Was it valuable? Thoughts from #RestoBolivia2

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So, RestoBolivia, 2017…led by awesome leaders, Eva Elizabeth, Endel and Kate.  Followed by the rest of us…Rachel, Diana, Lauren, MacCrae and Bennet, child lovers and carers extraordinaire. Lauren and Andrew, worship and prayer leaders.  And the rest of us, teachers, testifiers and also child lovers, Phil, Wayne, J.P., Alexa, Laurel and David, and me, Desiree.

What a wonderful group of dedicated Christ lovers with whom to experience my first Mission Trip.  And what an experience it was.

The experience of love and care on the part of everyone in the group toward everyone else in the group before we even got to the actual work of the trip was true Christian love in action.

The level of care and concern evidenced over and over again for the well-being of each of us I have never before experienced.  So awesome, words fail me.

The experience of a previously unknown country and people and culture was exciting.

The experience of participating in the retreat we led for the local congregation stretched me beyond my comfort zone.  It was nerve racking to prepare a testimony for an unknown audience not to mention one that did not speak English.

But, nerve racking or not, I and others did it.  I for one felt vastly relieved when my part was done and I am still basking in the relief of having it behind me.

But, was it a valuable exercise?  Yes.  I decided in the preparation that reviewing my testimony was something I should do more frequently than I have been.  I really need to share my story ongoingly.

Of course, I’ve been talking about me.  Aside from the impact on me of giving my testimony was the impact on those who heard it even in translation.  I was amazed to realize how God used my words to stimulate responses in the listeners.  I felt humbled by so many who had questions and wanted follow-up conversations.

And then the experience of loving on the adorable children in the boys’ and girls’ homes which we did for the balance of our time there.  It was heartwarming to see and experience the love and care being lavished on the children by all, including us!, who come into contact with them.

The Mission Trip was a transformative experience in my journey of faith.  And one for which I feel very grateful for the opportunity to participate.

~Desiree F

 

The day after… thoughts from #RestoBolivia2

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Today is the day after the end of the Bolivia trip– the end of the most transformative summer of my life as a whole where I felt God challenging me and pushing me to use my heart in ways I had not done before. This summer I felt the presence of God work through people in unforeseen ways.

First, what did I bring on this trip and how did God take it and transform it for His good?

On this trip I brought my love for getting to know the people, culture, and traditions of Latin America, which long preceded my interest in joining Equipo (Team) Bolivia. The second thing I brought with me was my love for serving others-from serving my family, friends, community, and job- I seek to serve in everyway I have to opportunity to because I feel like I marginally bring the world to being restored from a state of need or brokenness. However, on this trip, God has given me a renewed heart and lens with which to view Latin America as well as serving.

I saw through the work we have done with La Trinidad, an Anglican sister church in Cochabamba, that sowing and reaping together rather than working on behalf of other people renders incredible results that glorify God. This has been instructive in how to serve cross-culturally in settings where historically having others come in from the outside often has negative results. In working with the La Trinidad, we were humbled to see the such an elaborate and dynamic church could arise- a church that includes the most marginalized and offers them an immediate and engaging experience alongside the of gospel of serving that the houses and tias (affectionate and formal term for the women that care for the children) live out day in and day out. This indeed informed my experience of seeing that as a church there is not a one-size fits all model, and there are cultural differences that are key to understand.

Secondly, I brought my love for serving people and thinking critically about how this service is impacting them. What God has taught me through the experience of sharing with Bolivians is that He wants us to uphold the relational aspect of His kingdom to reflect His love in this world. By living out the relational aspect of God’s kingdom, we expand the network of people we love, care for, know well, and connect with- which is exactly what I felt like the whole group did while in Bolivia.

