Tag Archives: Asia

Wildflowers Live Here Too

I was riding on the back of a motorcycle in Asia when I glimpsed it.  The “motorcycle taxi driver” had taken the long way home. Tired, I wished I had remembered to tell him about the shortcut back to my host family’s place.  I was staying with them for a month while researching their city, and it had been tough– beyond anything I had experienced in the previous year of living in the country.  But we were too far in to take a shortcut.

This route brought us to a different horizon, on the city’s edge.  Instead of smothering smog and sun-concealing concrete, I saw low houses and fields lit up by a glorious orange sky, that was fading to pink, then to dusky blues.  My breath was caught.  Now I wanted the ride to be as long as it could be.

A talented friend, Shawna Handke, gave me a piece of her artwork while I was still in New York (you can see more here at her website).  Wildflowers Live Here Too, she calls it.  I love the movement, the color of the flowers–IMG_1082 and the stark beauty of the solid buildings.

The stories this week include some large piles of concrete, hard edged, pretending they possess power to delete the sun from the sky and keep the ground without life.  I will tell you only one: from a woman who eagerly helped our group pack first-aid boxes to give to refugees.  She is also here in flight of that war.

She showed pictures of her two kids, her mother, her sister, all smiling.  Then she showed a picture of dust and rubble.  “That is all that is left of our home,” she told me.  The difficulties of displaced people go far beyond material provision– loneliness, lack of family network, loss, insecurity… Although now she has become part of community exercise, she said she would go for weeks with no one to talk to, when she first arrived here.

The Wildflowers picture looked bare on my wall, and I found no frame.  So one night, inspired by Brene Brown’s challenge in Daring Greatly that gratitude is a PRACTICE, I grabbed a post-it note, jotted one thing to be grateful for that day, and stuck it on the edge of the picture.  Same thing the next day.  Two days after that.  The frame is a work in progress– sunset-colored notes reflecting the flowers that, in Shawna’s art, tower over black-and-white buildings, and somehow seem far more permanent.

  • My friend’s 6-year-old daughter smiling and greeting me as “Khalto,” the Arabic word for “auntie.”
  • A quiet place outside to sit with my music, journal.
  • A trio of messages from dear friends, coming when I needed them.

A fistful of wildflowers.

And perhaps, I can be a friend– a wildflower to my new acquaintance– as she, with her dedication to helping other displaced people in this town, is a wildflower in my eyes.

 

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Wholistic Community– A Story of Beginnings

What significant conversations would you have, if you knew you only had a few talks left with someone?  

Seven years ago, in Southeast Asia, I visited a remote farming village with an amazing husband/wife development pair.  Spent the last 15 minutes trying to remember their names, but with limited success.

I will always remember what they taught me.

Before we went to the village, they sat me down on a weathered gray couch, and spent hours talking through:

  • the origins of humanity (delving into Hebrew translation the first three chapters of Genesis)
  • the theology behind “wholistic” community development (from the first three chapters of Walking with the Poor, by World Vision‘s insightful thinker, Bryant Myers).

These together had shaped their work with rural farming families.  The idea is that we were created to walk in shalom— more than peace: wholeness and restoration– with God, other human beings, ourselves, and the rest of creation.  We fell; and evil separated our ability to connect healthily with God, others, ourselves, creation.

Ah, but the second story… God did something to restore those broken relationships.  And as our relationship with Him is being restored through the Son, we also experience healing with regard to others, ourselves, and the rest of creation.

So on the farm, families talked about being made in the image of God (a concept shared by Christians/Muslims), and how this would impact their interactions.  My hostess tirelessly modeled caring for one another, walking from plot to plot to pick bugs off plants and swap stories with women, in a local language.   The families refused to use the prolific chemicals that made land temporarily productive but barren after only a few years.  In that way, they found an untapped market for “organic produce” nearby.  Starting with an understanding of who they are in relationship to God, change was happening in their relationships with their community, the rest of creation, and themselves.

Friends and I here asked each other the question, If you only had a few conversations left with someone, what would you want them to know?  We were full of ideas.  For me, it always comes back to the conversation on the worn couch: people made in the image of God, in perfect relationships, broken.  Unable to find restoration again, without Jesus’ reconciling presence.  A second story.

A couple of days ago, a few university students and I talked about the beauty of confidence.  Their faces, framed by scarves, shone with delight as they realized that significance is not about appearance or performance. It does have something to do with knowing who you are, and aren’t…and I realized that I am on that journey with them.

I’ve been restored to God, and am being restored to Him, others, myself, and creation. So when we talk about development of body, mind, and soul, I come as a sojourner, a co-learner.

And A & T– I did remember your names in the end– if you see this, deep thanks.

 

 

 

Out of Place

Have you ever looked at those drawings where you compare two almost-identical pictures, to figure out what is out of place?

When I was in Asia a few years ago, a woman in my neighborhood asked if I would go to the local outdoor market with her.  Aunt Sue, as she was called, bought vegetables there each day, early in the morning, and then sold them door-to-door at a small profit.

I set an alarm for 5:45 a.m. and dragged myself to the door at 6:00 (she was starting “late” out of compassion for me).  We walked two kilometers to the market, and began weaving our way through fruit stands, rice stands, vegetable stands… Aunt Sue was all business, bartering in a local dialect that I understood little of.  I could tell everyone was asking about the foreigner.  Our small town was no tourist destination, and the heart of the street market was not frequented by many with my tone of skin.

Grinning, Aunt Sue picked up something wrapped in a banana leaf and handed it to me.  I remember that I didn’t want to eat it, but did, and it was better than I thought.

Eventually Aunt Sue did not want to answer questions anymore.  She found a friend– a cheerful woman chopping meat, one hand bare and the other wielding a butcher knife– and told me to sit and wait for her.  I tried to make small talk with the butcher but she was shy, and my language was limited.  Her young daughter looked curiously at me, and two teenage girls selling baby clothes in the next stall giggled to each other.

Everything I saw, smelled, and tasted that morning was new and foreign to me.  But as I sat next to the butcher, realizing that this market went on seven days a week almost year round, I realized that the only thing out of the ordinary in the market that day was… me.

Getting ready to move to the Middle East, I am anticipating that some things may look and feel strange, when really it’s just that I am a stranger.  At least, to start.  The market got easier to visit every time.  Aunt Sue became a dear friend.  I learned the local language well enough to figure out what they were asking about me… but that’s another story.