Community Reflection: (For)Get the Gear
By Katie Mulembe, Catholic Volunteer Network
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. - Luke 9:1-6
About a week before I departed for my mission in Zambia, I started the daunting task of packing. I remember spending a lot of time in my bedroom, laying out in all the things I wanted to take with me. I would come across a t-shirt that I was sure I couldn’t live without, a pair of boots I thought I might need in case it got muddy there, a money belt to keep my belongings safe, a book I always wanted to read, and so on. My mom, a nurse, always seemed to be picking up additional supplies for me, just in case I got sick. As the days went on, the piles got bigger and bigger and when it finally came time to fill up my suitcases - it all wouldn’t fit. I remember sitting on my bed, weeping in frustration, wondering how I would survive without all my belongings.
I could understand how the disciples must have felt when Jesus asked them to set out into the unknown, completely unprepared. The journey ahead of me was scary. I had fears that I wasn’t strong enough to face the realities of poverty and disease that I was about to take on. I worried I would make mistakes and cause harm to those who needed help. My tears were not really about the things I was packing, they were about my own insecurities. It’s so easy to rely on material goods as our crutch, rather than leaning on Christ for strength. Our fears can be debilitating if we do not provide room for our faith.
Have you seen the “Get the Gear” clip from IFC’s Portlandia? (Take a few minutes to watch it, if you haven’t already: http://www.hulu.com/watch/335494#i0,p4,s2,d1) In the sketch, a couple decides to go on a hike, but can’t head out until they have all the gear they think they need. Do you ever find yourself feeling this way? You’ve already taken a leap of faith in saying yes to full-time service, but when God asks you to sacrifice a little more, it is still difficult to say yes. Service is all about this experience of being stretched beyond our perceived limits. When a task is assigned to you that is far beyond your job description and comfort zone, you may instantly want to resist because you feel unequipped for such a responsibility. Jesus instructed the disciples to leave their gear behind, not because they were strong enough to go without it – but because it wasn’t what they truly needed for the mission. The gear would only weigh them down and prevent them from tapping into their greatest strength, their faith in God. This faith enabled the disciples to develop meaningful relationships, and empowered them to be agents of healing for the sick, justice for the poor, and comfort for those who mourn.
Flash forward to three years later. The scene is nearly the same, only this time I am in my bedroom in Zambia. It’s past midnight, and I am finally sitting down to pack my bags to head home to the U.S. I should have started packing earlier, but I was too busy saying goodbye to all the wonderful friends I had made there, tasting my last juicy mango, and taking a final walk along the dusty roads that had become my home. This time, my bags are a lot lighter, filled mostly with small gifts for my family and friends. I’m not bringing home any of the things I fretted over three years earlier, those belongings didn’t mean anything to me anymore. The relationships were what mattered most.
- How has living simply helped you develop more meaningful relationships?
- Have you found yourself surprised by the unexpected ways you’ve been called to serve in your ministry?
- How have you learned to trust God more through this experience of service?
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