The Perkins Perspective | (Sub)urban | Winter 2013
Revising Missionary Dreams
By Rediet Mulugeta
I grew up desiring to be a missionary far away, where I knew there was always a need. I never imagined that there was a great need in our very own neighborhoods and that God would begin to open up my heart to want to stay and help my neighbors.
I first learned about Mission Year in 2008, when I went to Camden, New Jersey, with the John Perkins Center at Seattle Pacific University for the winter service trip. My group stayed with Urban Promise and took time to learn about the importance of caring for our community, just like the Good Samaritan took care of the stranger on the side of the road (Luke 10).
My interest in community development started to develop and I began to take classes offered to help me understand the theological, as well as the physical needs, that can be met through serving the poor. Beyond education, SPU provided me with the outlet to begin to practice what I was learning in my classes. For the rest of my time at Seattle Pacific , I was involved with Urban Involvement, which helped me understand a little bit more about my role in community development.
Discovering the Concepts of Community Development
While an undergraduate, I was introduced to John Perkin’s Christian community development concepts of relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution. With the start of my senior year, I began to pray and seek out the next step after graduation. As a student leader, I attended a CCDA conference in early October and heard speakers from all over the U.S., and from around the world, who understood their calling in addressing the injustices of our society.
Speakers engaged in conversation about everything from racial reconciliation to the important role we have in education. This conference wasn’t about Christians taking over and fixing everything wrong about the system that seems to do wrong towards many people – it was about community members, business leaders, educators, health care providers using their skills and abilities to love and best equip others in need. It was about church communities being involved in the public education system. It was about people recognizing God’s desire for them to remain, return, or relocate.
Laying Aside Comforts
My ah-ha moment about my calling didn’t come during the conference or when I was at SPU, but as I sit and write this reflection here in Houston, Texas, serving my neighbors through Mission Year. Mission Year is a nondenominational organization with a mission statement to “Love God, Love People, Nothing Else Matters.” Mission Year seeks out existing service organizations and churches, with which we can partner for the year as we learn about what it means to love our neighbors. Without a doubt, the decision to do Mission Year was shaped by my experiences at SPU. I spoke with professors, mentors, friends, and family who encouraged me to pursue this opportunity after graduation. Of course, I had my doubts because it’s rare to hear about people who relocate, live in intentional communities, and seek out opportunities to love their neighbors as themselves. I grew up accustomed to loving my family and friends, but never thought to sacrifice my comforts for a stranger.
I used think of those (like Shane Claiborne and John Perkins) who give up the comforts of life to stand with those who are rejected and abandoned as radical Christians. I’ve been thinking a lot lately and wonder if my faith and love for God has been boxed in to fit my comforts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Shane Claiborne, nor John Perkins – but I’m wondering if I have spent years reading my Bible and interpreting God’s word as an option, not a must do. I believe that the glory of God – the Kingdom of God – will be revealed through the unified church (the body) not this system that continues to separate and falsely define the value of people. I have also been challenged to wonder what it would look like if I desired to take care of my neighbor exactly like I take care of myself. I’m not at the point where I’m able to fully lay aside my wants for the needs of my neighbor. Even though I’m far from sacrificing all that I want, I rejoice in the fact that this year is my commitment to get closer to full-heartedly loving my neighbor and seeking justice.
Two months into my service year, I realize that I have a lot of barriers and crutches to get rid of in order to love God, love people, and live a life where that is the most important thing. When it gets hard, I look around and I find encouragement in seeing God work through the six people I live with. As we ask God to break our hearts for what breaks his, God is continually giving us peace and grace to live outside of our comforts and learn how to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Seeking these things in our lives doesn’t come easily, but when we choose to chase after them, God helps us see that we are already equipped to bring these realities into our communities.
Rediet Mulugeta is 2012 graduate of Seattle Pacific University. She is currently an intern with Mission Year in Houston, Texas, and intends to use her degree in global development studies to pursue Christian community development domestically and internationally.
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