Come to the Margins

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Come to the margins, to the railroad track where houses were burned down and women are rebuilding with planks of wood, flattened powdered milk cans, and used clothing.

Come to the clinic and listen to the stories of grandmothers, of when they were nomads, of before the city was a city. Hear the heritage of folk tales and history.

Come to the elementary school and tutor the kids who strain to keep up in a language they don’t quite know yet.

Come to the stadium and watch the athletes train, see how their bare feet skim the track, hear how their teammates cheer and congratulate one another. Raise your voice with theirs.

Come to the market and learn how the local woman plants a garden, find out what she knows about seasons and soil and watering and protecting from hungry goats.

Come to the prison and offer a cold cup of water, a smile, an acknowledgement of the dignity of each person, even those behind bars, made in the image of God.

Come to the bank and discover the entrepreneurial spirit of women’s savings groups and small business plans.

Come to the margins and ask those here to pray for you. You can pray for them too but don’t come with the assumption that you are the only one able to bless.

Come, but don’t come to save. Come to be alongside on a journey. Offer your hand and your own stories of your grandmother, the first college graduate in your family. Your experiences of sports training and team camaraderie, your illnesses and academic struggles. Bring your brokenness, your loneliness, your confusion and doubts.

Come to the margins with your songs and stories, painting and photographs, teaching plans, and financial portfolios. Come with all your creativity and labor and insights and experiences.

Come to the margins bringing your addiction to accumulating stuff, the idolizing of money and appearance. Bring your fear of not measuring up, your envy and greed.

Come to the margins and find joy there, creativity, hard work, companionship, forgiveness, and a great sense of humor. Come and join and see the unique strengths and gifts and, if necessary, with humble wisdom, offer a hand. Receive a hand.

Come to the margins, aware of your own poverty and of how it doesn’t define you and of how it drives you to your knees and makes you desperate for God. Come but don’t use the margins as a place to soothe your conscience.

Come without condescension or preconceived ideas. Come without expecting to see nobility in suffering, expect to see pain and healing and sin and victory. Come with a willingness to look beyond what is lacking. Come, not to find a representative story but a precious individual. Come, not to see a saint or a sinner but a complex, three-dimensional person with gifts and dreams and skills.

Come and hear, and then leave without bearing simple answers or soothing platitudes or generalizations. Come and see, and then go and tell, tell the world there is more to Haiti than rape and earthquakes and orphans, more to Somalia than hostage-taking and al-Shabaab, more to Syria than refugees. Come and taste, and then go and speak in a way that doesn’t leave a flavor of pity but of common humanity.

Come with nothing, if nothing is what you have and when nothing is the best thing you have. Nothing in your hands so they are wide open to receive, and to hold. Or, sometimes, come with a piece of bread and a fish and see what Jesus does with it, for all of us, even for you, even for me, here in the margins.

Come, outside the city gates, where Jesus went. Jesus is here, in the margins. He is there, outside the margins too but sometimes it is easier to see him here. Meet him fresh here, take off your shoes here, find yourself swept up in the glorious and global adventure of hope. Here, in the margins.

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“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:35-40

Image Credit: flickr | Design: Tina Francis

Editor’s Note: Rachel is currently in transit from New York to Djibouti today. She will respond to your comments once she is settled in at home. Thank you for your patience!

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Rachel Pieh Jones
Rachel Pieh Jones has written for the New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, EthnoTraveler, the Desiring God blog, and Skirt. She lives, writes, and runs in Djibouti with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.djiboutijones.com.
Rachel Pieh Jones
Rachel Pieh Jones

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Rachel Pieh Jones
  • Stephanie

    This is beautiful! I love it.

  • Celeste Wyatt Lee

    WOW — so much and so right on! thank you

  • Bethany Olsen

    I love this, Rachel! “Come, but don’t come to save.” Such an important thing to remember.

    • Saskia Wishart

      Bethany, I was just going to comment on that exact line (you beat me to it!): “Come, but don’t come to save. Come to be alongside on a journey. Offer your hand and your own stories”

      That!

      I have battled with writing on ‘margins’ and doing it in a way that doesn’t perpetuate a ‘we- the privileged’ vs ‘them- the marginalised’ who need us.

      You nailed it Rachel. May we be willing to come alongside on a journey. I love this.

      • Rachel ‘Pieh’ Jones

        Thanks ladies. I battled with this too Saskia – exactly for the reason you wrote. So glad to hear how it resonates.

  • ((Speechless.))

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Love your words, Rachel. And I couldn’t agree more! Come, but don’t come to save. Come and bring your nothingness if that’s what you’ve got. Yes! I want people to come and find wisdom, know-how, innovation in the margins. Sometimes we can get schooled in the margins, even!

    • Rachel ‘Pieh’ Jones

      Schooled in the margins – totally. But I never want people to feel paralyzed, afraid of doing harm and so doing nothing. So come, come to Burundi and Djibouti and the margins of suburbia and rural areas and the inner city…see, learn, engage.

  • Beautiful Rachel,

    It’s such an honour to stand with your posts as your “editor.” I say editor in air quotes because your words are perfect. I rarely need to tweak, reorganize or polish. I’m blown away by the consistent quality of the work you put forth.

