One of the luxuries of becoming a teacher straight out of college is that you already have roughly 16 years of “in-school” experience to draw from. There have been countless times in my three years of teaching middle school Bible at the International Christian School of Budapest (ICSB) when my teaching was directly influenced by a previous experience – good or bad – as a student. One of those instances was Valentine’s Day of this year, a day when – fittingly for the holiday – God showed me his love in a surprising way.
I will always remember English class on Valentine’s Day 2008, which was my junior year of high school. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, our teacher decided that she would spend the majority of class telling each student what she loved and appreciated about them. I remember expecting something vague, like “You’re always kind to everyone,” because I preferred to stay in the background, and I didn’t feel like teachers paid all that much attention to me. Then my teacher said,
“Brian, I love that you don’t see people on a surface level… when you see people, you see their souls and their deepest spiritual needs.”
I was shocked, because it was true… and not only had she recognized that, but I had never realized that about myself, nor had I ever stopped to think that it was significant or unique. It was a simple sentence, but it still stands as one of the most important things that anyone has ever said to me. It made me feel noticed and appreciated for who I was as the deepest level, and it motivated me to continue seeing people as souls that needed Christ.
So then, as Valentine’s Day approached this year, I remembered my English teacher’s words and decided to give the same words of personalized love and appreciation to my own middle school students. However, the class that I was teaching that morning was seventh grade. While the majority of our students at ICSB are from American missionary families, seventh grade is composed mostly of Hungarian students, and while most of them speak English fluently and a few of them are Christians, it still makes for a very different and sometimes challenging class dynamic. Nevertheless, after two years of teaching them, I had learned to love and appreciate things about all of them.
Mostly because they are middle school students, it is often difficult to hold their attention in class for more than 15 minutes without changing activities. I went around and spoke into each of my 20 seventh-graders for 35 minutes, and it was silent. Every student was locked in and listening, nodding in agreement as I would talk about their classmates. Students I addressed would listen – some making eye contact and some avoiding it – and reactions ranged from smiles to quiet tears. I was already inwardly praising God for what he was doing through this, when they shocked and blessed me in a way I had not expected. As we finished with 10 minutes until the bell and I began to transition to other things, they protested, “we didn’t get to say anything about you!”
Have you ever felt like the time, commitment, and sheer work you put into your ministry is unrecognized at best and unprofitable at worst? I don’t think I’ve met anyone in ministry who’s managed to avoid this nagging feeling. Granted, God does not promise that we will be appreciated and praised for our work in Him; in fact, we are to often expect the opposite (see Col. 3:23, Eph. 6:5-8, and Gal 1:10)!
As a teacher, I don’t expect to hear daily appreciation from students, but it can be exhausting to pour my heart and soul into them over long stretches where it seems they simply do not care. There are a few students who I can count on to encourage and affirm my teaching, but it often happens that those I fight for the most are also the ones who don’t show appreciation.
Before my seventh-grade students asked to share what they loved and appreciated about me, I wasn’t sure if they had even really considered what I did for them. (At one point towards the end of the fall semester, after I had prayed for reduced stress in teachers and students, one of them had asked, “Mr. Dicks, how could teachers get stressed?”) However, I sat and listened for ten minutes as every student raised their hand and shared something they appreciated about me, as a person and as their teacher. Some personal favorites:
- “I feel like when you teach, you’re not just talking through notes. It feels like you have a message from God that he wants you to give to us.”
- “You talk to us and treat us like individuals, not just like a bunch of the same students.”
- “You are willing to change plans or do extra work to help us learn better.”
And so, on a day when I planned on showing love to my students in an intentional way, they – and likewise, God – surprised me with their love towards me. They shared their words out of their own love, but God used them to love me in His own way, affirming my investment in the ministry he had given to me.
I believe we can all learn two major truths from this.
- Make it a habit to tell others what you love and appreciate about them, especially in regards to the work in which God has called them. Do it in a way that is intentional, personal, and sacrificial.
- Pay attention for ways in which God loves you through the words and actions of others.
He does not promise that we will be loved and appreciated by the world around us, but he does promise that his love will never leave us.
