(Written by Roman)
As is our newest and most consistent tradition as a young family, we (The Kolyvanov’s) began packing for our trip the day before we left. Granted, we had to sift through a lot of stuff to figure out what to take and what to leave behind. But with the utmost skill and timing, we finished packing our bags at precisely the time we needed to head to the airport. In this we have found our greatest similarity; instead of one of us being the “on time” person, and the other being the “not on time” person, we have come to the conclusion that we are both of the latter kind, and sadly, or maybe not so sadly (in a “Do we really need schedules and clocks?” kind of way) that makes us consistently either late, or barely on time, but almost never early. I put the almost in there because it has miraculously happened a few times. I’m serious, it has!
Well, with our lovely parents, Cary and Kathy, Yev and Liliya, and my brother Serge, we headed to the Portland airport. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:15 pm. After some tearful goodbyes, we got in line to go through security. And of course, my mother realizes that there were no pictures taken. So she grabs my dad’s iPhone and tries to take a family photo as we are about to get through security. They, on one side of the barricade, and us on the other, both looking in the same direction and smiling as if we couldn’t see the looks from the security people and the folks in line behind us. It’s a hard life. :)
We flew from Portland to LA in two hours and as we were walking in the direction of the bus that would lead us to the international airport, we met a young woman who was flying to Brisbane, Australia as well. She was a social worker and was going on a Work and Holiday Visa to find work in Australia (and to see her Australian boyfriend, there was talk of marriage…). It was good to connect with her. We were able to tell her about the Lily House ministry that Samy played an integral role in last year, since it seemed right up her alley. We got to the huge Boeing 747-400 plane and parted ways.
On our 10 hour trip to Fiji, I found out that the man sitting two seats away from me (the seat right next to me was vacant) was born in Fiji and has lived the last fourteen years of his life in California, first in LA and now in Sacremento. His ancestors are actually from India and were brought over to the Fiji Islands by the British to work the cane fields. He was flying to Fiji for the first time in 14 years and only to transfer on a flight to Sydney, where his family now lives. He said there was not much for him in Fiji anymore. It was wonderful talking with him. For a few reasons. Firstly, we seemed to connect really well on a few different subjects, but secondly (And I think, more importantly) when we were talking, he wasn’t sleeping. This is important because I think he was the loudest snorer that I have ever met (next to my former roommate Taylor). After we had a conversation and it was time to sleep, I found out that I would not be getting any sleep.
I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie “The Truman Show.” Well, I just think it’s one of the best movies ever. As we’re floating up in the sky in this bus-plane, I can’t help but think of that scene where Jim Carrey’s character takes a golf ball and uses it as a small globe to explain where Fiji is. And the way he goes, “And this over here: Fiji.” It’s been a magical place in my mind ever since. Saying this, my three hours in the Fiji airport were a bit disappointing. Firstly, it was raining really hard. And it was so stuffy I felt like I was in a sauna. But all was redeemed when (as we were waiting in a huge line to get through the only security machine) three men with guitars and a Ukelele began playing some wonderful Fijian tunes for us, doing harmonies all together. And they were wearing skirts!
In Fiji, we hung out in the terminal for a few hours and then boarded a smaller jet that gave us a window seat, middle seat, and again, on my left, the seat was left empty! Samy slept and I read. I was able to finish up to about half of a wonderful book called “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. His conversation on living out as an “ordinary radical” is intriguing and convicting. Shane speaks of community as something that is real and tangible. As Christians we are called to take it (this thing called community) far beyond the Sunday service and midweek house church group. Community takes the wealthiest and the poorest in our societies and puts them into the same house. The call is different for all that hear it. To some it is to literally sell all possessions and give to those that are in need, to others the call is to take what they have and double or triple it and again to give to those who are in need. I watched a video once where Bono was speaking on the passage in scripture where Jesus makes a very clear distinction between those He will invite in and those that will be cast away - and it all hinged on the literal work of loving those who are in dire straits. (Yes, it is not good works that save us, but to befriend the poor and helpless is the grandest work of all, and it is our King who commissioned us to do it!) It is when we begin this work that we realize that we are the same. Shane writes about similar things:
“It is much more comfortable to depersonalize the poor so we don’t feel responsible for the catastrophic human failure that results in someone sleeping on the street while people have spare bedrooms in their homes. We can volunteer in a social program or distribute excess food and clothing through organizations and never have to open up our homes, our beds, our dinner tables. When we get to heaven, we will be separated into those sheep and goats Jesus talks about in Matthew 25 based on how we cared for the least among us. I’m just not convinced that Jesus is going to say, “When I was hungry, you gave a check to the United Way and they fed me,” or, “When I was naked, you donated clothes to the Salvation Army and they clothed me.” Jesus is not seeking distant acts of charity. He seeks concrete acts of love: “you fed me…you visited me in prison…you welcomed me into your home…you clothed me.”
“When the church becomes a place of brokerage rather than an organic community, she ceases to be something we are, the living bride of Christ. The church becomes a distribution center, a place where the poor come to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get clothed and fed), but no one leaves transformed. No radical new community is formed.”
(The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne, Pages 158 and 159)
When we finally got off the plane in Brisbane, Australia, my mind was tired, but working hard to process these concepts. Here I was with my wife about to start a youth program for a small church in a foreign country, and the haunting question, “Have I befriended the poor?” troubled my soul. Who are the poor among us? What does it mean to love them the way Christ did/does? Will I be among the sheep or the goats? It’s not that I am doubting my salvation, but I am beginning to see that the work of the Kingdom will consume all of me and my life. The question is am I really willing to let it all go and to become part of Christ’s body; His hands and feet?
So the journey begins…