"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
This week Facebook reminded me that three years ago I finally finished reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. I’ve always loved the stories and movies but what gripped me the most of that particular book was this quote:
I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?
‘Such questions cannot be answered,’ said Gandalf. ‘You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not posses: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength, and heart and wits as you have.’
As Gandalf encouraged Frodo about the task before him, so too God encourages us in a time such as this. Things come before us that may seem daunting, and to people around us it may indeed appear as if we are unfit for the challenge. However…because of Jesus, because of what he has done for us on the cross and because God calls us his children…with His guidance, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts He’s given us, we can pursue what He lays before us despite our feelings of inadequacy! Thank you Lord for this reminder, of how even in our weakness you give us strength!
Five years ago today I loaded all my belongings onto my Honda CR-V and my Mom’s Explorer, and road-tripped with her, my aunt, and at the time 2 year-old cousin from Brownsville to Austin. It’s funny to think about those two vehicles because neither of us have them anymore…anyway…
I was SO happy to be on my way back to the city that I loved after a 4-year hiatus. The uncertainty of what was going to happen was exciting to think about. The only things that were certain at the time was that I would be an AP US History and on-level US History teacher at Hyde Park High School, and that I would live with Sadie and Natasha at Le Montreux apartments off of Steck and MoPac. I had no idea what church I was going to go to, who would be my friends (my college buddies were pretty much gone), but even everything that was “certain” changed drastically. The week before school started I was given extra subjects to teach, I left Le Montreux apartments after 11 months to live in a completely different neighborhood and context (4 years at St. John and going strong!), and I ended up going to the church that at first I thought was not for me.
Between then and now there has been a TON of live music, good food, and a growth in how I care for my health, but this last decision of going to the Austin Stone has changed my life radically. At the ASCC I have met people that have guided me in my walk, that have been with me in joys, and that have also lifted me up in trials and pain. In these five years I have learned more about God and about myself than ever before. During this time there have been things I have been hoping for that have not happened yet, but I have also have received gifts that I had not expected whatsoever (like my job at RBI!) I have been so fearful and anxious on what was to come, but through the Lord’s love and him speaking through my brothers and sisters at the Austin Stone I have constantly been reminded that he is a loving and gracious God that never changes. This morning as I read Psalm 138, I thought about how I could truly say that I’ve lived out every verse these last five years, and my prayer is that in these next five, ten, twenty and more years my trust and hope will always be in the Lord who will continue fulfilling his purpose for me, and whose love endures forever.
It just hit me. After almost a year of doing what I do it honestly just hit me.
I manage relationships. That’s what I do.
“Mentor Coordinator” is just a title for – make sure people see each other and still like/love each other.
I mean, it’s SO much more than that obviously, but when all is said and done, I manage relationships. And it’s HARD.
People have baggage.
People have problems.
I’m such a heart person that if I allow myself, I can easily become overwhelmed by all the darkness that may cloud relationships. I can easily forget that it’s OK if not everything is ok. I am not the fixer of all things. Yes, I will work hard, persevere, love, and encourage. But I am not the Savior.
Only Jesus is. Only Jesus is the Restorer of all things, the one that will make all things right. The one that will come back one day and fix all the messy things around me – the pain of abandonment, the exhaustion of pursuing to no avail, the feeling that we’ll never be enough. (Revelation 21:5)
I manage relationships, but he RESTORES relationships. I will persevere, but my ultimate hope is in Jesus, whose yoke is easy and burden is light (Matthew 11:30). The mighty one who truly saves.
On the first week of June, one of our mentors and I headed to Pickle Elementary for their field day. It was held the day before the last day of school and the excitement and energy was palpable throughout the gym. Voices laughing, feet jumping, arms flailing. Carter* and I were waiting for Junior’s* class to arrive so we could join him in all the fun that is bouncy houses and cup-stacking. His class finally did arrive, and we walked over to the first station where his class would participate. I stayed there for a couple of minutes and walked off to spend time with some of our other mentees. When I came back to Junior’s station 10 minutes later, I couldn’t see him but then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was him. He didn’t say a word, but gave me his shy, tight-lip smile then pointed to his mentor Carter, who was sitting on the gym floor with legs crossed, chatting up Junior’s buddies. “I know!” I exclaimed, “He came here to see you! Are you happy he’s here?” Still silent, he just nodded yes and walked off to join his mentor and buddies. My heart was soaring. This boy has been a tough nut to crack and is not very expressive, but this quiet excitement that he exuded – all because of his mentor being there – is something that I will never forget.
Boy #2: A Quiet Boy Makes a Hit.
