A few weeks ago, the women of Rebirth went on a grand adventure to the mountains of North Georgia. The seven-hour drive to get there might as well have been a trip on a rocket ship; for the majority of these girls, this was a whole new world. As the roads narrowed, the strip malls turned to farmhouses, and the rolling hills grew to looming mountains, the warm feeling of familiarity and comfort that always accompanies this landscape filled me with joy and excitement. At the same time that I was being reminded of the other place I call home, Virginia, my passengers were awestruck with the utter newness of it all, marveling at a part of creation they had never before seen and couldn’t yet comprehend. They all really wanted to know what a mountain would feel like to touch, and they were a little afraid of our cabin being too high because they thought we might slide down. I’ve always had a deep love for the mountains and would’ve been content had I been driving through them alone, but something about the juxtaposition of my familiarity and their discovery made that moment so much sweeter.
One of the major themes of the weekend was learning how to step outside of your comfort zone and trust God in the unknown. For me, the seven hours straight of rap and R&B music in the car was somewhat of a new experience. For the girls, the simple act of leaving Jacksonville was enough of a step outside comfort, as it was the first time for several of them being away from their families for a whole four days. But the stretching continued throughout the weekend, as we pushed the girls to try things they never thought they would, like going hiking, swimming in a waterfall, and eating a casserole with broccoli in it. (That one didn’t go over so well, but they all survived.)
The stretching worked both ways. The girls, by letting me into more of their stories and their lives, in turn pushed me to reframe what “normal” life is like. As I learned more about the harsh realities of their world back home, where just going to school each day is a “risk,” I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about where to find God in the face of the heavy darkness and oppression that these beautiful, spirited, and passionate girls encounter every day. I also meditated a lot on what my role might be in all of this. I must admit, I questioned my purpose and relevance in this ministry at several points this summer, mostly because of my own set of insecurities, and my questions came up some on the trip as well. I believe that God has created in me a heart that cares deeply for each of these girls, and wants to see them succeed and flourish, but I often find myself at a loss for what to do about any of it. My comfort zone is where I feel equipped and useful, and often I felt so utterly unable to provide these kids with anything important and unsure of what constituted the “right” thing to do or say in certain situations to be doing a “good enough” job. Much of this summer I have felt far outside my comfort zone, and the trip was no exception. I wanted so badly to be living out the values of justice, love, and reconciliation that I care so deeply about, but I felt paralyzed and unequipped to do so at times.
And then I read this in John Perkins’ memoir: “This is what makes the gospel so unique. It’s how beautiful are the feet of him who brings it – that’s the lowest part of the body. The purpose of the gospel is to burn through racial and social barriers. And how beautiful are the feet of those who carry the gospel. It’s not just tell, tell, tell – it’s love. It is the creative witness and the manifestation of that witness…When we need each other’s service we have meaning to each other. And when we understand the gospel, we see each other as equal. That’s reconciliation” (210).
So where I was worried about saying the right thing, or making the trip just right for them, or being fun enough for them to like me, the gospel meaning of it all was staring me right in the face even when I didn’t notice it. Every time we demonstrated our need for each other, our actions had eternal weight and pushed God’s Kingdom further into what was once ruled darkness and oppression. Any time I helped prepare a meal for them, or drove us to one of our activities, or they let me into their lives or showed me new dance moves, we helped each other see the humanity in the other, revealing God’s love in a real, tangible, and creative way. Whether we were hiking or dancing, how beautiful were our feet that brought the gospel to each other as sisters in Christ.