Camden: Day 7; Night 8

I’m not sure what to think anymore.

In this past week of being in Camden (and as I look at the clock, it’s seriously to the minute that our plane landed in Philly) I’ve been witness to struggling people groups, macabre stories of the faint human condition, and ministries that are faithfully reconstructing a world for outcasts.

I came on this trip anticipating a two-week session of teaching, hanging out with impoverished kids, and maybe having my heart tweaked a little by the compassion of Christ. I figured my days would be long, I’d learn a little about “America’s Most Dangerous City,” and I’d eat nothing but crap since there is only one grocery store within the city’s limits.

However, I’ve found something drastically different; something so potent that my conception of what it means to be a Christ follower transcends that of daily prayer and Scripture reading, avid church-going, short term mission-tripping, socially responsible shopping, homeless ministry serving, and everything else I once considered “enough” for my faith.

I thought I understood generosity to be the giving away of extra income I’ve made, or letting people use my car whenever they needed to go somewhere. I thought it meant buying Real Change from the homeless folk on Seattle’s streets, or purchasing extra food so that I could cook a meal for a housemate. Yes, these certainly are forms of generosity, and they are nonetheless pleasing to Christ, don’t get me wrong; but there is something deeper, more candid, and ultimately more fulfilling out there that none of these listed actions have ever presented to me.

I suppose I need a coined term for such a discovery, don’t I? Eh… how about we call it “Irrevocable Generosity.” In other circles I believe it’s the same concept of absolute surrender or devotion to Christ. We see this in the lives of Paul, Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, and other hallmark people of the Christian faith, as they gave up everything to pursue a life worthy of one who may claim Jesus as their Lord. These people aren’t merely on a pedestal for the purposing awe factor of reverence; rather, they stand as a symbol for what those who pursue a Christ-driven life of irrevocable generosity are capable of. And I say this because I’ve met a few of these people living here in Camden, ministering to others at the expense and sacrifice of their own time, money, dreams, passions, and inherently given opportunity.

Yesterday we met a man named Andy who came to Camden on the same trip our group is currently on. He left having felt touched, but not moved, and went on to get a graduate degree. Short after, he thought of his trip to Urban Promise and decided to come back despite being fully educated and equipped to get his dream job of working for the government. It’s been 15 years and he still hasn’t left. He’s married now, has two daughters, and lives in north Camden, the roughest part of the city. His wife stays at home with the children, making his meager paycheck from the ministry all that his family has to live on.

They live in poverty for the sake of the Kingdom.

When I pressed him further to expand on how he could handle such a life, he slowly shook his head and said it didn’t matter. He was happy. His family is happy. Comfort is a luxury and he was willing to give it up. It helped that he didn’t have much money of his own to begin with, having spent so much on tuition the past couple years, but that instead allowed him to make an easier transition towards a life of little need and simple pleasures.

I want to be careful as to not allow my passion to disillusion me. I also don’t want to condemn those who live a life of comfort within a safe neighborhood and behind a white picket fence. I don’t think a life of comfort is necessarily bad, but I know that it’s not something I want for myself. When was Christ ever comfortable? Or His apostles? Or the Early Church? Comfort didn’t come until Christianity went mainstream, and that’s when the Church really started getting divided. I know that our faith changes with time and culture, but I also know that unnecessary compromises reign with prevalence as said changes occur.

God, please help me! I can’t remember the last time my faith has been challenged so greatly. Show me truth and grand me wisdom. Help me to make choices that are please to you, and help me not to speak rashly of things untrue. Gear my heart toward yearning and living for You.

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~ by Chris Kyle on December 16, 2010.

One Response to “Camden: Day 7; Night 8”

  1. i am speechless. that is all.

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