Thursday, May 28, 2009
Today marked the begining of a summer full of arts and crafts for the kids at Huntington Creek. Our newest volunteer, Mrs. Jeanne, from Mt. Zion Baptist Church, will be coming every Thursay with her art tub and brain full of creative ideas.
The kids got to make paintings inside salad spinners and create whirly designs on paper rotating on a record player. They learned today that God is a creative God, and when we create, we reflect his character.
(Thanks to Adam Fites - your comment on the "Art Gene" post inspired this lesson)
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
One of these ways is the arts. Needless to say, it was thrilling for me. While discussing our ministries, we talked about Borges, Dostoyevsky, Tom Waits, and the Handsome Family. Mike, the pastor, prayed very powerfully for our ministry, and Brian invited me to write a song to be played in church.
Those who have read or heard my lyrics will probably agree that church music is not my niche. However, I have a policy of embracing creative opportunities, and it is a chance to dive in to this community, and I have been thinking about the economics of the kingdom a great deal lately, so I said yes.
I've posted a rough draft over on my North Papers blog. I'm not the best self-editor, but I want to bring them something meaningful and well-thought-out. That, my dear readers, is where you come in. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
My sister Lisa, my friend Aziz, Ruthie and I all went to Six Flags today. I'm not a fan of most theme parks, but the lack of lines and the abundance of roller coasters made for good times. After a few rides, Aziz and Ruthie decided to sit down and rest while Lisa and I clambered aboard Goliath, a massive roller coaster.
If you look closely at the picture below, toward the tail end of the train, you can observe me in an excited state.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
- Locust Grove: Despite the town's wierd name, which evokes images of devastated farmers or plagued Egyptians, I usually have a good time down there. I spent the morning watching anime, listening to music, and talking about "eschatological angst" with my friend Adam. It's a fitting name for my battle with depression, because I've been promised comfort in the beatitudes, but I'm living in a broken body in a broken world. Plenty of reasons to feel down.
- Happy Birthday, Leslie: Leslie, who lives in the apartment next to us and goes to our program, had her seventh birthday today. 15 minutes before the event, when we learned we were invited, we ran out to Wal-Mart and got her a disney princess keyboard. It turned out to be fun, if a little uncomfortable because of language barriers. Leslie is a little angel until you give her a stick and sick her on a pinata. Holy Smokes. We had to leave the party a little early to get to....
- Creature from the Black Lagoon...IN THE THIRD DIMENSION: Awesome. I have never been to a 3D movie before. The technology is really dated, but it's incredible to experience. It gives you a monster headache (notice the dazzling wordplay at work), but it's worth the pain to see the way the creature jumps out of the screen. Which leads me to a point I want to make about idiots at these events, particularly the ones behind me who thought their commentary was funny. They need to keep it down.
Okay, well, we got plenty of pictures and video, which would take forever to load, and it's 1:01 in the morning, and I need to stay awake in church tomorrow. Maybe we'll post them later. Goodnight, my dear readers.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Jennifer needed a ride to her orchestra concert tonight. After hours in front of my computer, trying to edit an interview into something usable, I was ready to get out. Ruthie and I picked Jennifer and her mom up and headed over to Sequoiah Middle school to see the show.
Jennifer played her violin very well, and received two awards for her work with the 7th grade orchestra. She plans to play with the orchestra through the rest of middle school and into high school.
We dropped Jennifer's mom off at an evening class, and took Jennifer out for some Chik-fil-a. She was too nervous before the show to eat any dinner. Of course, since it was a special occasion, we all got ice cream cones.
Oh and the title of this post was actually the title of one of the songs the 8th grade orchestra played. It included stomps, screams, and high, fast trills on the violins. Obviously, it was awesome.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
For a roller coaster ride of ministry-related suspense and thrilling international episodes, you can click here or go to this link: http://twitter.com/RefugeeArts.
Monday, May 18, 2009
I've got some great video stuff coming, like an interview with Liberian refugee/artist Aziz Tody, and some powerful storytelling from my fellow missionary Bayo Otiti. Until these are finished, however, please feel free to play, replay, and relay this warped little gem.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I've tried to explain to Christians why art is so important to the kingdom, with mixed results. Many feel that we should only engage art we agree with. Others think "secular" art only has value insofar as we can link it to our evangelistic efforts.
They like it when we talk about making ourselves hip enough to minister to hipsters, or educating ourselves on the language of a lost world. The underlying assumption is that once we are Christians, we can't learn anything from non-Christians except what those non-Christians are up to these days.
After banging my head against a wall so many times in this area, I just tend to treat art-mindedness as a fundamental personality trait. You really can't teach it. Usually, when I see I'm talking to someone who doesn't have the art gene, I make my presentation like this:
"You may not like the art world or understand it, and that's fine. I don't have much sense for (insert his/her occupation here). However, my generation is leaving the church by the millions (11 million, according to Christian Retailing magazine), and it might have something to do with the aspects of life that the mainstream Church has disregarded, which are pretty important to us. Art is a great example."
"That's why, while we don't need to be on the same page, you need to trust me that engaging the arts is important. That it matters to the church. That loving, affirming, and supporting artsy types like Ruthie and me is 1) probably the best PR move you can make and 2) a great working example of differing roles in the body of Christ."
