Monday, February 16, 2015


As David and I prepare to move to Cambodia, we have been doing quite a bit of reading and researching from a wide variety of sources. On top of that, my everyday life commitments are bringing me to new and old ideas. I’m consuming lots of information lately, and all of the information seems to share a common thread. The thread is connection (or the lack thereof).

At our church I am helping to facilitate a twelve-week class on poverty and justice. We’ve just finished reading Tattoos On the Heart and When Helping Hurts. The former tells the author’s personal stories about his relationships with gangsters in LA, and the latter gives a theory and theology of aid work. In very different ways, both of our recent books point out the ways that disconnection impoverishes people and how connection helps to break cycles of poverty.

The author of Tattoos On the Heart tells stories of how something as simple as learning and using a young gang member’s name transformed his sense of worth.  When Helping Hurts defines poverty as “the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings” (pg 59). Poverty, at its root, seems to be disconnection.

Our small group is also going through a series in which we are talking about the modern family. We are talking about marriage, singleness, parents, children and divorce. Again and again, it seems like what we are talking about is connection.

Connection is what we all want and what we all need (low-income and affluent alike). The tricky thing about connection is that it takes vulnerability to get there.

I’ve found vulnerability a fascinating topic to learn about over the last couple of years (if you have spent any length of time around me, I’m sure you have heard me talk about vulnerability and Brene Brown’s research on the topic). Vulnerability is the risk and the cost of connection, and I keep finding it at the root of so many of the things we fear. I keep finding it at the core of the things we want and the things we mess up.

Vulnerability and connection, or the lack of it, affects our marriages and our families. It affects the way we look at poverty and how we work to change it. Vulnerability, I am learning, is also an integral part of our preparation and move to Cambodia.

I’ve been struck by how risky this process has felt. I remember how vulnerable it felt just to tell my employer that we had accepted this calling to Cambodia. I had good reason to believe that the news would go over ok (I do work with nuns after all), but I was still nervous. I would still have to say the words out loud. The news was bound to change dynamics. In the end, of course, my supervisors were thrilled. Not only that, the risk created connection and a building full of people who are asking questions, showing support and praying for us.

I could talk about how the whole trip to Cambodia felt vulnerable, or how sometimes I’m tempted to dodge the subject of how our preparation is going in conversations. It will surprise no one to discover that the process of raising financial support is a very vulnerable one.

In this risk and in this vulnerability, though, we are finding connection. We are amazed at how many people are excited for us and with us. We are overwhelmed with the stories, meals and finances that are being shared with us.

We are surprised at the ways even some of the awkward steps in this journey seem to bring more and more people into our lives who are showing up to connect with us and to walk this journey with us.

We couldn’t be more thankful.