Brandon Lazarus

Author's details

Name: Brandon Lazarus
Date registered: April 17, 2012

Latest posts

  1. UMC Lead: Looking Twice at Ebola — October 27, 2014
  2. UMC Lead: Choosing Relationships over Profiles — October 15, 2014
  3. UMC Lead: You Need Counseling — September 2, 2014
  4. UMC Lead: And, how are ALL the children? — August 20, 2014
  5. UMC Lead: WWJD: Who Would Jesus Deport? An Interview With Owen Ross — August 8, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. La Lengua de Lazarus: 47 Percenter Seminarian: Christianity Teaches That ‘People Are Entitled To Food’ — 2 comments
  2. La Lengua de Lazarus: They WILL Know We Are Christians By Our Love — 1 comment
  3. La Lengua de Lazarus: Accountability Does Not Lead To Trust — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Oct 27 2014

UMC Lead: Looking Twice at Ebola

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Some people will not read this post simply because it has the word Ebola in the title. I’m not sure I can blame them. Ebola has completely flooded both news media and social media. The facebook statuses that plaster my news feed seem to come from one of two camps. They are either worried that Ebola is going to begin to spread like it has in Africa or they are frustrated and angry with those who are worried that Ebola is going to begin to spread like it has in Africa.

The dichotomy extends beyond just my network of friends. We can see people’s fear in how certain local governments are responding. Out of fear there are people and places that are being quarantined even though they didn’t come in contact with someone with Ebola or even come in close proximity to a third party connected to Ebola. Everyone is trying to find the balance between being safe and being paranoid. I don’t wish to be Chicken Little who made a scene out of nothing nor do I wish to be the boy who cried wolf who made a joke out of a serious situation only to see that help was not there when it was needed.

As I think about Ebola I think not to these main two perspectives that have come out but to a few of my friends who have found a third way to look at Ebola. This third way is what I believe is most appropriate. I believe it stems from what Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book The Preaching Life describes as “looking twice” at the world. It is a practice rooted in Native American tradition. Looking once only gives us a piece of the story while looking twice allows us to see the larger story. Taylor gives an example of what “looking twice” looks like.

Reading the newspaper, I see a map of the world with symbols denoting war, earthquake, famine. There are black lines separating this country from that, this people from that. I note with some relief that the area in which I live is free from symbols. I look once and think, “Thank God I’m an American.” I look twice and think, “God help me, I’m an earthling,” and in that imaginative act my relationship to the world in which I live is changed.

When we look at Ebola we must look twice. When we look once we only see what is going on in the US. We see unfortunate instances of people contracting Ebola from trying to help others who are battling the virus. We see one patient out of nine die. We see health care professionals doing their jobs to help cure the patients only to see a couple contract it themselves. We see people panicking over the though of getting Ebola and then a group of people jumping to criticize those who are afraid.

We then look twice and we see a different story. When we look twice we see thousands of West Africans stricken with Ebola. We see a death rate estimated as high as 70%. We see families left without brothers, mothers, fathers, sisters, and children. We see people rushing to their aid only to find that they have lack of access to the medicines they need, proper facilities, or medical expertise. We see pain, suffering, and death. We see our own fellow human beings in need.

I understand that a virus with a 70% fatality rate is scary. I understand that after seeing what it did to Africa it is scary to think that something like that could happen here. The reality is that the death rate so far in the US is about 10%. The truth is that we have better facilities, infrastructure, and expertise. The other reality is that most places in Africa do not. I also understand that seeing people freak out about a misinterpreted threat can be somewhat of a nuisance, but before you say It’s not that big of a deal please take time to also lift up our brothers and sisters in Africa. If you have the skills and the resources to go over there and help, thank you. If you are willing to donate to an organization like UMCOR, thank you. If you are willing to advocate, thank you. If you are willing to pray, thank you. When we look at Ebola, may we look twice.


