Chapter-a-Day Acts 21

The next day Paul went with us to meet with James, and all the elders of the Jerusalem church were present. After greeting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry. Acts 21:18-19 (NLT)

I’ve been excited to read the e-mails and blog posts from my daughter, Taylor, and her husband, Clayton, from their three month internship in Uganda. It’s been interesting to read how they are discovering that what we read/hear on this side of the Atlantic does not always connect or completely translate the reality of the situation there:

Clayton and I have felt very privileged to be a part of what CV is doing. They are truly an incredible organization. The girls that graduated from the program and work here in the house speak so highly of it. It’s so hard for me to believe that these precious, giggly, dedicated young women were once child soldiers or wives. Clayton and I came here feeling so versed and knowledgeable of the LRA, Joseph Kony, the war, etc but we found ourselves quickly humbled. Who would have thought that the media would misinform us so much?! ;-) We can tell you all those stories some other time, but we have definitely gained a new perspective. Taylor Boeyink, e-mail 5/19/2012

I just don’t want any of these beautiful, precious ladies to think we’re plucking their stories to wear around our necks like some trophy. And this isn’t about my research project or my degree. It’s not ME. MINE. I. I never want their pain to be a picture for my slideshow or have their home feel like a tourist attraction. Its possible I am way overanalyzing this, but that’s how I feel. It’s one thing to read the stories out of a book and another to look into the eyes of the story teller. Like walking on glass. 

It is easy to see how Aid and ignorance has brought ruin to this place. We, as Westerners, might come to give, but we can also come to stake out our destiny. Ours is a history of dominance. Always the explorer, the colonizer in our blood, and it is hard to run away from when we’ve been so “blessed”. We come with our visions and strategies, our opinions and ideals, and without meaning to, we impose them. We think we know the way and we think we know how to do it better and more efficiently then the next person. And it comforts me to know that Child Voice recognizes this and does everything in its power to NOT follow those footsteps. All the staff here is local and they give local people jobs and truly take into consideration what is best for the girls at their center. Also, I’m not saying Westerners aren’t capable of shedding new light onto something or having good ideas. The depleted and dependent often need a helping hand, but we also need to empower and not overpower. But I’ve seen what a huge transition some of these girls have made and they are really healing and pressing forward. It’s remarkable and makes me so proud to be a part of the work that is being done here. Taylor Boeyink, posted on Gone to Gulu 5/22/2012

In today’s chapter, Paul discovers that the believers and elders in Jerusalem are living in a very different reality than those in the remote provinces of Greece where he’d been traveling and teaching. One gets the sense that the leadership in Jerusalem, while encouraged by Paul’s work, did not completely understand what Paul had been experiencing on his journeys and in the provinces, nor the everyday reality of believers living in Greece.

So often our perspective is framed only by what the camera lets us see, what the writer pens, or what the editor allows in print. It’s quite likely that James and the elders in Jerusalem would have a different perspective if they’d spent some time with the believers in Ephesus or Philippi rather than just listening to Paul’s oral report. “It’s one thing to read stories out of a book [or newspaper or blog post or see them on television or YouTube] and another to look into the eyes of the storyteller.” Very often, there is no substitute for going to see, hear and experience things for yourself.

About Tom Vander Well

Wayfarer, husband, father, consultant, thespian, writer, thinker, and back porch musician. Pressing on through the journey one step at a time.
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