By: Brian Dicks, Serving in Hungary at ICSB
I hate being the newbie.
Newbies make mistakes. And they receive constructive criticism ALL.THE.TIME. to correct those mistakes. They embarrass themselves. They do or say things that make them look foolish, childish and/or insensitive.
And that’s me right now. The Mistake Maker with a capital M. The constructive criticism receiver. The one standing on the outside without the inside information – or rather, with just enough inside information to stand on the inside, but too much of me is outside, so when I open my mouth, everyone knows that I really belong on the outside. With almost a year under our belts here (6 months at language school, and now 5 months at our target location), you’d have thought we’d be past the newbie phase (though I’m sure all of you who’ve been on the field would be LOL’ing right now because you know that length of time spent does not guarantee you’ll never find a foot stuck in your mouth). But here we find ourselves, still making rookie mistakes. Still asking ourselves: will we ever come to a place where we don’t feel foolish in front of those whom we came to love?
So, there we were. In the middle of language class, my husband, our language helper, and myself sitting at our dining table. Our house helper was in the kitchen washing our dishes, our kids were playing together beautifully in their room, and we were innocently learning new words, with nothing but postpositions and proper tenses floating about in our heads. Life was going on its merry way – our visions of sugar plums and new words coupled with the sounds of someone else scrubbing away the dried ketchup on my kids’ dinner plates and my children pretending they were super pups saving the day behind their closed door – it was as if I was in a magical wonderland.
But all y’all who’ve spent any time in a foreign country must know that there is a dumb tax to pay for those who are naive and found off their guard…
As our house helper (HH) was getting ready to leave, we snapped out of our sugar plum dreams and promptly remembered that it was the first of the month. This meant payday for our sweet HH! But there was a problem – we were gone for over half the month. Shoot… Does this mean we pay her for the whole month? Or just half the month? Bah!! Navigating cultural money issues here is a nightmare.
We quickly and directly asked our language helper what he would do, and he promptly indirectly answered “Do as you wish”. So, pressed for time, we made the decision to do what we normally would have done in the States: if someone only worked half their time, they would only get half their pay. So that’s what we did – we gave her half her pay.
She looked down at the money, frowned a bit, and walked out. No words, no goodbye. Just left.
The hubs and I stared at each other awkwardly from across the table, immediately knowing we had made the wrong decision. But it wasn’t just that we had made the wrong decision – we were all too familiar with the feeling of incompetence – it was the frustrated mix of feelings that comes from just not understanding where anyone is coming from. Feelings of injustice – because we Americans believe that you get paid according to how much work you do and anything else is called ‘freeloading’. And then this huge desire to bless the poor, but not sure how that fits in with wanting to be wise with our money – a huge value in this culture – and not wanting to seem like we are the rich Americans throwing money out their windows, giving it out left and right in inappropriate ways. We want to do this right – we want to help without hurting. But how? And in every single instance, it seems so foggy. No black and white answer. Oh, if only there was a guidebook for every single specific problem in this life…
Thankfully, this instance was a little more cut and dry than the others. Apparently, your HH receives a certain salary every month regardless of how many days she actually works. There is a saying here that if you cut the pay of a poor person, you cut off their life. And it totally makes sense – I get it. I just didn’t know. And let’s be real – this woman makes roughly $30/month from us as it is – thirty measly dollars. But we all know that it’s never really about the money as much as it is about matters of the heart.
So, after consulting our more experienced and incredibly wise teammates, we knew what we had to do. We had to give her the remainder of her salary.
The next time we saw her, we made things right. We apologized, and told her that we are still learning, and there are many things we don’t know. She smiled, said it was no problem, and we all went on with our lives, just as if nothing had ever happened.
But something had happened.
And in our silly mistake, we were able to be an example of humility and love to her. Apologizing directly for what we’d done and humbly recognizing the fact that we didn’t know everything – especially coming from a person with “higher” status to a person of “lower” status – it’s just not something that is done in this culture. It speaks volumes.
