Thursday, December 18, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
1. The kids came to the US with their Mom, (but without their Dad) in 2000 after fleeing violence, persecution and death in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were seven, eight, & ten.
2. After a year and a half in the US, their father (who they had not seen in four years) rejoined their family, which required them not only to readjust to having him around, but also to move from their two bedroom apartment to a larger one and to switch schools.
3. In order to afford the bigger apartment, they moved into a more dangerous neighborhood. After a year a man got shot right outside their window, so they moved again and switched schools again.
4. The next apartment was in a safer place, but the family lived upstairs and the ground floor of the building was full of seniors citizens who didn't like the noise of adolescent feet on the stairs or too many other kids coming to visit, so their lease was not renewed. The family moved again.
5. The new place was an old townhouse with an inefficient furnace and high gas bills, but the kids could have their friends over to visit and not worry about complaints. At least they could until a bullet came through their front window. The family started looking for a house to buy.
6. The family managed to get a mortgage for a small slab house in a quiet neighborhood and things seemed to be getting better. But when family members who were still in Africa got really sick and couldn't work, the kids' parents took out a second line of credit against their house to help. They wired thousands of dollars over seas and then the father started losing hours at work and eventually they lost the house. They moved again and changed schools again.
7. Now the oldest boy has dropped out of high school and refuses to do a GED program. The middle boy has been falsely accused of things at school and is on a watch list because of the friends he hangs out with. And the young girl has a reputation as a trouble maker with multiple suspensions.
We've been friends with this family every step of the way. I understand how all these steps have led up to these problems, but somehow I still can't believe that this is where we are. I keep wondering if there was something I could have done to stop it.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The flurries outside are making me feel Christmasy. I admit that I have already started listening to Christmas music and I am eager to start decorating. I am usually not like this. Not sure what's gotten into me. Here is a great picture of my friends: Dollar, Musa, & Yasmin from Christmas 2005. They all slept over at our house on Christmas Eve. This is the time of year that I especially wish I had kids. Maybe next year.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Bryan House (www.bryanhouse.org) needs a lot of things, including a new back parking lot. The old one is all broken-up and probably won't survive another winter. We had the budget to fix it, but it's going to have to wait. Why? Because we have made a commitment to tithe from our budget to support international refugee crisis and prevention programs through World Relief. This year our tithe will buy 35 Family Survival Kits for parents and children displaced by the escalating violence in Congo. Maybe you've read about about this conflict or heard it on the news. Check out this link to learn more: http://community.wr.org/Page.aspx?pid=1274
YOU MIGHT BE ASKING YOURSELF, "WHY WOULD BRYAN HOUSE TITHE WHEN ALL THEIR MONEY ALREADY GOES TO A GOOD CAUSE?" GOOD QUESTION. HERE'S OUR ANSWER:
Bryan House Community Development Corporation believes in and practices the Biblical tithe for three main reasons. First, it is an ordained Spiritual discipline designed to increase our generosity and strengthen our faith and trust in God. Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse… Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” By giving away ten percent of our annual budget, we, along with the refugees we serve, become a community strengthened and blessed by intentional sacrifice.
Second, we practice the tithe because it is part of God’s plan to care for the poor and suffering, and because Jesus taught us that our neighbor isn’t just the person who lives next door. Deuteronomy 26:12 says, “When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.”
Thirdly we tithe as a witness and encouragement to the Church. We have heard many church leaders lamenting that there isn’t enough in their budgets to make it possible to tithe to the poor, or making excuses that since everything they do is the work of God, there is no need to dedicate ten percent to the poor. All of the work we do is with refugees in our community who are trapped in the cycle of poverty, and yet we choose to tithe because we recognize that there are even greater needs outside our own community. We tithe as a challenge encouragement to churches to do the same. The Church has always been called to make these kinds of sacrifices. In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul says this to the church at Corinth, “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability…Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little."
WE ARE GLAD TO SHARE WITH OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN NEED IN EASTERN CONGO. PLEASE CONSIDER JOINING US BY GIVING TO WORLD RELIEF.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
From our friend, Vincent in Nairobi:
Hi,Siz n Bro,
What a wonderful moment not only to the people of America but to the whole world,i respect the election of your people you are truly the world model,because the people themselves shape the future they want only that the leaders lets us down....
I hope one day you will get one of my paintings to Mr.President Barack Obama to Congratulate him.
