Starting last Spring, I’ve started listening and even obeying one of the voices in my head. Let me share a few examples before you decide whether I need a padded room or not…
During a chapel service at Warner Pacific, a few weeks before lent, Stephanie shared about different community service projects that we could start acting on right now. They were shared within the context of repeatedly reading through Christ’s talk about the branch and the vine, as well as the upcoming Lenten Season. She shared about Blood Water Mission, and their program 40 Days of Water, which challenges participants to give up all purchased beverages for 40 days and donate the saved funds to building water in Uganda. No soda. No milk. No chai. No bottled water. No way! I sat there thinking there was no way I could pull off my life without caffeine. After sitting there for about 10 seconds in my smiley faced confidence, a voice inside asked, “Why not?” Why couldn’t I survive without a drug in my system for a few weeks? What about my lifestyle or strength of character was so out of balance that I couldn’t do something real this year for Lent? Two days later I was signed up online and waiting for my bracelet to come in the mail that would serve as a daily reminder of my commitment / insanity.
Earlier this summer I started to think about my grandparents’ yearly trip to Hawaii and how often they had invited me to join them for a week. I had turned them down over and over due to school or work commitments. The voice questioned me again while sitting at a stranger’s house, listening to a testimony during a community gathering. “Why not?” I was more prepared this time to respond: because, my grandparents and mother have been fighting for years and this would hurt my mother’s feelings, plus its expensive to fly to Hawaii and it might be boring when they need to rest for most of the afternoon. Ha! Argument over; I win. Then I remembered the other trip I took with my grandparents a few years before that caused temporary hurt but was okay, and my grandparents would probably help with the cost, and I could go for a swim during their nap, and what would I truly regret the most. Within a week I was having an awkward 20 minute phone conversation with my mom while wandering though Fred Meyer, and within a month I had my plane ticket purchased and time saved on the calendar for a trip in January.
I share these two previous stories all because I want to focus on one from the past two weeks, when I finally learned to listen to the voice the first time and got to participate in a miracle for one of my students. I’ve been working with Heidi for over two years as she has pursued her Bachelors Degree. During that time she has visited the hospital for heart issues, back pain, migraines, the attempted suicide of a family member, lupus (which I thought only existed on House) and other traumas. She has remained strong through all of these crises and remained committed to school, even as we’ve had to turn her schedule upside down several times to try and make it work. About three weeks ago she called again, which unfortunately is never a good sign, because her daughter was going in for brain surgery, her financial aid had not come in as expected, and she was in danger of losing her truck and home without payments by August 30th. Working with our Director of Financial Aid and a member of the Business Office, we were able to figure out what went wrong with the aid within a few days and get the missing money to her student account within a week, but there are governmental rules and regulations about when and how funds can be given to students, and there was no way for that money to get to Heidi by August 30th. The brick wall was high and solid on this one.
A few days later I sat in a Faculty Retreat, hearing about the upcoming year from various departments, including the President of the college. My mind drifted to Heidi and wondering what could be done to help with this real life crisis; without a truck she was going to have to quit school. My mind wandered to my different communities and who I could ask for help, when it come upon Imago Dei Community, my church for the past five years, and its Change for a Dollar program. I knew these funds were used to help individuals in the community with immediate real world needs, and those helped didn’t have to be part of the church. But I had no idea how to ask, who to ask, or how those funding decisions were made. “Why not?” During one of the presentations (sorry Andrea), I went onto the church’s website and emailed the general info email with my request and a short description of the need. At worst I wouldn’t hear back or it would be too late, but at best then we would be able to help Heidi focus on her daughter and not this looming deadline. A day later I heard back from one of the staff members, and a few days later I was talking with a pastor about Heidi and why she needed this help to give hope, to give peace, to give support during a time of crisis. A week later I was walking away from the church office with funds from strangers; money given in belief that the hands and feet of the church can truly make a difference in this world.
When Heidi and I met later that morning, she shared about her daughter’s surgery and how her healing was progressing, then she sat back in her chair, “Now I have no idea why we’re meeting…?” I responded that I had some very good news and handed her the envelope from Imago Dei. I explained the program, the gift, and how much I wanted her to get to earn this degree she had been working and fighting so much for. I don’t think she really believed me for at least 10 minutes, as she didn’t touch the envelope on the table between us. Finally, as she picked it up and started to leave, she shared that she had been hoping and praying for a miracle, but had no idea how this was going to work out. I smiled, knowing that my church, my community, had been that miracle for her.