The sun has set over Bayou Teche and the mission team from Centenary UMC is settling in for the night. As I reflect over the two days of travel, one word comes to mind - patience. The trip from 1501 Rivermont Ave. to Baldwin, Louisiana is a shade over 1000 miles. If you could drive it without stopping for gas, snacks, rest or bathroom breaks - it would take about 15 hours. Reality makes it more like 18 hours. Despite the cramped quarters and monotony, the group of 14 people in the church van and a mini van remained more than just civil...we actually got to know each other a little better!
Bringing together different people with diverse talents, differing personalities and widely varied interests is pretty much a parallel to what this mission is about (and it also parallels churches and society as a whole). You take the best of each individual part and when combined - it creates this perfect mosaic. That reminds me of a story I was listening to in the van (I'm not much of a morning person so I spent the first part of today's drive listening to Father Greg Boyle's "Tattoos on the Heart" and playing Fruit Ninja).
I've shared the book "Tattoos on the Heart" with a great many people. I've also included his illustrations in sermons and probably on this blog. It is an illumination of the concept of compassion and kinship through the stories of gang members served by Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program in the poorest parish in Los Angeles. But I digress...the story I remember from this morning involved Pastor G (his nickname from the homies...short for Greg) spending time serving alongside prisoners in a camp in Bolivia. He tells about a time that he and one of the prisoners made an illegal pot of iguana stew. Apparently the prison camp food was beyond bad - so one afternoon they found the opportunity to scavenge some vegetables (okay, the prisoner swiped the vegetables from one of the guard's houses while G acted as reluctant lookout). The amazing thing wasn't the fact that they managed to make the stew without getting caught - it was what happened while it was being created. In an unusual iteration of the classic "stone soup" tale, other prisoners found G and the prisoner, were invited to join and each one brought a secret, precious stash to add to the pot. The iguana was joined by a handful of coarse salt, a shriveled jalapeno... Each brought to the feast something precious and the final product was enjoyed by all.
That is what we do when we join together. We bring what we can - something precious and sacred to each of us - and the final product is an incredible mosaic of talents. It becomes something more than just the sum of the parts. It doesn't make mathematical sense - it is beyond explanation.
I look forward to this week that will surely involve hard work, personal sacrifice and yes, patience. I will strive to step back and let the mosaic come together without trying to fit the pieces together. And at the end of the week we will find that we have been a part of something bigger than ourselves. Bigger than the sum of the parts.
My fellow team members and I will share the experience with you through the week. Please be in prayer for us.