Sunday, June 20, 2004

Just Like Little House...

After my first trip to Estonia in the summer of '96 I returned home to a different world. Actually I think the world had remained the same, I had changed. The people I loved at the camp I had worked at for the previous six years were involved in conflicts, causing one family to leave and the other to remain bitter. I was close to all sides and was sickened by the whole thing and didn't understand any of it. No one would tell me what happened. When it comes to relationships it was well known that I'm a sensitive person, so I think everyone wanted me to remain in the dark about things, not wanting my to have to choose side. That was very nice of them, but I still don't know what went down. Andre and Rox left town, Doug and Debbie stayed around for a while longer then jetted, and Jeanette passed away (see post from Wednesday, February 11, 2004.)

The church I had worked with the youth at for the previous three years was moving faster and faster into the direction of a church I didn't want to be a part of. Health and Wealth. Slayings (of the Spirit kind.) Tongues. Spiritual hierarchies based on ecstatic experiences. Shit of that variety. They guy I had worked for was fired under the guise of "We're going to give you a sabbatical to evaluate your spiritual life (i.e. give you a chance to speak in tongues) while we pretend to be praying for you, all the while looking for your replacement who will teach 'Things of the Spirit.'"

I couldn't handle that so I split and decided to find a place in the town I went to college in rather than commuting and hour, as I had been doing.

Not wanting to church shop (I've never been big on the itinerant method of finding a church popularized by most college students,) I found a place fairly quickly at Port Caddo Baptist Church in Marshall. I had a few friends who went there and decided to give it a try.

Looking back, and seeing how struggles with other believers can sometimes completely derail the faith of people, I realize now what a pivotal choice going to Port Caddo was in my spiritual development. The church is located a few miles outside of town on a country road that takes you to parts unknown. It's small and surrounded by nothing much more than trees and fields. There were few people on the inside. A hundred-fifty would be an extremely liberal guess. There were more as the years went on, but I'll always remember it as the small group of believers in what seemed like the frontier of the world.

I remember having to stay in town over the holidays one year and having the most profound experience worshipping with the remnant of old people left after the mass exodus of ETBU students. On one of those days it was cold and icy and lonely, there were no more than five cars in the parking lot as I drove up. I was there late. As I walked in I made it a point to take slow steps. I had one of the most extremely peaceful moments with God I've ever been given. I suppose the quiet, desolate feel made it easier for me to be open to that. In my mind I thought about the previous year and being hurt and the noise and clamor that goes on in cities-- even cities as small as Marshall. And I thought about the building I was about to walk into and how it would be quiet. I knew the little old lady with purple hair would have made banana bread for the college students still left in town, even though I was the only one. I knew the poor family with a lot of missing teeth would be there and would be so happy to see me. I knew we would sing the most life giving songs ever written-- "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine, oh what a foretaste of glory divine," and "On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross... so I'll cling to that old rugged cross." Songs like that somehow reach deeper down into your bones when it's just you and a rag tag group of 10-12 other people huddled together outside of the cold, paralyzing wind.

During that year I learned that hope and healing is found in the quietest of places on the edge of the world with the most unassuming people and structures.

I haven't been motivated to write lately. I think it's because my world lately has been consumed with the back-and-forth drive in the concrete jungle. I need frontier to feel at home at times.

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