The Nations Return
Last year, some Living Waters friends from Thailand and China urged us at DSM/LW to gather international leaders again in Kansas City.
I balked and winced as I recalled the vision a dear friend had given me five years ago—it was nothing but a burnt field, still smoking. So was I. After 30 years of building Living Waters around the globe, I was asked by a council of Living Waters leaders to step off the team so that they could pursue other goals.
Overnight, friends with a shared language became strangers whose perspective I could no longer discern, let alone contend. The joy of gathering with the nations became a landmine, which had blown up in my face. A burnt field indeed.
In the years that followed, I spent time daily before the Crucified and died to what had been. I alternated between hope that leapt at God’s lead and despair that slouched toward early retirement (bleech!). I wondered if seeds that die always release more life (JN 12: 24-26).
God invited me into new friendships. Anne Paulk and Stephen Black asked me to join them in starting a national coalition of ministries—Restored Hope Network–for persons impacted by SSA, as Exodus tanked before our eyes; of equal blessing was Father Paul Check, the leader of Courage, who mentored this new Catholic and gave me a chance to share my witness in his world (which is becoming mine as well). I love these networks; I hope you do too, as they are beautiful expressions of God’s heart for persons with SSA.
My primary call, however, is Living Waters. To my surprise, some of the nations where we had released Living Waters re-initiated relationship with us. Provoked by conscience and now seasoned in ministry and decision-making, they wanted to return to the source. I was grateful yet tentative as I was and am still unwilling to return to the ‘good old days.’ They weren’t that good and they are over.
So I wondered; might we build relationship based on mutual respect and a desire to grow together into a new season? I now realize that I had tolerated ‘cloak and dagger’ stuff in the old system. No more. Either we trust each other or we choose other partnerships. This work is impossible when squinting at and whispering about colleagues.
The DSM/LW staff agreed to host our international friends who wanted to come. Most of our friends did (which floored me) and honestly, it was heaven-on-earth. We started at the Restored Hope Conference in Chicago (amazing) then met at my home and at our offices for 3-days in which we dined, prayed, and centered on the Kingdom of God, embracing the whole Church, and identifying weaknesses in our married and single lives. No pressure, just the real Presence of God meeting us and helping us to love Jesus and each other more. Fragrant. God kissed us.
Poured out, the DSM/LW staff inhaled the truth that the nations had returned to us. But differently now, like adults with a shared bond. We like each other; we want to be together. Beautiful–new life springing forth from scorched, rich soil.