Small Things With Great Love
This story of change was lived, written, and shared by Krystalynn Martin: legit-faith.com
Steve and I had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. The music was bumping, the crowd was excited. We were about 4 rows back from the stage. Unbeknownst to us our world was about to be rattled. We were at a Youth Leader’s event, the auditorium filled with fellow Youth workers, all getting away for a weekend to get our souls filled up. We had just heard a great band, and then this strange-looking guy gets introduced on stage. He was our main speaker for the afternoon, and his presence commanded attention.
He had dreads and his clothing looked like it was made from a gunny sack. He talked for about 45 minutes, telling about growing up in the Church and how, as a teen, he would go to different youth events such as retreats, summer camp, youth rallies, or youth group and be entertained and there would always be the altar call from whoever the speaker was. And they would call up anyone who wanted to give their life to God, and so he would get saved, again, again. And he wondered as he got older, “is this all there is to this faith/church thing?” Is church a place where we get reminded over and over again that we’re saved and God loves us, and then we return to “normal life?” As I heard this guy speak, I was hooked.
Shane Claiborne continued his testimony of how, in college, he and some friends were reading about a story in the local paper where some homeless people who had been staying in an abandoned church were getting evicted by the city. So he and his friends decided to get involved. They made flyers that read “Jesus is getting kicked out of church…” and put them up around campus. He and his friends decided to go there and be with “Jesus” (as He is in the poor and the needy). As Shane puts it, “if they (the homeless) weren’t out, they could face arrest for trespassing on church property. So that really stirred all kinds of deep questions in us. And a group of us from the college got involved and, basically, put our lives alongside theirs and said to the city, ‘If you come to evict them, then you got to take us, too.’ …the media got involved and made it look like the church was kicking homeless people out, cuz they were kicking homeless people out.” So what should have only been 48 hours turned into weeks and weeks. And during this time, Shane and his classmates became family with these homeless folks. After the media coverage, the result was amazing! The community saw it on the news and responded, providing housing, shelter, food, clothing, etc.
Shane tells about a defining moment when they were all in the church, eating with the homeless families – these families who had now become a family to them. Shane and some others were going through boxes of donations from different organizations, and as they opened one box from a wealthy church, they found it full of microwave popcorn – the only problem being that there was no microwave to make the popcorn! Around this same time the mafia had shown up, donating brand new bikes for all the kids as well as thousands of dollars for the people to survive off or use for future housing. Shane talks about how he and a friend were inside the abandoned church, near the altar, and they were discouraged by this huge difference. He says, “it’s nice the mafia donated all this, but you’re kinda hoping that during a time of need the church would step up.” He then shared what has become one of my favorite quotes, which was birthed from this experience. He started by saying “We had all kinds of baggage from the church. You know, recovering evangelicals and disenchanted Catholics…” And then Shane shared that in that moment, at the altar of the abandoned church, …”we just said, ‘We’re going to stop complaining about the church that we’ve experienced and try to become the church that we dream of.‘”
He continued on his testimony, talking about how he went to work with Mother Teresa, and how he and some friends started an organization called “The Simple Way”, which is where he lives and works today. (You can find out more about it here: http://www.thesimpleway.org/ .) He talked about how he went to Iraq during the war with some other people from the Iraq Peace Team, and was there on the ground when the “shock and awe” bombs fell, and how he and his friends saw innocent civilians die. One Iraqi man, with tears in his eyes, said “This violence is for people who have lost their imagination.” (to read more about Shane Claiborne in Iraq and how his experience is still helping him to change the world, check out http://www.huffingtonpost.
As Shane’s sermon concluded, he gave his own altar call. He talked about how it’s ironic that he gets called to speak about hunger and homelessness at a huge charity dinner. Or how he’ll get asked to speak to a bunch of youth workers about being the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor and suffering of the world, but he’ll get paid thousands of dollars to do it. So he took the money that they were going to pay him, and cashed it out into 1 dollar bills, and wrote “LOVE” on each bill and scattered them all over the stage. Shane talked about how a lot of people get overwhelmed with the needs in the world, and begin to question: what can I really do? I’m only one person. And then we end up doing nothing. Instead, he reminded us of what Mother Teresa says: ”We can do no great things, only small things with great love.“ He then challenged us to do something, anything, and as long as we have great love behind it, it doesn’t matter how big it is, it can and it WILL change the world.
So Steve and I made our way forward, picked up our dollar, walked out of the auditorium, and our world began to turn upside down… (To be continued in Part 2)
To read about Shane’s experience more in-depth, check out his book about his experiences, The Irresistable Revolution
Unbeknownst to us, a chain of events was about to change our reality. We made our way out of the auditorium. I was convicted but also a bit annoyed that my soul was rattled as much as it was. A part of me wanted to take on this challenge, but another part of me thought that nothing was going to happen, and kind of wanted to stay in an apathetic spot – which annoyed me even more. (that’s the disease of apathy). One part of me wanted a new existence, and the other part of me was already whining at the idea of uncomfortable change…
Steve and I decided to put something into practice right away, and so we put the idea of our LOVE dollar into reality by signing up to sponsor a Compassion International child. The table just happened to be right outside the auditorium doors. Steve and I sifted through faces and names (how to choose a child when they’re all deserving?). We finally picked one and this was the start of a chain of events that we are still witnessing. It would take a book to write in detail everything that has taken place since that day, and is still taking place. And so, to simplify things a bit, I’ve made an item-by-item list of events that took place that have rocked our world. I have the journey outlined below. First, there’s a visual of the ripple effects of my Love dollar, and proof that small things with great love CAN indeed change the world – then after the pictures is a more in-depth list of what each step entailed.
