the180 on Mission: Joanna's Journey of Gratitude

Joanna has been part of the180 since the beginning. She served on the worship team weekly and now is on a 7-month trip (which started in October) to travel, serve, and learn to trust God in new ways. Below you'll find some thoughts about her recent time in Bali and also a bit about an exciting opportunity to serve with a Christian & Missionary Alliance ministry called Envision.

Let me introduce you to three people I met recently. Let's call them Janet, Chrissy, and Jack.

When she was eight, Janet had to leave school to become a maid as both her parents had left her and her 8 siblings (aged 3 months – 14 years old) on their own for a full year. She sometimes had to fish and forage for food because they had no money.

Chrissy is a refugee. She remembers drills to practice hiding in classrooms for when bombs dropped and hearing bullets and shells regularly.

Jack remembers being 5 years old and seeing a man gunned down at point-blank range. He remembers being 14 and getting mugged on Mother's Day as he was trying to buy a gift.

Although all these experiences are vastly different, they were described to me from each person by the same adjective: normal.

Do you know what's normal for me? iPhones. Finding free Wifi connection. Complaining about the STM and bugging Pastor Dom. 

I have been trying to wrap my head around "normalcy." What is it? What should it be? Is it just? What I'm realizing is that "normal" is relative; so what I should be striving for is not universal normality, but contentment.

One Bible passage that keeps coming to mind is in Philippians 4 where Paul writes,  "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (Philippians 4:11-12).

So, what is this secret? For many of us Christians, the secret is trusting God no matter what comes. Over the past little while I've seen how people are seeking for that as they work through different belief systems and cultural practices.

Bali is a developing population located on an island of Indonesia. Electricity is extremely expensive. The sidewalks are broken. There is no public transportation, and no playgrounds. You can't drink tap water. They're surrounded by jungles and rice fields. Still, every morning before opening hours, business owners put out these little offering boxes - I have seen thousands of them around the country. They do this to pay respect to their ancestors and are symbols of gratitude.

Bali's culture is pre-dominantly Hindu and the island is full of sacred temples. Every ceremony begins with an offering of thanks and sometimes is a ritual of appreciation in and of itself. While I was there, I was invited into a thanksgiving ceremony, and I was like "Bro, for what? You don't even have Netflix." But what they do have is a profound sense of gratitude for the little they possess as they make sense of their own lives. They're grateful for breath. For food. For plants. For community. For life!

Through these experiences God has been teaching me to recognize the secret of trusting in him for all I need. As part of that, I'm learning to be grateful for my own North American "normalcy." Consider being grateful next time your Internet takes longer than 30 seconds to buffer. Or remember that next time you are enraged by Montreal traffic, it might be some extra time to give thanks.

Every day is an invitation - before anything even happens - to give thanks; for God, for His grace, and that you woke up at all.

Recently, I have been connected with Envision, an international mission organization which is part of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. They have accepted me to do some volunteer work with them in Bangkok in January. I have never done anything like this before and am low-key freaking out, but I take comfort knowing you’re cheering me on from afar.

I am looking forward to serving with Envision because I feel very strongly that it is the responsibility of the church to be internationally involved. I need to learn what normal looks like for others sometimes to appreciate what I have been blessed with. Also, I believe that as the180 continues to take shape, serving others and learning with them provides us with a globally-minded church culture which will help us to take God's call to serve seriously.

I miss you all terribly and cannot WAIT to be back at our warehouse being the church for the sake of God's Kingdom.

With love, from Jo!

Joanna can be reached by email at joanna.selvarajah@gmail.com or on Facebook. Also, please keep Joanna in your prayers. If you'd like to support her in any way, please speak to Pastor Dom.