Micah 6:8

"...do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

Saturday, November 22, 2008

O Christmas Tree

Last night Rick and I decorated our Christmas tree. I know, I know. Pre-Thanksgiving is kind of early for decorating the tree, but I just couldn't wait any longer. For some reason I have an extra helping of Christmas longing this year. Anyway, the tree looks great in our front sun room and at night you can see it from a long way down the street. I love looking at the lights and it makes the darkness that comes so early now not seem so gloomy. Plus the house will look nice for my parents when they come for Thanksgiving. This year we will celebrate with our Iraqi friends: Yayha, Samira & Mirhan, and also our Mauritanian friend, Sada. My parents might also be able to bring my nephew, Royce, which would be really fun. I miss that little guy and I love listening to all his antics in the background when I talk to my parents or my brother on the phone. After this year, I don't want to go through another Christmas without a little family of my own. Hopefully I won't have to, but if I do I'm going to have to borrow some other people's children. Today Rick gets his 3L picture taken at law school. All that's left now is this round of finals, one more semester and then the bar exam. Then we'll get our lives back. Next year during the holidays there will be no studying or papers or tests. That is something to look forward to.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Three siblings, three problems: dropped out, falsely accused, and a reputation for trouble.

Let me tell you a story about three refugee kids in one family who have had a rough time in school and see if you can figure out the root cause of their problems.

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

Feeling Christmasy

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

Sacrifice At Bryan House

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


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."


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Celebrating with Iraqi Refugee Friends & Emails from Kenya

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.

Happy regards,

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

An Election Message from the Kibera Slum

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