"Ten thousand what...?!"
That was my reaction upon learning that I'd have to raise $10,000 as a missionary with the Young Adult Service Corps. It seemed like so much, and I really didn't think I had the acumen or relational skill-set to raise that much money in three months. And to boot, I was having adverse feelings toward this idea of fundraising not just because I wasn't sure if I would be good at it, but because fundraising always seemed to be a form of relational manipulation in order to get into someone's pockets--making nice with people in order to woe them into giving you money. Church fundraising was even more problematic for me. All that came to mind were images of flashy, self-absorbed, materialistic prosperity preachers that swindle arenas full of poor church-goers into giving their last cent so that church leaders can drive fancy cars and wear expensive jewelry.
Then, it hit me: my goal isn't to drive a fancy car, or don expensive jewelry. My goal is to build relationship with the people of Grahamstown, South Africa, and make memories that can be shared as sources of inspiration and hope for a greater humanity, a far reaching and inclusive humanity. My goal is to be an example of how connecting God's children across thousands of miles can inform how we engage cultural difference; and, how that practice of engaging difference will make us a true global community. It hit me: I am simply asking people to invest in one small step toward making our families larger, our consciences more sensitive, and the possibility for cultural understanding and peace more probable. No, I am not suggesting that we will heal the world in a year. However, I am asserting that the practice of building relationship and and being challenged to understand new and interesting perspectives is a great first step toward healing a world mired in culture wars. I believe that the violence which rises out of these wars is the result of lack of understanding, misunderstanding, and half listening. When we learn to embrace difference and deal with the fact that everybody ain't like us, I think we will learn to hate violence. When we realize that the fusion of different ideas and perspectives aids in our creative advancement (i.e. ecologically, economically, technologically etc.), then we will learn to abhor the destructive, diminutive, and limiting nature of violence.
The 21st century Christian should embrace Jesus' call to go out into the world--now more than ever, perhaps. We are more easily connected to others around the world through global economies and technology than we have ever been. Such immediate connectivity can be dangerous, particularly when experienced by groups that hold opposing ideals. However, Jesus calls us to stand in the face of that collision and search deep within ourselves for the compassion of God that patiently and silently listens, that yearns to know the other as brother, intimately, and vulnerably, that holds and does not judge, that compromises and offers grace. Each of us are called to be missionaries, carriers of the Good News. Some of us need merely to step outside of our front door. Others of us are called to the far beyond.
"Ten thousand what...?!" is slowly becoming "ten thousand...pshhh!" Because I believe God has ordained this mission, that God is calling us into a new place, because fundraising is communal effort, a practice in the kind of love we wish to share, I find that people are opening up their hearts in ways I could not have imagined. Others like the Episcopal Bishop of North Carolina, Michael Curry, also believes that we are called into the world. On behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina he has gifted this mission to Grahamstown $2500. And the vestry at my home parish, St. Ambrose Episcopal church in Raleigh, NC, has generously matched that. I hope that those of you reading will too feel connected to this mission, will feel enlivened by this mission, and will invest in building villages of love and humanhood across the globe. Information for how one might invest in this mission to begin 21st century cultural reconciliation in our own small way is below.
Checks should be made payable to:
St. Ambrose Episcopal Church
(Paul Daniels, II in the memo line)