4 years ago this week, i boarded a plane in tampa international airport headed for the dominican republic.
not really my choice of post-college work, i was going to work in the episcopal church teaching elementary school kids. i had other ideas of what i wanted to do, but god opened the doors for this. i did what i needed to get here with some support from people in florida and a generous donation from my hometown bishop...
had i known what lay ahead of me, i never would have come. at least not in the context that i did. i am episcopalian. i love the antiguity and solemnity of the church, i love that there is a focus on social and human rights, i love that... well, i just love it.
i came with ideas of that work, plans to form programs for the poor. for the illiterate. for the young. for the old. not my own ideas. these were the programs the church wanted. the things that i was told were needed.
imagine my surprise to find a church closed to the community. a private school supposedly meant to offer a better education than the public system at a cost low enough that even very poor people could afford it that charged more than most other private schools in the area and offered no scholarships.
imagine that when i wanted to start a science program, an art program and a choir for the church i was told i needed to CHARGE the students to attend. because without the responsibility of paying for something they wouldn't appreciate it... imagine that these same kids have parents who bring in less than $300USD a month.
when asked why the church wasn't growing the priest in charge and his wife threw around accusations. "the catholic church is running an anti-episcopal campaign", "the young people all use drugs," "the prior priest ruined the community spreading rumours."
i did what i could in the 11 months i was there. i taught. i didn't charge - no matter how many times i was scolded. i played. i opened a basketball program. the church was still empty. but it's not about that.
it's still not about that.
during my employment with the church, i not only learned a lot about the church that i didn't like, i learned a lot about myself, about my faith and about mission. i wasn't there to fill a church. i wasn't there to raise money. i wasn't there to make anyone rich or make anyone elses job easier.
i was there to be. an example, the best example i could be, of christ. of love. of acceptance.
who imagined that i would meet my husband? or that when i decided i didn't want the church job anymore that i would stay here. that my heart, my passion would remain? it would be easier to pack up my family and move home. find jobs in the states that pay more than $500 USD a month. buy a car, a house, send samil to quality schools.
sure, we could leave. go home. but it's not in the cards - at least that hasn't been revealed to us yet.
we live close to the church. not close enough that we are seen, but close enough that we know what happens. it hurts my heart that this denomination i love so much is not what i always thought it was. it hurts at the same time that i can't change it.
but i've learned in these past 4 years that we're not meant to change the church. we're meant to change ourselves. god gives us what we need. and we need to pass that along to others.
had i known i would end up so disappointed i probably wouldn't have come. but look at all that i'd be missing out on? the love of my life. a purpose. joy.
4 years under the belt... who knows how many more?