Monday, July 12, 2010

The tension of home missions

For the past seven summers Diane and I have had the privilege of  hosting college students in our home and/or neighborhood for the Greensboro Urban Project. For the first five editions of GUPY, I was working full-time for InterVarsity, and that meant that when my summer work kicked in, my campus-related work typically lay dormant. Then as GUPY ended, campus work picked up again, and it made for a nice rhythm.

But for the past two years, I’ve been employed full-time by my church and only part-time by InterVarsity, and so when GUPY begins, my “regular” job with the church doesn’t lay dormant. The church goes on meeting each week, and the areas that I am responsible for continue to operate. Vision for ministry and ongoing responsibilities and relationships continue. While I don’t feel pressure from my supervisors at church to continue my same church pace during GUPY, I do realize that this work and this community that I am devoting much of my life to is still going even during the summer. I also have friendships that I feel get put on “pause” during GUPY.

For some reason it seems like this whole balancing act is made more difficult because GUPY takes place in my home town. Everything is pretty much the same in Greensboro as it was before June 23rd, and the people that I love and am invested in are still here. But I am not available in the same way during these six weeks; the whole dynamic of my life is altered by GUPY. It feels sometimes like it would be easier to just take a group to Africa for six weeks, even though that would mean giving up the comforts of home, because I could be totally focused on one thing instead of feeling pulled in many directions.

All this is not to complain. I really do count it a privilege to lead GUPY and to know the students that God is bringing. It’s just to say that navigating this state of “everything around me being the same but my availability being entirely different” is still very hard.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Navigating the “meh” days of GUPY

GUPY starts with a bang –students have a lot to learn, everything is new, and we typically are headed to Glenwood Camp within three days of hte GUPYs’ arrival. GUPY typically ends with a flurry – we head out of the country for a week, have a wrap up time with kids from the neighborhood and say goodbye as a team.

But I think that middle weeks, the “meh” times where it doesn’t seem very exciting and where it’s hard to tell what, if anything, is happening, are some of the most useful times for the GUPYs.

As the program has developed, we have become less and less structured, giving students lots of “white space” in the schedule to build relationships and figure out how to form relationships without them being produced by a program. That’s not easy. The typical college student on a missions trip feels the need to be productive. Sitting on the front porch with the neighbors and their kids does not feel like Kingdom work. Sitting in the park wondering how to meet new kids and families does not feel like a good use of time.

Yet life is more often “meh” than spectacular. The work of Kingdom building is slow and steady, often unseen and beneath the surface. Relationships happen over time and they require trust to be built. The work of prayer and waiting seems like not doing work at all, yet it is deeply important.

The GUPYs are in the “meh” week. Next week they help lead Vacation Bible School, and the next will be their last full week in the neighborhood before Costa Rica. Time will fly and they will feel more useful. But today they are in the school of faithfulness and waiting. I hope that they are taking in the lessons.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

This time of year

A vase full of buckeyes. Fourth of July fireworks and the 1812 overture. An elderly man in a stiff Atlanta Braves hat. Fresh tears on my cheeks as I realize that I still really miss my grandaddy, three years gone.