On 6th/11/08 has been officially been announced that it will be a public holiday here in Kenya.We will celebrate the new president of America in this historic moment.
May God bless you all for everything you are doing.
From Kevin Otieno at Kivuli Centre Nairobi:
|Finally, the dream of Martin Luther King has been fulfiled in America.We in Kenya wished Obama all the best and we new as it was the rest of the world`s wish to see change come to America .We hope this change would work towards restoring any broken relationship between America and the rest of the world.|
I hope that the relation ship between Kivuli boys (Koinonia Community ) and your family together with your husband and friends shall remain intact.Kivuli boys this year are going to perform in Ital during December holidays.
I`m also a proud person as i have joined Catholic University this year and i m studying Social sciences. I also would like to thank your husband for Obama T-shirt that he gave to me and stickers.We really miss you all! Otherwise Thanks in advance.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Below is an email I received from my friend Joseph who lives and works in the largest slum in Africa, Kibera - Nairobi Kenya. They have high hopes for the American election day tomorrow, and still higher hopes for the example America can set in the world. I don't think that America is the "last great hope for the world" as many people (including Obama) have said, however, I do hope that we Americans can start a new chapter beginning tomorrow and move toward greater equality, love for our neighbors, respect for differences, an end to war, and care for the poor and neglected. It is time for a new day.
And I can't wait to call my friends in Kenya and to talk to all the African refugees I know here in the US after the final results come in tomorrow. I don't place my hope in politics, but I can't help feeling that something good is on the rise. I hope we can live up to our own ideals.
Hi Desiree, Here in Kenya it's exactly ten minutes to one. This means by East African Standard time, your polling day is measurable in hours now. We thank you because your country is a great nation with a people endowed with wonderful visions. Yours is the manager of the global economies, politics and etc. You had told us what you believe in, and we were very thankful; not because Obama has got its root in our country, but because of a real change both you and him "believe in". Africa and Kenya in general , and western part of Kenya in particular praises American people for showing the world maturity in politics. This is a good precedent for the people of this world; they have proved that Americans regard this world as godly and the people living in it are ONE irrespective of color, creed, religion, background, tribe etc. provided he or she can articulate the sentiments of the majority. On behalf of all KISCODEP members, I wish you a happy voting day. Thank you! Thank you very much!!! Joseph
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Rick and I don't have any children of our own yet, but the three kids in this picture: Musa, Little Rick, and Dollar (pronounced Doe - la) are just like family to us. I love these guys! Last night we celebrated Musa's 9th birthday. I can't believe it's been five and a half years since we first met them. Back then Dollar was in diapers and little Rick wasn't even born.
On Monday I stopped at their house to visit and Dollar asked me, "Who are you going to vote for President? Obama or THE John McCain." I told her to guess. She said, "I know, THE John McCain." (I'm not sure why she added "THE" to his name.)
"Nope," I said. "I'm voting for Obama." She frowned at me. "Hey, but you're white!" she said. I laughed a little bit at her response, but it made me sad. Dollar and I have been like family for five and a half years, white and black together. I love her like my own daughter, and yet somehow she has still managed to learn that white and black don't mix. That white people have reservations about choosing a black candidate. Dollar lives in Wheaton in a low income housing complex, but I'm sure that many of the kids in her Wheaton school come from affluent, white, evangelical homes. They are having a mock election at her school, so maybe she just noticed that most of the white kids (reflecting their parent's values) are voting for THE John McCain, and assumed that's what all white people will do. I tried to explain to Dollar that I was voting for Obama because I like his ideas, and that I would never vote for someone just because of the color of his or her skin. And I told her that I like and love lots of black people, her included. And I gave her a big squeeze and a kiss before she wiggled away to go play. I'm not sure she understood what I was saying. She's only in second grade. (Though old enough to pick up on racial divides that this election is bringing to the surface.)
For so many reasons, but especially for Dollar's sake, (and kids like her) I really hope that Obama wins next week. I hope that black kids all across this country have the opportunity to learn something new about what is possible for them. I hope they have the chance to hear white people saying how proud they are of our new President, who happens to be black. I hope we get the chance to change Dollar's mind about white people and how they behave. That we get a chance to repent of our broken history and start a new chapter.
Dollar is from a people group in Somalia that has been mistreated, put down, labeled, and abused for centuries. She came to the US with her family to find refuge from that kind of treatment. I desperately want her to find REAL equality here. I want her to know her own worth and value. I want her to know, not only that this white woman loves her like crazy and thinks she is totally amazing, but that white people in general respect and admire our black brothers and sisters.
