we are called to love.  As citizens, we are called to serve our neighbor and to use our rights to speak out against evil.  Some vocations also can be chosen.

I have worked in social work/human services in one way or another since I was in college.  It is shocking how many men have chosen not to serve in this field.  Social work, counseling, and many other helping fields are noticably absent, both in the private sphere and in the public, Christians men and women can serve in these fields to keep the focus on love and humanity, rather than turning it over to those who do believe that in some way, the very people that they serve, should never have existed and the existence of more should be prevented.

Other gifts and talents that God has given us can be channeled into ways that help the unfortunate, rather than be focused primarily on prosperity.  I'm not accusing here.  I'm just saying that maybe we need to be more creative into turning our gifts into a way to serve others (not for the sake of our own salvation, but to serve our neighbor), even as Mollie did today, using her position as a journalist, to call other journalists to accountability regarding this case, as she has done in some other situations as well.

These are an accounting of the thoughts that are going through my head.  I certainly am not passing judgement.  I can't without looking in the mirror and seeing where I hide from showing love to my neighbor completely openly. 

Christians saw the atrocity that was slavery and the atrocity that was Nazism and we hid people in our houses, we showed mercy to the victims, we fought in the legislatres, we debated in the streets, and eventually, we gave our blood and the blood of those we loved to fight evil and bring justice and mercy.   And we prayed.  We definitely prayed.

So what should we do now?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How Becoming a Middle-Aged Missionary Is Different

In previous times, it was common in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, to send out missionaries fresh from college or seminary, lives not started yet, kids not present or still very young.  In general, that is not the norm now.  (and it is not that there weren't families that went later in life, it wasn't the focus in recruiting).

In our orientation class last year, this was not the case.  A few were short-term missionaries that received career calls, but of the rest, we all had lives that we believed were fairly established.  We didn't come from the already transient lifestyle of the student.  All of us had kids.  Three out of the five clergy families had kids that were school-age (all of us homeschooled), and two of these families even had high school aged kids who are being asked to leave behind their friends, their activities, and everything familiar a couple of years earlier than they planned for something completely different and entirely unasked for.  While older kids in many ways are less labor-intensive than younger ones, moving and changing a life is much easier with little ones than with school-aged kids because of these things.  Little ones have to be loved through the adjustment, but they still have most of what is important to them with them.

In my case, as well, I had my nine month internship left to complete on my Masters degree.  We had a house full of stuff to sort through, cars to sell, pets to find homes for, and in general, a full life to disassemble.

The newly-called missionary doesn't get to leave right away for places far off.  We work to raise the funds needed to support a year of our mission work.  This takes about a year.  But when we have kids, school, work, pets, and other such things to sort through, it is not like we can just embrace the traveling lifestyle and abandon all.  A year of that kind of life isn't good for kids, and they want that time to be with their friends, enjoy their church, and feel normal for just a little longer, so unlike the missionaries that can start out from college or seminary, or ones that are coming back on furlough, the congregations that we are visiting don't often get to see all of us.  A lot of times, they get Jeff, or Jeff and me.

In the end, I think the focus is different.  It is about dismantling a life, rather than waiting to begin one.  I WANT my attention to be on what is ahead.  I want to be excited about it, and deep inside, I am....but in the end, my attention is much more focused on how we are going to get my son's Eagle project done and his braces off before we go, or whether we should use this time for Maggie to start piano lessons, and whether or not I am going to get enough counseling hours in this term so I can graduate on time, and all the mom-guilt that goes along with too much to do and way too much fast food. 

And our focus getting there is probably different, too.  While we know that we will be devoted to serving the people in Papua New Guinea.  We are comfortable with that part, since we have been serving God's people for fifteen years.  That part is not new to us.  So what we end up expressing, talking about, focusing on is making a home for our already very established family.  Our concerns go to thinking about how our kids will adjust.  

I'm not trying to toot our own horn (no pun intended) or call attention to what we are sacrificing.  Our sacrifice is not really any bigger than those who start off at the beginning of everything to possibly spend the rest of their lives in the mission field.  The emotional and logistical factors involved look different, though. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - A Few Quotes

At my work, we are reading Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a study on Christian community.  As one preparing to leave our community, I found the first section of the first chapter very striking.

Chapter 1:

It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians.  Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.  At the end, all his disciples deserted him.  On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers.  For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.  So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.  There is his commission, his work.  "The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies.  And he who will not suffer this does not want to be in the Kingdom of Christ;  he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people.  Oh you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing, who would ever be spared?" (Luther)  -- p. 17
 "I will so them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries" (Zech. 10:9).  According to God's will Christendom is a scatered people, scattered like the seed "into all the kingdoms of the earth" (Deut. 28:25).  That its curse and its promise.  God's people must dwell in far countries among the unbelievers, but it will be the seed of the Kingdom of God in all the world.  -- p. 18
...Until then, God's people remain scattered, held together solely in Jesus Christ, having become one in the fact that, dispersed among unbelievers, they remember Him in the far countries.  -- p. 18
 So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visible in the world to share God's word and sacrament.  Not all Christians receive this blessing.  The imprisoned, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone.  They know that visible fellowship is a blessing.  They remember, as the Psalmist did, how they went "with the the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day" (Psalm 42:4).  But they remain alone in far countries, a scattered seed according to God's will. -- p. 18-19