Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Very Brief Update on the Past Two Months in Baltimore

Teaching has been going really well. I have learned more and grown stronger in the past two months than any other similar time period. I’ve seen God answer prayers like never before, especially as I rely on him more and more for patience and help in loving all my toughest students.

I have joined an incredible church, the “Gallery” Church (because we’re all God’s “masterpieces”…get it? It’s actually pretty cool). I’ve been going to a small group and even went to the church retreat, which was awesome as well.

Today the sermon was especially interesting, as it talked about the journey Jesus takes in Mark 11 up from Jericho to Jerusalem, where he is to be crucified. My slightly pedantic interest in Israel’s geography was indulged as he talked about this “ascent” and drew connections to the songs of ascent in Psalms.

At the end of the service, the pastor took a few minutes to invite all the teachers to the front to pray for them. One of the teachers had just lost several students in a house fire, a fire which had in fact occurred right across from my school in some of my students’ neighborhood. The house had 12 people living in it, some of them into dealing drugs but the others just innocent family members. A possible case of arson started a very fast-moving fire that killed 4 children and a grandmother. Two other people survived only by jumping out the window, with injuries, and one woman had to drop her baby into someone’s arms. Absolutely horrific.

And for those of you who didn’t hear: last week, on the other side of my school, a recent altercation was ended when a pregnant woman came out of her house holding an AK-47 assault rifle to scare away the hostile group of people. When I asked my friend Ibrahim if someone had ever pulled a gun on him, he said, “are you kidding me?,” and pointed to a scar on his head where he had been grazed by a bullet after being robbed.

But, please know that I share these tough stories more to remind myself of why I am here than to try to brag, saying how hard life is here or to try to improve my street cred. In all honesty, the majority of my students are well-behaved, crime rates in Baltimore are substantially improved from the 1990s, and I am feeling more on top of my job. But sometimes it’s too easy for me to forget that even in the midst of a beautiful city, people can have some terribly tragic stories. My calling is to meet them where they are at, engage with them, and enter into the stories. The same sad tale of desperation, poverty, and brokenness can be broken, and it must be broken.

Please be praying for me as I help to build the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of love, here in Baltimore.