International Ministries

I Am, Because You Are

July 30, 2015 Journal
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One week ago today I was in Durban, South Africa, together with more than 2,500 others from more than 80 countries attending the congress of the Baptist World Alliance.  I witnessed a beautiful glimpse of God’s amazing multilingual, multicultural, and multifaceted family. At times I couldn’t believe how privileged I was to be in the presence of so many significant people with such rich and diverse stories to share. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for which I am deeply grateful.

One week ago today, through the gift of technology, I said a final goodbye to the woman who gave me life and loved me without limit. Ginger Long, my Mom, died on July 24th, 2015. One of the greatest things about my calling to global service is the opportunity to travel and connect in significant ways with people across the globe. One of the hardest things about my calling to global service is the distance I go away from the people dearest to me. 

This week has had its share of deep joy and devastating loss. This week, I have been in the company of many, with the family of my faith in a foreign land. This week, I have spent multiple hours alone with my thoughts, crossing continents to be with the family of my heart at home. This week, I have wept and I have laughed. I have slept sitting up, between strangers on many airplanes and fallen into deep repose in the welcoming arms of my beloved husband. This week, in Durban, South Africa, special friends, some I’ve known for years and some who I just met, have held me. This week, family in California who have waited so long for my return, have welcomed me home.  I have listened and have been heard. I have yet to sort out the kaleidoscope of emotions, though I am trying to see and feel it for what it is while honoring the complex beauty in it all.

For years I have been fascinated with the philosophy of Ubuntu, a concept originating in Southern Africa. According to Michael Onyebuchi Eze, the core of Ubuntu can best be summarized as follows:

 'A person is a person through other people' Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am."

 The African communal view of life is not opposed to the view of life presented in the Bible. The image of God is presented in scripture as God existing in plural form as a divine family of Parent, Son and Spirit. The human family must emulate the divine family in unity, mutuality and solidarity. That the people of God belong together as one family is made clear in the Bible.

In the spirit of Ubuntu and the image of the family of God, over the course of this last week I wrote the following reflection about my Mom.

I am, because you were

            I am, because you were

I am me, because you were your own person.

            I am strong, because you endured much suffering

I am sensitive, because you cared about the feelings of others

            I am giving, because you showered all of your loved ones with gifts

I am creative, because you made beautiful things

            I am a lover of tasty food, because you cooked to show your love

I am resourceful, because you could repurpose castaways and create something out of nothing

            I am wise, because you believed in life lessons

I am self-conscious, because you worried about the opinions of others

            I am stubborn, because you never gave up

I am brave, because you faced your fears even when you were afraid

            I am funny, because you laughed with every cell in your body

I am silly, because you were hilariously inappropriate

            I am faithful, because you were loyal to the end

I am forgiving, because you offered me grace

            I am thoughtful, because you were addicted to significance

I am grateful, because you counted your blessings

            I am self-sacrificing, because you gave more than you had

I am authentic, because you were the real deal

I am loving, because you loved me

I am, because you were.           

Amazed by how much one week can hold. Humbled by how much one life can be.

 We are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am.

 Thankful that I am because you are,