Thursday, April 5, 2012

In Honor of Sarah Buller

Three years ago today an amazing young women was taken from this earth…

My connection to Sarah is a bit strange, our moms were best friends in kindergarten. And though my mom moved away soon after they somehow managed to maintain the friendship through the years and remain close friends to this day (crazy, huh!)

As long as I can remember my family has stayed at the Buller family farm in Hendricks, Minnesota as part of our whirlwind Midwest vacations to visit family and friends. Occurring every other year or so it is a time to re-visit our Midwest roots. The time spent on the Buller farm and at the cabin on the lake are always a highly anticipated part of the tradition.

The entire Buller family is always very welcoming and hospitable to us. Excellent hosts who make us feel comfortable and involve us in all the exciting (for us city folks) aspects of living on a farm. 

But Sarah always went above and beyond. Though we only saw each other for a few days every other year, it felt like we were hanging out with an old friend. She was such a loving person, and that love shone through her words and actions.

I know that her faith played a huge role in her life, and I feel like she really was one of the best examples I have seen of how to love your neighbor as your self. She was always serving and loving those around her with a big smile on her face. And I don’t think I ever heard her say a harsh thing to or about anyone.

After finishing high school she followed her faith and her servant heart to serve in South Africa for nine months. In talking about why she wanted to go she said “We can't just sit and let people walk by us everyday that are hurting and lost and not tell them about the grace, the love Christ gives us.”

She was busy loving on kids that had experienced all kinds of brokenness when the unthinkable happened. There was a car accident and three days short of her nineteenth birthday Sarah died.

But Sarah lives on. In the memory of the innumerable people whose lives she touched with her love and kindness and faith. In the actions that those people have in turn taken, to go out and impact the world. In her family, who instead of wallowing in grief instead stood firmly in faith. Who continue to send their children out into the world to serve and to love. Who proclaim the love of God even amongst their pain.

Beloved Sarah we are glad that you are celebrating in Heaven, though we miss you here. I am eternally grateful for the time that I was able to spend with you and I thank you for the inspiration that you were for me and countless others.  We love you!


Our families together the last time I saw her (Sarah far right)

Things got a little crazy...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

First Day of School

Though I have be working at the Hogar for a little over seven months, I don’t think I had really appreciated what it means to be a child who is living there. Until recently that is.

Part of my job at the Hogar is to accompany the kids to various activities. This can mean walking with them to school, going along on an outing to the park, or sometimes taking them to a doctor or dentist appointment.

On Wednesday afternoon I walked some of the kids to school. I didn’t think anything of it since I knew that the older kids had started on Monday, so I just assumed that all of them had already started. I dropped the older kids off first, then went with one of the four year olds to his preschool. I started to say goodbye to him, asking him if he knew where his classroom was. He said he didn’t so I walked with him to his classroom. When I entered the room, I was in for a surprise. The parents of all the other children were sitting around in the room waiting for the teacher. I started to get suspicious but it wasn’t until the teacher said “welcome to the first day” that it really hit me.

I was there playing the role of a parent for him on his first day at a new school! I listened hard, tried to keep him quiet, and mostly tried to keep myself calm and act like I belong there. But I knew I didn’t, not really. Your first day of school, especially at a new school is an important day. A day that you want to share with someone really important, someone who is a fixture in your life. It breaks my heart that he didn’t get to share his big day with his mom, like all the other kids in his class, rather that he shared it with me, a volunteer from another country who he only sees a couple days a week. I’m glad that I was able to be there to support him, but the wrongness of the whole situation breaks my heart.

Lenten Symbols

Last month I had a retreat with my fellow South America YAGMs. As a part of our Lenten worship one of the nights we were invited to share symbols of both brokenness and wholeness that we have experienced here. Here are some excerpts of the liturgy from that night along with the stories behind my symbols.

As we walk beside our companions, we accompany them along the Way of the Cross, where we witness the brokenness of our world. Our previous understandings of the world are often shattered and we feel like the disciples who walked away from Jerusalem after Christ’s crucifixion—sad, confused, and broken. Within this circle we now place symbols of the brokenness that we witness along this Way of the Cross, as part of our Lenten journey…

Ball & Bandaid

The kids I work with at the Hogar Amanecer have lived through kinds of pain that I can’t even imagine. Not only can they not live with their families, but their families are unable or often unwilling to take care of them.

This brokenness causes a lot of emotions: anger, sadness, distrust, rage, frustration.  Many of them don’t know how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way.

So they react in a physically or verbally violent way. Throwing a rock or a ball. Swinging a big stick. Punching, kicking, biting. Screaming every bad word they can think of at you.

Inflicting their pain on you in whatever way they can think of, literally creating more brokenness. Sometimes it can be healed with a bandaid, but more often then not it runs so much deeper then that.

Along the Way of the Cross with our companions, we also witness glimpses of your Kingdom, signs of hope, new life, and the Resurrection. Within our circle we now place symbols of this joy and wholeness, the Risen Christ whom we experience in the breaking of bread with our companions…

Camp Mail

During the summer I went to camp with the youth from the IELU (partner church) in Argentina. It was full of great activities, games, discussions and fun. But one of the highlights was the mailbox. Yes, the mailbox. It was a place where anyone could write a note and it would be read aloud to everyone during mealtime.

As the week went on the mailbox got fuller and fuller. Each day there were more letters then the day before. But nothing can compare with the last day. We got on the bus to go back to Buenos Aires and several of us thought that the leaders had forgotten about the letters. But they had just been saving the best for last.

When they opened the mailbox on that last day, it was literally exploding with notes. For most of the two hour bus ride they were reading the notes to us. But it was deeper then that. There were silly notes, sure. But there were notes saying thank you to specific people for their friendship. Notes saying how important this camp was to people, how they had been able to find desperately needed community here or been able to reconnect with God in a new way. After a particularly powerful note there would be hugs. Often we would all break out into a spontaneous chant or song about the note writer. Through it all the mate was circling throughout the bus.

There was such a strong feeling of mutual love, appreciation, and care. I remember sitting on the bus and thinking “this is what community should look like.”