During our debrief session before flying out of Cochabamba at the end of our trip, Tyson, the leader of the work we were doing with Niños con Valor, shared with us the healthiest and most helpful way to transition out of Bolivia is by integrating our experiences there into our present reality here. As I return back to the states, my hope is to integrate these experiences into a part of my life I have felt disconnected from for the past year as I have simultaneously been drawing closer to Restoration, which is an answer to the prayer of what my vocation should be. This is an area I have been praying to the Lord about for cohesion for in my life between my passions and my day-to-day work. I want to pivot my vocation to working with Latin Americans back in the U.S. and in Latin America directly with humility and a spirit of working alongside people in settings like Bolivia where there are obstacles and constraints as well as opportunities and abundant blessings.

Through the testimonies we all shared that followed the theme of being at the table with Jesus, we learned and lived what God continuously shows his disciples in Luke, which is that out of our little, He in turn provides abundantly.

And when it comes to service, it has been key to invite God into settings where we serve others joyfully and creatively where we can glorify Him and expand His love in His Kingdom. I will continue to pray for God to penetrate the ways I practice serving my Latin American community back here in the context of the greater Washington community. In the day after, I seek to continue to build on the experiences we all had with the children, tias, and homes into the practice of seeing how I want to live out service and my passion for Latin America in my day-to-day life. I think I will start with grabbing some mate (local tea) and staying in touch with some of the kids we connected with through letters and staying tuned to their lives in the larger context of Bolivia.

~Alexa A.

Un Equipo Increíble: Thoughts from #RestoBoliva2

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Short-term mission trips come with their share of challenges. Before the trip, I found it hard to believe that somehow in a 10 day period, a group of 16 people of different ages, backgrounds, and experiences could somehow come together, plant themselves in a foreign country, adjust to new food, language, and culture, and have a meaningful impact on the people they came to serve.

I was in awe of the way our group demonstrated flexibility, sensitivity, and openness to the daily realities that we faced in Bolivia.

Instead of expressing frustration at the church retreat that our detailed schedule was constantly being rearranged and delayed, our team expressed delight that we could embrace the Bolivian way, release our Type A grip on things, and simply open our arms wide to welcome the beautiful chaos that we know God was orchestrating. If we had been adamant about sticking to our rigid schedule, it could have caused a rift between Resto and La Trinidad. Instead, our team’s flexibility allowed for an easy integration of our groups during which we could focus on what God was teaching us.

Instead of going through the motions of giving gifts at the end of the week to our friends at Niños con Valor and offering a generic thank you to all of the Tias for their work with the children, our team decided to hand-write individual thank you notes to each of the 19 Tias.  After a long day of work, our team members willingly gathered around the table at our guesthouse until midnight, reflecting on the distinct personalities of the Tias and specific ways that they love the children of NCV. As we distributed the gifts and notes to each Tia on our final day in Cochabamba, it was brought to our attention that no group had ever thanked each of the Tia’s individually. This gesture was deeply meaningful to them, and I’d like to think that our words and actions played a role in “refreshing workers” – which was one of the main objectives of the trip.

 Instead of grumbling about the illnesses that plagued our group from some uninvited friends (amoebas and parasites to name a few), I watched our team members support one another by offering healing prayer and taking multiple trips to the pharmacies to buy various medications. In addition, those who were afflicted with various health issues maintained positive attitudes and continued to offer ways they could help the team fulfill our mission.

These are just a few of many ways that our group demonstrated that they came to Bolivia not to be served but to serve.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” – Hebrews 6:10

I praise God for each individual that he placed on this team and I know that the fruits of their labor will continue to bless our Bolivian friends.

~Kate L.

Keeping God before our Eyes

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Rhythms

We accomplish so many tasks during the day without thinking about them: getting up, brushing our teeth, getting kids ready for school, having seemingly meaningless conversations at work, trying to make it through the day so that we can get home. And then once we get home what should we make for dinner? And once we finally get kids to bed or watch our favorite show we snuggle into our own sheets and maybe for a brief moment this thought pops into our head: “what just happened today?” Our rhythms often betray our own survival mentality which lacks coherence or purpose. It is this question (What just happened?) which reminds us of the importance of taking a spiritual inventory of the moments of our days.

