I am an urban-educator who grew up in the country. I often feel like my entire life is a Truth-seeking adventure.
I grew up in Northeast Iowa in a very rural community. Currently, my parents live in an unincorporated village where the town welcome sign proudly announces 27 residents. Practically everyone I knew growing up looked and sounded a lot like me (fair skin, light eyes and hair, with a twangy Iowan accent). I attended public school until I went to college (even though I have always been interested in Christianity) because it was the only option. I didn’t live a sheltered life, really, but I was actually pretty isolated and protected. The woods, fields and pastures were my playground and I only heard gun shots during hunting season.
Now I live in Chicago-land, a sprawling urban area that has a population of over 9.8 million residents! I teach at an all boys inner-city, Catholic high school pretty much right-smack in the middle of all the action on Chicago’s south side. Today some of my students were casually talking about how they heard gun shots during their baseball game in the park, in the way that my high school friends would talk about hearing thunder during a game. “It was all right,” they said. “We got to keep playing because they weren’t too close.” I am worlds away from where I grew up.
I serve in a culture that is not my own. This high school is much more lively than mine ever was. From the elders to the children, there’s a different style than I am used to. Even though I have been in this community for about three years now, I am still frequently exposed to food, music, art, history and speech that is so foreign to me that it seems a passport should be required. I have had to adapt my teaching style, my expectations and learn a new way of communicating and making jokes. Everything is interesting and fascinating, and yet I am constantly self-evaluating to make sure I am not subconsciously behaving paternalistically. Fortunately, I have been embraced by the community and have experienced success. I am here to serve and it’s an honor and blessing to be so welcome.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth. -1 John 5:1-4, 6
During Holy Week 2012 I went on a Truth-teaching adventure. Eight of my students, a school colleague, and an urban 10-year-old (a chaperone’s son) and I squeezed into a van and drove five hours to the foreign land where I grew up. We stayed four days and nights growing as a team through many fun experiences, service-work, reflections, challenges, prayer and communion. God was up to a lot of good.
When I get to witness the Spirit at Truth at work, I am amazed I am part of it. I am amazed I get to see God in action. Observing enlightenment is like watching a flower bloom or a sunrise, a glorious newness emerges so gradually and quietly.
Before my students and I went on the trip, we had meetings to get ready. At one meeting I made a huge chart on the board that looked something like this:
We had a very interesting conversation when we tried to fill in the gaps. Before our trip we left the Truth row blank. Finding the Truth was named as one of the trip’s missions.
Jesus was our trip companion. Although we were in the hills of Northeast Iowa, I tried to keep my Holy Week spirit with Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem. Jesus is the man who is the best at teaching the Truth!
Like he said: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” -John 8:31-32
In this blog series, adventures in the Spirit, I’ll write about all the Truth that was taught and learned by my students in Iowa during our Holy Week adventure.