Saturday, July 26, 2008

Awakening

Around five thirty in the morning, I and fourteen other people silently crowded into a van. Though up all night, the stars had not yet slid under the warm covers of the morning. Even so, I was still to tired to give them much notice. We began to make our way down a 7k dirt path towards a road more fit for the distance still ahead. Fortunately, the river decided to let us pass through unhindered.
As we drove, a thick, grey-white fog rose up from the ground. It looked indignant towards the morning’s offer of respite. It would not so quickly give up it’s post - clothing the bottoms of trees and providing them with a certain look of nobility. It remained longer then the stars, and it did not exit until escorted out with the colors of the sky. And what colors they were! No painter (with all the paint in the world) or photographer (with all the film in the world) could ever quite capture such majesty (that which cannot be separated from the sensitivity found in someone made wise by age). To say that they could, I think, would be like saying that an image of a dear friend could be made, such that, as long as the image remained, the friend would not be missed. No, I will not try and enslave the colors with words. If you have seen them, you know them.
As I sat there, wedged between the back door and someone’s grandmother, the morning danced around us. The subtle curves of the mountains made for a stage far better than any performance hall could ever be, or ever hope to be. Then entered the sun, stage east. And as it did, every other creature aware of the awakening quietly gave pause. Just as it seemed all of creation was ready to offer worship - the sun gave up it’s beauty, as if to say, “There is One much greater than me.” The day became like any other.
I could not help but mourn this surrender - what I could see with my eyes and feel with my heart was gone. Yet, I too could do nothing other than say, “There is One much greater than us. There is One much grater than this. Now is but a dream - just a moment between sleep and the awakening."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I Told Jesus I am Sorry

Today I went into town to stock up on supplies for the next month and a half. Due to the upcoming elections, it is becoming less and less wise to make the drive from our current location into the capital. Because the U.S. Dollar holds it’s value, I wait until shopping days to exchange money. Some things are really expensive (instant coffee was selling for $30...Frosted Flakes sold for about $15) but most things are similar in price (or less) to what they cost in the states - that is, if all the purchases are made on the same day the money is exchanged. I have budgeted out how much I can spend each time I come into the city. I exchange it - then I go shopping until I have no more Zim left.

At the second stop (out of four) I found quite a few useful things, I bought 10kgs of potatoes for around $5(I have eaten more potatoes in this last month than I did growing up in Idaho) ...I also found curry, fruit juice concentrate, a bit of meat (they even had bacon for a good price J), and a few other random items (At one of the stores I found live culture yogurt…I am going to use it to start making my own yogurt with powdered milk. I hope it works).

As I was putting all of my recently purchased items into the trunk of the car (already half full of other groceries), an old man, with grey hair and three missing teeth, came up to me. In a low mutter, He began to beg for money : “I need something to eat. I am starving. Please give me something.” Still muttering, He started walking right at me.” Please - something, anything.” It all happened so quick. I jumped into the passenger seat, looked Him in the eye, and told Him, “I am sorry.”

As we pulled away I could see the look of disappointment on His face. The words of Jesus suddenly came to mind:

He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left. "Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 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 welcomed me. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.' "Then the righteous will say to him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you something to eat, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' The king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, in that you did it for one of the least important of these my brothers, you did it for me.'
(Mat 25:33-40)

How can I call myself a Christian when I don’t even have compassion towards Christ? Until I learn to give all I have to all who need - there is no place for me in the Kingdom of Heaven. The most difficult part of my time spent here is daily having to ask G-d show me how I am to be compassionate towards my Brother. I already know who my brother is - it is the 6 year old who has been diagnosed with HIV. It is the person who has been beaten for political beliefs. It is the person who is beating others because of political beliefs. It is the Sick. It is the Orphaned. It is the Children abandoned because of promiscuity. It is the young. It is the old. These are my Brothers and Sisters…this is my family.

