Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Solid Career Advice

OK, here's something I've never been able to say before and probably will never again so here goes: my picture is in the current issue of People magazine. The June 29th issue with "Summer's Hottest Bachelor" on the cover. Yeah, that one.

This can hardly qualify as my fifteen minutes of fame since you can barely make me out in the photo of the crowd. But if you know that I’m sitting on the second row in the crowd next to Darby Fields and you know what Darby looks like from the back then you can identify me on her left. The photo was taken from about a hundres yards away so I don’t really expect anyone to really know it’s me. But, hey, I know it’s me and I think that counts. I mean,it really is a picture of me. Right there in the People magazine this week. I’m in People magazine.

They told us when we went to Church Under the Bridge last week that the magazine would be taking pictures so we all thought to ourselves with a confident tone, “Yeah, sure, like that’s gonna happen.” And, here we are. I hope you will visit the back two pages and read the photo captions. There’s not really a “story” just the captions but it will still give you a little better picture of this vibrant ministry.

Mission season is here now that school is out. Our church started out with the youth mission week that included our trip to Church Under the Bridge. This week a group that includes my husband is in Mexico building cinder block houses for the poor. In a couple of weeks I’ll be at Synod Youth Workshop in Oklahoma and one entire day will be devoted to mission. Except we call them Service Projects but I’ve come to think of the two as interchangeable in my mind. I’m in charge of the projects this year and we’ll be sending about 400 people out to 25 different places in Tulsa doing everything from cleaning wheelchairs to planting a community garden. If you can believe it, the hardest part of this job is keeping the kids busy. There’s not a non-profit organization in Tulsa we won’t be working with. However, if you know of one, let me know. I’m still looking for a couple more projects.

When I get home from Tulsa I’ll be going to Guatemala to visit old friends and renew our Christ-centered friendships. One of the things we’ll do that week is visit the Nutrition Project that we help support. They provide a healthy lunch for 20 kids in the program and monitor their health. Part of the process (designed by a friend there who is a nurse) is training the community, the mothers especially, in nutrition. At the end of the year the project moves to a new town.

On the flight over to Guatemala I know to expect the plane to be full of Norte Americanos on their way to similar mission weeks. I am not exaggerating. Every gringo on the plane will be on their way to do mission. One year I found myself looking around the plane and thinking with some impatience, “Haven’t we built every widow in the country a new house by now? Doesn’t every village have a water treatment plant by now?”

And that’s only one flight to one country. This process is going on all over the world. Our presbytery just sent a group to India. Other churches I’ve met have active mission teams going to Africa this summer. And when the fall brings cooler weather to the US coastline, possibly after another destructive hurricane or two, we’ll fan out between Texas on the west and South Carolina on the east. We’ll show up to cry with people and pick up a shovel or hammer. There’s always going to be another hurricane on the horizon—at least until we can get the planet calmed down and that’s not likely to happen in my lifetime.

So we can’t really expect to finish this work. As soon as we think we’ve finished, there will be more needs crop up. Jesus knew this. He told us that we would always have the poor. And even if we were by some miracle to establish a Utopia where everyone had everything they needed physically, there would still be the poor in spirit. There is no better way to say it: We will always have the poor.

I talked to my friend Colleen a couple of days ago. I met her when I was working for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. She managed the volunteer camp in New Orleans. When she left there, she went back to work with AmeriCorps. Right now she’s stationed in New Orleans again; this time helping Habitat for Humanity. Colleen is the one who first told me about the proposed Public Service Academy. This academy would be similar to West Point or the Naval Academy except training men and women for public service. Instead of learning how to kill people they will learn how to serve people.

We will always have the poor. If any young person is looking for a secure occupation, a guaranteed future, they should consider public service. We may run out of fossil fuel but we will never run out of people in need.

In the meantime watch this website and tell every high school and college kid you know about it. It's getting easier and easier for anyone who is the slightest bit interested in public service to find a career in what ignites their heart.

The website address is http://uspublicserviceacademy.org I tried to link the address here but it didn't work. If anyone can tell me how to do it, please let me know.

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