Every now and then I have the privilege of observing a transformation of heart, body and soul within a young person. It’s not that it’s especially a rare event, it’s just that it happens so quickly and goes by without notice. It’s a spiritual birthing, a “church rising,” and here’s what I mean.
For some, if not many, life is hard and it hurts in the growing up years. And Maylynn* knows something about growing up hard and getting terribly hurt along the way. I first began working with her when she was in the 5th grade. Her family name, going back two generations, was (and likely still is) well-known to police, social service agencies and the courts…all of them…juvenile, probate and district courts, including the jails.
I worked with and advocated for Maylynn over a seven-year period and every time I saw her I was amazed and inspired by her refusal to quit and cave in to the diseases and dysfunctions within her family. Whenever she arrived for an appointment she had a bounce in her step coming through the door and a book or a folder under her arm. Usually within two minutes of sitting down Maylynn would begin unpacking some new thing or project she was into.
Finding and Loosing Religion
By the time Maylynn was in the middle of her high school years she began to enjoy going to church and reading the Bible. Soon she was assisting, then teaching in her parish’s Sunday School, and exploring the depths of her newly discovered religion. Maylynn also seemed to relish asking church elders and priests honest and thought-provoking questions that in my opinion should be asked by people new to a faith community. Maylynn has always possessed a keen ability to spot the inconsistencies, double standards and occasional hypocritical behaviors of persons and programs that proclaim one thing and seemingly do the exact opposite.
This personal characteristic of Maylynn’s, especially from one so young, doesn’t stem from youthful naivety or a pious spiritual way of life, but rather comes from knowing and working through her own deep-seated demeans within herself. And it is from here, that place within her, that some measure of honest authority arises that some adults either find refreshing, or, as in the case of some parish leaders, found challenging and uppity from a newbie within the congregation.
Maylynn too, felt those negative vibes from certain faith leaders. But instead of causing her to crawl into a shell and loose her voice, it prompted her to continue seeking in other areas outside of the traditional brick and mortar church.
Much to this counselors worry, Maylynn always had an affinity for the downtrodden and homeless within our area. I was always cautioning her to be careful, with her possessions and personhood every time she told me a new story about befriending this or that homeless person. I cautioned her against being alone with this population, especially as a young woman, so I was pleased when she came in to tell me about a new spiritual community that she was getting acquainted with. Several area faith communities come together to contribute resources, time and expertise to make hundreds of sandwiches several times a week for those in need. But instead of running a traditional soup kitchen where people come to one location, this united street ministry loads up a commercially outfitted canteen truck and delivers sandwiches, beverages and occasional deserts to people in need within their neighborhoods, homeless or otherwise.
Two months later Maylynn came in, this time with color flyers seeking volunteers and donations that she herself created, and asked to post them throughout the building. Not surprisingly, Maylynn had warmed her way in to the center of this vital ministry of preparing foods, then heading out to the neighborhoods where the need is the greatest. Maylynn even has even crawled up on the cab of the truck to lead prayers and to thank God for the bounty of food to be shared, then climbed back down to do just that, deliver nourishment in the form of food and love to those who have so little. Indeed, God does deliver.
For some, the definition of “church” comes with walls and tradition steeped in centuries. For others, God calls those who hear to a new church rising, and Maylynn, has clearly heard that call.
* Note: To protect “Maylynn’s privacy, her name and a few other minor details have been changed for this story.