April 1, 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
Suddenly tears threatened to squeeze their potent mixture of joy, sadness, and shame from my well-controlled tear ducts. Even after five years in the city, I still have moments of revelation that break my heart in unexpected ways.
It was Thursday night and, as is my usual habit, I (Adria) sat behind the lobby desk buzzing people in and brandishing pens to enforce sign-in for our Adult Basketball Outreach. Andrew leaned on the desk as we hastily ate our dinner of sandwiches as people started to file in. From the hall I could hear the loud echoes of basketballs bouncing on the gym floor and guys warming up and talking a little pre-game smack, when Jason trotted out to the front desk to check the order of the play list.
Andrew has known Jason for many years, maintaining a relationship with him even through many ups and downs. Jason has struggled in his relationship with the Lord and with some significant family issues and personal decisions while growing up. These things led him into destructive behaviors and to dropping out of high school. Recently, however, Jason has been working on getting his life back in order. Most importantly, he has a renewed hunger for the Lord and has been one of our most consistent attendees of our weekly Bible Study.
As he perused the play list, Jason mentioned to Andrew and I that he had finally gotten his GED certificate. He said it so casually at first I did not register the significance. Andrew said, “Awesome! I want to see it.”
“Yeah,” Jason said, “I’ll show it to you. I’ve got it in my backpack. I’m taking that thing with me everywhere I go.” Then it hit me. I felt joy for this young man, who is making incredible steps in the right direction. I felt sadness that his life reflects so much pain and difficulty that securing a GED represented a major life achievement. And, I felt shame that I have taken so much for granted in my life. I thought, he had to work so hard to get his GED and is so proud of it that he carries it on his person at all times, do I even know where my high school and college diplomas are?
In the face of so much struggle in the city there have been times that I have felt guilty because I was born into the family I was and for the subsequent financial security, physical safety, and educational opportunities that were mine simply because of where God placed me. There are still times that feeling washes over me, but I know I had no more control over where God placed me than Jason did.
What God is teaching me in moments like these is that there is much about my life that I have assumed was my right because I am an American and because I am a “good Christian” who works hard. I am owed nothing. I do not deserve anything more or less than Jason. In fact, Jason has had to work significantly harder to achieve things that I have considered “lesser” than I have had to work to achieve things like a high school and college education. In these moments that God smacks me with humbling revelations I am truly in awe of my friends and neighbors here in the city. They are determined and resilient in ways I will never understand. Praise God for His mercies that meet each of us where we are: broken in our own ways and in desperate need of Him.
Please continue to pray for Jason and for the other young adults in our Bible Study that they would continue to respond to God’s call on their lives and for their strength to continue fighting to live a life pleasing to Him.
For His Kingdom, Andrew and Adria Medlen