This morning I was working from my living room, because Bossy McBosspants is in Boston doing his “talking about social media” thing at MIT. I was almost impressed that MIT wanted him to speak, but then I remembered last week he got interviewed by a radio station about Taylor Swift’s use of Twitter. The spotlight giveth dignity, and the spotlight taketh dignity away.
I had the news on for background noise, and there was a story about a huge drug bust in Harrison County, where I live.
In fact, at one time, Harrison County had more meth labs per capita than any county in Indiana. More than Marion County/Indianapolis. More than “scary Gary.” We have a small police force with an unfortunate history of corruption. Even with our dedicated and honest police officers, we have more remote, empty wooded areas than they can monitor. We have an economy that is in the middle of a lot of upheaval. Traditionally, our economy has been agricultural and industrial: mostly farm and factory jobs. Those jobs are leaving, and while tourism, retail and other sources of jobs are slowly filling the gap, there’s a lot of unskilled or semi-skilled workers who have turned to the drug trade.
It sucks. There’s a reason Frank Bill was able to set a whole book of gritty, noir-style crime stories in southern Indiana realistically. There’s a reason that local author Red Tash’s book Troll or Derby starts out with a meth lab explosion in a rural trailer. The fiction is not far from the fact. (Well, the “prolific drug trade” part. I’m fairly convinced we don’t actually have roller-derby playing fairies and trolls. I’ve been wrong before.)
My high school friend Libby is now our chief of police in Palmyra (I’m not sure that’s the actual title, but it’s the role). I’ve always respected Libby as a straightforward, no-nonsense woman of faith. She’s one of the rare people I know who is equally capable making a quilt and firing an automatic weapon with accuracy. She’s doing the best she can, but Palmyra can only afford a part-time police force. And we have a lot of residents who don’t want to acknowledge that our town isn’t the Mayberry they’d like to believe it is. It’s not as if drug dealers in 2012 look like the background dancers in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video. They mostly just look like your neighbors.
Earlier this week, I read a post from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary about “Jesus in Cougar Town.” It sort of broke my heart, but she made a really compelling point:
Being an agent for Love and Grace in a place where people truly don’t recognize their own need is really tough.
It was a very similar experience in Japan, one of the few places where the gulf between people’s material wealth and their spiritual poverty rivals ours here in America.
Our church is pretty faithful about recruiting workers to go on international missions, both short term and long term. Chris LeBouef of Dauenhauer Plumbing, one of my favorite clients at my previous job, shared some really wonderful stories of his mission trip experiences in India. Some part of me thinks that Chris and I would be a good fit for that kind of ministry, after our years in the military. Maybe after the kids are grown, which seems like it gets closer every day.
But then I think about where I actually am right now. I don’t have to go to the third world to see poverty and the darkness of the drug and sex trade. I don’t have to go to Europe to see comfortably affluent people blind to their spiritual need and jaded about Jesus. I’m kind of already in the middle of both of those mission fields.
The only real question is do I have the courage and wisdom to engage people, and the conviction to live into my beliefs authentically in front of them? The only real question is, am I capable of doing any good where I am?
Which is a silly question. Of course I’m not. But Jesus has a habit of using me anyways.