Monday, December 17, 2012

abilities, gifts & strengths

So I finally began the assessments in Achele Village that I've been trying to begin for what seems like two or three months now. It's supposed to be an assessment from a strengths point of view, like what assets and strengths are there in the community that we can build on and use to help transform the community. That being said, it's rare that I've been more frustrated any time in this country more than during these assessments. My goal is to do 25, and I've done 8 so far. On Saturday, Francis and I planned to try to get at least 10 of them done, if not 20, but after just three we were finished. We both head aches and promised ourselves we would not go out again unless we'd had some proper feeding and our minds were able to relax a bit. We never made it back out that day, and resorted to doing some physical labor as a means to ease our minds.
In the beginning I thought this would be a fun task, getting to know the community and being able to hear from people, and I have enjoyed it to a point, but it's been tough, tougher than I had anticipated. 6 of the 8 we have done so far have been with women. They ranged between the ages of 25 and maybe 40 though the one lady wasn't sure if she was 54 or maybe 36. She had a baby at the breast so we put her at or under 40. One lady had a 4th grade education, the rest of them had at max 1st grade if any. At least half of them are one of two wives. We asked if there was any job or profession they would have loved to have or would still be interested in, most of them said a nurse. Why? To help people. I was happy to hear they wanted to help people, but discouraged that a nurse and a teacher are the only jobs that a woman may think about having, and then with so little to no education, even that wasn't possible.  Then the most frustrating question of all perhaps, what abilities, strengths and/or gifts do you have, that would help you to do well at that job? Oh the ways we tried to phrase this question, to give examples, to explain it in three different ways, and all we could get from most of them was, honesty. Yes, honesty is a strength. But is that the most essential strength to being a good nurse? And why did they choose that, was it because we gave that as an example of a potential strength of someone, since most of them thought that was most important, or does it say something about the deceit that is generally all around them and the rarity of honesty. The follow up question went something like this, what other gifts, strengths and abilities do you have? what are you good at? By this time we had already realized the gifts, strengths, abilities question was a bit too complicated or complex, so i would just skip to the classic, what are you good at? And then had to clarify that one a bit more, explaining that if we asked someone else about what you were good at what would they say. Still tricky, got some attempts at an answer, one lady said she was good at letting people get their drinks on credit (she sells local brew and local waragi, something like vodka maybe), not being able to read or write, i wondered if she was even making any profit. Oh what different worlds we come from, my little mind has been so educated from birth, I have felt so loved, and people tell me things I'm good at, and I know that God created me in His image and has given me certain strengths and abilities that are unique to me. The oppression of these women struck me in a new way. It hit hard. And I began to wonder about the gospel, what do they really understand, when a sermon is preached what exactly are they picking from it? But I digress, there are still more questions, we've just reached to the top of page 2 out of 3. If I go through every question I'll just become frustrated and you might become bored, so let me just pick one more that was difficult. What things do you enjoy about caring for your family? This thing of enjoying, I think francis translated it as love, so what do you love about caring for your family? This was another tricky question, answers ranged from "health" and "farming" so why, why do you enjoy those things? Because we have to farm to survive, otherwise there's no way we would live. ok. We need to be healthy to survive. Ok. so i don't think you're getting my question. I'm not asking what's important or necessary to survive, I'm asking what you enjoy, what do you delight in? what do you love about caring for your family? Like, do you love when all the kids are gathered to eat together, or the unity when everyone's working in the same garden, or what????? But it's just survival. It doesn't matter if you enjoy any of it, but you need to somehow keep yourself and your family alive. Such a different mindset then in the states where we want to enjoy everything, and if we don't enjoy it, why even waste time on it? So that's just a taste, of why it's such a difficult thing.  I look forward to doing the rest of the assessments, and meeting more beautiful men and women in the area, but oh that Christ would come and set them free, that the oppression of women would lift, that they would be able to delight in things, and know that God has given them abilities, gifts, strengths, that they would be able to stay in school and not be kept at home to care for the next sibling that's been produced, or not given to some man before finishing primary school to get some cows, etc... Even the lady who was either 54 or 36 said if some one paid for school fees, she'd go back to school (starting in 1st grade) to become a nurse, though she has 10 kids, so i don't know how feasible that is at this point. They have beautiful hearts that need to be set free so that communities can be transformed. Jesus, come and minister to hearts and minds in this place.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ijo Bon Yesu

As I consider the beauty of this place, I see trees green with the fullness of life, tall grass bending in worship at the command of the wind, ducks all in a row chasing after their mother, quaint huts scattered across the countryside, truly, it’s beautiful, even the ever presence of silence is refreshing to the ears. The smiles of the people and the warm welcome, children in bright uniforms, all together creating something like an illusion, a backdrop in a drama that quickly dismantles, a smooth glossy white eggshell. But break through that shell and enter into the mess we’re daring to call life and see the way you’ve been deceived. There’s much pain here, too much actually and though it presents itself most commonly as poverty and is treated only as such, that’s not the root of it, it’s merely another symptom.
Enter into this mess with me for a minute. There’s much pain left behind by the rebel group that claims to want the country ruled by the Ten Commandments, but they’ve broken everyone of them in that pursuit, abducting children and forcing them to steal, kill and destroy. And though this rebel group is now far from this place, its residents have taken up that same work. Young girls are still raped, cattle are still stolen, they cheat one another in market, destroy one another’s reputation through harsh gossip and lies. They kill their wives and the joy of their children by caning them thoroughly for simple mistakes, mothers abuse their own children with venomous words, virginity is stolen for a few cows, alcohol is busy destroying futures, the description of the mess can go on and on (I’d hate to start listing the mess that is America). So now think about it, throw some money at it, a few income generating activities, give more seeds, send some cows, and maybe it appears to help for a while, like a Band-Aid put on a wound that’s in desperate need of stitches. And yet the Band-Aid is better because it may help a little. But give an alcoholic-gambling addict a cow and he sells the thing and drinks and gambles it away and ends up in worse debt. Give the girl child education and she’s sold for more cows. Help a family start a business and the jealous neighbor still poisons them.
We need to get to the root, but it gets even messier, and more painful. The roots need to be reached and there’s only one way to reach them. Because the deep of our souls is eternally crying out to be met, but there’s only One who is deeper still, only One whose love can reach those deep roots, only One gives the greater grace. And most of the people here have heard rumors of this love and grace, but few have really experienced it. The pastor here may live far from church and all the easier for him to live a life of lustful activity. Maybe he takes two women instead of one, or helps himself to the offering. The born-again lady goes to the witch doctor to make her husband love her more than all the other co-wives. The church-going man plants certain things in his garden to protect the other things from curses. The mob of mostly “Christians” kills the thief in its act of mob justice. But what does it mean to live in the fullness of the love of Christ? How will they know unless they’ve seen? So I guess you could say this is a cry, a cry for help, for people willing to live out the gospel of Christ in this place. For people who are willing to cry out with us, for hope to be restored, for joy, for peace, for life abundant, for believers here to realize they are more than conquerors, not mere victims, for people who seek the heart of God to rise up, for the spirits of death and destruction and hopelessness to lose their grip on this people.
Ijo Bon Yesu. (You only Jesus)