Image from Flickr user Addison Berry

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Oct 15 2014

UMC Lead: Choosing Relationships over Profiles

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A couple of weeks ago I went to a young professionals luncheon and lecture with the chamber of commerce. The topic for the lecture was “the intergenerational workplace.” The lecturer shared profiles for baby boomers, gen Xers, and millennial and gave tips on how to work together across generations. She explained what typically motivates people from each generation, what leadership style they prefer, what type of lifestyle they typically live, etc. After her lecture she had us discuss with our tables what we learned from the lecture and what other experiences we had from working with people from other generations.

I shared with my table that although I find profiles of generations somewhat helpful, I find the best way to work with people of another generation is to get to know them on a personal level. I mentioned a little about Bowen family systems theory and how much I’ve learned about myself and what motivates me based on my own upbringing. The more we can learn about other people on an individual level the better our relationships and work together will be. I looked around the table to blank stares. Suddenly one of the people said, “hmmmm, never thought of it that way before.”

Have people never thought that the best way to work with someone is to get to know them? Are coworkers and employees really just a means to an end? Are we more willing to know about people than to actually know people? Do we believe that generational profiles, Meyer’s Briggs, or the Enneagram can be a substitute for getting to know someone? Now I’m not quite pessimistic enough to believe the answers to those questions is yes all across the board but I do believe we sometimes answer yes with our actions. We use our knowledge about general populations to project those stereotypes all too often. Oh, you’re responding that way because you’re a 2 on the enneagram. You wouldn’t really like this job because it involves other people and you’re an introvert. You’re a millennial so we need you to update this website for us. Or in my opinion one of the most egregious, you’re awfully short tempered today; it must be that time of the month.

Generational and cultural profiles can be very helpful. They can tell us about historical events that have shaped a generation or a people. They can tell us about cyclical poverty, reasons for lack of trust, what generally motivates certain people etc. but they cannot be substitutes for actually getting to know someone. Just because you know someone as an ENFP, a “6”, or a Millennial does not mean that you know them. Find the assumptions and test them. Ask someone how they feel about a certain opportunity or a project. If someone is aggravating you by how they respond, figure out why they’re acting that way. Even better, ask yourself why their actions are so aggravating to you.

With social media we can learn where people are from, what school they went to, what their interests are, and what kind of family they come from by just clicking a button and scrolling through some information. I’m not the crotchety old man shaking his cane saying, “kids these days don’t know anything about real life, they live behind their computers.” I don’t think Facebook, twitter, texting, etc. are destroying our social interactions. I believe the problem is much deeper than that. Social medias are wonderful tools that can be used to start, strengthen, or rekindle relationships. These, like personality quizzes and generational profiles, are to be used in conjunction with meaningful conversations.

We need to stop being lazy and be relational. We should ask questions rather than assume. If we want to succeed, move forward, and create change we’re going to need one another. The best way to work together is not to make assumptions or to place one another into stereotypes but to learn where our motivation comes from and help to motivate one another.

Image from Flickr user William Serson under creative commons

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Sep 02 2014

UMC Lead: You Need Counseling

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I sat in the big comfy chair like I had done so many times before. I knew the question that was coming. “Brandon, what is it that you’re anxious about?” I was a sophomore in college. There was plenty to be anxious about. I was anxious about my grades, where I would fit in, what classes I would take, where I would go after college, if I would be able to find a job, if that job would pay well, and this was all mixed in with a difficult relationship I was going through.

Then came the next question. “What do you need to do? What is in your control?” I then shared concrete actions that I knew I could take in order to make sure things were taken care of. “The rest,” she answered, “is out of your control. What good comes from your worrying and anxiety?” I knew nothing good would come from my worrying but I thought to myself, “I have to worry. Worrying shows I care.”

I had fooled myself into thinking that by constantly having these worries in my mind, it meant that I cared. If I wasn’t constantly thinking about what could go wrong, then something really would go wrong, and I wouldn’t be prepared for it. If I just continued to play the worst-case scenarios over and over in my head, then I would know exactly how to respond if they did happen. Surely it was better to be a pessimist and be pleasantly surprised if something actually turned out well than to be an optimist and be hurt if things didn’t turn out well.

