Friday, February 25, 2011

days

Teach us to number each of our days so that we may grow in wisdom.    (Psalms 90:12)
The Junxion Center from the far north entrance to our new church property.  

Our church, The Junction, has just celebrated ten years in existence.  We have been members of Junction for four years.

I still remember sitting in our office, upstairs in our Sacramento home, reading an email from Mario telling me he had found our new church.  He was in South Africa, with our friend and soon-to-be-employer-in-ministry, Hennie.

The name, he wrote, of our new church was The Junction.  Its lead elder, Craig Elliott had just met with Mario over coffee to share stories and testimonies...and vision for the future. Because of a God-ordained instant connection, Mario decided that this church was the one we were supposed to be a part of, and cancelled any future meetings with the other church leaders that Hennie had scheduled.

Thank God.

As I read his email, I have to admit that then I was basically under the assumption that we would stay in Johannesburg, South Africa just to base ourselves near an airport.  We were determined that, as part of a team led by Hennie Keyter, we would need to be near an airport so we could easily go in and out of Africa, and also go back home now and then, to the USA.  Hennie had insisted that Mario first find a local church to connect with before we made a decision to move here.  His suggestion was more of an ultimatum than advice.  Hennie knew that real relationships were built at a local level, and the local church would be our new family.  He was right.

Junction (with all of its quirks and warts) became our family, in the fullest sense of the word.  While we traveled internationally, our new "home church" became our main grounding and support.  It encouraged relationship on the local level...and accountability.  We grew part of Junction the same way that an adopted child becomes a true member of the family.

Today,as I write this, I think of how life is strange.  It never goes the way you envision it going.  We don't travel in and out of Africa (as we thought we would), and my main relationships are here, in this church home.  In 2010, we saw Hennie- our first link to this wild continent- once.   "It is God's calling," he once told us, "that will bring you here and keep you here."

We "found" our calling in the recesses of our local church and its ministry to the poor in South Africa.  Junction is a church with half of its population well above the economic level of wealth in this world.  This select group of people had hearts (and position) to fight for the rights and spiritual well-being of  the other half of the church population.  These were folks well below the poor in America.  Well below.  Because of the unusual economic diversity of its members, Junction is seen as unusual in a country well-known for class separation.

It has been four years (almost) since we moved here.  Through it all, we have ridden the waves of change that Junction (and we) have endured, the only way we know how: transparently and among friends.  The reward of last Sunday was particularly sweet.
Craig and Suzanne cut the birthday cake.


Craig and Suzanne, our elders, envisioned, long ago, a center for the rich and poor to come and meet as family in a community center that was a testament to God and His faithfulness.  On Sunday, the Grand opening of Junxion Center, this community center long ago seen in Craig's mind, was held.


It was a beautiful day, after four days of heat and rain... God saw fit to gift us with a day of puffy white kisses in the clouds, and no rain.
                                                            
At all.

Jo and I
The day was an end to many of preparing for this fabulous event, which not only celebrated our birthday, but the convergence of "sports-meets-the-arts" in one space for the good of the community.  Joanna, my friend (and someone I had traveled into Africa with) was the official coordinator, but I worked closely with her and Paula (my new-found friend in event-hosting).  Under Jo's eye, the Center opening and Birthday Celebration took place.

The main challenge from my side was that my husband had been attacked by a strange illness: one that brought unusual stress into our relationship.   Three surgeries within six weeks crippled us as a couple.
I also had been asked by the church if "I wouldn't mind" taking "my awesome administrative gifting" and using it to help run the new Junxion Center until we could find a full-time person to manage bookings.  I'm a world class schmooze, and I recognize a snow job coming...and I still said yes.

I became quickly involved in the business end of the Center and its partners, or its tenants. I began collaborating (with tenants renting space from us) to plan this day of the Center opening.  They all had invested so much of themselves (as we had) into the new space, and wanted to make it work.  So the launch of the Center was important to their businesses and to their lives.  I had super-organized Jo and Paula on one side and the tenants (whose administrative personalities surpassed mine) on the other.

I was a fish out of water.

My new "job" as Center manager I shared with my friend, Terri, who like me, had a desire to help where needed.  We both are pretty good administrators, but were also deeply relational and thrived on ministry.  We  have the same hearts for shepherding, and we both seemed to struggle with balancing everything.  Sharing the job, Terri braved the morning traffic (working 8-12), and I took on the afternoon commute (working 12-4).

In the week I agreed to take the job (just a week and a half ago), I felt overwhelmed with the re-entry into "the workplace" and planning for the party and the Center opening.  I also had offered to bake the cake for the party.  Jo quickly suggested we buy it (but we were over-budget already and I LOVE TO COOK!) to "take some pressure off".  I politely disagreed, and asked if I could make it, knowing my strengths are in the simple arts -and baking is relaxing for me.

The Elder's luncheon upstairs.
I also asked if I could host the upstairs meeting, meant to be the luncheon for all of the church leaders in the area...and for our own Junction eldership.  Jo and Paula said yes, with the stipulation that I would raise a white flag at any moment and they could take over.

It was a day that surprised even me, with all of our preparation paying off in a smooth party, where food was sponsored and served with a smile and where old and new friends came together in thankfulness.  It was like any other birthday, where the one-time baby is celebrated for who they have become, and loved by everyone around.
Mike and Lena with their gift,
the much-coveted Madiba, with
the artist, Marc Alexander

The center was buzzing with activity and everyone seemed to have a good time.  The whole church was happy and playful.  We gave Mike and Lena the most beautiful painting of Madiba (Mandela) to take with them to the South Coast when they will leave next month, and we gave Rob and Bridget an ipad for their new life in Germany.

Everywhere you looked there was music and activity and celebration.  I was so happy that it was all happening with so much life and wonder.  Mario and I looked around, more than once, and said "This is the most amazing party!  Everything is going well, and we're hardly doing anything!!"

The Center, designed by our friend,
Roger Boden, from the west
The truth of the matter was that we were part of a tem, the truth of our lives here in Africa, and especially at Junction.  We were part of a team that was bringing together a celebration of a church anniversary and a community center opening - marrying the two and having them make sense.

In a world of no absolutes, we live with one: we are absolutely children of a Father who loves us.  We are absolutely unable to celebrate with any kind of sincerity without him.  We are absolutely sure that this could not have happened without him.

I sit here, tonight, back to my love, my love of writing and telling the story.  It is my first day off in two weeks, and I am smiling, remembering the party.  It was beyond what we could have imagined.

I am absolutely sure that tomorrow morning I will sleep in.

Hopefully.