Dollar also comes from a Muslim household and knows that "Muslim" has been used like an insult against Obama (though he is, in fact, a Christian.) I also want her to know, not only that this Christian woman loves that spunky, joyful, Muslim little girl, but that Christians in general love and respect our Muslim brothers and sisters.
I dream of the day when that's what Dollar experiences at school and in her neighborhood. It's time we started a new story in America, so that ALL our kids can have an equal chance at greatness.
Friday, October 17, 2008
The person who invited me is very sweet and soft spoken and seems very innocent. I know that I embarrassed her by revealing the information. I tried to be firm, but gentle. But there wasn't any way that I could have said nothing. I know that now she thinks I am just judgemental and intolerant of her religion. I know that she deeply and sincerely believes in the goodness of the organization and it's mission. She says there is no agenda of conversion, but I find that very difficult to believe. I felt the need to protect those around me from what many people consider a cult. She said, "Couldn't people just come and see and decide for themselves?" It's a very rational question, I suppose...if it wasn't for the context.
I still feel shakey from the experience. I don't know if she will ever come and talk to me again. I hope she will. I don't like the feeling of someone thinking that I might be against religious freedom or interfaith movements. I am certainly not. But I am against any church that concentrates authority in one powerful leader who rewrites scripture and claims to be the Messiah. Religions are so crazy. And people are so hungry for some kind of meaning and some kind of answer. That's why churches have to be so careful about how they lead and teach. The vulnerable are easily swayed, for good or for bad. People in churches need to think for themselves, no matter how good the Pastor is. I hope the little lamb I met today can listen for the voice of the Shepherd rising above the sound of wolves. I hope I can too.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Hey Kevin, yeah, on behalf of christendom I sincerely apologize that you had to be subjected to that level of ignorance. It's not necessarily that persons fault... they just aren't well informed and have fallen prey to some pretty radical people who have gone to great lengths to try to prop up this level of extremism. There's a good website that defends rumors against Obama from Christian Perspective called "Put Away " based on a verse in Ephesians that warns against this very type of false teaching or rumor mongering (www.putawayfalsehood.com)
Unfortunately they haven't articulated a direct response to this most extreme, yet surprisingly common rumor about Obama (I've heard it many times). My first response to anyone who says this would be to ask them not only WHY they think Obama is the antichrist, but what they think the antichrist actually is and whether they even know what the bible says about the anti-christ.
The Bible only contains four direct references to the "antichrist" (in the most common translations) and NONE of them have anything whatsoever to do with why this rumor is being spread around (though, as previously mentioned, the Bible has plenty to say about how wrong it is to pass judgment on others and spread rumors/gossip). All four of the references to the antichrist in the Bible simply talk about someone who denies Christ, preaches against him or says that he is not the . That's it. Period.
Chances are that this person either read one or more of the radical, right-wing, christian propaganda books in the "Left Behind" series or heard this rumor from someone who had. Unfortunately these books have been read by millions of Christians. They're terribly judgmental, divisive and exclusionary books that the world would be far better without. In those books, they develop a character who is the anti-christ which is loosely based on the allegorical "Beast" in Revelations. Without any real biblical basis, the " " books create an antichrist character that is a charasmatic political leader trying to consolodate his power by uniting the world into a single community under a single leader & single radical religion. A pretty far stretch from the 10-headed "beast" in Revelations who marks people w/ 666. Along the way, the Obama/antichrist rumor has picked up some stuff about him being a muslim and in my mind the rumor would simply have NEVER gotten to the point that it has if Obama were white. This antichrist rumor has strong, strong racial overtones to it.
So BOTTOM LINE is that there is nothing in the Bible WHATSOEVER to point to any similarities between Obama and what the Bible says is the anti-christ. The concept of the anti-christ in the bible is specifically aimed at false prophets/preachers who deny the incarnation or divinity of Jesus. Obama has NEVER done any such thing--In fact he has explicitly, repeatedly and consistently done the opposite. In both of his books, he directly acknowledges that he believes . In fact he has acknowledged this belief far more often and more directly than has. It is an undisputed fact that until very recently many christians were unhappy with and did not support John McCain precisely because he has typically refused to talk about his Faith and most believe that he (McCain) is not a very spiritual person... which is to say that he does not appear to know much of anything about the Bible when asked, has not cited examples of prayer being a meaningful part of his life since he was in a POW camp, and appears to know very little about the tenants of the denomination that he identifies himself with...
