Choosing Radical Hope as Obedience

I have recently rejoined our Word Made Flesh community in El Alto, Bolivia after a time of maternity leave and sabbatical.  Sabbatical is intended to be a time of stepping back from the daily grind and automatic racing from one task to another in order to reflect, to be calm, to remove oneself and one’s pride from the hustle and bustle of work, and, in so doing, to realize that life does indeed go on without you.  It is humbling and liberating all at once as we receive the time to cradle ourselves, our bodies, our dreams.  It is a time that creates space for healing and reflection.  The quiet space, when all the busyness is removed, also allows for us to come face to face with our fears, with our own pain as we take time from focusing on the needs of others.

Like many before me, my time of sabbatical opened up time to reflect on recent painful events in my family.  This reflection elicited a questioning of where I was personally, with the ministry and in life, in light of these events.  My brother disappeared, choosing to leave my parents’ home without saying anything to anyone and leaving everything behind.  I have never wanted to be with my parents, in Texas, close to my family, as badly as I did this last year.  And I didn’t have ministry work to distract me from the pain and longing in my heart.  I had to confront, come face to face, with my deepest, darkest fears of losing those I love the most and of being a continent removed in the aftermath. 

There is no easy answer, or immediate revelation that illuminated this time of longing and sadness.  But slowly, I began to notice again the ways in which God was working around me.  I began to hear again the promise that all would be made right and new.  Maybe not in the immediate future, or in every area I hope for, but eventually the Restorer will have the last word.  And in the meantime, my place is still as part of a radical community that has answered the call to serve women and families affected by prostitution and trafficking.

So, for now, obedience looks like this:  choosing hope everyday even in the face of oppressing darkness that sometimes seems to gain more ground than the tenuous light that I think I see some of the time.  It is living with the ups and down of mourning and joy:  as I rejoice in the arrival and this first year of life of my second son, while also crying at the drop of a hat when something reminds me of the brother who is lost.  Obedience is choosing thanksgiving in the light of the good, good work that continues and has grown so much among women affected by trafficking and prostitution in El Alto, Bolivia.  There is now a new floor to the ministry center which has allowed for the consolidation of intentional spaces for the children and women we receive, as well as for my coworkers, co-laborers in this kingdom promise that we see slowly, slowly bearing fruit through the years.  There isn’t hope without the darkness, without the recognition of the chaos and hurt that exists right now.  And it takes obedience to continue relying on that hope in the face of the strangling darkness and suffocating despair around us.  Obedience is recognizing that I am still called to life here, a continued life of hope and service with and through the broken pieces of my heart and self. It is choosing to recognize more than ever the small, beautiful, kingdom moments when that hope breaks through and becomes fulfilled promises, making way for new ones that feed the hope of tomorrow.

by By Ariel Arnsdorff, Formation & Volunteer Coordinator, WMF Bolivia

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