“But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-17 NRSV Bible
When I was little, some of my favorite memories were playing outside at my grandma’s house. We would water the garden, scrape gourds to make bird houses, hang laundry, and fill the birdbaths. I don’t ever remember having to choose happiness when I was at their house. If we weren’t outside, I was back in her doll collection playing with Barbies, My Little Ponies or doing a jigsaw puzzle. Again, I can’t ever remember having to choose to be happy. I just was.
I moved to San Francisco almost three months ago. Since I arrived here, there have only been a handful of times that I can really say that I’ve had to make myself choose to be happy.
– Have I had frustrations that come from moving across the country? Yes.
– Is living in a house with five other women always calm and peaceful? No.
– Are there days where I struggle with my work and feeling its validation and importance? Yes.
But in all those situations, I have never been unhappy. It’s an intentional decision. Many times, those decisions are affirmed. In the last month, I’ve had more affirmation about being in California than I could have ever imagined.
When I started to get settled in the city, I was trying to meet new people and really find friends to explore the area with. One thing that I regretted about living in Saint Louis was that I never took time to fully enjoy the city and the amazing things it offered. Within the first week of being here, I met a friend with whom, over the next several weeks, I would hike Mt. Tamalpais, kayak Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe, and learn more about the layout and neighborhoods of the city. He took time to help me learn the area and even take up surfing!
While exploring the outdoors, I also took time to find out what areas and attractions in the city had free days. I’ve visited a lot of the museums and even gone to a free coffee cupping! Our house offers a free meal about once a month to passing college students at San Francisco State University. I met another friend at the BBQ with whom I went to my first museum, learned how to make my first beach bonfire and visited the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time up close.
It seems like each new friend I meet is someone who shows me a different part of the city and pushes me to learn something new about my call to ministry here. In mid-October, I met someone who will be continuously challenging how I look at my ministry. By some divine overlap of schedules, we met for coffee and became immediate best friends. We’ve spent time at some of the most beautiful cliffs, beaches, and mountains that I’ve ever seen. God started overlapping our mutual interest in clean water ministry, hunger and homelessness projects, and sex trafficking awareness. Over the next several months, he will be doing an adventure ride around New Zealand to raise funds and awareness for sex trafficking prevention.
Each area I connect to in the Bay Area, and each person I interact with, brings me closer to that place of doing ‘good to one another’ and ‘rejoicing always’. One of my favorite parts about the Thessalonian’s scripture is that it’s written with such intention and passion. If we don’t choose to meet the day with that same attitude, then we risk becoming the ‘idlers’ or the ‘fainthearted’.
Engage, connect, and grow. I really feel like I’ve been able to do all three since I’ve lived here. I think each has been done with dedication and decision.
I can honestly say that I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing ministries in the city that stretch my idea of what compassion is. One of my favorites is working to distribute harm-reduction kits. These consist of either a syringe kit or a crack pipe kit. Both are distributed with the intention that clean supplies will help to prevent the spread of diseases like Hep C and HIV. So far there have been great results that include only two recorded HIV transmission cases by syringe last year.
I can’t remember a time in my life when I have felt so happy to just be where I am. It’s not easy all the time, and there is definitely not always a clear path. However, God shows up in so many places all the time. Even just the other day, I was looking at an amazing sunset, and the words I was reading in Jeremiah struck me. Later that day I looked at our conference website, and the pastor had posted a scripture from Jeremiah. Something so simple could be seen as a coincidence, but I like to think that God is leaving me these beautiful tiny bread crumbs. The more I’m able to see and follow them, the more spectacular the places he will lead me are going to continue to be.
Allow happiness into your life. God is waiting to help it to enter into your midst.
Bridges District of the California-Nevada Annual Conference
San Fransisco, CA
Global Mission Fellow US-2, Class of 2016-2018