Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CCDA Conference Bonanza!

Ruthie got to attend the annual Christian Community Development Association conference in Cincinnati this weekend. She traveled up in a caravan with some of our friends from Open Table Community.

She got to talk with hundreds of people from around the world who are interested in living out the gospel by living with and serving the needy.

Her aunt Laurie, who has been a huge supporter of Refugee Arts, traveled from Virginia to join her:

The group rushed from session to session, soaking up ideas and talking through them:

There was time for rich conversation and some deep relational bonding.

Ruthie also set up a booth for Refugee Beads there, and attendees helped support the refugees by purchasing handmade necklaces, earrings, and accesories. The Open Table people helped to man the booth so that Ruthie could enjoy a few sessions:

Um, whatever this picture is of also happened:
It was a great time to affirm or rethink aspects of the work here, grow relationships, and help the refugees financially, all in one weekend.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Future of Awesome

So for those of you who don't know, I was raised in the Philippines.

The only reason I mention it is because the single most awesome plant ever known to man was recently discovered back in my homeland. Hint: it eats rats.

Click here for more.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Night/Saturday Morning

At 42 minutes past midnight, I begin this post. It has been a crazy week.

I'm working on a novel which has moved forward a great deal in the past month, and I chipped away at it this week, reading it to a critique group and getting some good ideas for how to make it work.

I haven't screwed up at my day job for a while, so all's well on that front.

Ruthie has been checking in from Ohio where she is attending a CCDA conference and selling Refugee Beads jewelry. So far, the refugees have earned over 300 dollars each in sales, and there's still one day left to sell. She's also having a great time meeting like-minded people from around the world. She's told me specifically about conversations with people from Uganda and South Africa who were inspired by Refugee Beads.

So, with those brief synopses of the events of the past couple of days, I sign off, so that I can battle my iguana for the use of my pillow tonight.

Grace and peace,


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kid Stuff

When we first moved here, and people asked us how long we planned on staying, I said, "I want to see these kids graduate from high school."

Right now, Ruthie's up at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference, and I'm here alone at the complex. Today, after finishing work, I pulled into our parking lot and saw four guys all wearing matching black shirts and blue shorts, strutting around and jostling each other. They were headed toward the playground.

I pulled into my parking spot and hopped out, ready to chew out these gangsters who thought they could mess with the kids on our playground. Turns out, two of them were Melvin and David, the two guys I've been pouring my life into lately.

"Wassup, Ian?" Melvin called.

"Not much. Are you guys in a gang now?"

"No," said David.

"So you're dressed up in matching colors by accident? All four of you?"

"Yeah, man. That's it," replied David.

With that, they turned and strutted off. These guys are in fifth grade.

I remember forming a gang in fourth grade at our missionary school in the Philippines. We had a big brawl on the playground. A bunch of my best friends were on an opposing gang. It was a generally fun time until recess ended and we got caught.

The reason I can't shrug it off when David and Melvin and some of the other kids from the complex start strutting around in matching outfits without a decent explanation, is that their default is different than mine was.

Our families were usually there to catch us, give us a talking to, and make sure we straightened up. For these kids, with parents who don't speak the same language, whose schools are violent places, the default is not such a sure thing.

If you talk to them in group, you don't stand a chance. But I have one-on-one relationships, so I'll be getting involved. When I said I want to see these kids graduate high school, I knew that I might have to dive in to help them make it that far.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Books Music Movies

So I've been interacting with a lot of media lately, and I felt like I would like to write about it, but this and my other Ghost Town Revival blog didn't seem to have room for in-depth personal reactions to books, music and movies.

So I started a new project called Books Music Movies. Instead of giving media thumbs-up, thumbs-down type reviews, I aim to dig in, digest, and respond to creative pieces regardless of the quality, although I may make mention of it from time to time.

The first entry is up. Enjoy.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Truth about Missionaries

Ruthie and I have fallen ill several times lately.

I feel like it has a bit to do with our work load, a bit to do with hosting 20-something kids in our apartment every day, and some to do with personal stress.

A friend called to check up on me today, and said that he had bought an air purifier for our apartment. I thanked him profusely. He and his wife have us over for meals frequently, and constantly encourage us about the work we are doing here.

So here's the truth that I promised in the title of this post: Missionaries are a needy bunch. We exhaust ourselves easily. We live on unstable income. Every day, we face a task that we cannot accomplish on our own, and sometimes we see miracles, but most of the time we simply put in what we can without knowing what will happen.

That's not to say that I don't love it, because I do. It's just to say that supporters who are willing to be friends and friends who are willing to be supporters are pretty much a neccessary factor in the work getting done. If the missionaries get exhausted or burn out or lose hope, no matter how great the plan or facilities or ideas, the work doesn't get done.

I've had three different friends remind me of this in the past week, and I'm thankful that they are the ones who remind me to care for myself, to rest, to put the work aside when I need to so that I can return to it with the energy it deserves.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Poco Trabajo, Mucho Dinero

There is one neighbor with whom I am friendly, and I see him regularly around the apartments. He is a small, kind man from Peru. He tolerates my dicey Spanish, and tries out English phrases and statements on me. We usually laugh a lot.

Today, something happened that surprised and troubled me. I was on the porch having a cup of coffee when this guy pulled up.

"Hola, mano." I called out.

"Hola," he replied

"Que Pasa?"

"Mucho Trabajo, Poco Dinero, Amigo."

"Ci," I said, with a sympathetic smile.

Then he walked right up to the porch, put down his grocery bags, and looked at me.

"You, poco trabajo, mucho dinero."

"No, amigo. I don't make much money."

"Yes," he said, and stormed off, unwilling to discuss it further.

Then I walked inside and looked around at our apartment. It's true that we've been able to eat, and have purchased some new furniture lately, but I was trying to figure out if there was anything obviously excessive about my lifestyle that would make him say that.

My friend who was with me at the time said, "that was an interesting race conversation."

So here are my thoughts about the whole thing, which was very troubling to me.

1) Race is an issue that affects me personally. Although I feel ill at ease around Georgians, have lived in the Philippines most of my life, and moved to the international village to interact with different cultures, I am easily categorized by my whiteness. I knew this I guess, but I'm reminded of it when someone assumes something about me, and especially when someone acts so unexpectedly angry.

2) The goodwill I hoped we had from working in the afterschool program and serving the community may not be as secure as I thought. I really need to be able to handle conversations like this more humbly. I need to take my language learning more seriously in order to communicate love for and interest in my neighbors.

3) He's right, in a way. My life has been full of opportunities to make money, which I have taken for granted. The bottom line is, I was born into privilege. I don't suffer from the kind of discrimination and cultural roadblocks that the people around me do. And this will be a barrier. How do I live with that?

4) I'm part of the solution, I hope. I need to avoid taking for granted that I am doing a service to the people around me. Would it be better for them if I left well enough alone? Not for the kids we work with. Probably not for their parents. But I need to evaluate where I'm helping and if and how I'm hurting.

There's much more. I somehow want to communicate with this guy, but I don't have the words. I'm in such a frustrated state of mind right now.

I'm thinking about how, right now, I stink like diesel and sweat because of my day job, which is an arrogant and off-topic notion.

Anyway, if anyone out there wants to help me think this through and counsel me on a response, comment away.