Tuesday, August 21, 2012

From Plastic City Jetty to Furintureland USA


Nathan served as the team leader for the Caroline's Promise - NC West Youth Team.  He has served many years at Providence Wesleyan Church in High Point, NC.  While he is called to serve as the youth and young adult pastor, he has also stepped up to the plate to be a presence in his community as a teacher in his local public school.  God is using him in both venues to reach the lost and disciple those who are found.  God has also now added Guyana to his
ministry focus and he has wasted no time in creating sea glass jewelry and selling necklaces to benefit the ministry in Guyana. He shares his thoughts about his experience with us:

"I have been emotionally and spiritually deflated since I gave hugs and waved goodbye to the 6 PAL leaders on a red dirt road, just down from the bustling intersection known as "The Junction" in Vreed en Hoop. Before parting ways, I told the 10-15 year old leaders over and over, "I am proud of you." Since my return to life in the furniture capital of the world, I cannot say the same for myself. Its not that I believe a trip to Plastic City would instantly turn me into a super Christian, or make me sell everything and move the McMurphy 6 to PCJ, but it seems like something should be different. When I look at things here, my grass is still overgrown (no machetes, just a push mower that needs some pushing), my kids still get tired and cry loudly anytime I'm on the phone or in an "important" conversation, my mini van still might need $1000 of work on it (that's $205,000 Guyanese dollars), I still eat way to much Double Dunker ice cream in one sitting, and I still have bills to pay, errands to run, and a presentation to plan on standard-mode-of-dress when I return to the middle school in a week (tuck in you shirttails).
If everything still seems the same, then what might be different? It has to be something in me. I feel like I am trying to connect my experience in Guyana with life at home and go about the difficult task of drawing important lessons from the fusion of the two. When I hug my kids, I am also hugging the PAL kids. When I read my son a story about Darth making things right with his son Luke, I am also reading about the pauper, Tom, making things right with the prince. It reminds me that good can prevail, we want it to prevail, but we can't make it prevail on our own. There has to be a "force" that is with us that will never leave us nor forsake us; one that will see injustice, and bring a reckoning, so that the good people that have had bad things happen to them can one day have good things happen to them and then live happily ever after.
Since our team's return late Sunday night, I constantly ask myself, "How can I make these wrongs right?"; "What can I learn from this?"; or"?How can I be different?"
Part of me says, "But if I am like I've been after any life changing event, the impact will wear off." I will fire up the ole "Routine Machine" so I can get back to paying the bills. Yet before I re-enter the monotony of the daily grind once again, I will pause and spend time reflecting on the perspective I gained while in Guyana.
Upon initial review, I move to metaphors to help develop my thoughts. While life in High Point is like seeing with rose colored glasses, where $25,000 (US) armoires line endless furniture showrooms flaunting excessive-ness that people don't really need, Plastic city is like seeing through a single piece of sea glass left over from years of destructive habits. While the rose colored glasses say Gucci or Ray Ban on the side and cost a month's wages in Guyanese dollars, the status symbol frames come with built in blinders making it nearly impossible to see the marginalized who are in plain sight. Conversely, the piece of sea glass, while scored and dimmed with age, sheds a glimpse of light on the greatest needs of a forgotten people.
Meeting poverty face to face on the Jetty was disturbing, and seeing it made my mind jump to quick-fix solutions. It was like I tried to make their reality more palatable for my brain if I could just come up with several options for them to make it out of PC. Twelve total hours spent in Plastic City will not make me the expert on what should happen to the people there. I would definitely go to the "easy button" on this one if I could, but there are no easy answers for this type of poverty (generational, cyclical). This, combined with some honest and at times angry, struggles from a fellow "fixer friend", along with a well-timed devotional challenge from James 2, to put my faith to work, made my brain shriek at the thought of leaving PC the same as I found it.
Joining the work that God is doing in Plastic City was difficult, rewarding, spiritual, awkward at times, fun, maddening, and most important binding. It was like falling in love and getting married in a single week. This type of ministry is not something you leave behind. It is not another spiritual experience with the impact slowly wearing off. You can't drown out the "Sir please Sir" and "Ms. yes Ms." with the deafening drone of the ever-churning Routine Machine. These voices must be heard. As my teammate and friend said upon reflection on the trip, "I must become the voice for the voiceless." We can't be silent. I can't be silent. So I will toss the rose colored glasses in favor of sea glass or "see" glass, and let the ache in my heart drive me to action, starting here in Furnitureland USA, yet all the while with the ends of the Earth in sight, PCJ and beyond."