Saturday, March 17, 2007

Guyana - March

While Kristen and I are involved in a variety of projects here in Guyana, and it is quite common for us to be “on the go”, our activity level experienced a significant boost as of late. Currently we are working alongside our Guyanese friends to construct a multi-purpose outdoor sport court for the Lutheran Camp and Retreat Center, we are renovating the Emmanuel Lutheran Church worship space, and we recently hosted a young adult mission group from Winona, Minnesota. In addition, the Season of Lent brings increased responsibilities with mid-week worship services for me to lead and prepare for, while Kristen has experienced a jolt in her workload at the Camp Centre and in her various service opportunities throughout the wider community. With the two of us involved in so many different areas, it seems “March Madness” has taken on an entirely new meaning!

In the midst of all the commotion and hustle-bustle of recent weeks, Kristen and I have tried not to lose sight of what matters most in our service alongside the people of Guyana – the relationships. No matter how focused we get trying to construct buildings or develop and sustain worthwhile projects, we know that constructing and developing meaningful and faithful relationships always take a top priority. The relationships between us and the Guyanese people, the relationships Guyanese have with one another, the relationship between Guyanese and Americans, the spiritual relationship we all share with God, and of course, the relationship of marriage held between Kristen and myself. While we acknowledge the importance of completing tasks and striving to reach goals, we both realize the intimate relationships of life matter more than anything else.

I was reminded of the importance of relationships while visiting with an elderly man who is suffering with a kidney malfunction. Sadly, it appears as if he is painfully drawing close to the end of life. He is the type of person whom could sit and speak for hours, which is why it is painful to see him no longer able to speak clearly. And while his body functions are slowly shutting down, one of the things he continues to impress upon me is the importance of friends, family, and faith, for when life is nearing the end it is these key relationships that matter more than anything. A few weeks ago, when he was still able to communicate, he told me: “When it’s about to come to an end, the last thing you care about is whether or not you got that job or earned a raise in pay, and you certainly don’t care about what you ending up having or ended up not having. All you care about is friends, family, and faith. That’s all there is. As I lay here in bed, that’s all I have now.” These are words of wisdom from a faithful man. I am blessed to have heard them.

I will be the first to admit that I sometimes get caught up with “to do” lists, the pursuit of worldly success, and the joy of being admired and spoken well of. And while I do believe goal setting and ambitious attitudes serve a good purpose for the improvement of society, I wonder how often I (and many others) lose track of the things that truly matter most in life. In the quest for worldly success and societal admiration, how often do our tasks get in the way of our relationships? How often do personal ambitions take the place of intimate friendships? How many of us spend sixty hours at work and only sixty minutes with our children? And I wonder, just like the elderly man whose time is now coming to a close, when it is our turn to return to the dust of the Earth, will we be satisfied with the way we valued those around me? Will we realize that we mistakenly placed our time and efforts in all the wrong places?

One of the many things I’ve learned in Guyana is that life is about relationships. While I initially thought life was about doing as much as I could while I could as best as I could, and I figured my purpose in coming to Guyana was to “do” as much as possible and make things happen as quickly and efficiently as I could, after a few years walking alongside the Guyanese people I realized that “being” was just as important as “doing”, and in the end it is the friendships built that matter more than any tasks I could ever accomplish. Ultimately, I believe the purpose God has for Kristen and I in coming to Guyana is to accompany the Guyanese people in the daily walk of life, to love them and be loved by them, to teach and to learn, and to grow in faithful and trusting relationships with one another and with God. While projects and programs are important for ongoing development, and we will always strive to reach goals and make our surrounding better, I keep praying that we will never forget the lessons learned here, so that that when it is our turn to experience the last moments of life, we can say with confidence that we appreciated every person whom we were blessed to experience life with.

As always, Kristen and I wish to extend our sincere thankfulness to all of you who continue to support us in our service alongside the people of Guyana. Your prayers and well wishes always mean a great deal.

We love you and always look forward to hearing fro you.

With peace and love,