"If we embrace the notion that all of life is interdependence, then we must believe that everyone is our neighbor- regardless of race, social status, or geography."
Bruce Main, Why Jesus Crossed the Road
One of my greatest joys as a youth pastor is being able to learn alongside teenagers. As I type this, I sit at a table with three other youth intensely journeling about their experiences as mission partners with friends in Honduras. These three young disciples, along with the many others who have served here each summer since 2011, have taught me a great deal about love, curiosity, generosity, faith, Scripture, love, and what it can and does look like when we follow Jesus locally and globally.
They have taught me even as I have strived to teach them. We have leaned on one another.
As a youth pastor, I have learned to value interdepedence. Actually, I have declared it as an essential element of Chrisitan identity, community, discipleship, and mission. Youth and adults alike need each other as those who profess faith in and covenant to pursue a crucified and resurrected Jesus who is in the process of making all things new and right.
John H. Westerhoff is right, "One Christian is no Christian, for we cannot be Christian alone- we are created for communuty" (Will Our Children Have Faith 38).
Interdependence is one of many reasons Imago Dei Youth Ministry has been a part of the Honduras Youth-to-Youth Partnership since 2011. We hold the conviction that we not only need one another in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but also our brothers and sisters in places like Honduras. We need our "copartners in grace"* and the faithful witness of our friends who live in a cultural context different than our own. We need their unashamed commitment to the gospel, incarnations of genuine community throughout their national Presbytery, extensions of generous hospitality to visiting friends, and creative zeal as they develop new initiatives to care for their own and elevate the voice and passion of young people.
They also need us.
They need us not only to assist in fundraising for their creative projects, but also to remind them the church does not exist for self-serving purposes alone. They need us to remind them the church exists as an agent of personal, social, and systemic transformation. They need us to share our understandings of the kingdom and how we see the pursuit of justice as exercises in neighborly love. They need us to encourage their own pursuits of change within their congregations and communities who have silenced the voice of younger generations for far too long.
We actually need each other.
So this week we once again declare our interdependence. As we serve alongside one another in the construction of a retreat center and Eco-stoves, pray and read Scripture before and after soccer games, discuss critical issues of unaccompanied children fleeing to the U.S.** and others facing homelessness and addiction, and contemplate what it can mean to enhance conversations beyond summer trips, we remember we belong to one another and the God who made us both.
We may live miles apart, but we are still each other's neighbors. Actually, we are more. We are an interdependent family still growing into a shared identity and purpose.
This family is a young one, mostly made up of teenagers. Their communities depend upon them. Their churches depend upon them. I depend upon them. We all depend upon one another.
We cannot be Christian alone.
"If there is no friendship with the poor and no sharing of the life of the poor, then there is no authentic commitment to liberation, because love exists only among equals. Any talk of liberation necessarily refers to a comprehensive process, one that embraces everyone."
Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation
*Karl Barth translated Philippians 1:7, in reference to Paul's partnership with the churches in Philippi, this way, "I bear you in my heart as those who in my imprisonment, as also in my defense and declaration of the gospel, are all my copartners in grace" (Epistle to the Philippians).
**Learn more about the thousands of children fleeing Honduras in search of refuge from the violence and corruption within Honduras: http://www.pcusa.org/news/2014/7/7/response-unaccompanied-children/