And not to pat ourselves on the back (because that feels weird and because we didn’t really do anything but mess up), but more or less wanting to put the Lord on display, showing how he can take any situation – any mistake – and make it good. He can use the teeny, tiniest little offering we have, and use it to surprise someone with love. How great is our Father’s love for us that he can even transform our mistakes as opportunities for love? Ultimately, we don’t know what impact our actions had on our HH, but I am excited to see what the Lord is going to do with it. And in a way, I am thankful for the mistake we made. For in that mistake, we had the opportunity to exemplify the humility of our Savior. For a single moment, we were able to get down from our pristine white tower, put ourselves in a lowly position, and make things right again. Humility and reconciliation. All from one silly little mistake.
Maybe being a newbie isn’t so bad after all…? 😉
By: Worker, Serving in Asia
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See what God is doing through United World Mission’s missionaries and partner, Viento Fresco, in Colombia. Lives are being changed as they experience the surprising love of Jesus through this ministry.
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A monk, a missionary, and a ladyboy get on a train. The ladyboy (born male, living as female) arrives first and is happily seated between two other passengers—pretty ladies should always have seats on trains. The missionary is content standing and frantically preparing for the class he is en route to lead. When the monk arrives, a seated passenger politely moves and offered their seat out of respect for the monk’s honored position. But a monk cannot touch a lady, so the open seat, which happens to be next to the ladyboy, can not be accepted.
Ladies seated everywhere. Finally more shuffling and another passenger gives up their seat, the ladyboy scoots down, and the missionary is called upon to sit between the monk and the ladyboy and act as a buffer—perhaps a cleansing agent of sorts. The whole train breathes a sigh of cultural relief.
It could be the lead-in for a joke. Or it could be everyday life.
When we first arrived here, our family was pleasantly surprised that so much diversity can coexist in such apparent harmony in our city. As our eyes grow more adjusted culturally, however, the glaring difference between tolerance (non-confrontation) and true love (grace-filled acceptance paired with truth-speaking) becomes more stark. People here are given tolerance – they can live their lives in almost any way they please. But their souls are not satisfied. You can see it behind their eyes, in their behavior, in their pushing of the cultural limits—they crave more. They surround themselves by either religious restraint or alternatively by complete freedom to indulge their passions. But one cannot simply restrain the quest for love out of the human soul. And passion is likewise an unfulfilling substitute. True love surprises us by at the same time restraining us and freeing us.
That missionary, the buffer between the monk and the ladyboy, gets to be part of bringing God’s surprising love to some very broken, abused, exploited, and vulnerable individuals who were born as men. Most of them are not currently living as either men or women…they have found a new niche for themselves, a place where they feel they belong, they have chosen a third gender. They change their bodies, wearing with pride what cultural conservatives (who seek to hide their sin) would call shameful. They wear their sin on the outside, as some say. Broken as they are, God is not ashamed to pursue them. They were created in his image. They have rebelled against Grace. They have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…just like every child of God. And God is calling them back to himself. He is making a name for himself among them.
God’s love is indeed surprising. It accepts us just as we are. It doesn’t sugar-coat our position and tell us to stay just like we are. (How many times have we signed a yearbook with the words that seemed loving, “don’t change ever”?) Love calls us upward. It calls us to holiness and then stands by us when we fail to be holy—I will never leave you or forsake you. It calls us to surrender our status symbols—our athletic prowess, business successes, long flowing hair (or other body parts whether natural or surgically enhanced, which will not be named here)—and yet does not demand transformation within a certain timeframe. Love is patient. It is kind. It carries a clear agenda and yet is not offensive. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
Some among the transgender in our city are finding hope in Christ’s love. Our family has the joy of partnering with a non-profit that is geared towards this special demographic—helping them find healing for trauma, further their education, and training them for “normal” jobs in mainstream society. Their journey of transformation is often long and confusing, riddled with questions about what God says about body-changing surgeries…or perhaps undoing those surgeries. Many find hope in Scriptures that refer to eunuchs, who may have been similarly surgically modified: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters” (Isaiah 56:4-5) There is hope for the broken who turn to God.
Our family is a completely imperfect embodiment of Christ’s love. You probably are too. But how is God calling you to surprise by love? And how is God’s love surprising you?
