Friday, October 18, 2013


Part of being a YAGM means that I get to accompany many people in their daily lives.  From Mexicans learning English to friends and family back home, the journey of sharing with others my experiences is a big part of my life.

Not unexpectedly, I received lots of feedback about my last blogpost; both positive negative.  The positive feedback generally went like this:  “Those are really interesting questions you’ve posed about our mission in the world.”  This is what I want to highlight: they’re questions.

What is our role in being a part of God’s plan?  How does the phrase “God’s work, our hands” fit with that?  What does being ‘evangelical’ mean?  These are questions that don’t always have answers.  Although I obviously believe that what I think is true (because, after all, they’re my own thoughts), I don’t claim that they’re the be-all, end-all.  When Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses, of course he thought he had some solid points and he probably did.  But the Catholic Church is still alive and well and, frankly, you’d be crazy to say that they don’t also play a part in God’s revelation. So although I don’t agree with every minutia of theology the ELCA puts forth, it’s not a monster wreaking havoc. 

Everyone has questions.  They should.  My hope is that through questions we can begin to explore and understand personally who God is to each of us and act accordingly. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

God's work, our hands?

I’ve struggled with what to write about in my next blog.  It’s not that I can’t pick a topic or don’t want to write about something, it’s just that there hasn’t been a lot to write about lately.  I teach English.  I come home.  I go to the store occasionally.  Sometimes I travel to D.F. (Mexico City) to meet up with other volunteers. 

Since I don’t really have any news to share, I decided to write about something I’ve been hearing a lot about lately from other YAGM missionaries.  The theme of accompaniment.  I recently read an article shared by another YAGM that touches on white privilege.  It argues that too often, Christians in the U.S. develop a ‘savior complex’ toward others living in third world countries, those who don’t believe, etc.  So far my experience in Mexico has been parallel.  I’m not here to save anyone.  I’m not here to bring any good news.  I’m simply here to work toward justice.  Compassion.  Understanding.

Which brings me to another topic.  The ELCA’s motto “God’s work.  Our hands.”  Wow is that arrogant.  What I mean is Who are we to think that we know God’s plan?  Or to take credit for helping realize it?  If ever I saw a savior complex, it’s those two sentences. 

At the same time, we cannot simply ignore the gifts we have been given.  When I walk around Mexico, I cannot pretend that there are not differences between me and most of the people I encounter.  For one thing I look different.  I’m richer.  I’m book-smarter (which I ought to be having spent 17 years in the U.S. education system).  I have opportunities that people here do not.  Yet it does no one any good to feel guilty about this.  Instead, I think we ought to use our gifts for the bettering of the world.  But how?

You’re not going to like reading this.  Don’t support companies that exploit the environment or other humans.  Do the research.  Don’t buy things you don’t need.  Read up on foreign news and U.S. policy.  Know the facts.  Most importantly, stop being hypocritical.  Don’t pretend that you like helping others, donating, giving, with one hand while you rob people blind with the other.  And for goodness’ sake, don’t be generous because it makes you feel good.  You’re being self-righteous.  It might not be a pretty task, but it’s the right one.

If that’s not enough and you still feel like doing more (we’re really keen on the ‘doing’ part in Western culture), read the Bible in its entirety – or at least the New Testament – and share God’s message with others.  It’s actually in this way that I think that the ELCA’s accompaniment model is pretty watered-down.  For example if all I do is give up some of my Western ways to live a Mexican life, I’m not really doing what the Bible says.  Can’t make disciples or share any message by living so sterile.  It’s interesting that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is one of the least evangelical synods I know.

But, maybe I’m wrong.  After all, who am I to know God’s ways?