Back in February, when I began applying for the YAV program, I was emailed a Word document named “Important YAV Concepts.” The first section, “Being and Doing,” explains the challenge and “healthy tension” between these two ways of living; “In our culture, much value is placed upon what we do and achieve. If we cannot show that we are ‘usefully’ occupied or point to the evidence of our work, we can feel a sense of failure or lack of purpose because our culture values doing… Allow God to use you whether you are being or doing. Often times one leads richly to the other.” This tension is probably the biggest struggle I’m having in India.
Because CMS simply does not ask much of me, I can rarely show that I am “usefully occupied” which has at times led to feeling a “lack of purpose”. Much of what I’m asked to do simply involves showing up at events to simply be present and not directly participate. In the beginning, when my focus was on simply adjusting, it was nice to not have too much asked of me. But eventually it was not nice at all, primarily frustrating. Being present at event after event is simply not quantifiable, and quantifying work and time is what American culture does best.
Yet slowly I am coming to realize that the most beautiful, fulfilling moments really do come from my least structured activities (e.g. going to coffee each day with the guys, walking around and striking up conversations with students, visiting people’s homes, even reading with students). It is in these moments that I am able to offer myself, not what I can accomplish. In a recent email, a close pastor and mentor reminded me, “The work you are doing - the ministry of presence - is truly one of the things that is the hardest to learn.”
[Excerpt from my October Newsletter to friends, family, and supports.]