Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Virtual Mentors

If it were possible I would just invite her over for tea or for a pancake brunch. Due to distance and mostly stardom- I will have to settle for a virtual mentorship. I have always loved the words and works of Maya Angelou. She has shaped several of my philosophies about life and love. Simply hearing her voice through the television or radio makes my heart rise a bit.

I have been thinking recently about the multitude of authors, mentors, personalities and ministers who help shape my life and calling. The front-runners that come to mind are Sue Monk Kidd, Barbara Brown Taylor and of course- the one and only-Maya Angelou.

Sometimes when I am at work, I "youtube" interviews, lectures or sermons of those that I admire. I figure mentoring can happen anywhere-even if you don't even know them perosnally. So today, I met with Maya Angelou. In the privacy of my corner office she and I had a chat.

In our "chat" Maya made a statement regarding her faith that I am still contemplating. I am still tossing it around and around in my mind. She is eloquent like that though. Her words are more than often prophetic and always wise.

This is what Maya shared with me today:

"I am trying to be a Christian. Of all the things I’ve said this is the most important. Trying to be a Christian is like trying to be a Jew, or a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Taoist. It’s not something you achieve and then you sit back thinking, ‘whew, I’ve got it’. I’m always amazed when people walk up to me and say ‘I’m a Christian’. I think, ‘already, goodness gracious, I’ve spent over 70 years working at it'. So, what I’m trying to do, in everything I do is to be a representative of my God. I am made by God. I am God’s child. I am trying to show that I respect it and I am appreciative of it.”

If I could have it my way, however, we would move our conversation from the stuffy confines of an office to the fresh and carefree ambiance a front porch lends. Perhaps we would shell peas together and drink pink lemonade. We would talk for hours- mostly Mrs. Angelou, that is- about life, love and everything in between. Our conversation would last so long that I'd have to bring out a light blanket and turn on the front porch lights. We would watch the moths collect around the burning lights and occasionally swat a misquito or two. It would be one of those Holy moments in life where you wish time would stand still. If the hands on the clock could stop long enough, you could take in the aroma of left-over coffee, the feel of the cool night air and the sound of an old squeaky porch swing.

What about you? Who would you invite to your front porch?


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What it Really Costs

I know that every 60 seconds a woman dies from a pregnancy related cause, malaria kills more than one million people per year, and there are approximately 34 million refugees in the world. I know $3 will purchase a birthing kit that can increase maternal health, $6 will purchase a bed net that can reduce malaria infections, and teaching English at a refugee center in Nashville, TN is free.

I come from a denominational line of people who tend to give more when economic times are hard. I grew up with their stories of sacrifice and service. My GA leaders taught me the value of a dime and a dollar.

If I say, “I can’t afford to buy a birthing kit,” and still pay my XM radio bill each month, then I don’t know sacrifice. If as an organization we say, “As financial resources become available, we will appoint career personnel again,” and office staff continues to increase, then we don’t know sacrifice.

It’s time to get serious about our priorities. And getting serious about our priorities is bigger than lagging donations.

Lead me and I will follow.

“Speak, Lord. Our souls are hushed to hear what Thou shalt say. Overwhelming is the responsibility, but speak, Lord, and tell us what our duty is – how high or how low – and then, great God . . . give us strength to do it.”

(A prayer by Miss Nannie Helen Burroughs, 1911 BWA Women’s Meeting)
**statistics provided by WHO and UNHCR


Sunday, May 10, 2009


I spent yesterday afternoon with one of my favorite people in the world. I've always been completely amazed at her natural, God-given gift to minister with presence. She is one of those embodied individuals who fits well in her own skin and as a result, when I'm with her, my skin fits better too.

My friend's mother is in the advanced stages of a debilitating illness. She cares for her mother by bathing her, feeding her, and creating opportunities to laugh with her. We talked about the power of caring for the body. We talked about the power of touch. She said her mother doesn't know her anymore and she prays that maybe, on some level, her mother recognizes her touch. "Her hand around mine is the most familiar grasp I know," she said. "The next time you are with your mother, grab her hand and close your eyes. You could recognize her touch even without sight." Her words made me cry.

Our bodies are more than vessels. Our bodies are ourselves and when a disease takes our ability to remember or communicate, we still have the need to know and to be known by someone. "We cannot be human alone."

Body Theology is beyond what I ever imagined when Dr. Noble first suggested I couple the area of study with maternal health. I have become as passionate about the health of an individual's body theology as I have the health of a pregnant woman and her safe delivery. This realization of the importance of our bodies and the bodies of those around us, affects the way I look at strangers on the street. It affects the way I relate to those I love. It affects the way I think of my own body.

Conversations like the one I had yesterday move me spiritually. It is an honor to care for one who is sick. It is an honor to feed friends a meal that will nourish their bodies. It is an honor to grasp the hands of our mothers.

I know my friend is a wonderful caregiver. On this Mother's Day, I celebrate my friend and her mother whose grasp she knows well. May she take time to care for her own body in the midst of a holy act fraught with love and frustration.

This post appeared first on The Days Were Accomplished.

Friday, May 08, 2009

We Can't Hold Out Much Longer

This week I met some friends who know from personal experience that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is not appointing missionaries. My friends are competent, capable and intelligent. For years they've cultivated relationships with existing field personnel and CBF staff learning by example while anticipating their own ministry careers.

Over lunch, one woman told me, "I wish I had known I wasn't going to have the opportunity to be appointed. I would have spent the last ten years of my life networking with organizations that might actually hire me." Another woman said, "Maybe we should have just stayed with the Southern Baptist Convention. At least they are honest about their requirements."

Former CBF applicants had urged the friends I met to proceed with caution throughout the interview process. According to personal conversations with other candidates, CBF's reasons for not appointing individuals have included: too specific of a call, too vague of a call, too much seminary, not enough seminary, and weight. I understand that many organizations are under increased financial stress, but this is a pattern that seems to have started years ago. I also know that some have been willing to raise their own support and they have still been denied appointment.

Some questions we should be asking:
1. How many career, field personnel positions has CBF appointed since 2006?
2. What are appointment requirements and do candidates receive a copy when they apply?
3. If a CBF congregation wanted to support an individual from their church, is that possible?
4. How many career units has CBF lost or discontinued in the last five years? How many have they appointed in the last five years?

I've questioned whether or not I should write this post. I do not want to seem combative, rude, divisive, disruptive, or unhelpful. I do not wish to embarrass or shame. I write for the ones with whom I met this week. I write because I do not know what else to do. I write because I'm angry and I fear that most don't know this is happening. I write for those who are thinking about whether or not to go to seminary or take out a student loan. I write for those who can't say anything because their jobs or reputations would be jeopardized. I write because I am a student of missiology and I care.

I thought about my reputation and if I might be limiting my future job possibilities. It's probable. And let's be honest, they aren't going to hire me anyway.

I'm tired of waiting for somebody else to say something. I'm tired of hearing the same commissioning speech every summer. I'm tired of field personnel being moved from international assignments to the Atlanta office. I'm tired of pretense prevailing.

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, "We love you, and we bless you." Where will we go if not with you? As post-denominational as I hear our world is, I think we still need you. We can't hold out for much longer. Sister Cooperative Baptist, Brother Fellowship, we are family, tell us the truth. Help us help you.
Suzanah D. Raffield