Thursday, May 28, 2015
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” — Helen Keller
Our case was up before the Tanzanian High Court yesterday, but we haven’t heard anything. If it is like the Supreme Court in the U.S., it will be a while before they reach a decision. Our attorney was pleased, but you never know. If the other side wins, the three of us will have to leave Tanzania for parts unknown. We cannot afford to live in the U.S., but there are lots of places in the world where we can live and have money left to spend on mission projects whether it be Costa Rica, Ecuador, or anywhere there are people both poor in spirit and living in poverty. Our attorney says there is nothing to worry about, but we can’t help but think about the worst that could happen, that’s just human nature. Whatever happens, we will go on serving God as unpaid missionaries somewhere. We live not for ourselves but for others, and there are others in need all over the world. Back in the 1970’s, a psychologist, Dr. William Glasser, under whom both Karen and I studied, wrote a book called “The Identity Society.” In it, he posits that far too many of us just think of ourselves in terms of our jobs. We are teachers, or accountants, or plumbers, or civil servants. In some of the jobs we have, the job itself carries enough status for us to feel good about ourselves, but others not so much. So, if we can’t be proud of being Mary the Wal-Mart greeter, we find other outlets to form our identities. We become “Joe the Bowler” or “Mary the Quilter” or “Rose the Sunday School Teacher.” There is nothing wrong with this unless your self-image is so closely tied to your job or recreational identity that a threat to that job is a very real threat to your own personhood. What if cutbacks cause you to lose your job as a teacher, or illness keeps you from teaching Sunday School, or arthritis ends your quilting identity. It’s when this happens that we fall into deep depressions and begin to feel worthless. The point that Dr. Glasser is making is that if instead of tying your identity to being a teacher, you tie your identity to helping children. There will always be children to help, no matter where you are and many, many ways to accomplish it. My sister is a retired teacher, but she still tutors kids in trouble and even works with kids in seriously bad situations through the courts. She doesn’t have to be a teacher to feel good about herself because she is all about helping others. We are servants of God, and you can serve God anywhere, anytime with devotion, sincerity, love, and faith. I don’t have to be a member of the clergy and Karen doesn’t have to teach to assist the church, start schools, train pastors, train preschool teachers, or even just to help financially when people are in need. Just yesterday, one of Juliana’s (our house worker) neighbors, a young widow, died leaving a two-month-old baby. Today, we are trying to find it a place in an orphanage in Bweri that many who have come here have also visited and helped with construction and financial assistance. I don’t know if we can help or not, but we can try. One of my favorite quotes is from the blind and deaf Helen Keller who said, “True happiness... is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” She also is the author of the quote in the picture at the right. This is the point Dr. Glasser was trying to make, we are not what we do for a living, but what we do that makes us live. I know a banker who doesn’t think of himself so much as a banker as a missionary for the trips and projects he leads and supports. If we do what God has called us to do and not what society thinks we should, we are so much happier no matter what the circumstances or difficulties we face. It’s about loving others as Christ loved us, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, touching the lepers, and loving the unlovable. It’s about being the light in other’s darkness. If that’s what you are, no matter what else may happen, you are a success and are loved and blessed by God and usually many, many others.