July 11, 2006


I admit, it's been a little while. I've actually been quite busy for the last five days, at a conference in Melbourne.

I'm now officially a graduate student. I began grad school with the FORGE internship, which is why I was at the conference all this weekend having my brain twisted, pulled, tweaked, mangled, and otherwise misshapen. I haven't been able to process a lot of the things we talked about, but that's ok - I wrote as much of it down as I could, and I'll go from there. The internship involves several elements: attending the intensives (and they're called intensives out of spite, I think, because intense doesn't quite begin to describe it), working with a mentor, lots of reading and writing, and a practicum where you do a "mission project" in your local community, which should account for roughly 20 hours of each week. All in all, a really great way to be (or learn to be, really) a missionary here in Australia and get some grad school credit.

We also went on our first bushwalk, courtesy of Beck. I'll write a whole other post on that, because there are so many good pictures from the part where we fed a bunch of subtropical birds.


The intensive was, as I said, quite intense. There were a number of distinguished teachers, and because I'm a pompous ass, I'm going to name them because I got to meet some of them, speak with them, etc: Alan Hirsch, Debbie Hirsch, Mark Sayers, Kim Hammond, Darryl Gardener, Baxter Kreuger, Mark Pierson, Shirley Osborne, Olivia McLean, and John Franke. This is not to say I enjoyed all of it, or everything they had to say, but for the most part, I learned a lot. The weird part was how many different points of view and slightly conflicting ideas were presented. Most of it fit well together, like looking at the same object from various angles, lenses, etc. But some of it was just plain conflicting; one person would say that the gospel is about a light burden, the next would say it's about hardship and responsibility.

I know that they did this intentionally, to make sure that we got all sorts of things to think about and not get easy answers to spit out on a test, to develop and expand our minds instead of put them in a box. I liked that part of it, in a way, but it's been so long since college that sometimes I feel like my mind has slipped a bit, and trying to grasp some of the rediculously complex ideas presented (one guy talked about this philosophy that sounded to me like universalism until somebody asked him if it was, and he said no, then talked about how it wasn't, and that sort of made sense too, but ... it was mind numbing. But he was from South Carolina, so maybe that had something to do with it).

In the end, my favorite part of the weekend was twofold: Alan Hirsch's deep and very interesting lectures, and then a presentation from a guy named Marcus. Marcus works at an organization called "Urban Seed," an organization that mostly employs Christians (as opposed to a "christian organization," a term I intend to use as little as possible from here on out). Urban Seed exists in a unique environment, surrounded by corporate business on one side and urban poor on the other. To love their neighbors, then, seems a bit complicated, given that they are so different. So they began the Credo Cafe, where both homeless city folk and corporate businessmen come together to prepare a meal, eat, and clean up as one community.

Then they noticed the back alley of their building: it's the one alley where roughly 20% of Australia's injected drug use happens, especially heroin. Heroin requires water, and the addicts were using a faucet in the back of the church. Most churches would have just turned the faucet off, to discourage people from using drugs, which they did initialy. But then they got thinking when they saw the users come back and instead of the faucet, shoot up with water from the mud puddles in the alley.

And so the people of Urban Seed made a choice. They turned the faucet back on, left the garage door open for a sheltered place, and installed a way of safely disposing of the needles. Not only, but they clean out the alleyway three times a week. They’ve facilitated three mural paintings on the walls of the alley.

What church would do this??? I think our first response is always to say “this will only perpetuate the machine,” that providing the water only aids the addicts in their obsession, like it's our responsibility to make them stop. But how do we explain that the number of deaths due to heroin overdose – and the number of addicts – has dropped significantly since they began their little operation? The time the volunteers use to clean the alley puts them right in the midst of the drug addicts, facilitating conversation and, as I'm told, some rather interesting friendships.

The whole thing had the right kind of confusing to it - the sort of paradox that Jesus would have used in a parable - and I found myself captivated by the sheer lunacy of the idea; and yet to see it working was a beautiful thing. But I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it all.

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