She kept challenging me though. “What good comes from worrying? Why work yourself up over a worst possible scenario when it might not even happen? Why be so worried of others wounding you that you wound yourself?” I grew to understand that my thoughts and actions didn’t make sense, but it was my go-to response. For some reason, the paralyzing psychological pain I was inflicting upon myself felt safer than allowing some person or some event to cause me pain.

She was my counselor at the University of South Carolina. USC and many other schools recognize the pressures that college students go through and so they offer counseling sessions that are often free or at low cost to students. At first, I was hesitant to go to counseling. Counseling is for people with problems, crazy people, right? I then found out that many of my friends who I looked up to had gone to counseling and were still going. I learned that counseling isn’t about being crazy or unstable. Counseling is about realizing that sometimes you can’t figure everything out on your own. Counseling isn’t about your problems. It’s about better learning who you are.

My counseling sessions at USC, combined with supportive friends, family, and pastors, helped me realize that my response to stress up to that point was unhealthy. I wanted to be perfect. I didn’t want to show any weakness. I didn’t want to be vulnerable. I wanted to be in control. The questions my counselor asked weren’t new questions, nor were they overly profound. Her experience and knowledge in counseling, however, allowed her to know which questions to ask, how to ask them, and when to ask them. After asking those questions often enough, I learned the real answers to them. I learned that the primary question she was asking me was a question Christ asks us: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” It was the help of counseling that allowed me to finally listen.

My counselor was willing to listen to me, and in turn I was eventually willing to listen to myself and to God. It was through that experience that I began to give up control in areas of my life that I sought so strongly to control. I began to worry less and pray more. I looked not for what could go wrong in my life, but for what could go right. It was that release of control that finally led me to my call to ordained ministry. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have found my calling or found my way out of that darkness without counseling, but the road would have been longer and more arduous.

I have seen too many people suffer from depression, anxiety, or mental illness only to have their wounds made deeper by Christians who respond by saying, “If you pray and have enough faith you’ll make it through this.” I firmly believe in the power and importance of prayer but sometimes the answer to our prayers may be access to the counseling and medication that is necessary. I was fortunate to get past my anxiety through counseling and a supportive environment, but many people suffer from worse anxiety and depression than I experienced. Still others have the added difficulty of underlying mental illness.

Seeking counseling is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. Since my sophomore year in college, I have continued to meet with a counselor, and I would encourage everyone to do the same. Counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists have training that pastors do not. Some pastors have been trained in counseling, but most have not. A mentor of mine once told me that as a pastor he is willing to meet with a couple, family, or individual about the same issue or tension three times. After that, he then refers them to a counseling center. This is not because he is lazy, or simply doesn’t want to deal with an issue. It is because he is aware of where his strengths and his training are and where there are others more gifted to help in a certain situation.

We all have stresses and anxiety. We all have situations where we feel overwhelmed. We all struggle with our identity as persons, Christians, spouses, parents, or whatever other roles you may fill. We should not and cannot go through all of it alone. We ought to seek the resources we have. We need our friends, our family, our church, our pastors, and sometimes we also need counseling.


Photo used by Creative Commons from flickr user Pascal.

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Aug 20 2014

UMC Lead: And, how are ALL the children?

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4929687589_6dd6b4ac53_bI finally got around to unpacking my final box from my move to Clover in June when I found a wristband that was given out at the South Carolina Annual Conference this year. I had worn it since annual conference but I took it off to participate Salkehatchie so I wouldn’t break it. I had forgotten about it until I discovered it in one of my boxes. The wristband reads,  “And, how are ALL the children?” This year at annual conference we had a book drive called the Million Book Effort. Although we came short of the goal of one million books by the closing session of annual conference, we did raise over 300,000 books as a conference. Our conference continues to focus on justice issues around children and education.

