bon voyage!

>> March 3, 2010

lessons from the bus (part 1)
mapping = community connection

Four months after arrival in this French-speaking country, we finally had enough French up our sleeve that we were ready to try the city bus system.

This may sound a little strange, but there is absolutely no bus map and limited information on where the buses go, except for the bus windows and some limited information on the bus website. Each bus has a number and a sign saying where its final destination will be, so you would think that was helpful. Yet, our city map did not have those destinations and what if we wanted to get off at a different place?

We explained our plight to a few people, but they only told us “Oh, just take the Car Rapide on that street and get off at…” Okay, so there are four types of buses here: The regular blue city bus, a smaller white city bus and two other buses that would be a hybrid system of city bus and taxi, one of which is called Car Rapide. So, their responses didn’t help because the Car Rapides are not marked and go wandering all over the place.

The easiest thing was just keep trekking all over the city on foot, as we had been doing, or take a taxi. The first is not always time efficient and the latter is expensive.

One day, our French professor gave us a few of the main blue bus numbers and their general route. Wonderful! Armed with this information we headed out for a new adventure. All too soon we found out that it wasn’t as easy as our professor made it out to be. Was this because of the system? Or was it because of our Western mindset?

I wanted a neatly mapped-out set of routes that told me where all the stops were. As I looked around I began see that maybe I was the only one who needed a neat map that fed my individualistic culture.

As our experiences (more of those later) on the bus system have broadened, over and over I see the need to get out of my shell and ask the people. Everyone here knows something about the bus system and with each person talked to, a more complete map is created. Not on paper, but in our minds.

I cannot help but think of our lives as Christians, and even as PWs. How often do we prefer a neat map for our lives or our roles in ministry? A map that clearly defines what, when, and how we should do something while also setting some boundaries for others on our time and space?

Yet life in ministry is more akin to African culture. It flourishes best with community. When the time is taken to stop, listen and talk with our parishioners and learn from their experiences and observations, we soon find we have a much better working map in our minds of the church congregation and our role.

I am drawn to John 14:1-9. Here Jesus builds up to the verse “I am the one comes to the Father except through Me.” And then he delineates further. Clearly the map to heaven is a relationship. Is it possible that the map of ministry is relationship as well?

If this is the case, this is good news indeed! No need to be intimidated by what a congregation will think of us, our husbands or our ministry. Build a relationship with Jesus, build a relationship with the people and the map will be made clear.

It is not easy and will require getting out of our comfort zone. Yet that is what we have been called to do: serve others through relationship.

This is only one application of my experience. I am interested to hear other applications that you may see from this mapping = community connection idea. Let me know what you think and how this can apply to our everyday life.

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