Anyway, I obviously could go on and on, but as you already knew when you texted me, this rumor is nothing short of crazy talk. But it is worth pointing out to anyone who espouses such views or shares a concern about it, that it is simply IMPOSSIBLE to support such a view from a Biblical standpoint. So if Christians want to argue against the Bible and why the only author to ever mention the antichrist (John) was wrong in his description of the anti-christ... or how Obama corresponds with the 10-horned/7-headed beast/dragon/leapord/bear with ten crowns who has "called down fire from heaven to earth in full view of men" (from Revelations)... then I suppose they're entitled to try to connect such disparate dots.
I know that's A LOT of stuff. But unfortunately, while there's little or nothing to support this rumor, it'd take ages to point out all of the many ways in which those who believe this rumor have been misled or fooled into believing this non-sense.
Hope this helps a little.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also....No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
-Matthew 6:19-21 & 24-25
Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." - Mark 10:21
His platform on national security would be considered dangerous:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 6:43-44
"Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High."- Luke 6:35
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
WOULD YOU VOTE FOR A CANIDATE WITH A PLATFORM LIKE THAT?
Monday, September 29, 2008
A special thank you to everyone who made the Bryan House auction a big success! Our prelimary total was $14,000 but there are still a few more donations trickling in, so we anticipate that the final total from the night will go up. An extra special thank you to our friend, Mark Lie, who made the incredible Bryan House cake pictured above. The cake was an exact replica of the house; complete with mailbox, wheel chair ramp, and even the fence around the dumpster. The cake was on display during the auction and then we took it over to the house to share it with the refugee families who are already living there. They were totally amazed! The kids were laughing and choosing which part of the house they wanted to eat. The little girl pictured above is a fifth grader from Congo named Nyota. She is eating her bedroom. She also did a lot of nibbling on the fence. Her Aunt Ketsia said, "Tell your friend he did a great job on the cake, but now that we have eaten our house, where will we live?" The cake brought a lot of joy and laughter to the families at Bryan House. Thanks, Mark!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Today is the eight year anniversary of my first date with Rick. On this day eight years ago Rick gave me a compilation CD of music (he was inspired to do this by the movie, "High Fidelity"). And each year since then he has given me a new CD with songs that reflect another year together. Romantic, huh?
Our first date was to the Art Institute in Chicago and then out for dinner at Indian Harvest in Naperville. It was a great day and I'm having fun remembering it. Thanks Julie Girdwood (Julie Youngs at the time) for introducing us! A lot of matches came out of that long ago small group/group of CCC friends: (David & Julie Girdwood, Mike & Karen Brown, Rick & Desiree Guzman, Jeff & Tanya DeGraff.) Good work everybody! I miss hanging out with you guys. (Bill & Rachel Carroll too, but they were already married way back then : )
Monday, September 22, 2008
This week is too busy for blogging. Don't miss the 2nd Annual Bryan House Silent Auction this Friday 7 PM at Community Christian Church in Naperville. Over three hundred items and all the proceeds go to help refugee families in Aurora work and save their way out of poverty in a responsible and dignified way.
For more info go to www.bryanhouse.org
Saturday, September 13, 2008
This is just a glimpse of life in Kibera. Take a walk with me through the streets of the largest slum in Africa. People live like this every single day. Even though I know people who live here and correspond with them regularly, sometimes it's hard for me to remember and believe that a place like this exists.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Special thanks to Josh Bonifas for the donation of a digital camera that we were able to bring them this summer, making photos on their website possible!
Kibera is an unfortgetable place. It's what Bono was talking about when he said, "Africa makes a mockery of our sense of justice." Thank God for the KISCOPDEP members who are doing all they can to make a difference. They share what little they have to make life better for their neighbors. They are my ideal of what a real Christ-follower looks like.
Friday, September 5, 2008
1. Because they were trying to scare me. Lots of video images of the Oklahoma City bombing, Embassy bombings in Kenya & Tanzania, and Sept. 11th, and the insinuation that with a Republican in the White House we are assured complete safety and no attack on US soil, but with a Democrat in office more attacks are inevitable. Fear is one of their political strategies, so if you weren't afraid you weren't listening closely enough.
