09 March 2015

The Foolish Things (I'm one of them)

Last night I did something I haven't done for a very very very long time: I stood on a stage and spoke to a crowd.
With a microphone in my hand, trying hard not to show how much I was trembling, I told my story (or at least part of it).

Public speaking. Preaching. I used to do it a lot. (But that was a lifetime ago, back when that was part of my job description as a Pastor).

For many many years now, I've been silent, my story untold apart from here on this blog.
Those who have known me for a long time know that back in my dim distant past, before marriage and kids I was a youth pastor, and I started a programme called CLS (Creative Learning Scheme) to reach/help educate at-risk kids. It started small, flying by the seat-of-our-pants in true Simoney-style, but now it's MASSIVE, the biggest alternative education programme in the country.

I won't repeat the story again now, (you can read it in detail here) but basically I began the programme out of response to a need. I was moved by the plight of lost, broken kids and I took the little that I had and put it in God's hands, and said "Use me, if you can."

[Some of the earliest CLS students, back in 1997-1999]

This month our church is doing a series called "The Revolutionaries", asking the question, "Can one person really change the world?"

I was at my (awesome) connect group on Tuesday night and we were watching the discussion-starter DVD they send out, when the guy speaking (Jordan, an old pal of mine) said, "A friend of mine was watching the movie Once Were Warriors and it moved her to do something..."

I thought, "Ha, that's funny, somebody else got moved by that movie as well as me..."\
But as he kept talking I realised, "Wait, what? He's talking about ME!"

In a few moments the girls in my connect group also realised he was talking about me and somehow I ended up telling them my story.

Later my connect group leader (my long-time friend Kathy, who also happens to be our pastor's wife) went home and told her hubby, the pastor, what I'd shared and somehow word got around and next thing I know the Pastor of our South campus is ringing me up asking me to share my story. And then Kathy txted me and asked me to tell it again in the City at night.

And that's how after fifteen years I found myself up on the Auckland Town Hall stage, microphone in hand, spotlights shining in my eyes, telling my story for the second time in a day, to a massive crowd

It was surreal. It was terrifying. It was thrilling. (I think I did OK).

There were two things I really wanted to get across to the people listening, which are the signature message of my life. If there's anything they can learn from from my story this is it.

Use what you have, start where you are.
If we wait till all the ducks are lined up in a row, til we have all the i's dotted and t's crossed, til there is funding and structures and strategies and projections in place, well, we'll never get started. So we take what we have and we use it right where we are. We put what we have into God's hands and let him do a miracle with it - like the little boy who gave Jesus his lunch and from those five loaves and two fish a crowd in excess of 5000 people was fed.

God chooses and uses the most unlikely people, rarely the clever or the wise.
I take heart from the verse which got me through on the occasions when I doubted that I had what it took, when I railed against the sky and wailed, "Why me?! Why did you choose a scared shy girl like me? I don't have what it takes!"

In those moments of self-doubt I was reminded of this:

"Oh yeah! That's why you chose me! (I'm one of those foolish things)...!"

It was 21 years ago that I watched the movie, Once Were Warriors, and spent the night sobbing on my couch, weeping over all the broken kids out there in my city, begging God to use me to help them.

He heard my prayer and took me up on my offer, though I was the least likely person you could ever imagine.

Shy, timid, scared of confrontation, white, never taken drugs, never been pregnant out of wedlock, never been in trouble with the law, never been abused. There was nothing in my background or my personality that qualified me to relate to  - let alone help - kids from the dark side of life.
Plus, I had no qualifications. I left school after sixth form, never went to uni. I wasn't a trained teacher, or social worker, or anything. AND I was dyslexic and didn't even know it.

But God chose this "foolish thing" to shame the wise (the experts who said it would never succeed).
He chose the weak to shame the strong (so nobody can boast this thing happened because of their cleverness).

[Grace, the character from Once Were Warriors who broke my heart]

It's amazing that CLS has become what it is today (a programme reaching hundreds of kids on a daily basis, making a real difference, changing lives and futures) from such a humble start.
It was a series of miracles - some may say "coincidences", but I know better.

See, God cared about those broken kids. He let me get a tiny glimpse of his heart for them that night, watching Once Were Warriors. When my heart was breaking, it was just a taste of his heart breaking. And he was waiting for somebody - anybody!- to volunteer. Once I put my hand up, he started sending things across my path - the right people, resources, funding. But I wouldn't have gotten any of that if I hadn't stepped out first, and used what I had, right where I was.

So yeah. I think one person CAN change the world - or at least the part of the world they let break their heart enough to do something about.

It was a long time ago now,
I haven't been hands-on at CLS since 2000. Others picked up the baton, people with the skills and qualifications I didn't have. They could take it where it needed to go, to the point where it is now far beyond what I could ever have dreamed or imagined.
But I did my part, the part I could do. I got the ball rolling, and that's what matters.

My Part in the Story of CLS

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