A monk, a missionary, and a ladyboy get on a train…
By: Daniel and Michelle, Serving in Asia
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Growing up in America, children are taught that relationships are a balance – meeting halfway. Each party has something to offer and each party has equal share in the relationship. I think this has also how I have viewed ministry for a long time. I have something to offer and someone else has something to offer me, which turns out to be a very transactional relationship. While compromise is a healthy aspect of relationships, always compromising fails to allow for unconditional Christ-like love. Relationships shouldn’t be transactional, they should be unconditionally meeting someone where they are, regardless of what it requires from you. My worldview on relationships began to change after being a Summit Intern at East Mountain.
East Mountain Interns are required to live in an intentional community. Everyone lives and does life together all in the same house at the same time. If anyone has had a roommate, they understand the need for grace. Now imagine a dozen roommates of varying gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and language barriers (needless to say, one needs a little divine grace).
Within this context, a transactional compromise-based relationship isn’t enough. Trying to meet someone very different than you halfway does not promote a healthy living situation.
The wealthy white American male can’t have a transactional relationship with the colored Afrikaans woman from a township. There is too much of an unconscious power dynamic. In such an intimate setting, unconditional love is required to build a healthy community. We must be willing to go all the way regardless of what we want to offer or want to give up. The relationship must be one of a love so great that even if all I do is take from her, she must still be willing to offer me more.
Relationships are hard, it’s difficult to love everyone all the time. It takes a lot to even be willing to meet someone half way and even more to meet them where they are. However, Christ met us where we were, not on his way to us. He didn’t love conditionally, he loved selflessly then called us to follow him and do as he did. I’m not perfect in this pursuit of loving unconditionally, but the relationships that have been built and grown from an unconditional love have been so much deeper and richer than I would have ever experienced otherwise.
By: Jameson Coslow, Intern at East Mountain South Africa
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After graduating from University, I had the opportunity to participate in the two month Avance summer immersion program in Mexico City. Fast forward two years later and I was still in Mexico City, still enjoying the times of sobremesa with obligatory sweet bread and coffee, and also serving as staff on Avance. Honestly, I am so grateful that God kept me in Mexico City longer than I had initially intended. As I look back, I notice that these years with Avance undeniably worked to grow, challenge, and shape me and my understanding of our Father. I would like to share with you two thoughts, which are still developing as I continue to learn, but were big themes during my time in Mexico City.
- To the Mexicans I became as a Mexican
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
Being an immersion program, Avance emphasizes becoming as the people you are serving, so that the Gospel may be lived and shared in a meaningful manner. Learning from Paul’s lived example – who I suppose learned from the example of our Incarnate God – we hope to become all things to all people that some may be saved. So when in Mexico, I learned how to roll a tortilla properly when eating, to greet the room with a kiss, to navigate through the Virgin of Guadalupe topic, and to wait patiently for a Mexican minute. The most difficult and most rewarding moments of learning to become as a Mexican, were those moments when I submitted aspects of myself which I thought were crucial pieces of my identity. Every time when those pieces of me were pitted against my ultimate identity as Christ-follower and its implications, they did not hold. I learned to surrender them with the hope that by doing so, by becoming as a Mexican, by all means, some might be saved. I have noticed that people often appreciate and respond more openly to others who attempt to understand and adapt to their way of life. They are likelier to listen more intently to the words of someone who has taken the time to get to know them first. Moreover, as we become as the people we serve, we also act as a living illustration, albeit a very slight fraction, of what Jesus did when he shed all to become as man.
- Before Anyone Else
You shall love theLord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Like Jesus said to the Pharisee, loving the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind comes before anyone/thing else. While in Mexico with Avance, I learned that this was surprisingly easy for me to neglect. It crept up on me like a frog sitting in water gradually getting hotter. As things got busier and other such excuses came up, loving my neighbours and the ministry in which I was serving become my first priority. The love for my neighbours and my ministry were no longer a result of the love I had for our Father which was a response to His overwhelming love for me. Needless to say, I became sidetracked with the love of the task and forgot about loving the One for whom all this was for. I learned that there can be a great difference between committing to Christian service and committing my heart, soul, and mind to our Father. It is something I continue to strive for, that before anyone/thing else, I may love the Lord our God with my entire being.