    Your living in Djibouti–coming (but not to save), coming (to listen) and coming (to hear and tell stories)–has done my heart so much good. Thank you for being a red dot reporting from half way across the globe. YOU do my heart good.

    Much love,
    T

    • Rachel ‘Pieh’ Jones

      Aww, so sweet Teen. I love hanging out online with you deep, thoughtful, creative, supportive women. What a space.

  • Oh boii. Oh boii. Just like YES. And oh sometimes my heart leaps and steals my mouth away with it. Let me dance with you at the margins. Let me fall to my knees in my weakness – at the margins. Oh wow. Thank you thank you thank you Rachel. My heart is so wildly screeching AMEN!!

    • Rachel ‘Pieh’ Jones

      Bring on the dance Grace!

  • D.D. Maurer

    This is absolutely brilliant.

  • Bev Murrill

    Spot on! How we so often feel that we have something ‘more’ to give than to receive. Lady Bountiful operating in full blown self aggrandisement – God help us for we have nothing and can do nothing more than You give to us to do… Help us to be people who go to receive, to live and to love and to be sisters.

    You make so much sense, Rachel. Thanks for your strong heart.

    • Rachel ‘Pieh’ Jones

      Thanks Bev. Yes – we can do what he gives us to do, no more, no less. That is such a relieving, freeing comfort.

  • ugh, wow. i have been thinking about vocation and the importance of knowing our own darkness–that way, we can do less damage to others. i love how you incorporate that idea into this post. let’s bring it all, shall we?

  • Julie Cochrane

    So beautiful, so humbling – thank you Rachel.

  • this speaks so much to my heart. “Come and taste, and then go and speak in a way that doesn’t leave a flavor of pity but of common humanity.” I’m often on the receiving end of this pity, and I can tell you, it does not good. Just come and be real and let’s be blessed together, is what I so often try to say once I work up the nerve. Thank you Rachel.

    • Rachel ‘Pieh’ Jones

      I’m glad you do work up the nerve to say it. Say it! Gently and lovingly, but your voice needs to be heard so that the togetherness can actually happen. Thanks Michaela.

  • makeda

    Gosh this is so beautiful. I love the idea of coming but not coming to save. We in the Western world are too prone to believe we have the answers. Thank you for this stunning reminder that there is much we can learn in the margins about ourselves and most importantly about Jesus. LOVE!

  • pastordt

    Gorgeous, Rachel! And is this a book cover here?? It should be, if it’s not. I’d buy it in a heart beat.

    • Aww Diana. You just made my day. I made up the graphic for the post using my limited Photoshop skills. Thanks Pastor DT! 🙂

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  • Annie

    love this so much!!

  • Amy Hunt

    Rachel, this is exquisitely beautiful. Truly. Yes to all of this. {hugs}

  • Marilyn Gardner

    Incredible. And for me, convicting. Thank you!

  • Sarah Richardson

    Yes, yes, and yes! Rachel, I might want to get this tattooed up and down my arms and legs to remind me to walk in the world this way.

  • Helen Burns

    I so love this… every single word… every single invitation. Thanks xo

  • mpieh

    Amen. Rachel, thanks so much for writing this. One of the most influential people in my life is someone who, no matter where she is…no matter what the setting or situation, she SEEKS OUT those who are in the margins. For her it is a spiritual gift…but it is something we are ALL called to. And, as you so eloquently write here, it’s something that changes us. On facebook you asked, “What do YOU find in the margins?” I would have to say that, more than anything else, in the margins I find that THEY (those people I want to think are so different from me) are really a lot like me.

    • Rachel ‘Pieh’ Jones

      Exactly. Of course we are all unique but we are also all so much alike and rather than being afraid of, intimidate by, or seeking to ‘fix’ the differences, how much harder and better to meet each other and get involved. Thanks for the link too.

  • mpieh

    One more thing…

    That passage from Matthew that you quoted…it reminded me of a story someone shared in our Sunday School class last Sunday. It was a shortened version of Henry Van Dyke’s short novel, “The Story of the Other Wise Man.” Beautiful story. Here’s a short version:
    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-02-26/faith-and-ritual/30558229_1_artaban-sick-man-herod

  • jbhoward

    Can I come with my misplaced expectations? Can I bring my US-MSM-tainted view of the world? Can I come to the margins with my blinders on, thinking I can see, not knowing how blind I am? What if I come before I’m really ready, but Jesus brings me full of myself, sure of my gifts, confident of what I have to offer, certain that I am being His hands and feet, and believing I am His ambassador coming to spread the gifts He has given me?

    Will those in the margin see beyond my saintly mask and show me that I, too, am a three-dimensional person—yes, with gifts and dreams and skills, but also—with poverty and illusions and weaknesses? Might Jesus bring me to the margins, not so I can be Jesus to “the least of these,” but so that I might learn that I *am* “the least of these,” and need them to be Jesus to me?

  • This is beautiful, Rachel and makes me feel that I can really come as I am, working out of my own margins.

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