As I was reading the wristband I realized it’s a shame they ran out of room. Surely what the wristbands were supposed to say were:

And, how are all the children in South Carolina?All the children
And, how are all the children in your home?
And, how are all the children in the US?
And, how are all the children in your church?
And, how are all the children in your city?
And, how are all the children who look, think, and act like you?
Maybe they meant what they said and said what they meant:

“And how are ALL the children?” *FULL STOP*

            “And, how are ALL the children?”  is the question the annual conference asked of us and the question I now ask myself every time I look down at my wrist. If I am being honest, the answer to that question every time is “ALL the children are not well.” There may be children in my family, my church, or my town that are doing well, but the question isn’t about a particular group of children, it’s about all children.

ALL the children are not well because racism still exists.

ALL the children are not well because every 60 seconds a child dies of malaria

ALL the children are not well because over 400 children have been killed in Gaza.

ALL the children are not well because there are 1000s of minors at the US border.

ALL the children are not well because in South Carolina The Corridor of Shame still exists.

ALL the children are not well because 1 in 6 children in the developing world are underweight.

ALL the children are not well because nearly 100 million children have unstable living situations

ALL the children are not well because some of the numbers listed above continue to increase.

            After answering that question, there comes another one. The next question is, “So what are you going to do about it?” Quite frankly, it seems absolutely daunting. How is one person supposed to help millions of children that are not well and in need of help? The answer is simple. One person, on their own, is not going to help millions of children. This is a job that will need the church, it will need Christ, it will need the Holy Spirit, and it will need the Father of all of the children. We should start with prayer, then conversation, and ultimately lead to action.

Some of the links above will take you to blogs or websites that share ways to help out. You should also go to your local school district and ask how you can help. I assure you they will find a way to put you to work. You could volunteer teaching Sunday School at your church in order to show children your love and support. You can model for your own children the need to reach out to be in solidarity and support of your brothers and sisters. You can share with others that children are in need. You can find some way, big or small, that can contribute to the well-being of the children in our world. The one thing we cannot afford to do is nothing. While our children are hurting we must respond.

Most importantly, we need to ask ourselves each and everyday “And, how are ALL the children?” If we do not constantly ask ourselves that question then we will likely overlook the children in our world who are hungry, naked, homeless, sick, and hurting. We must continue to ask the question until the day that we can wake up and find that the answer to the question is:

“ALL the children are well!” *FULL STOP*

Featured image by Flickr user epSos. de. Used under Creative Commons License. Cropped from original.

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Aug 08 2014

UMC Lead: WWJD: Who Would Jesus Deport? An Interview With Owen Ross

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I sat down with Rev. Dr. Owen Ross this week to interview him about his experience last week where he and over 100 other religious leaders were arrested for their demonstration at the White House. They were advocating for immigration reform and more specifically to stop deportations. Owen is the founding pastor of Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Mission which is a primarily hispanic congregation.

First of all, thank you for joining us at UMCLEAD. Can you start by walking us through last Thursday?

I take trips from time to time to DC to lobby. This is a part of my ministry, so I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity again to lift up the power of witness. I want to say to my elected leaders that immigration is so important to me that I come to Washington for this purpose.

I first went to drop my bag off at the Methodist building. Some criticize the UMC for owning such expensive property but the building enabled me and others to do some great ministry and discipleship through bearing witness to our faith.

We returned on Thursday morning to gather for prayer and training led by an organization called CASA Maryland. I was the guinea pig that was brought up to show how to respond when being arrested. They taught us how to respond when being arrested and to never touch the police officers.

The training was important because all of this was preplanned in that the organizers had met with the police ahead of time so that the officers knew what to expect from us and we knew what to expect from them. If we acted outside of our mutual agreement then all bets would be off.

After the training we caught the Metro down to the White House where there were a ton of people, press, and media. There was a traditional rally going on with signs, prayers, blessing, and songs. It was an interfaith gathering with people from many different organizations and churches.


