Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Letter from An Artist

"After I started to get to know the others going on my placement at Incarnate, and began to realize just how different we were (and began to stress about it), I made an effort to pay attention to the ways you all got along and balanced the leadership. Over and over, you all kept mentioning the importance of praying for unity, and the power of unity, and how this one quality can really distinguish Christians from others. 

"Unity requires such a dying to the self sometimes. It requires treating all members of the body of Christ equally....in fact, it requires identifying oneself with the weakest member of the body of Christ. I realized that this was often lacking in overseas service, which makes it so trying at times. And I thought, "Never again, God." If I prayed for one thing and one thing only, it was going to be unity, because I saw that it WORKED among the Incarnate leaders. And not just once or twice, but every day, and every time I started to feel the team fracture under pressure. I knew it didn't mean I had to be best friends, or even like everyone on the team.....there was just something more important at stake. Our unity was perhaps our most powerful testimony.

“I believe God confirmed that unity as well by placing us in circumstances where, as I think back on it, we actually couldn't have functioned without each one of us. The projects would have been impossible without the efforts of every member. We had so much to do, and we truly had to rely on each other. Praise God for His grace.

“I mentioned to Bill once that when he and Teri [OM Arts Director and his wife] had to leave for the conference, something changed in the spiritual atmosphere around Incarnate. Two of my fellow students also felt a kind of spiritual heaviness descend on the group. That was the beginning of the spiritual flu season for many of us. Without Bill's leadership, there was almost a chink in the armor, so to speak.....but I believe that had ANY of the leadership left, the effects probably would have been the same. Even when one of you was sick, the atmosphere changed. So I truly believe that one of the greatest lessons for me coming out of Incarnate--one of several “elixirs"*--was this importance of unity in diversity as a defining characteristic not only of the body of believers, but of God Himself. And this particular placement, with this particular team, drove that point home for me in a very real way..."

From this same student as the internship came to an end:

“Little tidbit of news we received a few days ago: the people from the village where we painted the mural told us that news spread among the children of the village about the newly-constructed playground and the mural at the church, and attendance at the day care jumped from 14 kids to 70 in just one week! 70 kids! Thank you Jesus! Safe travels everyone!” 

Psalm 133

A song of ascents. Of David.

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.

* Elixir = a term we introduced in the final spiritual formation teaching module, signifying a transformational lesson learned during Incarnate, which the student would return with, and that would be healing for their community at home.  The term comes from a writer’s device known as the Hero’s Journey.