2. Using Biblical language about God's People to refer to America alone. Continuing a tradition started by Reagan and used again by George W. Bush, they call America "the City on a Hill." This Biblical term comes from Matthew chapter five. Jesus is talking to his followers. The followers of Jesus (no matter what country they come from) are meant to be the "City on a Hill" pointing toward God. America has no claim on this title. Christians should know better. Jesus teaches us that our identity as children of God comes before national identity. "In Christ there is no Jew nor Greek. . ."
3. Hyper Patriotism that leads to blindness and arrogance. How many times did we hear "America is the greatest country in the world"? What does that mean? That we are better than everyone else? Being grateful for the blessings that come with being American is one thing, but using the language of superiority is something very different. Not a great position from which to start foreign relations. I wonder what other people watching around the world feel when they hear our leaders say things like that? How would we feel if we heard another nation's leaders say it?
"I have never not been proud to be an American" Really? Never? You're actually proud of everything America has ever done in the world? Maybe you aren't paying close enough attention. Native Americans. Slavery. Japanese internment camps. Inventing and using the atom bomb. Torture. The deaths of countless innocents. Responding with war in Iraq, but ignoring Genocide in Rwanda & Sudan...
"We don't want a President who will apologize for America." I disagree. I think a person who refuses to apologize even when we are wrong is not the right person to lead us. I think apologizing when you are wrong takes character and courage. That's what we teach our children. Why is it suddenly not true for the leader of our country?
Proverbs 11:2 "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." Proverbs 16:18 "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
4. Embracing the Myth of Redemptive Violence. So many signs that said "Peace through strength." In other words "war and violence is the means by which we will attempt to achieve peace." And how many times did you hear words like fight, battle, war, victory? Vocabulary full of war metaphors tells you something about a person's world view. But Jesus taught us, "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword." And he asked Peter to put the sword away. The vision of the means of settling disputes in the Kingdom of God is very different. "Turn the other cheek. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Beat your swords into plowshares. Study war no more." War begets war, not peace.
5. Calling anyone who opposes America "evil." I think we are confusing America and God. Those who oppose God are the evil ones.
6. Not just disagreeing about policies, but belittling your opponent. "I guess being mayor of a small town is kind of like community organizing, except I had real responsibilities." -Sarah Palin. There is nothing shameful about the top law student from the top law school in the country choosing a low paying community organizing job over all the other offers he could have had. Criticizing policies is to be expected, but don't stoop to devaluing a person's work. That's just bitter and mean and not very respectable.
7. Misplaced priorities and the religion of Patriotism. "Country First." What does that mean exactly? That I should put my country above God? Above my family? Above anybody from any other country in the world? And how does giving tax breaks to the rich equal "Country first, not me first." That doesn't even make sense. The Bible says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself." And who does Jesus say our neighbor is? Everyone. There is no national boundary that keeps someone from being our neighbor. "God First, and the needs of ALL my brothers and sisters first." I refuse to worship America.
"My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country or a man. My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood. It's to a King and a Kingdom." -- Derek Web
This Republican Convention really scared me. I'm sure the Democrats are using some of this language as well, but it seemed louder and more pronounced in St. Paul. There are some things more dangerous and more terrifying than terrorism.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I would lower taxes and help the poor. I would stop any wars or battles. I would move some things in the White House.
Here's Janauary 23rd, 1985 with the title: If I Were President.
If I were president of the US I'd help the poor and start programs for sick people.
I think these are still be my answers to those questions : ) I didn't realize that God had this stuff on my heart at such a young age.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
What would you do if this happened to you:
Today in the parking lot of the North Aurora Target, Rick was putting his bags in the car when an older woman sitting in a car near him noticed the OBAMA bumper sticker on our Saturn. As Rick was returning his cart to the cart coral the woman yelled after him, "Are we going to have barbeque on the lawn of the White House?"
The woman's tone was a little strange, but Rick assumed that she was an Obama supporter talking about how we would celebrate if he wins the election in November. Rick said, "I sure hope so," and kept pushing his cart, but the woman yelled after him again. This time her tone was even more strange and intense. "No, think about it," she said. "Are we going to have barbeque at the White House."
Rick stopped, not quite believing what the woman was insinuating. "Is that a racial comment?" he asked. The woman raised her eyebrows as if to affirm what she wouldn't quite say out loud. Rick shot her a disapprovingly look and walked away knowing there would probably be no reasonable conversation if he continued.