After a while we walked down to the White House for prayer. As we were praying the police came down to tell us we need to move and gave us our first warning. We didn’t move but instead continued to pray. They then came and gave us our second warning. When they could tell that we were not moving they began setting up a perimeter with officers on horseback, squad cars, and transportation vehicles and set up for booking. Next thing I knew they gave a third warning and said, “You are all under arrest. Do not attempt to leave the area.” They first started cuffing the women, and then the men. They would cuff us and take us out to the tent where they would take down our information, take a picture, and slap a wristband on us with a number. I was number 98 of 112 and am still have on my wristband at this moment and plan on wearing it until it falls off on its own.arrest

I was one of the last ones to load up in a paddy wagon with some of my colleagues from Dallas. The ride from the
White House to the jail was thrilling. They were riding us around like they had a carload of VIPs. The police had 4 police motorcycles clearing the pathway for us. They had traffic stopped, we
were driving on the wrong side of the road, I felt like President Obama himself going down the highway. You know, if it weren’t for the having my arms cuffed behind my back and not being able to scratch the itch I had on my nose riding in a hot paddy wagon, it would have been awesome.

They took us down to the jail where they had a “mass incarceration garage” that had long lines roped off like something you’d see at six flags. This station seemed clearly to be built for this very purpose. Once we got into the area the police were kind enough to take our cuffs off. The police were very professional and courteous doing their jobs as we were doing our jobs.

After they finished processing all of us we paid our fine and left. The organizers then had rides coordinated to pick us up and take us back to the Methodist building where food had been prepared for us by supporters.

I want to ask the obvious question. Why’d you do it?

I did it because my savior and his family had to go through crossing borders as a child. When I see what our immigrant families are going through I can’t help but respond with Christian compassion. I did it for the theological reasons. I go back and forth about the political reasons of is this action. Is this the best response and will this change anything? Do I expect it to change anything? I wrestled with that but finally settled on this was the right thing for me to do. I was what I was being called to do. I pray that God uses this in a way to bring relief to families that God cares about deeply.

What was the moment like as you were being arrested? Was there conversation? Was there joking? Was there just silence? Was there prayer? What was going on?


Rev. Eric Folkerth, Bishop Minerva Carcañο, and Rev. Owen Ross

All of the above. There was a moment when I had to get away from the group and be by myself. I reflected and prayed in an individual and personal way. There were then other times when groups of us were just having conversations with one another. Eric (Folkerth) and I were facebooking, we were posting, we were sharing up until the arrest. Then all of a sudden we all went silent. There was a moment in that silence when Eric told me what he was most worried about was his family back home wondering what was going on while we had gone silent. In those moment of silence we began to wonder how long are these children coming to the US were silent? How long do the families go without knowing anything? Our families knew we would only be gone for a couple of hours but the families of these children crossing the borders don’t know when or if they will hear from the children. I can’t imagine the desperation these parents must feel. They must feel the desperation that Moses’s mother was feeling when she placed her baby in a basket and sent him down a river. We had both these deep conversations and just collegial conversations with fellow pastors about mutual friends and what was going on at their churches.

Immigration is clearly complex but it seems that’s sometimes used as an excuse to do nothing. What are some steps that can be taken by individuals or the government to make this large issue more manageable?

Every president since Carter has given protective status to certain immigrant populations. This happened with Haiti, El Salvador, war areas, etc. These people were given a protective status to protect them from war or disaster areas. It was in our global interest and moral nature. What the president can do right now, while it is clear that congress is not going to do anything, the President can give protective status to certain groups. The pressure is on the White House to say to parents that we will not rip you from your US Citizen kids. He could also give differed action to the parents of children who have received deferred status. These are two simple steps that he could take to protect large masses of people.

He could even go so far as to say all non-criminal immigrants will not be deported. That’s what we really want him to do. He could say to these people who are responsible people who are in our country, “we want you to stay.” I’ve had church members who have had children or spouses deported because they have committed crimes. Although I feel for them, the ones I really feel for are those who are seeking a better future and contributing to our community but get stopped in the wrong town or are in a fender bender and next thing you know they are stripped from their families. We need to put pressure on the president to stop deportations because people may not realize this president has ripped apart more families and deported more people than any president in the history of the United States. I would encourage people to reach out to their elected officials and let them know you want the deportations to stop.

