There are things in life that you can prepare yourself to embrace. For instance, I know that every time we leave our house and get off of the dirt road onto the cobblestone road, I will be shaken back and forth in the car. I brace myself for this. I can’t always prepare for things like the man walking down the cobblestone road carrying what looks like a dead body which ends up being an upside down mannequin legs. Yes, that happened yesterday and caught me by surprise!
Along with Mr. Malagasy legs, we received some news about a family situation that we couldn’t have prepared for. We prayed and things seem to have resolved thankfully, but in the moment you receive bad news, you aren’t always prepared .
Yesterday, we were prepared to go visit this nearby tourist area where they have animals, mainly reptiles. There are hundreds of crocodiles there in various ponds for their various sizes. There are all kinds and sizes of chameleons and you can even find lemurs! We were lucky enough to see 5 sifika type lemurs. They are so neat and come close if you feed them ripe guavas from the surrounding trees. I was a bit hesitant to feed them because they reach out and grab the fruit from your hands, but I successfully fed them and I was glad that I did.
What I was unprepared for was divinely meeting about 15 young Malagasy adults. It was obvious from our passing by these young people that they were quite friendly. They greeted us and were laughing and having a good time. The only Malagasy word I caught was Facebook (that counts right?! ;) ). When we were about to exit the park, we both felt strongly that we were to interact further with them and invite them to the young adult services we are working with. When we asked if they were university students, they were quick to inform us that they were in fact artists :-) We shared how we just noticed they were young adults and we were working with university age students and wanted to invite them to a Christian meeting. They quickly cut Stephen off and pointed to the only two males in the group and said, “but they are gay”. Stephen replied, “that’s ok, Jesus loves gay people”. Then the conversations began. They invited us to sit down with them while they indulged in liquor mixed with cokes, juices, and we drank water :) For a moment a few of them tested us with several questions and in their Malagasy mindsets, they wanted to know what KIND of Christians we were. We shared that we had relationship with Jesus and that it wasn’t about being religious, but pursuing Him with all aspects of our lives. They were curious and kept refilling our water cups while offering us to share their food that came. We talked about all of their arts of singing, performing, designing and of course the ever so interesting dance moves our brother displayed for us.
I LOVE my generation and I see such similarities in the “youth culture” around the world. These particular Malagasy 20-somethings were obviously wealthy, well clothed and all portrayed different drastic fashion statements which varies from the youth I’ve met so far. My heart broke as I heard some stories of theirs. Normally I wouldn’t feel awkward and out of place talking to other 20 somethings, but with the language barrier, I found myself smiling and making eye contact as if I understood and would wait for Stephen’s sometimes translations. Here were young people so freely opening their hearts, time, fellowship and food with us without any hesitation. I hoped we were just as welcoming and loving.
As we were excusing ourselves and about to depart this crocodile farm, they decided they would leave with their new “America” friends as they said…not AmericaN. Turns out that they had all crammed in one vehicle and asked if we drive a few of them up to the main road. So we obliged hoping for future conversations with a few of them. In came two very strong personality girls and the two young men. Conversations and questions of America, self-worth, and finding God filled our car as we winded down the bumpy red dirt road to the cement tarmac. Hunger filled their eyes and I pray that they saw a glimpse that Jesus’ love is real. As we dropped them off at a local pizza place, we got out of the car and said goodbyes and I exchanged Facebook information with one of the girls.
We drove away and our hearts broke more for our generation. More for the lost. More for the hurting. More for the ones who don’t feel welcome in the “church”. Ones who are desperate to find their identity in the One who created them, but don’t know how. I wasn’t prepared for meeting them, but I’m glad that on an afternoon date with my husband, that my paths crossed theirs. I pray we meet again and that I meet more like them in the days ahead. I want to find the orange dyed hair, skinny jean wearing, smoking, drinking, cussing, sinful young people and show them that Jesus is for them and has created them unique. That these “artists” were in fact created by the greatest Artist of all. That there is freedom from sin and destruction in their lives and love and acceptance in the love of Christ.
Sometimes my life is one hot mess. That day I’d only slept for a couple of hours. Even if I could speak French or Malagasy, I’m sure I would’ve forgotten that day. I couldn’t do much in that situation, but I could love. It would be easy to just look at their lives and say that they were a hot mess. It’s easy to judge, but harder to interact. The reality is that the church, or body of Christ at large can be one hot mess at times too. We don’t have it all together and often we’re so isolated from those in the world that we don’t even know how to say hi to a young gay guy showing off his dance moves. This shouldn’t be so. We are to be Jesus’ hands, feet, and voice in this earth. The gospel isn’t just words, but actions. We as “christians” are “little Christs”, Jesus’ only hope for His love to manifest in this world. May our hearts be broken for these ones. In the midst of everyone else’s agendas, may we have the agenda of Christ…”to seek and save that which was lost.”
Here is a paraphrase post I saw from speaker and author Christine Cain, who spoke at ORU last night…
“If a baby is brought out of the womb before it’s time, that baby has to be on life support for an extended period of time just to keep him or her alive. Likewise, the church in its origination was divinely designed to thrive in the womb of the world as we were connected to the umbilical cord of the Holy Spirit, giving us the life we needed. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line we as a church left the womb of the world where we were meant to flourish as salt and light, and now we have countless churches across the world who are simply on ‘life support’.”
Lord, help us get back in the womb.