When Vicki and I aren’t working from the G.O. office state-side or doing life in the inner city of Louisville, Kentucky we’re enjoying our time serving on the field in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. That time spent on the field amounts to over 3 of the last 9 years. Our roles with the ministry allow us to be hybrids in a lot of different and exciting ways. One of our roles on the field is to help facilitate short-term teams and to introduce North American Christians to an experience in Christian service that has deep implications for their lives once they return back home. The experience of serving on the ministry field in the developing world alongside local brothers and sisters in the faith can radically deepen discipleship, broaden one’s vision of God’s Kingdom and the implications of its global nature, cultivate a life of worshipful self-sacrifice in the service of others for the sake of the Kingdom and simply encourage one to become radically generous with all of their resources. In short, a short-term service experience can be utterly transformative for those that come down and serve. That’s mine and Vicki’s story.
We want to introduce a series of entries that we will be offering from time to time called “Pieces of Cane.” The sugar industry in the Dominican Republic can easily be characterized as unjust. We’ve written about it before and highlighted some of our work there with G.O. One night we were with a team on their way out of the country the next day. We were helping them debrief regarding their week with us. I noticed a glowing in the distance, right off of the coast. There was a field ablaze. Sugar cane was being prepped for harvest. Cane fields are thick and the cane can grow as high as 15 feet. The thick leaves form sharp blades that can easily cut you if you try to move through them. In order to harvest the cane many workers will light a field on fire so that it quickly burns off the leaves. The fire burns so quickly that it only consumes the leaves. What remains is what’s valuable, the cane itself. Now harvesting with the machete is much “easier” than it would have been before.
Serving on a short-term trip can be like lighting your spiritual field on fire. When you dedicate a week of your life to silence everything but how you feel God is calling you to serve all of the junk that has accumulated in your life that has made a claim on you and has made navigating your own heart cumbersome burns up like the grass blades of the sugar cane almost overnight. What is left as the smoke clears is that thing in the field that is the most valuable: the cane itself, ready to be harvested, refined and put to use.
That piece of cane discovered on the trip can look different for every team member coming down to serve. Some of us have entire fields that are revealed to us that we can spend the rest of our lives working out what it means to harvest, refine and make useful. There are common themes, basic lessons that are the same across the board, but there are also things revealed and discovered that God leads us to that are only our own, specific to the story God is telling in us for his Glory. To experience this kind of fire together makes us a stronger, deeper community of God’s people. Harvesting our cane together allows us to be sharpened by each other’s stories, embodying more faithfully that grace called the Church.
So we want to begin sharing with you some of our own “Pieces of Cane.” We’ve learned many lessons from the field that have very much shaped who we are, how we understand the Gospel and how we desire to live faithfully towards the Kingdom based on what we’ve learned. We’ve also learned that there’s much that we still haven’t learned though we’ve had the same lesson over and over again. Essentially, that means that we’re still learning, that the smoke is still clearing for us. And we share so that you may be encouraged, that we can all be challenged and that we can celebrate God’s story being told in us.
Peace be with you,