This last weekend I was able to attend a baseball game of one of our three teams with RBI Mentees. This team in particular is our youngest group – 10U Baseball. One of the boys on the team, Alejandro*, has always been quiet. From day one in our mentoring program it’s been hard to have him open up, smile, and show confidence. It’s no different on the field. I love him with all my heart but it’s no secret that he is highly insecure on the field. It was the bottom of their last inning, and my sweet boys were losing pretty bad. 10-0 to be exact. Ouch, I know. Anyway, bottom of the inning, bases loaded, the mentee team is batting. And who is up to bat? My boy Alejandro. With no hits yet. He would even barely swing a bat. First pitch – strike. Second pitch – ball. Third pitch – it’s a hit! He swings hard and he hits it! He hits it so well it goes way into the outfield and the opposing team has a hard time sending it back in! All three of his teammates make it home, the rest that are in the dug out jump from the bench and start cheering! He made it! He got his first hit! He’s finally all smiles and when the game ended a few minutes later, his teammates gave him high-fives and praised him for a job well done. I loved this so much; I loved that he was the one that turned that zero into a three. Praying this boy will one day gain confidence not from sports, but from the one that calls us enough – Jesus.
*All names have been changed to protect the identity of the children and mentors.
Today all around the United States people are remembering those heroes that were lost in honor of defending their country. Today I am also remembering, but I’m remembering a different kind of loss that is still raw, and that seems to never end.
Let me back track a bit – A couple of weeks ago at our staff meeting, the Story Team presented some completed projects they had been working on. Towards the end of that session the lead story teller Steven Bush encouraged us to get in small groups and share our own. Even though my story of immigration and how the drug violence has affected my family and I came to my mind, I thought it was too much to share, that I should just hold back. After a few moments I decided to go against those feelings and just go for it. One of the individuals in my group was Tracey who works in the maintenance team of our church. As I was sharing I noticed that he was crying; I honestly thought that it was only because he had a sensitive heart. I was crying…he started crying…you get it. A few minutes after I shared I had to slip out because I had another meeting I had to attend, so I didn’t get to hear all of my group’s stories. The next day, however, my coworker Lyndsey that was also in my small discussion group told me something that I did NOT expect.
“Bitia, I’m SO glad you shared your story.” She then elaborated. “Tracey was noticeably upset and unable to share with the group until after another story was shared. It was then that Tracey shared that he was really touched by your story. He had not thought of how Mexicans have been impacted by the things that happen with crossing the border. He felt sad because he has made unkind and racist comments about Mexicans needing to go back to their country. After your story, he better understood that this was not a way he needed to respond with people who are different than him. That the situations in some of the border cities are so difficult that our country – which really all countries are God’s countries – should be welcoming to all people because we don’t know their stories. Tracey felt that he has been welcomed by God so he should welcome others.”
All of these situations have really made me yearn for home. But to be honest, I’m yearning for a home that no longer exists. One with a freedom and peace that is no longer there. Every time something violent happens I wish I were with my family but all I can do is pray. Pray and remind myself that in the middle of all this the enemy is having a field day with our pain. In the middle of this he wants us to steal our joy and believe the lies that God has forgotten about us and that I am isolated. That it’s of no use to share anything because no one will understand.
But he is mistaken. He is a thief of all joy and a liar. From Tracey’s reaction to what the Lord reminds me in his word, he is in control. He mourns with me and uses for good what man intends for evil (Genesis 50:20). He uses my background and story to bless others. He reminds me that this yearning for home is a deeper one of being with him, in that eternal home that will have no crying or pain (Revelation 21:4), but only joy in his presence forevermore (Psalm 16:11). Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Summer is about to begin, which also means that RBI’s busiest 3 months are here as well. Every summer we have a baseball league for kids ages 4-18, and every summer it has grown exponentially. This year is no different.
What that also means is that although my primary role is that of coordinating our mentoring program, I have to put on the hat of summer league extraordinaire – pretty much just doing everything and anything that is needed of me to help my team make this league possible.
The last few days have been very stressful – we all have work that keeps piling and piling on. I am a very people oriented person, but it’s on stressful days when I veer towards putting tasks over people; a trait about myself that I am not fond of.
Tuesday of this week was one of those days. I wanted to put people first but I had so many tasks that it was actually making me frustrated I couldn’t be with people as much as I wanted to. One of those tasks was a meeting at Oak Springs Elementary later that afternoon. “But Bitia,” you might think, “isn’t that a task that includes people? What was so upsetting about that?” Yes, it involves people, but it wasn’t the particular setting/topic I would prefer 😉.
As I was parking my car the flood of to-dos kept rushing through my mind, but when I got out and walked over to the playground, a rush of peace came over me. Maybe it was the sunlight and fresh air. Maybe the simple physical activity of walking set me at ease. But maybe it was also the energetic voices of my kiddos, greeting me and asking/yelling when we would play baseball again. Hearing them call my name. Just being there, outside. Breathing, observing the families walk by. It made me stop and think – this. THIS is why I’m doing it. THIS is worthy of my exhaustion. These smiles and loud voices are the reason why I am to work with all my might (Ecclesiastes 9:10), even in the most tedious task, so that one day I can see these babies be all that God has created them to be. That purpose eliminates all stress and all heaviness, because in the end to toil for the glory of the Lord produces joy. A joy and a peace that only He gives (Philippians 4:7), and for that I thank and praise him.