A Yaks Log – Early November 2006
Truth be told I am writing this because I felt somewhat convicted after hearing from Leonard Sweet, “…stories are the circulatory system of the body of Christ.” As wounded and broken as the church appears to the un-churched, I figured it could use any sort of transfusion I had to offer…
I remember sitting across the table from Pastor Mike at a coffee shop in China about midnight. He hoped he might be able to catch his family on the phone as they started their day. Not having a family of my own I sat close, hoping some would rub off on me. Through their choppy phone call Nancy mentioned that Yaks needed an archaeologist, and I let her know that was already figured out. By that time Kerri had been asking me to volunteer for about a year. I would always decline, and would tell her to keep on asking. I’ve been serving there now since April.
The interesting thing for me is that Yaks, and what happens there, is just a portion of the transformations and purpose I finally have eyes to see around me. It (Yaks) is a unique opportunity to meet folks to be sure, but within the manner my present is unfolding around me I find that opportunity is all around me - those subtle conversations and moments of kindness…through humor and understanding. I so often sped by God’s warning signs and off the cliff behind. It never looked like a cliff when I went over. No, I could never tell until I eventually hit something hard and stopped.
I would humbly suggest that so many of the ‘chance’ meetings and conversations I’ve had while serving at Yaks don’t quite translate to paper. How do you express the growing familiarity mixed with old strongholds eroding when I yell at Erik and his newly shaved face across the floor on a Friday evening, “Hey…what the heck happened to your face? When the ‘mothership’ arrives they might not recognize you.”
Or with Steve who seems to find commonality in the fact that he’s only 10 years older than me, and as his 48th birthday grows closer, he comments, “That’s really not much time, we’re really about the same…do you remember when…” Looking for a connection, a sense of belonging, and finding it somewhere in that messy space between us.
And Weldon starting a conversation about his work and life just short of 10pm, and as 10:30pm approaches I can watch him realize that maybe next time we can start visiting a bit sooner in the evening, “I didn’t realize you were so interesting…”
I smile and tell him, “Yea…I figured you thought I was probably a real jerk…”
There are just so many hurried, hungry and needy visits from folks looking for so much more that a cup of coffee. To name a few - … I know how they feel.
It was 18 months ago that I left the Mission to step out into world again. And in that short time I have found nothing has changed in it; other than the speed at which we can choose to bombard ourselves with it, and our expectations of what we feel we are entitled to gain from it. It’s sad really. But a place like Yaks does offer a little island of genuine relationship in so much cultivated anonymity. This transition from anonymous patron to friend is that special something. It isn’t us, but rather someone’s desire and God’s faithfulness to draw people near to Him.
I remember before Yaks was built, when the coffee was sold in the church lobby. We New Life Program members would have collected and held on to our allowance ($1-5/week) to get to buy a ‘fancy’ cup of coffee at church. This was a big deal to us. We were the un-churched and self-conscious trying to fit in somehow; and if not that, trying to blend in and get off the radar.
We would wait there in line…feeling awkward and outside of the group as if ‘Mission Guy’ was tattooed on our foreheads. I couldn’t believe it when someone from church bought my cup of coffee one odd Sunday. But, you can be sure I will never forget it. It was weeks later I asked Steve if he would mentor me. I felt like some small boy that had just moved again after school was out for summer. I didn’t yet have a friend in the new busy neighborhood.
Serving at Yaks isn’t work, but it is a commitment. And instead of being an employee, and rather an individual in a community, there is a different feel to what goes on. The idea of not simply playing my part in a larger community, but rather being available to serve has been a learning experience. It wasn’t until I got to that place that I was willing to be available, that my guard dropped a bit, and I was no longer performing. Instead, I found I was participating in what was happening around me. Grace is a hard thing to lean into when you’ve always looked for yourself in the reflection of others.
We so often talk about ‘getting’ to serve at Yaks. I still often feel, I ‘get to – have to’ serve at Yaks. I am a reluctant leader, and though being placed in that position is familiar, I always feel awkward. Although more than anything else, I feel my role is to give it away, and work on feeling comfortable in my own skin. God’s work in me is fresh and only just beginning. I can only pray that I may be used for others like Steve was (and is) in my life. That is church with a capital C.