I know I shouldn't be shocked, but I feel a little shocked. Quiet, subtle racism is everywhere. We see it all the time, but it isn't often that we bump up against the blatant and overt kind in our daily lives. The scars of racial division are deep and wide and ugly in America. This is just one of the reasons I long for diverse neighborhoods, schools, and especially churches. I feel sorry for a woman like this who has obviously never had a loving friendship with a black person. (Anyone who had would never say something like that.)
I don't know if we'll have Barbeque on the lawn of the White House. Maybe we'll have arugula salad instead. In any case I hope we have a fair and decent election free from ugliness and ignorance of racism.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
When will Africa find some rest? Rest from war. Rest from the abduction of her children. Rest from poverty. Rest from disease. Rest from broken hearts and broken promises.
There are moments walking in Africa when you have to wonder if what you are seeing is even real. When you wonder how such incredible suffering could be possible. You wonder how anyone there finds the strength to smile, move, breathe, eat, love. And you feel ashamed. Ashamed of the obscene number of things you own. Ashamed of the invisible cloud of privilege that follows you around where ever you go. And at the same time there is a part of you that feels jealous of what they have. Jealous of the deep well of joy that simplicity has made accessible to them...a well that you cannot seem to reach at home. Jealous of the movement of the Spirit among them that makes Jesus more present than you have ever felt him before.
It's hard to move back into life again here. The only way to do it successfully is to forget Africa exists, and I don't want to ever do that. So I guess I'm in for more days of struggle and confusion. Maybe that's how it's supposed to be.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
If you lived in Gulu in Northern Uganda you'd get this excited about a little shoe box of pencils, paper and small toys too. This is the area of Uganda where a rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army has been burning villages, killing, raping, and abducting thousands of children in order make them soliders. Gulu is also one of the cities that housed thousands of night commuting children who left their villages each night and walked hours and hours in order to find a safer place to sleep: under verandas and in the bus parks. Two year ago we would not have been able to visit this place. But for now there is tenuous peace agreement.
We were in Gulu to celebrate World Refugee Day (if you can really celebrate such a thing.) These kids received shoe boxes packed by families in Europe and the US as little tokens of encouragement. The young woman in this photo was looking for something a little more encouraging. She told me how her parents were gone and she was living with an Aunt and Uncle. She had finished secondary school, which is almost a miracle in place where she lives, and she really wants to study at the University. She was hoping I would sponsor her studies so she could have a future. What do you say to that? "I can't, but here have a shoe box?" We both walked away from the conversation feeling disappointed.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The children who are singing in this video are from Faith Homes Primary School in Kapchorwa, Uganda -- one of the most beautiful and most desparate places in the world. A large percentage of the children who attend school here are orphans. Some beacause of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and some because of war. Everywhere we traveled in Uganda the plea was the same, "Don't forget us. We need you to remember that we are here and we are suffering."
Leaving Africa is always a terrible mixture of sorrow and relief. Sorrow to leave the friends I've made there, and relief to not have to look poverty in the face every moment of every day. But leaving is dangerous because it makes forgetting easier. I started this blog a year ago as a way to keep my promise to remember my friends who are suffering in Africa. I didn't have any time during the trip to write about my experiences, but maybe that's okay because writing it down now when I'm back home is one way to keep me from forgetting. Each time I sit down to write in the next few weeks, I will take some time to remember.
"Our visitors who are leaving, will you write some letters to us?"
Monday, July 7, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Bryan House is becoming too big to be a side project for us, and if we're going to really make an impact on Aurora together, then we will eventually need to spend most of our time in Aurora together. I don't know exactly what the future holds, but I'm convinced that we won't see our full potential until we can focus our energy and we can work together every day towards one common goal. We're starting to think about some possible ways to make that happen. I like the idea of walking to work together, taking a lunch break together, fighting for justice and equality together, and coming home together. I know that sounds like a lot of together. You might even think it's kind of sappy. Don't get me wrong. I don't want to go through life tied together every moment like a three-legged race team, but I do need Rick to do my best and he needs me. Of that I am sure. We're a package deal.
