I haven't posted in some time... I usually only write when I've got a thought I've worked through and come to some resolution, and I was in no way prepared for the vichyssoise of feelings, emotions, urges, and ideas that my recently ended journey would submerge me in. I am still very much in a processing place but I really need to let some air from my brain-tires, as I fear they will burst from all the spinning, spinning, spinning.
My trip leader said it best, and it's the hardest part to describe to people who inquire; "You are not here to make a difference, you are here to learn and then take your new knowledge back home where you understand the culture and can truly make a difference" (paraphrased). I may have helped a few people but what I, we, did for them is infinitesimal compared to what they did for me. And that goes for the people in my group as well. I found both my group and the Guatemalans so inspiring. My Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand cohorts showed me how little I truly know or care about my surroundings, both locally and globally. This will change. It must.
I was primarily inspired by how well they were able to love the world, and see it as whole instead of an us/them mentality. They intentionally and actively try to embrace and positively influence all kinds of people while I feel I seem to do the opposite. I surround myself with people similar to myself and never leave this safe haven of like-mindedness. As a believer, I am specifically called to go out and feed the sheep and to love others as I love myself. So why do I not? Why do I waste time in silly, selfish endeavors instead of answering the Call of the one who drank with the lowest in society and embraced the ones the church scorned? I call myself a Christian because I go to Bible study, church, I spend time in the word, and talk about God with the other people in His fan club... but where is the love? I spend time learning the ins and outs of the minutia of my faith but Corinthians 13:3 warns against going through loveless motions to look the part. I'm so worried about how I appear to the world, I distract myself from loving it.
So what does this mean for my life now? To sum it up as best I can, responsibility.
Now that I have seen how poorly the farmers in these growing nations are paid and treated so that I can have cheap imported produce, I will change my spending habits. I've seen what these mass-imported and mass-produced products do to people. Poorly treated workers, on top of produce and animals filled with harmful chemicals and antibiotics to keep production up and cost down. It disgusted me both on a heart and head level, and I retched at the thought of all the harm I was doing to both myself and people around me by not shopping/eating more responsibly. (I recommend documentaries like "food.inc", "Walmart: the high cost of low prices", and "Gold Fever") My part is small, but I can vote with my dollar. And my vote goes to ethically sourced produce and ethically treated livestock despite higher cost. Right now, the only way to ensure that is to buy locally, where I can actually get face-time with the farmers. Buying locally also provides a huge boost to the Indy economy by keeping the money here in the city where we need it. Each dollar spent locally returns three times more money than that spent at a chain, quoted American Independent Business Alliance. And it will give small business a chance to flourish, giving our wonderful city some character and individuality. If enough people make this lifestyle change, larger companies will fall in line and begin ethical sourcing to regain our lost business. Clothes, too, I've felt convicted about. My relentless cycle of consumerism leaves me with a full-to-bursting closet filled with tags that cry the names of abused cheap laborers: Honduras, Bangladesh, Guatemala, and countless more.
On the interpersonal side, I will essentially open myself up for God to show me populations that need loving. This may look different than feeding the poor or clothing the needy... Need for the father reaches from the inner city to Carmel. I hope to do this through my passions for coffee, but I don't know how exactly yet. But I know the Lord didn't place a love and talent for coffee in my heart for nothing. The unique thing about coffee is it's a way to love both locally and globally. I can use it to connect with people in my city as well as those in growing nations and bless both. How? I don't yet know... but I trust that as long as I make myself a willing vessel, a way will be made and I'll keep fighting and learning until I find it.
I have also had my eyes opened to the pain of the world around to me, and I've been blind to it. I never watched or read the news, but now I see that knowledge is power. How can I help if I don't know? It is part of the calling to be burdened for the pain of the world. My worries have been so fleshly: my fitness, my appearance, my dating life, my job, etc. I pray for a husband and fulfillment at work when I should be praying for those affected in gaza and Israel. I am counting carbs when I should be fasting, interceding for those displaced by civil war. God, forgive my blindness and my calloused, selfish heart.
I don't know what to do with all these feelings stirred up but I feel like the Lord has grown me tremendously through my experiences. He has softened my heart, grown my confidence, and opened up my eyes to the impotent nature of my lackluster faith. I'm excited to see where it all goes!