Within almost every community I have been a part of, the idea of finishing well has regularly been offered as an ideal. Also regularly, this ideal seems to end up positioned as an unattainable goal that leaves community members with a taste of disappointment.
This past Tuesday, as our students returned from their month in Zambia, there were wonderings of whether this too would be our story as we headed toward Christmas Break.
The month in Zambia for Act Five was certainly a rich experience. Stories of children, dancing, gifted goats and new relationships came out. Students shared their thoughts on the Zambian church, schools, poverty and food. Several spoke of their sadness to have left, their desires to go back, or the way they experienced God while away. Over the next months, we imagine there will be many more ways in which we see their time in Zambia continuing to shape them.
But we also saw a group of 12 young adults that had been together for over 3 months, who were tired – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and who had had little space to breathe over their month away. They had experienced real conflict, disappointment in each other, and hurt that lasted more than a few days. As students came back to Blake St for less than a week before heading home for the next 3 weeks, we were at one of those key moments that have the potential to swing the experience of Act Five.
Reflecting on this now, on a Saturday afternoon with all students having gone their separate ways, I am so grateful to write that the swing of this moment ended moving our students, both individually and as a community, toward a depth of Christian discipleship that can only happen when a community is founded on God’s grace, as the body of Christ. There were moments of honesty and reconciliation, and we saw students choosing to love and listen well despite their feelings of hurt. And as we completed our formal debriefing of Zambia, students were able to move toward time to celebrate with each other well, enjoying each other, and finding perspective to see glimpses of all that God has done this past term.
Last night (Friday), we sat around the Christmas tree, distributed gifts, laughed together, and celebrated the engagement of one of our staff. I watched students who were so tired and ready to sleep in their own beds worship with every last ounce of energy they had. They were weary but full and joyful.
For this, I am grateful.
He is leading our students in profound and unique ways, as they learn more of who He is, who they each are, and how God is at work within each of their stories.
As I shared with our students last night, my prayer for all who are following along with Act Five is that we might celebrate Christmas well this year – that we might each continue to long for Christ to come anew in our own homes, hearts, cities and workplaces.
Thank you to all who continue to support the birthing of Act Five.