As for church people, I’d invite them to go to our website to see the verses in the Bible that address immigration. There is no other contemporary political issue that is addressed more in scripture than immigration. It was a political issue then and it is a political issue then but God has always responded with the same answer. Love them as your native born and remember that you were foreigners in Egypt. I would encourage pastors to preach this issue and for churches to study these scriptures. As frequently as it’s addressed in the scriptures, it doesn’t seem to be something that is of concern to Christians. If you were to poll non-Christians about what they feel Christians care about, I doubt immigration would make it in the top three.

If scripture needs to be at the heart of this conversation but clearly is not, what do you think is driving the conversation right now? 

The changes that are going on in the nation are driving the conversation. There are a lot of changes going on in our nation and people are afraid of them. There are people in this nation that are mourning the loss of their childhood home and they’re frustrated with the economy. I read somewhere that in the frustration of the economy the undocumented immigrant is the easiest dog to kick. If people start paying attention to the images media uses to portray immigrates they don’t show the people of Christ’s Foundry worshiping God and serving their community, they don’t show college kids walking around campus, they don’t show the people who are simply working towards a better life. Instead they show the criminal element. They flash pictures and videos of rough looking dudes that tell you to be afraid. They don’t show our beautiful high school students in our worship band. They get this false image of who the immigrant child is. They want to believe the myth that they are “line jumpers” as if a line even existed. If you could see the horrible atrocities they are witness to and the difficulties go through to get here you’d understand that if there actually were a line to get in they would gladly wait in such a line. Instead, the line is a myth that is continued by people who are either ignorant or deceiving, distorts the image of who these undocumented immigrants really are.

Has the recent political and media attention on the kids at the border changed this conversation?

Totally. I feel we were starting to make ground. Some of the elected leaders were starting to say maybe we can do something to help the kids, to help the DREAMers but now they have retreated. They are using this as an excuse to say, “see if we give any kind of amnesty people are just going to flood our borders. If we allow one child in then they are going to think we have to allow them all in.” With the arrival of the kids and the rhetoric blaming the president for giving amnesty to the kids it has scared many people. The tone has change. Many voters are now buying into the myth that people are coming into this country are not running away from the violence and oppression in their own country but are coming expecting the president to give them relief and a handout.

A few weeks ago we reran a post from Dottie Escobedo-Frank where Dottie shared ways that we could respond to the children at our border. Speaking more generally about immigration, what can the UMCLEAD readers do in response? 

We need immigration to become a Christian issue. There are so many on the religious right that say if you are a Christian you have to vote a certain way on certain political issues. There are far more scriptures focused on immigration than the issues they bring up yet we lack a unified Christian voice calling for a Biblical response to immigration. We hear people making Christian stances on things like Obamacare which takes a nuanced view of scriptures to fully argue yet we are failing lift up the issue of immigration which is clearly, frequently, and consistently addressed in Scripture. We need to get our churches activated and aware to make this a Christian issue. If we could do that then we could come together as the religious right and the religious left to address this. Instead, we aren’t hearing the whole gamut of scriptures on immigration in churches. We can go to the White House, but we need to start in our church houses and our Sunday schools, and with small groups. Go to the congressional town hall meetings prepared with scripture. When others want to spew fear and hate spew love based on the Word and bare witness to your faith. Share the story of Christ whose family had to illegally cross borders at night. This goes for laity, clergy, and congregations. Go against this swell of hate that is going against families that are like our Lord’s family.

Any final thoughts you want the readers to hear? 

The message I share everywhere I go is that there is no other current political issue that is more frequently and consistently addressed in scriptures more than immigration. It is a moral and scriptural mandate that we engage in this mission. When the Lord comes in all his glory to separate nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, one of the means with which we will be measured is by how we have treated those who have arrived. That is the message I seek to carry with me everywhere in regards to this ministry with and for immigrants.