Sunday Sermon

Rev. Liz just preached a sermon today (August 13– see here) as part of the series on the Apostles’ Creed which focused on the phrase “…He will come to judge the living and the dead…” and in her sermon there is a helpful reminder that we need to live our days with the reminder that God is Holy. Yes, God in His mercy has paid for the sins of His people, and yet it is also true that time itself is a stewardship from God to be used to show His glory and love to the world. Each day invites us to turn from our past sins and to see Christ in the people we meet and moments we are given. However, many of us struggle to create healthy rhythms of life which redeem our daily moments and relationships that God puts in our path.

Small Group

In the Fall, there will be a Thursday evening small group for those interested in reexamining how they live the daily rhythms of their lives. It’s like the old hymn says “…take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.” We’ll will look at how this can be done. This small group will be a foundational piece of who we will become as Incarnation Anglican Church (the future Restoration church plant in south Arlington) and as such this small group will be hosted and led in south Arlington so that we discover how we can daily love Jesus more in our work, families, and in our neighborhoods in south Arlington. We would love for you have the opportunity to invest in south Arlington through this small group by signing up here once the registrations open up. Again, we will meet Thursdays from 7:30-9pm. You might be wondering more about what we will study….

Rule of St. Benedict

Unreflective survival is not a new difficulty in the history of God’s Church, so one of the ways that earlier saints have responded to this problem is by creating a rule for communal life. Maybe you are afraid that using the word “rule” sounds legalistic. However, a “rule of life” is not the same thing as setting up a bunch of arbitrary rules to measure someone’s spiritual prowess. A rule of life is a bit more flexible and has a well thought through goal. One such rule of life was created by St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547 CE) and can be read in English translation here. No other prayer rule has had more impact on English spirituality (which includes its influence on the Book of Common Prayer itself). St. Benedict desired that people be daily turned towards repentance and a love of God (even though his audience were monks in a monastery and under an abbot). He writes about roles, relationships, desires, prayer, eating, sleeping, conversation, and other aspects of community life in order to bring them together into a cohesive life of holiness in which someone turns to God in the daily relationships they have and moments they experience. He says in his prologue (v. 44), “…While there is yet time, while we are still in the flesh and are able to fulfill all these things by the light which is given us–we must run and perform now what will profit us for all eternity.” This brings us back to Rev. Liz’s sermon in which we are called to contemplate the ways in which God judges his peoples’ deeds. The rule written by St. Benedict has now been tested and found helpful by the Church for almost 1500 years and I believe it still helps us today to frame the ways in which we keep a healthy fear of God before our eyes daily. We are not cloistered monks living under an abbot, but many of us are neighbors and in small groups together and as such we are called to work together for the same goal.

Want to know more about St. Benedict before you sign up? Here’s a cool video:

 -Authored by Morgan Reed+

He has taken my little, and given me much

#RestoBolivia2 – Team reflections #1

Tu fe ha salvado; ve te en paz.

RestorationMission 2These are the words of Jesus as he blesses the woman who washed his feet with her tears. A simple sentence:

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

These are the words of Jesus that have been on repeat (in Spanish and in English) since Sunday morning, after Laurel and Desiree shared testimonies and teaching with members of La Trinidad, the church here in Cochabamba. Words that carry blessing and hope.

I wasn’t ready for this trip. We’d put months of preparation in to it – some of us had literally been talking about this trip since we left Cochabamba last July. Plans were set – we knew who would be speaking – we knew who would be leading kids time – hours of prayer and encouragement and listening and learning were put into this trip. And still my heart was not quite ready. I was tired, struggling with some familiar voices of shame and the question of “has it been enough?”

