When loving there is easier than loving here

I’m thrilled to have Katie Cook as a guest today! I wrote about Katie long, long ago when she and her husband Kevin were working in Nepal – and her blog Hope Engaged is so full of beautiful words, beautiful grace AND beautiful pictures. But, don’t take my word for it – you can get a sneak peak of her loveliness here….

katie cookHi friends! My name is Katie, and I am so grateful to be posting on Bronwyn’s blog today :-) I look further to getting to know you all more!

When Bronwyn first prompted me to think about “words that changed my world”, it only took a hot minute to realize the pinnacle of the sacred words that transformed the trajectory of my journey. And believe me, these words were transformational. Scary, actually, because they challenged the very mindset and behaviors I had lived with for many, many years. And this particular challenge came from the good Lord.

Let’s back up a bit….

You see, my husband and I grew up in sunny California, in a cozy suburb, spending massive amounts of time at the beach, going to Disneyland, eating Mexican food, attending church activities, etc. {ie: a wee bit insulated.}

By the time I had graduated college, I had traveled extensively abroad, and had done quite a bit of service and mission projects with the poor in other countries. But after each trip I returned “home” to the USA and comfortably slipped right back into my cozy suburb.

It was after a stint teaching English in Thailand that I moved down to Orange County. And soon life began to revolve around me, not necessarily consciously, but most definitely by default. And that’s when I hard God’s voice loud and clear. He said to me,

“Katie, how can you love the poor in other countries, but fail to do so in your own country?”

I was rocked. Loud and clear, like a zinger to the heart. It was true. If my “love for the poor” was really love, a zipcode should have nothing to do with my action and lifestyle.

I was wrecked. I began to pray that God would displace me. That he would show me how I could tangibly love the poor in my own community. The problem was, as you can imagine from my upbringing, I didn’t know anyone who really fit that description. And really, you can’t google these things people! I was at an impasse, and I didn’t know which road to take. And thus began 5 months of crying out to Abba in desperation, asking for him to show me how to truly care for his people in my own backyard. {which included lots of ugly cries and confusion, but also great anticipation for God to truly overwhelm me with His divine plan!}

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And then one day I heard of an organization working in an immigrant community a few miles from my house. I filled out an application to volunteer at the after school program. In the back of my mind I was thinking, “maybe if I volunteer for a year or so, they’ll let me possibly move into the neighborhood?” What happened next blew me away…

After my 20-minute interview was finished, a girl on staff with the organization (who I hadn’t even met yet) walked right up to me and asked if I’d like to move into the neighborhood. They had a spot in the girl’s house, and needed another roommate. I was dumbfounded. Literally, I think my tongue fell out of my mouth. I may have drooled. But it was epic.

And so with knees knocking, and all sorts of fear and stereotypes hanging in my mind of what my new home might be like, I moved into the barrio.

And it was wonderful, and hard, but mostly life changing.

My apartment was filled with cockroaches, mold, cracking cabinets, and, OH, did I mention a colony of cockroaches? There was graffiti on our garage door, and a gang that walked the streets.

But more importantly, my heart was filled with community, as I began to know my neighbors and their stories filled me with so much hope and courage. Little by little trust was formed, and histories shared, and laugher was heard, and soon tears on shoulders were had. And soon, best friends were made.

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Allowing God to displace me in this neighborhood was one of the very best things that could have ever happened to me. In the five years we lived in the neighborhood, Kevin and I have opened our home to anyone who needed love. We’ve led workshops at the teen center, hosted Bible Studies, baptized high school students who were once lost in the darkness of drugs and abuse, and are now walking with Christ as their guide.

The bottom line is that the words God spoke to me changed everything. Kevin and I have realized that no matter where we live, or what we do for a living, the mandate to love, befriend, care and build relationship with the poor is Kingdom work that fulfills the deepest part of our souls. And we are so grateful for this lesson.

 

katiekevin

Katie hails from the sunny state of California, however has lived and traveled all around the world. Most recently Katie and her husband have returned from living in Nepal, where they worked with girls rescued out of sex-trafficking. Now back in Orange County, she is pursuing her masters in marriage and family therapy, with the hope of going into cross-cultural counseling in the future. Katie is an avid reader and map collector, loves making new friends, and gets excited about how God is moving all around the world. Katie blogs about her life and travels at Hope Engaged.

 

4 thoughts on “When loving there is easier than loving here

  1. Thanks Katie for your post and encouraging us to consider the needs and opportunities right here! I can relate. My spouse and I have worked with international students here in the US since 1997. While they are not poor, it is still an opportunity to welcome outsiders, show hospitality, and share Christian faith. Yet this seems an overlooked and undervalued mission opportunity. Christians go on evangelistic mission trips to other countries, yet often fail to reach out to the many internationals right here among us! Thanks again for sharing the words that changed your world.

    In regards to your title “When loving there is easier than loving here” – I think that is part of it. Going on a mission trip only inconveniences us for 1 or 2 weeks, and then it is back to life as usual. But to work with the people here, it requires daily and ongoing commitment, time, and sacrifice. I think too many of us are not willing to be inconvenienced in this way…

  2. Very true words. We are currently “making our own house nice” to be able to move into it; and God is nudging me, asking me how long I’m going to be working on my own house when others are in need. Convicted! I’m wondering what He has in store when we move. Pray that I hear and obey…

  3. Love this post, Katie! It really is hypocritical for us to go on glamorous short term trips overseas, but not even bother to love our neighbor. Growing up, I always knew I was called to work overseas. But my parents told me to start where I was right now – no use working abroad if I don’t do ministry where I am. It should be a lifestyle, not a once a year thing.

Over to you: join the conversation!