Why Am I Here? by Anne Brock

One of my least favorite sermons ever, from a dear pastor at a church my family previously attended, was about all of the awful things that could happen to us as Christians if we truly followed Jesus.  It was not a jump-out-of-your-seat-and-cheer kind of sermon, not one to motivate you to be on Team Jesus, but rather one to leave you speechless, doubtful and dumbfounded.

“Why am I here?” I kept asking myself after leaving a relatively comfortable home to drive winding country roads in one of the poorest parts of Appalachia, chasing a story I knew most Americans don’t even care about.  I was supposed to meet up with a crew of Christian college students conducting health surveys, but they were ahead of me by several hours.  Mennonite Pastor Russo of Christians for the Mountains patiently gave me directions by phone, only later explaining that one of the roads I’d traveled alone was where a boulder had come crashing off the mountain a few years back, killing a young boy in his sleep.

When I did catch up with the students, they seemed more upbeat than I’d expected, given the gravity of their mission project.  It was their task to knock on doors, often unwelcome, and inquire about the health of people living next to mountaintop removal mining.  They were interlopers in a community where “We Support Coal” and “Coal Keeps the Lights On” were on everything from bumper stickers to the sign at the local pizza joint.  They had paid their own way, volunteered their time, and faced rejection or ridicule to do the dusty work they felt Jesus was calling them to do.

I never heard a complaint from these bright-eyed, young adults.  They were sometimes shaken up by what they witnessed.  Learning that multiple family members in one house could be suffering from heart disease, breathing problems or cancer was a big dose of reality for them.  They sensed that their task was important and holds hope for improving public health.  The premise that people who live near MTR might get sicker than average Americans was not an abstraction to these volunteers.  They prayed and cried over lives they’d only known briefly or heard about.  They wondered why a local boy born with a heart defect was so sick he couldn’t survive through spring.

I was privileged to tell a tiny part of this heartbreaking Appalachian story, and I have a feeling the volunteers developed a much stronger Christian witness because of what they experienced.  The health data they gathered is destined for a legacy of its own.

When the Rev. Peter Illyn invited me to come visit an MTR community a second time and get a good look at the guts of an MTR-blasted mountain for myself, it again prompted the question, “Why am I here?”  This is not feel-good Team Jesus stuff.  Just like the words from that pastor years ago, Rev. Illyn’s message at Restoring Eden is relevant and necessary, even if it is a hard sell for those wondering what it means to truly follow Christ.

 

 

Anne Brock

Anne Brock is a freelance journalist who blogs at FlourSackMama.com as well as with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and other networks.
(Reprinted by kind permission)

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Anne Brock asks, “What if we could all breathe clean air, drink safe water and eat healthy food without spending a fortune on it?”

“When will we get serious about preventing cancer and other terrible diseases, even if it means taking an honest look at everything in our environment?”

“Why not spend a moment each day thinking of someone who might follow decades later in our footsteps or of anything bigger than ourselves?”

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