Late Friday night I sent around an update for our prayer partners. I was exhausted after a full day of travel and little sleep, and in all honesty struggling to find words. But last night my words were re-read to me, and I realized that the prayer I’d written for our friends at La Trinidad was in many ways a prayer for myself: “that they will be able to enter into the next few days with ready hearts.”

Now, on the other side of the retreat, I am grateful for the ways God took my little and reminded me that he is enough. Our plans were used and changed and shared in ways that we didn’t always understand, but they did not return empty. So many of us were privileged to see many at La Trinidad share their stories in new and vulnerable ways. There was weeping and rejoicing, celebration and struggle.

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We also discovered that the Hanke family knows a thing or two about llamas

As we reflected on the story of the woman weeping at Jesus’ feet, I shared with our small group that as I imagined myself in her place, there was an overwhelming sense that the need for healing was greater than the weight of shame that could leave her (me) isolated and alone – that risking the judgment of the people watching was worth the relief that would come from Jesus’ grace.

 

This is my benediction: Your faith has saved you; go in peace

~Eva-Elizabeth

RILA and Matthew 25

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The Restoration Immigration Legal Aid (RILA) team is excited to announce that RILA has received a $25,000 matching grant from the Matthew 25 Initiative. This initiative started with a vision from Archbishop Foley Beach and his desire to use a generous grant from an anonymous donor to help churches reach the poor and needy in their communities.

These granted funds will enable RILA to hire a part-time Program Manager to expand and solidify the work already being done. It will also provide a small stipend to RILA’s Intake Coordinator.

Currently, RILA is serving over 50 immigrant families, most of whom are seeking asylum. This is hard work, requiring patience, perseverance, and dedication.  In each case, the RILA team invests time to build relationships with our clients and their families, many of whom have stories of trauma that led to their being here in the United States. In fact, many immigrant families that RILA represents fled their home countries within days or weeks of having their lives – or their children’s lives – threatened. In some cases, they had already been harmed and were  forced to leave to avoid being harmed further.

A handful of RILA clients are children who journeyed to the United States alone, fleeing imminent violence in their neighborhoods.  The RILA team is committed to walking alongside immigrant families and advocating on their behalf.  Though the stories we hear are heartbreaking, RILA has begun to see some successes.  However, we also believe we are successful as we listen well to our client’s stories and show compassion, in the name and way of Jesus.

We are SO thankful for the large and diverse group of volunteers at Restoration that enable this work to be done. We are continually humbled and inspired by our volunteers’ hard work and willing hearts.  Working together as the church to accomplish the enormous task of running a neighborhood immigration legal aid clinic is such a joy for all of us.  From praying to note taking to providing hospitality and translation, each RILA case is surely a team effort, demonstrating the body of Christ serving Restoration’s neighbors in need.

Support RILA here to help us meet our match!

If you are interested in learning more about RILA or getting involved, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are specifically looking for volunteers with fundraising experience, as the Matthew 25 initiative grant is a matching one. But translators, attorneys, researchers and general clinic volunteers are always welcome! Our holistic vision is to join God in the renewal of all things and to witness the transformative power of loving and serving our neighbors through giving immigration legal aid to the immigrant families in our neighborhoods. We’d love to have you join us on this journey!

You can learn more about the clinic here.

With thanks from the RILA team.

 

AFAC fun!

20170709_215356Summer fun….and with a good cause!  Come join us this Sunday to pick up fresh produce from the Columbia Pike Farmer’s Market and then sort it and bag it to give at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).  Great opportunity to meet people, get a free bright green t-shirt, and check out some fruit and veggies. 12:15pm- 3:30pm.

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0e4ea5ac23a2f94-afac2

 

Incarnation … curious?

19225076_10155001833148600_7716981644433032854_nHopefully it is no secret to you by now that Restoration Anglican Church has begun the process of planting a new community in south Arlington! Incarnation Anglican (this new church plant) will be spending quality time together over the summer playing and praying. We’d love for you to join us for some of the events that are happening over the next several months.

