We are loved

C.S. Lewis:

We are all receiving Charity. There is something in each of us that cannot be naturally loved. It is no one’s fault if they do not so love it … You might as well ask people to like the taste of rotten bread or the sound of a mechanical drill. We can be forgiven, and pitied, and loved in spite of it, with Charity; no other way. All who have good parents, wives, husbands, or children, may be sure that at some times — and perhaps at all times in respect of some one particular trait or habit — they are receiving Charity, are loved not because they are lovable but because Love Himself [Christ] is in those who love them.

The Four Loves, 182-183.

Only a few days to go …

Welcome to the fourth Sunday in Advent. In a few short days, we will celebrate the coming of the Light of the world, and the commemorative time of waiting and darkness will be over. During the last month or so, somewhat coincidentally on my brother Gabe’s recommendation, I’ve been reading Ben Patterson’s Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent. I could write much about my own journey of waiting (and I will, eventually), but that’s not what this blog is about.

Four hundred years. It had been four hundred years since anything had been heard from God. And the children of Israel languished under Roman occupation, oppressed and marginalized in what was supposed to be the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of freedom and prosperity. This was not what the fulfillment of God’s promises was meant to look like.

And into that environment, into that darkness, into that uncertainty and longing, hope came, love came, justice came, grace came: the Word became flesh and moved into our neighborhood. Jesus was born: the fullness of God in a fragile, helpless baby.

It’s been two thousand years since that cosmic event and those who follow in the heritage of Israel—the followers of the Way—are waiting. Jesus came, and we wait for his return, when the earth will be made right and justice, hope and healing will reign on the earth. Still, we live in the in-between time, and we might often find ourselves thinking that this is not what the kingdom of God that Jesus heralded and inaugurated with his coming is meant to look like: conflict abounds around the world, disregarding God’s commandment to love one another; poverty and hunger continue to afflict millions, even as we move into the second decade of the 21st century, flying in the face of Jesus’ exhortation to care for the least of these; a blithe disregard for the creation shows a blatant disrespect for the Creator. And that’s just a snapshot.

But in this environment, this season reminds us of the coming of Jesus, the hope of all creation. We remember that though there is much that may discourage us or deflate our spirits, the most ultimate victory was begun with the birth of a baby boy, over two thousand years ago.

“For God loved the world in this way: that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Oasis 3-week update

Week Three

One of the highlights this week was the trafficking training session put on by the Coalition Against Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) LA, which took place on Wednesday. The focus of the training was ministering to survivors of human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking. As a result, many of the other attendees were workers at shelters, and much of the material that we went through that day wasn’t directly relevant to the work that Oasis is doing as an advocacy organization, and especially as a relatively young organization.

Having said that, it was very helpful to see not just all that is involved ministering to survivors of human trafficking, but also to see all the other people and organizations who are also seeking to combat human trafficking. It seems analogous to the work of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12)—many parts are necessary to accomplish the goal, and they must be coordinated and working in tandem. In this case, non-governmental organizations and shelters must work with government agencies, police forces and health organizations.

Moreover, starting out at Oasis, a smaller organization (at least here in the US), working with only a few staff and a few interns, it was particularly helpful to get a sense of the movement that is rising. The coalition to combat human trafficking is a movement that is only recently gaining momentum, not just in terms of the legislation that is being enacted in the US and around the world, but also in terms of the awareness that we as anti-trafficking campaigners need to bring to the public view. There is a certain excitement that plays into being at the start of a movement, and a movement which we know is in line with what God is calling us to do: to seek justice for those who do not have it.

Week Four

I finished the first draft of the bible study resource this week (finally!). As a student, I’m used to working non-stop on something until it’s done, a tactic which I didn’t take with this internship; for this project, I worked full-time on it (when I could) Tuesday through Thursday, and then left it alone over the weekend. It’s a different way of doing things, perhaps a healthier way (since I also had plenty of other things to do apart from the internship), but the pace of work was definitely slower than I was used to and I got done later than I would have liked.

