My mum works for a church in my hometown as the Director of Adult Ministries, and she wrote this lovely article for the local paper recently. I asked her if I could share it here because I found it to be such a beautiful piece. Enjoy!
A watermark is an image imprinted on important papers or photographs to prevent counterfeiting. You can see a watermark on your passport or on currency. The watermark indicates that these papers are authentic, and in a sense, verify who they belong to. The waters of baptism mark us as children of God. In believer’s baptism, they provide the opportunity for a follower of Jesus to publicly declare the authenticity of their faith. This is who I belong to. This is what I believe. I commit my life to walking with Jesus.
At Woodside, baptisms are a time of celebration as a church family. We listen, spellbound, to the faith stories. We are astounded by how God is working in the life of someone we sit with at church. God is real! We hold our breath with them as they are lowered into the water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We cheer as they come up grinning and crying and hugging their pastor. We celebrate how real life with Jesus brings transformation.
On just such a Sunday, as I left the sanctuary to find the girl who took the plunge, I saw a trail of wet footprints on the carpet of the church foyer. I wonder if there is a trail to follow from my baptism? Do I leave footprints of holy water wherever I go? Is the water of my baptism still dripping on the path of my day? The waters in which I die to myself? The living waters that raise me up, gasping and laughing and grasping at new life – soaked in the Spirit of Christ, washed in the cleansing flood of Jesus’ love. Can you see the direction of my footprints? Am I walking well, in step with the Spirit? Can those around me follow my trail back to the spring of living water? Does my trail take them on detours where they lose their way or lose interest in Jesus, or does it make them thirsty to find Him?
And then I noticed the trail of big splashes of water on the carpet. Messy, irregular, but clearly a trail to the baptistry. Early that morning we realized that no one had thought to fill the tank, and the tap would certainly not run fast enough to fill it in time. These splashes are a testimony to the Bucket Brigade of saints, who rolled up their sleeves and got their Sunday clothes wet, to carry bucket after bucket from the kitchen to the baptismal tank. So it is with the Body of Christ. God graciously uses each of us to prepare the tank, bucket by bucket, for a baptism. A bucketful may feel heavy and cumbersome, and once emptied into the tank, it looks woefully inadequate. But your bucket plus my bucket plus the bucket of the children’s pastor, and eventually the water rises ready to welcome a new member of the Family. We each do a bit, like a link in a chain, dragging our bucket as an act of faith, that God will take my small offering and do something wonderful. Water into wine perhaps? So we heard, in the life-giving stories, how a Bucket Brigade of saints had each poured a bucket of water into the lives of these who once were lost. And we choked back tears and applauded wildly as they rose from the living waters of baptism that morning.
Praise God that He has left his watermark on my life and yours! Welcome to the Family!
Today I am sharing a few verses. I love this interpretation of them!
Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I think that if we are to really take the call of the Gospel seriously, we must be involved in caring for the vulnerable in some way or another. Of course, for many people this does not look like moving to a different country or adoption or working for a non-profit. People in need of love are everywhere! They are in our neighborhoods, at our work places, on your street corners.
Read the rest of the interview with Katie Davis here, and learn more about her life and Amazima Ministries. I had to giggle at the last question of the interview, as it seems like it was written for me! (Though I didn't think of her life as glamorous or easy - I have been around enough mothers of multiple children to know better than that! But, it is a good reminder that the person I need to be imitating is heavenly, not human.)
What words would you share with another twenty-two year-old woman with a bee in her bonnet to imitate what you’ve done?
She is wise beyond her years and her views on adoption and providing for vulnerable children are a return to community-based child care - a shift that I see happening more and more in the international adoption advocacy community. As much as adoption and international adoption are beautiful rescues, sometimes they are contributing to corruption and tearing families apart. Ethics in the adoption world seem a little gray these days, and the people who doggedly pursue the truth before removing a child from their home country and possibly also their family are heroes in my eyes.
Ann Voskamp is a Christian writer who is well-respected. Earlier this week, she posted this letter to the North American church, which really struck me. Please take the time to read it here, and then come back and let me know what you think.
I have personally experienced both sides of this, and I love that she calls out the church for the tendency towards complacency.
"I am standing in Africa and you can hear the whole North American Church, rising up, crying out: What if caring for the poor was more than just caring about easing our consciences? What if caring for the poor meant feeling sacrifice for the poor? What if we weren’t really feeling care for the poor – until we were really feeling sacrifice for them?
I came across this super advertisement a few weeks ago, and thought it was worth sharing. It is a very clear and effective use of images and draws attention immediately to the cause – access to water. Their website is well thought-out, and the organization is using currently popular social media to promote the cause. Charity: water works with through local partners, utilizing organizations that know the area and are familiar with the issues present and needs of the community.