We want you to know what things will be happening, so here are a few ways to stay informed:

Google Calendar

Below you will find our calendar embedded (this will eventually be embedded on our website). You can subscribe below to our calendar:

Google Group

We regularly send out info about events and ways that you can be praying for Incarnation Anglican. If you would like to receive these emails let us know here.

Facebook and Website

Like us on Facebook. We will be using Facebook to post pics and discuss informal get togethers. We have not fully designed our website, but stay tuned, it’s coming….

~Morgan, Liz and Amy

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.

Be Still and Know: Wednesday 04/19/2017, 7.30pm

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We don’t like being still. We do not like doing what could be interpreted as nothing or inactive. We don’t like being silent. We want to take action, save the world, speak up for ourselves. We don’t like practicing silence. We want to fill the void, and our mind quickly rushes through to-do lists and other things we forgot to remember. It is difficult for us to allow 15-30 seconds of silence during prayer time at church for the time of confession before we say the corporate confession. Silence, being still and being silent is just awkward and seems like a waste of time and space, especially when there are so many other more meaningful things we could be doing or doing more efficiently. And yet, we are told in scripture to be still.

Psalm 46:10 is the reference for the recognizable “Be still and know that I am God.” The context of Psalm 46 is anything but still and silent and peaceful. Instead the earth gives way, waters rage, mountains move. There is great turmoil here! And yet God is in the midst of the disquiet; “a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). God it there and he is there in a powerful a way.  The focus of this Psalm is not on us, the reader, but on the power of the Lord. Only a few actions are given to describe our stance in this tumultuous scene: we are to not fear, behold the works of the Lord, to recognize his presence with us, to be still and know he is God. But, on the whole, these are not “active” words in the way we normally think of action; they are words of waiting and trust, words that are reflective and dependent on the power and action of another.  Our action is to pause, to watch, to listen, to be in the Lord’s presence and see what action the Lord is doing and what action he might call us to take with him.

Does this Psalm sound familiar? Do you hear the psalm whispering in Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4: 35-41)? The disciples are on the boat and the waters are raging, their world seemingly collapsing. The voice of the Lord cries out once again “BE STILL” and speaks to their fear (“Why are you so afraid?”).  The interaction leaves the disciples with a question to recognize God’s presence with them (“Who then is this…?”) and behold his works (“… that even the wind and the sea obey him?”).  And the passage encourages them forward to know him and have faith.

Do you hear the Psalm whispering in your own life? Our lives are neither still nor silent and we don’t want to to be silent about it. Sometimes our lives feel like they are in a state of crisis, sometimes we are seeking to discern a certain topic and questioning, and sometimes things are going OK.  Wherever you may be, there is an invitation to pray and simply be in the Lord’s presence, to discern what the Lord may be speaking to you, and to give an intentional space for him to speak.   images

Come practice being still and knowing he is God with us. On Wednesday, April 19 from 7:30 -9 p.m. Restoration will be open for a time of silent, contemplative prayer. Bring your questions, bring your weary not-so-silent heart, bring yourself. We practice silence because we want to be in his presence.  We practice silence because we need to know more of who he is and what he would speak to us.  We practice silence because we recognise that we are dependent on his action.

Come, and see what the Lord might speak to you.

~Lauren and the Prayer team

Quiet Time Redefined: a midweek Eucharist homily

imagesA little over two years ago I was slowly emerging out of survival mode.  I had my first child the previous year and life beyond diapers and nursing was starting to appear again.  While at the playground one morning, one of my dear friends bravely asked me the challenging question that had been plaguing me in my own consciousness for months postpartum:

What do you do for your quiet time?

Quiet time, that phrase I grew up with in my conservative, evangelical Christian home that stood for the time you set aside to spend with God through bible reading and prayer, to practice being in God’s presence.  I was honest with her and told her that “right now nothing much I’m just trying to survive motherhood, little sleep and working part time.” I asked her what she did. She told me about an app on her phone and we moved on in our conversation.  But I still felt the condemnation and weight of shame over not having a better status report.