Still, it’s done; and it was an interesting exercise for me. I’ve been in higher education for nine years now, the last six of which have been in the field of theology. So I suppose I’m used to operating at a more theoretical and less basic level—I’m certainly engaging at a different level than I was before I started studying theology. The biggest challenge for me was the feeling I had that what was needed was a biblical worldview—a broader perspective—and not simply a bunch of verses that supported what I wanted to see happen. I do believe that God is a God of justice, that he is on the side of the poor and the oppressed, the orphan, the widow and the foreigner, and that if we are to be his people, we are to care for these as much as he does. I could build a case for combating human trafficking on a couple of verses if I chose, but I think that it’s important to remember the broader context, to see the person of Christ as a central figure in the story, and to highlight the consistencies and congruities in the story.

So that’s what I tried to do with this resource. I tried to establish a biblical framework for Christian involvement in human trafficking and in justice in general. In six sessions. I think it turned out okay …

Week Five

This week I went out into the Arcadia and San Gabriel area with Daniel, Oasis’ outreach worker, and Monica, who oversees the coalition of which Oasis is a part. Over about an hour and a half, we stopped by several massage parlors in order to hand out fliers advertising a community health clinic, but also to casually check the places out. It was a fascinating experience, as not one of the locations we stopped into was above reproach: one place had an inordinate number of video cameras (5) on a space which certainly didn’t seem to need it (approx. 30’ by 30’); a couple of other parlors did not advertise full body massages but said that they were available in a backroom upon request. Now, neither of these situations is a surefire sign that trafficking is taking place, but they do make one wonder.

Because of the newness of the field, which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there aren’t very many established protocols in terms of how to proceed in this area. While it’s definitely desirable that more people are mobilized to combat human trafficking, one of the things which people must be aware of is the uncertainty and risk involved. The trafficker(s) may well be just one person trafficking another person; or organized crime could be involved; or even larger crime syndicates may be in control. One of the central things for organizations like Oasis is safety—we are not equipped to engage in combating crime (which human trafficking is) in the way that police forces are. Indeed, if a police department is already actively involved in staking out or investigating a site, the involvement of civilians may interfere with an ongoing operation or tip off the traffickers, who will then quickly shift the victims to another location.

On the other hand, because of the newness of the field, many police departments have not yet had training in identifying and targeting human trafficking. Oasis has worked closely with the Arcadia Police Department and created a good, cohesive relationship, by which the police’s work is not interfered with or obstructed, but allows Oasis to do as much as it can. It’s hoped that this cooperation will form a template for other police departments and government agencies to work closely and effectively with non-governmental agencies, non-profits and other organizations to implement and establish a good model for combating trafficking.

Maundy Thursday post-op

Today I had my three week post-op appointment with my surgeon; the next time I see him will be in a month. Everything’s pretty much going according to schedule (or perhaps even ahead); I’m on soft foods for another month, since my jaw is held together by three screws on each side (not one as previously reported) … and little screws at that. In the last week of ‘eating’, I’ve put back on 2lb of the 7lb that I lost the previous two weeks.

As you can see above from the pre-op and post-op cephalometric x-rays, there’s a slight but noticeable difference. (And of course, you can see the little screws.)

In non-surgery news, life is as busy as I expected it to be, and I haven’t yet settled into a routine in terms of when I’m gonna get everything done. But hopefully this Easter weekend, as well as commemorating the momentous events of two thousand years ago, I’ll be able to collect my thoughts in preparation for the remaining eight weeks of the quarter, which’ll undoubtedly be full pelt (apart from the week I’m in DC/MA).

Finally, as I mentioned in the title, today is Maundy Thursday, or the day we remember the Last Supper. Here’s the account from Luke’s Gospel (22:14-27):

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

[Nicolas Poussin. The Last Supper. 1640s. Oil on canvas. The Trustees of Rutland Trust, Belvoir Castle, Grantham, UK.]

Happy Maundy Thursday!