- We received the LOVE dollar. We decided to sponsor a child right away through Compassion International. Months passed but the message is sank into my soul. Meanwhile we were preparing to go on a mission trip with our youth to India. We decided to include a trip to Mother Teresa’s house in Calcutta while we’re there.
- We go to India. In the plane I finish reading Shane Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution. It’s the perfect prep for my experience in India.
- We experience love with the orphans in India, and my prayer for self to be broken is answered. I realize that it hurts to be awakened to love and have my heart softened, but it’s a beautiful hurt. Those kid’s hearts are intertwined with mine. A piece of my heart is still in India…We visit the Mother House (Mother Teresa’s house in Calcutta) and are able to volunteer there. We also are able to go to an office of International Justice Mission in India and find out about helping those who are victims of human trafficking.
- We come back to the States and I decide to take Mother Teresa’s words to heart: “the world is full of Calcuttas. Find your Calcutta…” I see the poverty of our community and the empires of loneliness and emptiness we suffer from, including a paralyzing apathy that plagues most of us.
- We have an event in April, taking “compassionate action” to the streets in Santa Rosa. We pass out flowers to strangers, put couches on the sidewalk for people to sit on, and provide a hot meal. This is the precursor to a few months later…
- We have the first ever Open Table, taking and being “church” to the Homeless Community of Santa Rosa. It’s an instant hit with all involved. We become alive and experience what church is really supposed to be about – bringing love through compassionate action to everyone. As the slogan says, “At the Open Table, all are Welcome.”
- Steve and I decide to stop spending so much money on ourselves at Christmas and start celebrating by giving, literally, to those in need. So we start what is our tradition now, of volunteering at San Francisco City Impact, the best way to spend Christmas, in my opinion.
- We continue Open Table, which happens at least 3 times a year now, and is growing with ideas from others, including a bike repair station, free coffee from Starbucks, and a toiletries booth, among others.
- I start a “Be the Change, Be the Church” project with my 11th grade class where I give them a LOVE dollar, and they have to come up with a way to change their world, which has resulted in raising hundreds of dollars for IJM (International Justice Mission), feeding the hungry in Healdsburg with leftover food from the cafe, raising awareness about human trafficking, to name a few.
- Went to Africa on a Mission trip, and then to Thailand, twice, where we lived with and worked with the hill tribe people in Northern Thailand. (To find out more, click here: http://www.adrathailand.
org) We also had the opportunity to build a playground for a girl’s safe house, which houses and educates girls that are in danger of becoming victims of human trafficking. We fell in love with these people and see them as our brothers and sisters, and they compel us to find out more about how to raise awareness of human trafficking, and how to fight it.
- I and 5 students attend Freedom Summit 2011, a conference raising awareness about Human Trafficking and Modern-day Slavery and ways we can stop it. This compels us to continue to join the fight, no matter what, in stopping the injustice against our fellow human beings. We hear about many organizations and causes to join, including Not for Sale, Call and Response, IJM, Polaris Project, and others.
- We take this back to our school and the students become mobilized to fight against modern-day slavery. A four-year senior, David Kabanje, who has had a dream to be the first high-school to ever hold a REVO event, (short for Revolution) joins his dream with the cause of the students, and they plan and host the first ever high school led REVO event, which they entitle, “Fair for Fairness”. At this event they raise over $1600 to give to IJM to free 2 slaves.
- Through the REVO event we meet our good friends from One World Fair Trade store in Healdsburg, who bring a booth to the event. We sign the petition to have Healdsburg become a Fair Trade town, and this is also the start of a great friendship which has continued to bless us.
- We get invited to join the steering committee to help Healdsburg become a Fair Trade town and accept. We meet amazing friends who also are passionate about justice and compassion in real, active ways, which drives our passion as well.
- We find out more about Fair Trade and how it plays into fighting against human trafficking. We start and are still implementing ways of spending and continue to realize how our dollar carries a lot of power in the way we spend and what we spend our money on. (To find out more about fair trade, check out my husband’s blog at www.afairtradeplace.com). We start only buying fair trade chocolate, coffee, and now sugar, and other products. We continue to become conscientious consumers…
- We go to another event, Not for Sale’s Global Forum on Human Trafficking, where we meet and hear from some great names. We also continue to learn ways of being people of compassion, and learn how great love truly is and how it can, indeed, change the world, including our own souls.
- And the adventure continues! Can’t wait to see where it continues to lead!
It will be fun to see where the adventure continues to take us. It’s amazing to see that in just a few years, you really can live a reality of adventure, justice, love, change and growth. Small things, with Great Love behind them, can indeed change the world. But more importantly, Great Love has and is changing me!