Dear friends and family. Kara, one of my teammates wrote this lovely mass email that so accurately describes the emotions of these last couple days. I leave the Willemsstraat, my Dutch home at 9am tomorrow morning to meet up with my family in Spain.
About 30 hours from now, Erin, Cheyenne, Jess and I will leave Amsterdam, but not YHM. Youth Hostel Ministry is about showing redemption, sharing a story, or the story, giving an account whenever and wherever, leading and being led regardless of age or status; it is gritty, and it has taken us through doubt to spoken truth, through relational tension to unity, through wandering to...at least a more pointed breed of wandering. This doesn't particularly have to happen in hostels or at a giant community flat that happens to boast DJ equipment, stadium-ed couches, and remnants of homemade recipe-less jelly beans at the moment. Maybe I could go without the jelly beans.
So often, I get caught up in the dogmatic, apologetic side of my faith without actually examining situations in which I need more faith. The beautiful thing about the body, and particularly the Sheler body, is that when one part (say, the head) is too preoccupied, another part (maybe the heart) is dancing a number all its own.
On Saturday afternoon, Marc and Marcio, two cleaners from the City, were joined by about 30 staff members in a small basement of a small church in the Red Light district. They shared how God had made himself so real to them in the past month that they were leaving behind their former lives to live a new, redeemed one that may not be free from heartbreak or abandonment, but will be laced with hope.
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen..." (Hebrews 11:1).
As I saw these gangly men emerge from what was apparently very cold water, I wasn't sure that my hopes for them would come to fruition. After all, how will they be discipled, grow, make this meaningful? But the tears the unknowing streamed down my face convicted me that something, someone unseen was invading two more bodies and stitching the pieces of this earth together. I didn't know Marc and Marcio personally, but hearing the story of God in the lives of these two men trumped every nit-picky apologetic thought I had ben thinking over the past three weeks with pure joy. Pray for them as they make their ways back home to new lives in Britain and Brazil, respectively, to grow in love, discipleship, and community.
Later that evening over quiche at the Shelter Jordan, a cleaner named Cheryl asked what I had been up to all day. I told her, mentioning the joy I felt at the fact that Jesus had entered flesh again, and she asked me to share my story. Just like that. So I did. She said it sounded good, and what would she have to do to be baptized, come to think of it? Cheryl was thirsting for life. I have noticed that lots of upper-20 travelers to their city are, having experienced their fill of the life of the city--Marc, Marcio, Celia, now Cheryl. And her friend Michael decided he might want to, as well, having already considered baptism into the Mormon faith. But that's another story.
Abundant life means connection with people, Jesus, reality--if we really believe that Jesus can come into THIS life, why don't we stop distorting our reality with bitterness, anger, substances, whatever, and dare him to come in and prove it. Because he will. I saw two men baptized in the Red Light district. He has.
So thanks for this journey, for your funds and prayers. There will likely be more thoughts to come from all four of us as we depart from Amsterdam Schipol at 8AM Tuesday morning.
Until then, John 10:10.
Love from the Amsterdamsels
Kara, Shiner, Erin, & Jess