Azaria Spencer

My own extraordinary kind of ordinary

This morning I sat in my usual comfy spot by my bedroom window. The sun was still breaking through the clouds, grey and blue divided with rays of beaming yellow and white light. The mountains beginning to reveal their lush green beauty.
Starting my day with prayer, a devotional, and journaling.
I asked God to help me find joy in both the ordinary and extraordinary, having come to realise that it is somewhere in-between where I find myself and the life I lead.
It was only last week that I found myself sat playing a perfectly ordinary game of ‘uno,’ yet in rather extraordinary circumstances.

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I was sat on a pavement of a street in Guatemala City playing uno with a group of young people who call the streets their home. Playing a game of uno I will not quickly forget.
It was last Tuesday morning, the sky was a piercing clear blue, the air still had a slight chill to it, but the sun was bright and strong. When I arrived with Ben, the coordinator of the street team, Emma and Hector (members of the street team) were already sat talking with the small group. As we approached, I noticed one young man, Panda, lying on a mattress. He seemed to be half asleep however, in actuality he was under the influence of the dulling effects of solvents. We greeted the group members and sat with them. Ben got out a game of ‘uno’ and the excitement of the game brought even Panda, partly, out of his drug induced state of sluggish slumber.

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It was in that moment, as we played laughing and enjoying each other’s company, that I realised how sometimes I will be caught off guard in a seemingly ordinary moment and suddenly realise how my life is more extraordinary than I ever could have hoped or wished it to become. In these moments I am reminded of what a privilege it is to live where I live and do what I do.
When people ask me, ‘what do you do?’ it can be difficult to fully explain because of the nature of my job and the flexibility my role allows. This somewhat ‘ordinary’ game of uno last week is only one example of an ordinary moment reminding me of the extraordinariness that exists in my life.
I’m not sure that if you had asked me ten years ago, ‘where do you see yourself in ten years?’ that I would have said. “In ten years, I see myself sat in the street in Guatemala City playing uno with a group of young adults who live on the streets and suffer from solvent addictions.”
I am not sure what answer I would have given, but I highly doubt that this would have been it.
Yet here I am, living my own extraordinary kind of ordinary, that involves joining our street team on some of their visits and serving people the rest of society chooses to ignore.
And I truly would not have it any other way. The lessons learned through a life like this are invaluable. I get to spend time with a street team who dedicate themselves to working alongside people living on the streets of Guatemala City, with a desire to see their lives transformed and free from addiction and the streets.
And I get to visit and spend time with people who yes, live on the streets and suffer with addictions, but who have taught me about grace, mercy, compassion, love, joy and so much more.

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He gave His blood

Sunday evenings often find me sat among family, Christian brothers and sisters, lit by candle light sharing in God’s word, fellowship, worship and love. Last Sunday was no different, it was my first Sunday back in Guatemala having had a few weeks back in the UK with family and friends over Christmas. It was a beautiful evening, the air was warm and as usual there was a sense of peace within the walls of Union Church.
I sat between close friends at a small round table, centred with a single candle, Bibles and service cards scattered between tea, coffee and snacks. I have always felt at home with the informality of our contemporary, ‘worship experience’ service. As we prepared our hearts to share in the Lord’s supper, which I have found to be an anchor in my life as we partake in remembrance of His sacrifice every week, our preacher spoke of Jesus’ blood.
It was like a light went on in my head and my heart. I have known and understood Jesus’ sacrifice in new ways throughout my Christian walk, as with many things new revelations come and new understanding is revealed. Now I was understanding the cross as a ‘blood sacrifice.’
The reason why this stood out to me in a new way is rooted in the heart of the work of our street team here at SKD Guatemala.
Last year our team were helping a young man who has been through some horrendous ordeals in his life on the streets. Including being stabbed, shot and the latest being run over. He is a medical marvel because after what he has been through, it is incredible that he is still alive. I remember visiting him in hospital with Ben shortly after he had been run over. His leg was badly damaged, and he needed blood to be donated for his operation. Ben and other team members supported him through his recovery and gave blood for his medical needs.
Unfortunately, even after being given other options and opportunities the draw of the drugs and the false freedom he felt from his life on the streets lead him straight back there.
I recall talking with Ben and hearing how he had been supporting this young man for some time, the different ways he gave his time, attention, care and love to him. He even gave his blood. I was inspired to write a piece that captured this complex relationship of giving of oneself to support someone who takes and yet change does not come. The struggle to keep on giving, the struggle to sacrifice more. However, I rarely got beyond the title, ‘I even gave my blood.’ There didn’t seem to be a way into this heart-rending battle.
Until last Sunday as I sat in Church, about to drink and eat in remembrance of Jesus’ ‘blood’ sacrifice. I saw a new glimpse of the depth of pain it cost to give blood for a humanity that was so underserving and slow to change. Yet He still gave His blood, knowing the cost and the truth that many would still reject Him and make light of His sacrifice.
The challenge is real, to give as sacrificially as Jesus, give of ourselves, our time, compassion, aid, love, support, finances, resources, talents and even our blood. If Jesus was willing to give His life, then maybe we can be willing to give more of ourselves, more freely, regardless of the outcome. I am inspired by people like Ben who are able to give so much of who they are and are willing to even give their blood to support someone else and love them. Even when, especially when, there is no guarantee they will appreciate it or accept the help and make changes in their lives.
To give freely without reservation or condition.
Because He gave His blood.

Castle on a hill

There is a scene in the famous play and film, ‘Les Misérables,’ where a little girl named Cosette is singing and dreaming about a castle on a cloud. At this point in the story she is living with a couple who own pub and are treating her very poorly. She escapes to her ‘special place’ and dreams,

“There is a castle on a cloud
I like to go there in my sleep
Aren't any floors for me to sweep
Not in my castle on a cloud

There is a lady all in white
Holds me and sings a lullaby
She's nice to see and she's soft to touch
She says Cosette I love you very much
I know a place where no ones lost
I know a place where no one cries
Crying at all is not allowed
Not in my castle on a cloud”

Her dream is to be safe, to be happy, but above all to be loved. Her story continues, and she is rescued from her troubled life and she goes on to be happy and indeed loved.

Recently I visited a children’s home here in Guatemala, I was with our street team and we were visiting a little girl who has been rescued from the streets. She is part of family with many difficulties and has suffered a lot in her young life.
She was often the one who her mother would take out her anger on, both verbally and physically. Her older brothers were increasingly taking her to the streets and forcing her to do solvents with them. They themselves are only children. If anyone needed rescue it was her.
Fortunately she was rescued and now she literally lives in a castle on a hill. The children’s home where she is now living is just outside the city on a hillside surrounded by trees and beautiful views. The girls house is a brightly coloured pink and purple castle and every little girl that lives there is seen as a princess. Her future is looking brighter as she is now in a safe place, where people care for her, treat her well and love her. Like all children deserve, like all people deserve.

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It saddens me to think that unlike Cosette this little girl probably didn’t have a place to escape to, a place to dream of. She probably didn’t know that she could dream or how to do so. Thankfully now she can learn how to dream and see those dreams turn into realities.

Like this little girl, rescued from an abusive life, and Cosette we all desire to be loved, we need to be loved. How incredible is it that we can be, that we are? We are loved by a Good Father, a love that is so great, love that is unconditional, that is pure. What a gift.
We don’t need to dream of a castle on a cloud, we can be rescued and know that God has already prepared a place for us in His mansion. A place where we will be safe, happy and loved, a place even more beautiful that a princess castle on a hillside.