All photos used with permission from Eric Folkerth

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Aug 04 2014

UMC Lead: Sharing Our Whole Story

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in a Salkehatchie camp, a weeklong camp where youth from around South Caroline come together to help fix up homes. The renovations are done for those who cannot do it themselves because of financial or physical limitations. The jobs can range from repainting the house, to building a ramp, to reinforcing sinking foundations, or even to completely remodeling a bathroom to make it handicap accessible. In addition to the work, the youth also have nightly worship services and fun activities. There are over 50 camps throughout the state beginning the last week in May and continuing through the first week of August. The camps have as few as 10 people or as many as 160 people.

The camp I participated in was right here in Clover, where I serve as the associate pastor of FUMC. It was a small camp so we only worked on one house. The homeowner’s name was Rozetta Douglas. Miss Douglas’s trailer had a bad water leak, so much of her floor had to be torn up and reinforced. In addition to that, we also put in new cabinets, tore up the carpet to put laminate flooring in the whole house, repainted the inside, and tore down her front steps that were falling apart in order to put in a large front porch and sturdy steps. Miss Douglas has knee problems and is on a fixed income, so there is no way she would have been able to make the improvements to her home on her own. The work was rewarding, but it wasn’t the only purpose or reward for the week.

Like with any mission work, the most important aspect was not the rebuilding of the home but the building of relationships. When Salkehatchie was founded over 35 years ago, it was created not only to help those who are in need financially, but also to create a space where youth can get to know one another, grow closer to God, and create relationships with people they may not otherwise meet. In our case, that someone was Miss Douglas.

Miss Douglas is a wonderful woman with a strong faith and a kind heart. By the end of the first day, she had already broken out her tambourine in order to sing praises to God. In fact, she spent most of our week with her thanking us for the work we were doing and thanking God for the blessings she had received in her life. As we continued talking with her, she also shared about the times in her life when she was not so blessed. She shared about the abuse she experienced at the hands of her ex-husband and stepfather. She told the story of having to leave her home in order to live at a shelter for women in Rock Hill.

The moment that has stuck with me was when she shared of one instance of abuse in particular. She said that her stepfather was not physically abusive, but psychologically so. She shared about the time he bought a lock to put on the refrigerator door. As a child she was told by her stepfather that she could not eat because the food he bought was for his own children, not for her. In telling her story she stopped for a moment. With tears in her eyes she said “Oh dear Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus.” I was slightly confused as to why in that moment, while telling such a difficult story, she would burst out in thanksgiving.

Miss Douglas explained that she has not always been willing to share her story. She said for the longest time it was simply too hard on her and she didn’t want to impose on others. Through therapy and counseling she was able to make it past that point and to share her story. I asked her if I could share her story on this blog and she agreed because it’s important to share our stories with the world. It’s important to see how far we’ve come and even though we have more road to travel we should thank Jesus for our life and for our strength.

I’ve shared before that in my life I have not experienced great persecution, abuse, or oppression. We all, however, have experienced difficult times. Whether the difficulties have been brought on by ourselves or by others, there are times in our lives that we would rather forget. Oftentimes we indeed teach ourselves to forget because otherwise the pain would be too strong. Miss Douglas, however, taught me the importance of sharing about the difficulties of our past. The more we are able to talk about them, the more we can acknowledge the role they play in our larger stories. Trying to forget our past and forget our pain only serves to strengthen the control it has on our lives.

I’m in no way advocating that you share your whole life story with everyone you meet. Lord knows I’ve sat by that person far too many times on a long flight. Sharing too much can sometimes be just as bad as not sharing at all. What I am advocating for is that we acknowledge and live into our story, all of it. Maybe you can share your story aloud with a friend or a loved one. Maybe it seems too hard right now and you’d prefer to reach out to a pastor, counselor, or psychologist. Whatever the means, I hope that you can share your story with others and reach the point in your life where you can rejoice in not just the good but even in the bad. I hope that like Miss Douglas you can shout out, “Oh dear Jesus! Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!” ***Tambourine Optional***

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