Trip Start Jul 12, 2011
23Trip End Dec 19, 2011
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I have to confess that I miss my friends back in Argentina. I recently had the privilege of having an afternoon tea with a friend here in Decatur who, although she isn't from the South, has spent significant time there. It's one of the first times in a long time I can remember just sitting with a friend since coming back and talking.
The beautiful thing about coffee, or drinking a mate, with people in Argentina, and the South in general, is that it takes an afternoon - never just an hour like it always does here in the USA. People actually want you to just hang out. You talk about life, that pretty girl you'd like to take on a date, the good wine you found the other day, dreams, hopes, God - anything that comes to mind. Being together isn't about having an hour meeting, and then moving on to the rest of your life. Life itself is found in afternoon coffee with your friends.
Here in the States, it seems easy to get left behind in the hustle and bustle of life. Everyone plans their schedules a week or two in advance here in Atlanta (at least among seminary and young professional types - we're all trying to figure out a way to make it in a slumpy job market). Friends are unable to take more than an hour or so per week out of their schedules to just hang out because they have presentations, papers, projects, meetings, and other things coming up all throughout the week.
In many ways, this is why America sits at the top of the global economic food chain - such a culture has made us more efficient, even though we remain chained to our email clients and laptops (or iPads, Kindles, netbooks, or smartphones - anything that can access an email account or our synchronized calendars really). We get more "stuff" done.
The sad thing is, however, we're missing life itself. We miss interacting with beautiful, amazing, dream-filled, God-imaged people for producing more "stuff" - whether it is documents or advertising or web development or shelf stock. I can't even remember the last time I looked at the stars in the States. In Argentina, I still remember sitting around the campfire and looking at the stars with Wilfredo in Tigre.
Somehow, the way that this hyper-organized culture intersects with the church has left me feeling disappointed. Jesus clearly shared life with the disciples, and they shared their lives with others regularly. Here in the USA, however, I can't even force His disciples to spend time with me - everyone has to keep moving because that's how America "works".
And so, the church just feels like another organized thing. Like a hotel where I walk in the revolving door, stand in the lobby while I say hey to the few friends I can grab for about 1 min each, listen to a presentation, and then walk back out the revolving door. For most people in my church, that's all the time I get with them for the whole week. And some of these people are dear friends.
So, I'm grateful for the afternoon tea that my fellow terceromundista gringa offered to me the other day (you rock if you're reading this - you know who you are). It was good to express myself in Castillian again - which while in Argentina seemed to flow effortlessly after a few months passed, almost as natural as breathing. For a moment, I stepped back into another world - a world where I was valued enough that it was ok if saying what was on my mind took all afternoon. It felt like I had breached life's surface and come up for fresh air.
And, just to point this out, perhaps this is why the church in the South is rapidly growing, while in the North it seems to be steadily losing its influence. Down there, you actually have time to get to know Jesus in community. Here you just hear about Jesus while you sit in a big room - a big room full of people who don't have time to talk to you as you walk out the door.
While I don't see this changing anytime soon for America (we like sitting on top of the world economy way too much for our culture to significantly change in regard to how we overplan our lives), it makes me wonder how I should think about serving in the church. The suburbs seem icy - and isolating - instead of the green, Edenic haven that they once did to me. So do its churches, and many of the churches in the cities here.
Maybe it means I should think about serving abroad and missions more than I have before. Perhaps it means that my thoughts on revamping pastoral training and education here in the USA are really just a pipe dream, and that real life is to be found in community with people instead of more American forms of training and organization - that real Gospel and Gospel training is to be found not in the pages of a commentary but in life lived together in the presence of God.
Whatever it means, I'm grateful that God's in control. I feel too confused at present to make any of these decisions myself.