By: Isabel Tang, Avance Mobilizer for LAM Canada
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Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” Winston Churchill said, “I act therefore I am.” Jesus said, “I am.” These are statements about identity. The rationalists tell us that we are the sum of our thoughts, our ideas, our visions and plans. The pragmatists tell us that we are what we do, the sum of our activity and action. But the one true triune God, Father, Son and Spirit says that he is the source of our identity. He is and therefore we are. Our identity, purpose and significance flow out of relationship with our Father in Heaven who loves and invites us to be with him.
I don’t know about you, but this is a hard truth to swallow for a recovering doer like me. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my soul I am so often tempted with the lie “you are what you accomplish”. At times I struggle profoundly to find contentment and rest in the midst of a ministry and life that seems to be so founded on the quantity and quality of my activity.
How refreshing it is to discover that the invitation to be with God is also an invitation to be with God’s people! The triune God who is in his very nature, community, invites us to find our identity in the context of community with himself and one another. For in the communion of saints – unity with and communion with the members of God’s own family, past, present and future – God reveals his glory, his power and his kingdom to a dark and dying world.
The centrality of a doing centered ministry philosophy unravels when we begin to understand that our mission – what we do – emanates from our being – who we are. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters, members of his own household and the very body of Christ. We are a holy, righteous, redeemed, cherished people whose life together reflects the life of God.
This life together constitutes both the beginning and end of our mission. The community is the sacred space where the intermingling of personalities and gifts provide the environment for a person to encounter the living God, repent, believe and grow into spiritual maturity. From this position of affirmation, resource and example we go to exercise our God given assignments in the world.
But the community is not purely instrumental in nature. The fellowship of the saints is not a tool that God uses to accomplish the more important task of evangelism or social justice. Rather, the picture at the end of redemptive history is a community of God’s people living with God glorifying him forever. We are the chosen people, the body of Jesus who will one day participate in the wedding supper of the Lamb, finally, ultimately, made one with the bride groom. Until that day our life together is the space where the presence of God dwells in the world. We are the salt of the earth – the space where the hope of the world is preserved until God returns to reign. We are the light of the world – the place where the world must come to find their identity, worth and significance.
The preeminence of being over doing is one of the truths that guides our life together at East Mountain. The communal disciplines of table fellowship, reading Scripture, sharing authentically, and prayer are central in our weekly rhythms. These rhythms anchor our being and provide a place from which to offer our gifts and life to others. As we enter into a new year I am hopeful that together we will move more deeply into our identity in Christ and ability to be with him and one another.
By: Gabe Smith, Co-Founder/ Lead Visionary at East Mountain
Serving in South Africa
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Written By: Debra Fileta
This article was originally published on TrueLoveDates.com
I love to talk about relationships.
As a Professional Counselor and Author, it’s a topic that I’m passionate about and one that I feel led to write about, speak about, and even just think about. But sometimes I wonder if our culture at large tends to get fixated on romantic relationships, without remembering the other important relationships that God calls us into.
In order to learn about love- we need people.
The concept of Christian community is such an important part of love, because it’s within the context of relationships that we have the opportunity to express and receive love. God is so creative, in that He gave us a body of believers as a way to experience the give-and-take of love, no matter what our “romantic” relationship-status.
Here are some reasons why it’s really important to be in relationship with other believers:
1. Community challenges you to be more like Jesus (Hebrews 10:24-25). Nothing makes you more like Jesus than the daily grind of interactions with others. We often think about marriage when it comes to this refining process, but the truth is God also gives us community as a way to become more like Him. God’s word reminds us that we are put in relationships in order to encourage one another in our pursuit of God and His Kingdom. It’s within the context of community that we are given the opportunity to be refined as followers of Christ.
2. Community meets practical needs (Acts 2:42-47). Just like in the early church, community is a place where we come to get our physical needs met. We need to learn to let down our walls and ask for help from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether we need someone to pick up medicine for us when we’re sick, cook us a meal at the end of a long week, or help us carry a financial burden- the body of Christ was made to support and love one another in practical ways. We can learn a lot about love within the exchange of practical needs.
