How do you find balance in a life that longs for the typical American norms of financial security, material possessions, and marital bliss while it bleeds for opportunities to be a voice to help people who live amidst poverty, slavery, and persecution? How do you reconcile these two contrasting halves to make one refined whole?
In one hand, I hold the pans. This represents my daily life. I’m a newlywed wife and a young college grad living in the United States of America in a particularly comfortable neighborhood in Nevada. I wash pans and pots. I cook dinner, and I try not to burn what I make. I work every day from 9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. I like following fashion trends, playing with various shades of nail polish, and driving around town in my sporty red car.
But in the other hand, I possess the pickpockets. First, let’s take this literally. I’ve met many people who have been accused of being society’s “pickpockets.”
I’ve slept in a homeless shelter in San Francisco, where the toilets clogged and the room reeked when the city shut off the water. I’ve wandered the streets of Nairobi, Kisumu, and Bungoma, Kenya, with street boys who huffed glue to stave hunger pangs and drank water from thin, plastic bags tied at the top in a knot and with a bite from the bottom corner to suck out the liquid. I’ve had to tell a Nicaraguan mother near the rice fields of Granada’s outskirts that her child was going to die because our good-willed, little, temporary, American medical clinic really couldn’t save anyone after all.
I am trying to find the balance. Like many Americans, I want to reach beyond myself to help the world. But I went to the world, and I didn’t find what I expected.
While in the mission field overseas, God gave me a verse by which to live my life: Isaiah 58:6-10. It’s about breaking the chains of injustice, setting free the oppressed, providing for others of what you posses, and allowing God to receive the glory as He holds you the whole way. “You will call, and the LORD will answer,” verse 9 reads. “You will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
Several weeks later, in the kitchen of a little missionary house owned by “Mama Doris” Stotlar in Bungoma, Kenya, I heard God tell me to go home. Go back to the United States. I did.
Once I returned to the Western world, I did the only thing I knew to do. I finished college, and I received my Bachelor’s degree. Along the way, God showed me who He is and how capable He is of transforming this life through love in action. As I learned to embrace the love He had for me, I learned to pour out this love to others.
I am still learning. And that’s okay.
This blog, Pans and Pickpockets, is a story of my journey. But this blog is also an invitation for you to join the mission field from wherever you are with the skills, talents, and passions that God has gifted to you. I want you to know who you are as one of God’s kids, as His crowning glory of Creation (Genesis 1-2), and as an heir to His kingdom (John 1:12-13). If you don’t know who you are, this is a place to start exploring it.
Then once you know and accept who you’ve been individually created to be, I hope for you to discover what God has placed within your heart as your mission in this life. Let me give you a hint: It always starts with love. We are to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22: 36-40). What that love looks like and what direction you take it is up to you to find out. Ask Him. He’ll let you know.
My direction is to stay in the United States for this time. It is to reach people who speak my language and who share my culture. It’s to equip you with resources. It’s to encourage you in your walk. It’s to process what I’m learning, and it’s also to hear back from you. Together we can help each other as Christians who are looking to find our paths, to discover who we’re made to be, to disciple those around us, and to share the love of Jesus Christ through our everyday decisions.
Don’t let time pick your pocket. Embrace what Jesus has for you, and let’s journey together as we further seek His face and aim to understand how His Word applies to our modern world. Yes, even here in the United States and the Western world. Even as people who work 9-to-5.
As followers of Christ, we are all missionaries. It doesn’t matter where we live. It’s just a matter of whether or not we are willing to accept this task, and take God’s love with no strings attached to the people we’ll encounter every day.
If you’re someone with your hands on both sides—an interest in the daily life we live in the Western world as well as a passion to sacrifice it all for the sake of serving others like Jesus—then join me. This is Pans and Pickpockets. It contains Post-it note pieces of my life for you to view, but if you’ll add your own pieces as well, then we’ll better find a way to transform our hearts and minds into the likeness of the only One who can bring justice, truth, and love.
~ Ally Siwajian © 2012
Photograph credit: (1) Jamison Frady of Quiet Art Photography Weddings, featuring Ally Siwajian; (2) Lauren Patton of NerdieBlonde Art (and my sister), featuring Mrs. Margaret Ochuro, Ally Siwajian, and friends; (3) Hannah Myrick Anderson, featuring Ally Siwajian and friends; (4) Ally Siwajian, featuring awesome keys seen in The Bastion in Nanaimo, British Columbia