Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed -- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors -- and they have no comforter.
And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.
Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows who to take warning.
If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all.
Whoever loves money never has money enough. As goods increase, so do those who consume them.
A CONSTANT CHASING AFTER THE WIND
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I was so happy to receive this recent update from our friend George Otieno at Shalom House in Nairobi, Kenya. It's nice to have some good news after months of turmoil, violence, and fear. After reading George's email I am even more excited about going back to Africa this summer. I feel confident that there will be a way for us to visit our friends in Kenya. My heart longs to see them all again and to stand on Kenyan soil! I feel like I have family there.
Many thanks for your message... I am very happy to receive your news and to hear that everyone is fine in Chicago.
We are very happy after the Peace agreement, and the effort that was made by the Former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan that these two guys share the responsibilities in the government. This have come back to normal, there is no case of insecurity and business in on as usual, tourism, transportation etc. Actually, the mood of the country is PEACEFUL.
During the period of skirmishes, our projects were not affected at all and thanks be to God for that. Everyone is fine and children are going on with their activities as normal.
The Government is working on well, and the displaced people are now being relocated and
taken back home. Movements are not restricted at all.
I live here and I do experienced what I am reporting to you... so don't get worried.
Pass my regards to all the friends.
See you soon.
Monday, March 10, 2008
I'm starting to dream of Africa again. Rick and I will be leading a group of North Central students to Uganda this summer with Exodus World Service and the Refugee Highway Partnership. Two nights ago we watched a South African film called, "Tsotsi" and last night we watched a documentary about Elephants in Ambroseli National Park in Kenya. Even though it is still winter here (it's snowing this morning as I write) my mind is wandering to summer and to being back in Africa again. I've been ordering books about Uganda and talking to refugee friends here who have family in Kampala who will plan to visit.
There is something grounding about spending time in Africa, something that helps remind me who I am and forces me to reflect in ways I don't often make space for when I am here. And I seem to find God more easily there, maybe because Africa always topples and unsettles me, and also because there are deep lessons in Africa about hope and joy and simplicity. I know that I probably have overly romantic notions of the hope and joy and simplicity in Africa, but still I need to find ways to develop those in me. And I also long for Africa because being there stirs me to write and I feel like when I'm not writing I'm deteriorating.
I feel trapped lately in a season of long weariness. I'm not even exactly sure why. I feel like I am holding too many heavy things up and there is no place to set any one of them down, so even though my arms are far too tired to hold them anymore, there isn't anything to do about it. In the middle of this season the promise of this coming trip back to Africa gives me hope. Hope that the change of scenary will do me good. Hope that I can reconnect with myself and with God. Maybe even hope for a little time of escape and change. Maybe Africa can shake me loose from the place that I have been stuck.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Today, after sixteen days of staying with us, Yahya, Samira, & Mirhan will be moving into their own apartment. North Central students, staff, and faculty collected all the Good Neighbor Kit items needed to get them started in their life. They are very excited! Click on the link below to view an amazing photo documentary about their first few days in America, courtesy of student, Ben Chernivsky.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
As I sit down to write, an Iraqi refugee family sleeps in the next room. I can hear the father coughing and the sound of someone shifting in bed. We spent the evening entertaining the three year old girl, Mirhan, while her parents tried to rest and get some relief from oncoming colds. But even wild little Mirhan is resting now, so it is quiet. I know they are worn out from saying goodbye to everything familiar. Yahya cried last night when he spoke of his father. He doesn't know if he will see him again. He doesn't know if he is safe.
A mile away a Conoglese family is unpacking boxes at Bryan House. They are the first family spending their first night under the roof of our "dream house". There is still an overwhelming amount of work to be done there, but today makes the dream feel a little bit more real. Soon three orphaned children will join their only living relatives there in that apartment at Bryan House. Two years ago we visited them in a refugee camp in Kibuye Rwanda. Now we will help their Aunt and Uncle save to buy them a real future.
Tonight a Burundian family around the corner from Bryan House is missing their father and husband. Four hundred miles away in Minnesota my Grandmother is missing my Grandfather. And here we are still missing Bryan. Wherever you go you find that people are mostly the same at their core. They love their families. They want what's best for their children. And they mourn the people they lose. We should stick together. Our family is bigger than we think.
This week we found out that our dear friends from Mauritania, the Diallos, the first refugee family we ever met, are thinking of moving away to Ohio were there are other families from their home country. They have been the only ones here for seven years and they are growing weary of the separation. I don't know what we will do without them. They are the reason for all of this. They taught us what family really means. I want them to be happy, but my heart will break a little when they go. I'm afraid that little Yasmin will forget us. There is a permanent string tied from my heart to hers.
Lately I feel a little like we've been running a marathon at a Sprinters pace. I long for a speed that's more managable, but I think it will be a few more miles before we can slow down. I've put a lot of myself on hold and sometimes I'm afraid those pieces won't still be there when I finally have time to go back to them. Everyday I get emails from Vermont College classmates who are publishing their books and I wonder if I will ever have the space I need to nurture a novel into publication. I wonder too if we will ever hold our own babies, or only, always, someone else's.
I guess if I had to choose between what I have and what I feel like I'm missing, I'd still choose this exact moment: with the Iraqi family sleeping nearby, with boxes being unpacked at Bryan House, with Yasmin and Musa and Dollar and Baby Rick and now Mirhan as my "adopted" children, and with Rick as my companion next to me when I lay down to rest.
Life is so wonderful and terrible and strange.