3. Community carries you emotionally (Galatians 6:2). Just as important as physical needs- are the emotional needs we carry through life. We are given the the responsibility to support each other in hard times, and to carry one another’s burdens. As much as we need to be available for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we also need to have the courage to ask them to come alongside of us when we’re the ones in need of support, prayer, or a shoulder to cry on. It’s important to learn to be real with one another- because that’s what true community is all about.
4. Community reveals your gifts and talents (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Two are better than one, because there is double the strength, double the stamina, and double the talents. Within the context of community we’re given the opportunity to discover our gifts and our talents, and to use them to bless others. We’re each given a very specific role in the body of Christ and it is within these relationships that our roles can be used to glorify God to the fullest. We’re part of something really special (1 Corinthians 12:27).
5. Community opens your eyes to the needs of others (1 Thess 5:14). Within community we are encouraged to look around at the needs of those around us. We’re called to strengthen those who are weak and to and encourage those who are down and out. Community calls us out of our self-centeredness and self-absorption by giving us the responsibility to look outward.
6. Community empowers your relationship with God (Proverbs 27:17). There is something real about the concept of power in numbers. When we are surrounded by other believers, we feel empowered in our faith and may even be more sensitive to God’s presence in our lives. There’s something powerful about believers joining together, making each other accountable and being a sort of a witness of one another’s lives. We need people checking in on us, asking the hard questions, and challenging us to really live out our faith.
7. Community meets our need for love (Proverbs 17:17). There’s no denying that we are men and women who crave love. We were made to, by a relational God who longs for us to be in relationship with Him. But even more amazing, is that God gives us the gift of each other as a way to meet our earthly needs for love. This brotherly love (phileo) that we’re given is a beautiful representation of the greatest Friend who laid down his life for us. We’re also called to love each other in this beautiful way.
8. Community offers opportunities for confession which leads to healing (James 5:16). There’s power in confession. It gives us the chance to bring to light the things that have been holding us back in darkness. Within community, we’re given the opportunity to get real with one another, to confess our sins, and to break free from the things that are holding us back from living God’s best life. True community requires transparency, authenticity, and confession.
9. Community teaches you to work through conflicts (1 Corinthians 1:10). Bring any group of people together and one thing is certain- conflict is inevitable. But we’re called to work through our divisions with one another as the body of believers. We’re asked to be a united body, which isn’t always easy, nor natural. It’s a humbling experience that teaches us to lay down our pride, to learn assertiveness, and to enhance our communication. We need each other, because it’s within the messiness of relationships with one other that we’re reminded of our desperate need for Him.
10. Community gives you the chance to forgive (1 Peter 4:8-11). There is nothing more beautiful than the picture of the gospel displayed through our healthy interactions as a body of believers. Within this body we’re bound to get hurt, and then guaranteed the opportunity to forgive. We get to feel what Jesus felt as He suffered wounds at the hands of the people He loved, and then loved them anyway. This is the hardest part about community, but it’s the part that makes us most like Him.
It’s time to recognize your God-ordained need for people, and then seek to build relationships with the people God has placed in your life. As you think through this list and read through the last few posts about community, ask yourself how much you’ve allowed your relationships with people to impact your life and your faith? What is holding you back?
By: Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author.
“But what do you guys get out of this?” A paradigm shift was about to take place in my mind.
Sitting at a table in Kauai in downtown Stellenbosch during late 2013, Gabe Smith (East Mountain Director) was explaining to me what the residency program they are planning to introduce at East Mountain might look like, while inviting me to consider becoming one of the inaugural residents. Staying in community with Christians from other denominations and backgrounds while completing my theological studies; being assisted in covering my living costs while asked to commit myself to intentional engagement with my community. “Ok, what is the catch?”, I wondered. “But what do you guys get out of this?”, I asked Gabe. “Well, we invest in your life during this year and wherever you go from here and whatever you achieve is what we get out of it.”
