The van crossed the border after a much shorter drive than expected. I had not been to Mexico in many years and to Tijuana in many more. Within a few minutes of getting into the van at St. John’s in Chula Vista we were across the border. I was excited to be back in Mexico. I had spent some time in Guadalajara during college and driving through Mexico a few years later. It was refreshing being out of the sameness of San Diego County, another country, another culture, another world just a short drive from home. As I began ruminating on the closeness of Mexico and the poverty present there we pulled up to the curb in front of a brightly colored painted façade in an otherwise nondescript semi-industrial row of cinderblock buildings and storefronts. We had arrived at Vida Joven, a small orphanage that cares for about 35 children one of whom, Diana, is supported by our congregation.
I walked through the entrance into the courtyard. My eyes were blinded with direct sunlight. I felt something attach to my right leg, and then another something attached to my left. In front of me a small figure began to appear through the decreasing glare. A little over 3ft tall and arms spread out waiting expectantly for me to pick him up. My initial thoughts went to the various multiple choice scenarios present in the online Protecting God’s Children course I had completed the day before. Picking up a small child with two other small children attached to either leg was conspicuously missing from the options. I was able to make eye contact with the director and my perplexing “Do I pick up this kid?” expression was met with a chuckle and an assurance that there were plenty of adults present, she also stated that this was probably how the visit would go as the there are not too many men that visit Vida Joven.
We had a wonderful visit, the children played tag and basketball, made picture frames and celebrated birthdays. Spiritual dust was shaken off and one-on-one human connection replaced abstract notions of service.
During our visit and after, in the coming days, I could sense the presence of the living and dynamic God. A God that I had slowly and unintentionally relegated to Sunday worship and to the main character in the Bible. I notice when volunteering or engaging in some service there is a spark, a much more prescient faith than when my Christian practice is comprised solely of Sunday worship. Further, worship itself becomes more connected to living out the words we hear and study, fulfilling its purpose as a time of connection, reconciliation and recharging before going back out into the world to act in God’s broken creation.
We are called to act, to serve, to sacrifice and to be open to Gods direction.
By stepping out of our comfort zone as individuals and as a body of Christ, the Holy Spirit can inspire and breathe anew a dynamic living faith, while shedding the rust and dust that gathers on our spiritual lives over time in the humdrum of daily life. This year we are examining our purpose as a church while focusing on community engagement and outreach. This presents us with a fresh opportunity – as individuals and as a body of Christ – to embrace the idea of stepping out from place of comfort into a place of new possibilities and directions, open to the living and dynamic God that we serve.
To learn more about community outreach opportunities at St. Michael’s and to get involved, contact Megan Stanton, Communications Coordinator.
Written by Adam Belt, St. Michael’s Vestry Member.