Balancing Work and Ministry

b0581004-3a90-47e7-b921-343262e04d7f.jpg

Mother Teresa once encouraged us that God does not call us to be successful, but to be faithful. As a CORE Member of The Simple Way, neighboring is very important to me. But most of the time I feel like I’m failing, priorities falling through the cracks between my finite fingers as if I were desperately trying to hold onto sand. Sometimes I’d rather forget it all and Netflix myself into oblivion. Can you relate?

In my situation, I work full-time at a nearby Christian health center. The work has been deeply meaningful, and also challenging. As a Behavioral Health Consultant, I’ve been able to learn conversational Spanish, accompany patients through life’s difficulties, and pray with others.

At the same time, the job is very emotionally draining and takes up so much of my days. I’m not able to spend as much time with neighbors and friends anymore. It’s like logistical Tetris trying to also fit in spiritual practices, self-care, and prophetic activities to resist systemic sin and injustice.

Whether you’re trying to manage full-time work, parenting, care-taking, chronic illness, a disability, or any other life situation that makes you feel limited, it can seem like you’re never doing enough. Meanwhile, other people appear to have it all together, maintaining a full life while looking flawless doing it, curated by social media.

There’s probably resources you can find that teaches strategies for time management, organization, and other life skills that I haven;t figured out yet. But I sense God beckoning me to turn away from the individualistic, performance-oriented mentality prevalent in our culture so that I can focus on God’s loving presence in my day to day, whether I’m at the clinic or on my block.

By being fully present in the moment, attuned to God’s voice and movements, I can gain clarity on how God is inviting me to join in. 

We are not our own, but part of the Body of Christ. In The Message, Romans reads, “Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. Let’s be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t."

By being true to our limited, finite selves, we remember that our significance does not come from our individual achievements, but from being lovingly woven into the larger story of God’s redeeming work in this world.

Maybe someday my Google calendar will be perfectly cataloged with color-coordinated blocks of intention. But for now, I’ll be content in remaining open to the invitations that lie in every greeting from a neighbor, each tear shed by a patient at work, and every interaction God meets me with daily.

- Sueihn Lee, CORE Member of The Simple Way

Anniversary: Miracle on Potter Street

IMG-0190 (1).JPG

They all heard the thud. Moans followed. Chrissy Kind, a long-time supporter of The Simple Way, had gone upstairs after “the worst headache of her life” struck.

The plaintive sound was unusual; Chrissy was known as an energetic pillar of The Simple Way’s support team. “It’s a very special place for me,” she says, “It just embodies what the gospel should be. It’s so clear who Jesus cares about, and we need to stand up and make space for people whose voices are ignored. The Simple Way is a story of beauty out of ashes. It’s the gospel. God takes a little bit of what we have to offer and returns it a hundred fold.” She says earnestly, “We all give our little bit, and God returns it sevenfold.”

In the midst of the moaning, Caz, Mike Diaz, Chrissy’s sister, Valerie, and brother-in-law Andy  looked at each other awkwardly, uncertain of what to do. Valerie, Andy, and Chrissy had gathered at The Simple Way to do a site visit on behalf of the Patricia Kind Family Foundation. Chrissy’s mother, Patricia Kind, had always encouraged her children to visit and emotionally support the organizations they gave to financially. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Chrissy had come to hear from The Simple Way staff. Unbeknownst to them, though, she was lying on the bathroom floor, a burst brain aneurysm pushing her out of consciousness.

Chrissy has few recollections of the event. “I remember sitting down, and that’s pretty much it. But God had His hand on me, and He had it happen at a time when all the people I knew and loved were close by and praying.”

Eventually, Valerie went to look for her sister. Although the door was locked, Chrissy somehow managed to open it. Valerie looked into the bathroom and saw her sister passed out on the floor. Immediately, she sprang into action and called for help. Within minutes, an ambulance and Chrissy’s other sister, Laura, a nurse practitioner who “just happened” to be  working around the corner in Kensington at the Catholic Worker Free Health Clinic, arrived on the scene. The medics quickly intubated Chrissy, ensuring that her brain never lost oxygen.

As she left, the stunned staff team immediately started praying for protection, healing, and life as they awaited updates. Their prayers commingled with those of Chrissy’s church, Epiphany Fellowship Philadelphia, which was holding a prayer meeting that night. The leader of the prayer meeting knew Chrissy; she had taken care of his kids before, they had been on retreats together. He started weeping as he led the meeting, and the church poured out supplication for Chrissy.

It’s been exactly one year since that whirlwind event. Miraculously, Chrissy shows no lasting physical effects from the aneurysm, apart from difficulty remembering names and details. “That could just be because I’m sixty-two years old and kinda spacey to begin with,” Chrissy suggests.

She chalks up the extraordinary healing to the prayers of so many people and to God’s mercy. “I got out of rehab really quickly and had a few follow-up appointments. The doctors wanted to bottle whatever it was that had healed me; but it was really just Jesus.” She continues soberly, “God decided that he wasn’t taking me home yet. At the same time, I know others younger than me who have died. In God’s mercy and wisdom He makes these decisions. It made me think that God must still have something for me.”

Chrissy believes that a big part of that “something” means sharing with  people experiencing material poverty. “I grew up with educated parents, wealth, white privilege. It’s nothing I earned or merited. My dad always said that we had to do what we could to help others.” She chuckled and shared one of her favorite quotes. “He always used to say ‘don’t take credit for a home run when you were born on third base.’”

At The Simple Way, we get to see home runs, miracles, and sevenfold return in Kensington. While not every day features a miracle like the one we got to experience with Chrissy, each one does feature the miracle to which Chrissy alludes: God’s ability to weave Shalom out of the gifts that diverse people bring. We’re so thankful that God returned Chrissy to us, and are thrilled to celebrate God’s faithfulness one year after it occured. Indeed, God still has something for us to do, and we are honored to faithfully follow.

Laying the Foundation

An excavator lies still at the site of Esperanza Health Center’s forthcoming parking structure.

An excavator lies still at the site of Esperanza Health Center’s forthcoming parking structure.

Work is well underway at the bank building nearby, the building that Esperanza Health Center will move into in the spring. They’ve now turned to digging huge holes in the ground and preparing to lay the foundations for what will be a parking structure.

I’ve stood watching diggers dig, move dirt, rubble and and all sorts of debris from the remains of the buildings that once stood in the same spot over ten years ago. It’s strange to survey this liminal space, remembering what was and imagining what will be, even though the space currently houses nothing but machinery and holes.

As I’ve watched, I’ve thought about how the process reveals some of the hidden realities of life. First, there’s always more under the surface than you think. Second, it seems true that the weakness or strength of any structure hinges on its foundation. The foundation supports the load of the entire building, keeps it standing when forces of nature come to wreak havoc, and it keeps ground moisture at bay to protect the structure’s integrity. If the foundation fails in any of these areas, the building will sag, putting anyone inside, and structures around it, in danger. 

The Simple Way has met a lot of immediate needs for folks over the years, but the longer we’ve been here, the more we’ve looked for ways to support neighbors in finding greater stability. This stability comes through access. Access to food, healthcare, safe and affordable housing, and places of belonging. Each of these represents a crucial elements of stability, a foundation upon which neighbors can build a full life. As part of our communal life here in Kensington, we seek to find sustainable ways for neighbors to meet those needs with dignity, a way for them to lay a firm foundation in their lives.

Sometimes The Simple Way feels like a construction zone, too. But as I stand here, holding memories of what has been and hopes of what will be, I smile at the small ways we are contributing to the long-term strengthening of our neighborhood.