I'm really hesitant about posting this story because I know it will make some people uncomfortable, and I hate doing that. But I've adamantly avoided this aspect of my life thus far in the blog for fear of coming across a certain way or alienating people who don't believe the way I do, and I've decided recently that's not fair, not to me and not to God. This is what my life is about, more than the adventures and hilarity, and I'd really like to write about it.
I recently joined the homeless ministry at Jubilee, Jehoveh Jireh. My natural instinct was to run to the children's ministry, but I was afraid that I'd get burnt out on children if I had to work with them on Sundays too, so I found another place to serve. I missed the soup kitchen excursion last weekend because I was at Everland, but yesterday morning, they had a prayer walk at Seoul Station. I'd done prayer walks in college, and they always consisted of a group of people wandering around in circles talking to God and each other. Pretty non-threatening activity, really. When I got to the station, the Jehoveh Jireh ministry divided up the group into teams, and each team had a Korean speaker. I thought that was kind of odd, but it turns out I had misunderstood the whole game. We each took two vitamin drink things (they're a huge deal here, but I honestly can't figure out why) and set out in teams of three to hand them out. This was still a good plan; I like having something tangible to say "God loves you in a practical way" (which is why the Vineyard and I got along so well). The instructions were to wait for God's prompting and ask people if they wanted us to pray for them when we gave them the drinks. I was honestly pretty relieved; no matter who I picked to give my drink to, Miji would be the one doing the talking since she was the one who spoke Korean. My reluctance toward being faithful is such a shame.
We walked down the street and handed out a few of our drinks, but when we passed a guy sleeping on a curb, all three of us knew that we wanted to go talk to him. Miji gently shook him, but the guy was out. An ajuma (a middle-aged Korean woman, typically found wearing work-out gear and a large visor) stepped up and grabbed his arm, shouting "they have something for you!" in Korean. The man woke up confused, and Miji proudly offered him a drink, confusing him even more. As he came to grips with his surroundings, Miji asked him if there was anything he'd like prayer for. This is where I always start to become uncomfortable. Prayer is such an important part of my life, and the lives of so many of my friends, but I've somehow convinced myself that unless you're "crazy Christian" like we are, prayer is offensive. I have no idea where this idea came from, and I'm completely embarrassed to admit it, but there it is. So this man told us that he hadn't seen his parents in years, and he was worried that they were no longer alive. He asked us to pray that his family was safe and that one day he would be reunited with them. This is where Korean style of prayer is convenient; we all prayed for him at the same time, so I didn't have that awkward moment where I tried to come up with the floweriest words to impress the other Christians (are we all this insecure, I wonder?). After we finished, Dan said he felt like we should lead the man through the sinner's prayer.
If offering prayer makes me uncomfortable, offering the sinner's prayer makes me want to dig a hole and hide in it. For those of you reading who aren't familiar with Christian lingo, the sinner's prayer is essentially a declaration of faith. You admit that God loves you but that you have sinned, and that the only way to reconcile yourself with God is through the sacrifice of Christ. It's really simple, and the words themselves don't matter as much as the heart behind them. I've never had anyone throw daggers at me for offering the sinner's prayer, so I don't really know why I'm so afraid of it, but when Dan suggested it, the first thing that went through my mind was "oh man, why'd you have to go and ruin it?" I waited for the man to jump up and storm off, shouting Korean curses at the Christians who were too pushy in their faith... instead, his eyes lit up and he nodded, like we had offered him the thing he had been missing his whole life. Miji directed him in what to say, and even though I didn't understand the language, I knew exactly what she was telling him. When he finished, he reached up and took off the black hood he had kept wrapped around his head the whole time we were talking, almost as if he knew the beauty in the symbolism of the act. We talked with him a few more minutes, and my one regret is that we didn't leave him with a connection point - a church, a shelter, a something where he could learn more about the God he had just professed faith in. But even though we forgot, God won't, and he's taking care of that man today too.
The moment we got to our feet, another man approached us. He told Miji that he saw we were praying and wanted us to pray for him as well. He walked into the shade and knelt down with his hands pressed together in front of his chest like a little child and waited for us to pray for him. It was almost surreal.
I don't know where I got the idea that only Christians are interested in God. In the years leading up to my becoming a Christian, my journals are full of desperate cries that there must be more to this life than what I was seeing. I remember writing poem after poem (I was really into poetry in high school - and terrible at it) about needing there to be something else to live for, something more than money or popularity or grades. I remember begging the universe for some kind of sign that there was something out there to make life worthwhile. When did I forget how desperately I needed God before I found him? I'm not naive enough to believe that everyone I know is sitting around writing poorly constructed poetry to the night sky, but I also shouldn't think that everyone who wants to know God already does. If it weren't for the people who patiently listened while I pompously explained how their God is a fairy tale but whined that life had no meaning, I wouldn't be where I am today. I think I've become so consumed with wanting to seem "normal" even though I love God that I've tucked that part of my life into a little folder for Sunday mornings. I've convinced myself that no one ever wants to talk about God with a Christian (and sadly, sometimes that is true) because I don't want to seem pushy or turn someone off. But every single person, whether they declare it proudly or keep it bottled up, has wrestled with the "God" issue and come to some kind of conclusion, and most people like to talk about things they've decided on. I don't believe at all in the US Government, but I'll talk about it, even with a politician should the opportunity arise. So why wouldn't people feel the same way about God?
I guess I'm learning that God is moving in everyone's life, even the ones that don't know it yet. I'm not going to turn my blog into some kind of sermon series, but I'm also not going to ignore the ways I see God working anymore. The other day, I was talking with a guy, and I asked him what he was passionate about. He started talking about healthy foods, how he believes that if you eat the right combination of foods, you'll find inner peace. I listened politely, but all I could think was "Keep your carrot sticks, baby. I've got a living God."