But if a man has this world's goods, and sees that his brother is in need, and keeps his heart shut against his brother, how is it possible for the love of God to be in him? My little children, do not let our love be in word and in tongue, but let it be in act and in good faith. In this way we may be certain that we are true, and may give our heart comfort before him,
(1Jn 3:17-19)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Day on Her Head

Because of the economic situation, people don’t really hold on to their money for very long (The value of the Zim is less than ¼ of what it was when I arrived. The solution - print bigger bills). Part of it is very tragic - it is very hard for people to save up for anything beyond their basic needs. There is another aspect of it, however, that is beautiful…

Last Sunday the pastor preached a sermon in Shona. He would give the Scripture references and a few key points in English so we could follow along. He spoke primarily out of a section in Philippians 4:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Yesterday I saw I woman carrying large bag of mielie meal (a very fine corn meal used to make Sadza) on her head. She probably had enough to last a family about a week. It was amazing to see her balance a bag that size on her head. A little kid was playing bora (ball), and kicked it to her. She, still balancing the bag on her head, kicked it back - then waited for him to pass it again.

Back at home I often find myself worrying about the next year…or four years….or ten years. Here in Zimbabwe I have often been reminded of a lifestyle that Jesus presented: “Give us today our daily bread.”

A few weeks ago I was talking to a Shona man. He was telling me about life in Zimbabwe and I was telling him about life in America. I tried to explain how some people in America trust in their wealth instead of G-d. I told of how it can be easy to ignore Him and ‘worship’ money. When I was done with my explanation, I asked if what I said made any sense. He quietly responded, “No - how can someone have everything they need and not thank G-d for it all? If I had all of that wealth I would thank G-d for blessing me.”

Every morning Mother Teresa , one of my heroes, would start the day with this prayer:
“Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men, who are living and dieing throughout the world in poverty and hunger. Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread, and by our understanding Love, give Peace and Joy.”

I have seen many women carry their daily food on their heads. I hope that I can, now and when I return home, be content with my daily bread. I must learn to let tomorrow worry about tomorrow. As for now I must only carry today.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Shrinking World

People have been very friendly thus far. In Jo-berg I met a lady who grew up in Zim, and runs a "online community for Zimbabwean activists." Later, on the last leg of my flight, I spoke with the regional programme officer to the embassy of Sweden. It was amazing to see such a great diversity of people in such a short time. Just a few days ago I was walking in downtown Chicago, and now Chi is sitting on the other side of the the globe. I have already witnessed so many culture groups already - a group of nuns, a Zambian boys cricket team, a middle-eastern man with a long, distinctive beard. We live in such a huge world, yet it feels as if it is shrinking.

Once at the guest house there was much to learn. The brown, "flat backed" spiders in the house are good....they eat the other bugs. The light switches are backwards compared to what I am used to. Don't use American electronics without a converter. The toilet will flush only when there is water available. Don't call it a bathroom unless you want to take a bath. As an ignorant American, don't ever wave with an open hand or raise a fist in the air - only give the thumbs up sign. It is important to learn the Shona tribal language.

Though the world may be shrinking, there is still much to learn. It has been an encouragement to be around so many people from different backgrounds and cultures, and yet still feel welcomed. Maybe, as the world continues to shrink, we should make it a priority to share the love of Christ by welcoming those that are different than ourselves. Over the last few years I have come to find that the more people I meet, the more like family the stranger becomes.

(Mark 12:28-31)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Kingdom of Heaven

He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."

He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."`


I love the picture that Jesus paints here. He says that the kingdom of heaven is like two very terrible things. First, Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed - an obnoxious weed. It was so invasive that Jewish law prohibited it from being planted. Then Jesus goes on to use the example of yeast for the Kingdom(Yeast was often symbolic of sin - enough so that once every year leavened bread was to be completely removed from the homes of believers). Jesus is saying that the Kingdom is so invasive that it will grow among any terrain, and against any amount of persecution. Jesus says that the invasive power of sin can give us an idea of how invasive His Kingdom is.

Our G-d is a G-d of amazing love and power. This coming year I am resting in the promise of His Word as found in Isaiah 58...

...Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD's holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Please pray that G-d will give me the grace to walk after Him. I cannot do it myself - I know this because of my many many failures.