If she had asked me pre-kid I would have had a glowing response but now all I had was “nothing much” and a healthy dose of guilt regarding my lack of quiet time.  I knew it was important and something that I should do as a “good” Christian, and that in fact by not doing it I was robbing myself of opportunities for God to minister to my weary heart.  Especially in the midst of such an important transition in my life- motherhood- and the new responsibilities that it entails.

I don’t think this shame over a lack of quiet time is limited to the experience of being a mother.  I’ve experienced this feeling before especially at other points of transition: when I started college, started into the working world, got married, climbed up the success ladder at work.  We are- as Erica put it beautifully several weeks ago- “in the midst” of many situations, seasons and demands on our time and energy.  How can we maintain a relationship with God when we are “in the midst” of so much with seemingly no time and a burden of shame from not living up to a Christian ideal?

After the conversation with my friend, I started attending a bible study and was challenged by a statement from the leader. She very honestly and candidly told our group of moms:

You are more in control of your time than you think you are.

I was incredulous. Doesn’t she realize how hard it is to do what I do and that I have no time? I’m lucky if I can get away by myself just to get a shower most days!   But then my heart softened and I realized her point. Yes my life is very full and sporadic at the moment. But I do still have a modicum of control.  I do still have time, even if it is very little, to give to something.  

I am encouraged afresh by the parable of the woman with the mite (Mark 12:41-44), or as it is in the ESV, the two small copper coins. Usually when I’ve heard this passage discussed it has to do with tithing but I think it can also be understood beyond monetary devotion to describe the offering of ourselves. The woman gave two mites which we are told were worth essentially nothing in that culture. We are also told that she is a poor widow, again, something that was worth essentially nothing in that culture.  And yet Jesus praises this picture of sacrifice and worship because this seemingly insignificant amount that she gave was all that she had to live on, all that she had to give for her seemingly insignificant life to exist.  And it was not worth nothing to her; it was costly and significant to her (2 Samuel 24:18:25).

The Lord knows how much time I have in my day. How I chose to squander it in escapism on my phone or by submerging myself in my part time job.  How I relish it with a nice shower or quality time with my husband and kids. How I choose to sleep rather than do the dishes not out of slothfulness but out of necessity. And He knows that when I choose to give him my seemingly insignificant block of fifteen minutes of undivided attention that maybe all I have to give that day. And it is costly to me.  And he loves it and rejoices in it.  The Lord sees the heart; my intentional gift matters, not because of the quantity or size of it, but because I am freely giving this costly gift and He wants to be with me.

The point I am trying to express is not the need to make time in and of itself, creating another legalistic check list for shame.  The point of carving out this time is to be with Jesus; talking to him, listening to him, just being with him.   Quiet time and devotions are terms that carry a lot of guilt and shame baggage because it has become a place of legalism in the Christian community.   Kristen Terry beautifully liberated many of us during the women’s retreat by encouraging us to consider changing the way we talk about spending time with God. She told us, simply and plainly, in the moments we spend with the Lord to:

Just allow God to love you

That’s all quiet time is supposed to be about anyway, not our achievement or failure of completing another check off our list.

May we not forget the intent of quiet time in the first place and confuse the execution of this discipline as the means of grace.  Quiet times are a tool to connect us with our loving God who wants to hear from you and speak to you.  I believe the Lord would look us in the face, look me in the face and simply say:

I just want to be with you, whatever that looks like right now, and love on you.

God knows our crazy lives. He knows how much time we actually do or do not have. He loves you and wants to be with you. Come to Him free from shame with whatever offering of time you may have to give and allow Him to love you in it.

~ Lauren L.

Need some time and space to spend some time with the Lord? Join us on Wednesday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. for a time of silent, contemplative prayer.  Bring a Bible, journal, blanket/jacket and an expectant heart.  

 

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