I understood from the beginning that generosity is one of East Mountain’s core values. In time, I would learn that generosity in community goes beyond that which is material. It is equally a generosity of space, time and essentially one’s person. The fact that East Mountain is an ‘intersection’ where the world meets, concluding that it is possible to encounter and impact the world simply by opening the door to one’s living room.
I would like to quote my grandmother as I consider generosity in terms of time and the self.
“The longest journey for every single person on earth is the journey from his own heart to the heart of his fellow men, or the heart of just one fellow man. That is a journey that lasts a whole lifetime, it can never be completed. Perhaps the answer lies to some extent in a statement a modern psychologist made recently: “We realise now,” he said, “that a person is a process rather than a set of habits”. In a process there is ongoing interchange. In the journey to the heart of another person your starting point and junctions have to change on an ongoing basis as well, because you have to adapt to continual growth and change. Therefore, it requires a whole lifetime…
…We live in an age of technological and scientific development as never before, an age of dramatic change, so dramatic that we could say it is a time of technological and scientific miracles. And yet, one thing remains true, has remained true through all ages of man: all great inventions made by man, great and seemingly immortal works of art, all great deeds done by man, all these can be destroyed, only one thing remains indestructible: the true goodness man has given and invested in his relations with other people. This is handed down from one generation to the other; this has a validity which never diminishes, a spiritual power which never fails, no matter how technology and science change the world. That, I know and believe is the love that St Paul describes as the greatest of all things in the world… …The economic constraints unique to the age we live in, makes people not only more frugal with their livelihood, but also with their time. When I give someone of my time, I give him of the most precious things I have; all I want to own or achieve, I need to buy with my time. Another unique aspect to this age is of course the ‘idiom of violence’, and it makes us all the more cautious and suspicious of one another. The result being that in our dealings with others we often have too little time for and too many prejudices towards one another…
…Establishing proper starting points among a people, a multi-racial country, a miserable world, lies to a large extent in the hands (of those) of us willing to do it because we are open to undertaking the longest journey, from heart to heart, person to person.”
East Mountain was not simply an intersection, a destination through which others entered my world, but also a starting point from which I began some of these ‘longest journeys’ and were shaped as an establisher of proper starting points.
I can easily look back at the journeys I set oﬀ on, to the hearts of those I got to share a house with; people very different from me, not only culturally but also different in terms of personality, gender and age. I also began experiencing South Africa in a very new way, as I was ‘tasked’ with the ‘job’ of showing visitors around the Cape Peninsula and Winelands, and in so doing really got to see the place for myself. Traveling with tourists could be a bit like journeying with small children. Not only because you have to make sure you don’t lose them along the way – which most certainly was part of the deal as well – but also because they question what I deem ordinary, considering it to be fascinating and not all that usual: in reality, extraordinary.
“One of my favourite things is talking to my grandchildren, even if they are still small. In this way one discovers a whole new world you did not know about.” – Alba Bouwer
Becoming more open to embark on these journeys, however, was because I found myself among people open to undertake that journey to my heart. A generous people; willing to give of themselves, their time and at times their possessions. People inviting me to take the journey to their hearts, knowing that ultimately our journeys properly walked together are not merely leading to our own hearts but is the process of being known by and knowing God in a vulnerable manner as His own people whom He calls to Himself.
I have begun to understand that, to a large extent, the journey itself is what we get out of it. The East Mountain community got ‘me’ out of investing in me, and I got each of them and the opportunity to invest in them out of allowing them to invest in me. We get to experience the living God among us as we are being His people.
And because it is at least a life long journey I greet you with, “Totsiens!”* *directly translated would be ‘till seeing (again)’, which is Afrikaans for ‘good bye’.
“Consider friendship. Friends are valued for their own sake; and the benefits of friendship are not what we value, but by- products of the thing that we value, obtainable only by the person who does not pursue them. In the scope of human life, purposeless things like friendship are supremely useful: they are ends, not means, the places of fulfillment and homecoming, the goal of every pilgrimage. Without them our purposes are null and void.” –Roger Scruton
By: Servaas, Served as an East Mountain Resident Advisor and is currently in England pursuing further studies and serving in various communities.
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