Did this pile of children's underwear, though appreciated by the mothers, actually help effectively? Or could we have bought more for less in the market and supported the local economy?
I read this article, “Letter to a Short-Term Missionary” a few months ago, and I think it contains valuable insight about short-term aid trips (though focussed on religiously-affiliated ones) that I’d like to share. Read it here, and then come back to read my take and contribute your voice to the discussion!
I’d like to preface this with the reminder of my personal experience with an international religious short-term aid trip (I wrote a post here). One of the biggest aspects to overcome once home from the trip, for both my mother and I, was that we felt that we had not made a difference, and that we had wasted money on flights and our costs that could have been put to better use by the locals. It took us a while to realize that while that was true, the experience also deeply changed our perspectives on life, and restructured our values system. Although we lived frugally before the trip, it inspired us to be more frugal and less focussed on consumer goods. And, the biggest change for me, it redirected me from studying music or art in university, to international development.
Personally, I agree wholeheartedly with all the bolded points of Bob Lupton’s letter. Short-term trips are more about teaching the participants about the world their eyes are so often blinded to, than about making immediate change in the world.
I think that time and again, short-term trips are marketed as being a huge help to the people we visit, when it actually is more likely to harm the culture, economy, and pride of the people we so want to help. Is bringing a suitcase full of stickers, candy, and underwear along to hand out really making a valuable difference in lives? Modifying the way in which these trips are marketed, to be more about your learning experience, is a better method than leaving short-termers wondering about their ‘impact’ after they leave.
The two-way relationship is also regularly lost – if it is only about handouts, and not about learning from each other and contributing to each other’s lives tangibly, I think the trip loses the ability to be a valid way of creating change.
Finally, the important and many times ignored aspect of the trip - preparation. Learning about the other culture, history, the organization the group will work with, other people’s experiences, being briefed on culture shock, etc., are all extremely important to having an effective team. Before I went on my trip, I read multiple books on short-term missions, completed a training course on aid work and cultural differences, and read 5 books on Rwandan history – all as part of the required preparation to go. In comparison, I have also seen family members go on similar trips to other countries, having received only a few hours of tutelage on the culture and language they would encounter.
As I begin to prepare in earnest for my placement, I have acknowledged to myself that I will most likely not make a huge change in any one person’s life, other than my own. I may have an impact through my work with the organization, but it will be a result of the cumulative effort of myself, my co-workers, and predecessors. I also go into this placement excited to learn a lot from the people I work with and for, and hope to gain an even broader understanding of the world through my interactions with another new-to-me culture. And believe me, my need for control means that I am already researching Malawi and as much other information I can find about the people groups, culture, language, bugs and critters, availability of groceries (I plan on trying out hand washing my clothes in the near future as well). Oh man, I better stop listing things because I am finding more to research and I’ll be up all night.
Anyhow – what did you think of the letter? Do you agree with Bob Lupton’s points and my arguments for them? Or do you have a different perspective to share?
The Salems (photo from his blog).
The blog of Adéye Salem, AKA No Greater Joy Mom, was one of the first blogs that I discovered, and then spent a few days reading ALL of the posts on the blog. She has a beautiful heart for the orphan. She and her husband have adopted six children with various special needs. Adéye has become a star in the online world of international adoption, and utilizes her fame to raise money for fantastic causes that assist orphans.
Her husband is Anthony Salem, AKA No Greater Joy Dad, and he eloquently shares wisdom for Christians and adopting parents at his blog.
I encourage you to spend some time learning from this amazing couple, and catching the fire for orphans that they share so well through the written word.
The beauty of thunderclouds gathering, Germany, 2010.
Hi! My name is Katiana.
I am passionate about Isaiah 1:17 and am trying to live it out in my day-to-day life - and planning for it to become my career. This is a place where I can share my thoughts, discoveries, highlight amazing people and organizations, and rant (when needed).
Some categories of posts that I will be doing are the following:
- Life: information about me
- Passion: subjects I can't stay quiet about
- Beloved: profiles of people that matter to me
- Treasures: organizations that I love
- Words of Wisdom: highlighting writers that impact me
- Simple Solutions: cool ideas that are changing the way things work
- Nature Knows Best: home remedies and other such 'hippiness' as my mother says!
Thanks for paying me a visit!
Welcome! My name is Katiana and I am a development professional pursuing my dream to live out Isaiah 1:17 to the best of my abilities. I am passionate about teaching and working with vulnerable families and children to improve their lives sustainably.
This blog is composed of my personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of institutions or organizations that I may be or have been affiliated with.