Friday, May 15, 2009
Last night I drove down to visit my friend Adam Fites. Most people who are really into philosophy and theology tend to be pretty obnoxious in conversation. Adam is one of the rare exceptions, so when I'm wrestling with an issue and I want someone to be patient and helpful as I work out ideas, I talk with him.
Our main discussion topic during this visit, besides Asian cinema, was evangelism. I feel a tremendous weight when I think about the kids who we work with. I want the gospel to take root and bloom in their lives. However, I don't want to cheat.
There are easy ways to generate a prayer. There are ways to pitch the gospel that seem appealing. There are easy ways to offer approval and love on the condition of conversion. There are ways to name people Christian without allowing their hearts to speak true repentance.
I really can't nail down the mechanics of salvation, nor do I wish to judge whether or not any specific conversion "counts." I believe that the Father can use pretty much any presentation he wants. I'm just concerned with following his lead on my place in the whole process.
What I'm working toward is creating rich, full relationships where the gospel can enter lives on its own terms and address hearts personally, directly, and redemptively. At least for now, that seems the most effective way to reach the people around me.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Ruthie and I watched a documentary recently called Sliding Liberia.
I'm admittedly a fan of surf documentaries. Although I've only surfed a few times (even then, it was arguable if my repeated wipeouts and falls could be called "surfing"), I love the culture, music, and art of riding waves.
I caught Step into Liquid about four times during its limited run in the theater. I bought Jack Johnson's The September Sessions and Thicker than Water. I viewed old VHS copies of Year of the Drag-in and a few other docs featuring the Mavericks Crew. And of course, I loved the Endless Summer movies with their old-school-aw-shucks-let's-catch-some-waves narration.
I can say without reservation that Sliding Liberia is the best I have ever seen. First, while other documentaries cut to the natives to break up the footage of riding waves, this film presents the surfing and the environment of post-war Liberia as thoroughly integrated. The trip is an experience built on the people, and surfing takes an appropriate place as a platform for relationships.
I've been working with Liberians for a few months now, and this is the first I've seen of the more beautiful parts of their home country. Typically, you only get to see the footage of sweltering, war-battered cities packed with hungry people. Just like the Philippines where I grew up, Liberia is an abused, but resiliently beautiful land.
As they often do, my thoughts went to the music of the land. Just as the arresting scenery cuts through all the misery and violence that bathes Liberia, the music and culture hold bright spots that could be seeds for rebirth. Here's hoping that these assets will overcome the grave circumstances, and form a hopeful future for this broken country.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I encouraged her to cancel her beading classes and recoup for the day, mainly because I did a little too much while I was sick, and now I feel my recovery time dragging on. At least one of us needs to be up and running.
I spent the morning working on installing our video editing software and importing from the camera. It's very time consuming to figure out, but we'll have some great applications for it, as you can see from the video I posted earlier.
We're also looking forward to the summer, where we can work with the kids to find out what they are interested in exploring. We plan to have videography, guitar, art, and story writing "clubs" that the kids can sign up for. Eric will head up the guitar, Ruthie the art, and I the video and writing stuff.
When you help a kid find her/his real interest, you open up all sorts of doors for communication and mentoring.
On the way, we were playing around with my video camera, and we shot a short interview with Melvin about his alleged steroid use, his career aspirations, his academic interests, and his philosophical leanings.
Here are the highlights:
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I was thinking about how moving the music feels to me, although I haven't set foot on the continent of Africa or lived as a refugee or even really worried about being able to eat. It doesn't take much to connect with another human being. One shared idea or the resonance of a tune or a line in a drawing can unite people in a powerful way.
Some film producers found this band and made a low-budget documentary, and it was enough to give these refugees a voice to reach me, a white guy driving a new car with a working CD player (see yesterday's post).
I pay close attention to stories like this, I delight in the connections, and I pray that, by God's grace, I will help make this unifying joy possible for others.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Today, thanks to a donor named Darrell Suderman, we have wheels! It's a buick with a great interior and (get ready- this is a first for Ruthie and me) a working CD player!
The vehicle has a few minor issues, but that's why we call it a "missionary car." I don't even know if I'd feel like a legitimate minister without a few car problems.
It was interesting to learn how many connections Darrell has with my family. One of his best friends worked on my parents' and my older sister's cars for years. Darrell attends First Baptist Atlanta, where my younger brother works. His home church in Denver is Foothills, which has supported our family for years! And now he donated a car to Ruthie and me.
Which brings me to an interesting point: when you're doing missionary work, it really is a small world. For whatever reason, since moving down here, I have seen some crazy coincidences.
"But Ian," you tell me, "there is no such thing as a coincidence."
"Listen, (your name here), you know what I mean, so just loosen up," I reply.
Which brings me to another crazy "coincidence." I got all excited recently because two of my favorite African musicians, Femi Kuti and King Sunny Ade, are doing a show in Atlanta.
I was telling my fellow missionary Bayo Otiti about this, and he replied that he just happens to have been good friends with Femi Kuti's dad, and Sunny Ade's son had just called Bayo from New York a few hours prior to our conversation.