Unlike a lot of people, I think we could be pretty successful at working together every day and being productive without driving each other completely insane. (Not that we don't have our moments.) I feel like God wired us for a together kind of work life. So I'm looking forward to the day when law school is over and when our individual vocations can finally converge and become one. Only then will we really begin to see what we can accomplish together.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Can you imagine? We might just have ourselves the first black president. I've known a lot of African refugees who have given birth to children in America and I always tell them, "This child is a natural born US citizen. He or she could be president." Now, finally, I can almost believe that what I tell them is true.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Baby Rick and his siblings: Musa, Dollar, Ali, & Isha, along with his Mom and Step Dad live at a subsidized housing complex in Wheaton. His Step Dad works hard at a near minimum wage factory job and his Mom stays home to take care of the three children who are not yet school age. Baby Isha was born five months ago and the addition of another little one has made Rick's family too big to legally fit in the apartment they are living in. The housing complex has told them they once Isha is one year, they won't be able to stay there any longer. Rick's mother is very worried about what they will do. She thinks they might move to Wisconsin because they have heard rumors that public aid is better there. I have seen many families move based on those kinds of rumors. Sometimes it works out okay, but often times they find themselves in even worse situations.
It is very difficult for me to think about these guys moving far away. I love these kids like they are my own. In fact, the thought occurred to me that if we took in one or two or three of the kids, they wouldn't have to move. It's probably not the best idea. I wouldn't want to separate the kids from each other or to give some of them a great leap in opportunity while the others are still stuck. I also wouldn't want to divide them from their family and culture and language. And I fear that when they grew up they might resent us for it. I know that Baby Rick's Mom would let us take him if we asked her. She's talked about it before. But this is an idea of desperation, not rationality. And it might even be an idea that's more about what I want than what's best for the kids. But I'm afraid that if they move to Wisconsin and separate themselves from the support system they have here, things will be even harder. I even worry they could end up homeless, and that the kids will get caught in a downward spiral and never get out. They are already behind verbally and academically. Even here it's going to be hard for them.
What would you do? Would you separate a child or children from daily life with their family in order to give them greater opportunity? What's the right answer?
In any case, I can't quite imagine my life without them. So I really, really hope they don't have to move.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The reality of what these kids have already faced in their short lives is something most of us could never imagine. And the challenges are far from over. They will leave the hunger and disease of the camp behind, but they will still have to learn a new language and a new culture. They will have to catch-up in school and adjust to having parents in charge of them again. Maoneo will experience what it's like to black and male in the United States, and they will all eventually be disillusioned by the reality of how many obstacles they will find in the land of the free. But they will have food and shelter and family again; and that is a lot compared to what they've had.
Bryan House will be helping their Aunt Ketsia & Uncle Christophe save for the down payment on a house, so that eventually they will have a place of their own. A place to build stability and opportunity for these children and for their children after them. Welcome Home children! We've been waiting for you. It's long past time for your family reunion.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
"Come near to God and he will come near to you." James 4:8
The summer after I graduated from college everything felt like moving sand. I was back under my parent's roof again and renegotiating my relationship with them after living away for four years. I didn't have a "real job" lined up. I was disconnected from the friends I had made at school and from my church community. And the two Christians role models I admired most wanted nothing to do with me because they disapproved of the guy I was dating -- who admittedly was not kind or good, but started to feel like the only friend I had in the world. During that time I was enrolled in a nine week intensive youth ministry and leadership training program through Tentmakers. Every morning before my classes started I would go into the sanctuary of the church that was hosting us and sit down on the floor in a pool of sunlight coming in through one of the stained glass windows to spend some time with God. Sometimes I sang. Sometimes I prayed. Sometimes I sat quietly just feeling the sun on my face. And sometimes I laid down and cried. Even though everything else in my life felt broken and out of control, those moments alone in the sanctuary with God are still some of my sweetest memories. And though I have no desire to ever go back to that time in my life, I do long for that kind of communion with God again. I need to draw near again.
The last year of my life has been so busy with the work of ministry that I haven't always taken the time I need to draw near to God. More and more I feel myself longing to slow down, longing for a life that isn't quite so scheduled and full. I know that I am not at my best when life is like this, without any real time to reflect and think and draw near. But I can't see any way out for at least the next year. Somehow I still need to find ways to be quiet with God. I need some sanctuary moments. Even if it means neglecting other things. Even if it means disappointing people who want even more of my time.
I'm really looking forward to the day when Rick is done with law school. I am dreaming of the freedom that will come with day, but if I am honest I know that life for us will probably always be busy and over-full. So if I don't figure out how to get back to sanctuary now, it probably won't ever happen.
"Come near to God and he will come near to you." James 4:8