Saturday, November 24, 2007
neediness and thanks.
i don’t have the energy to write this...
BUT i am feeling much better. thank you for asking. i was, as of tuesday, able to eat a full meal.
just in time for thanksgiving...
thanksgiving was surprisingly good in Kigali. the american embassy took it upon themselves to import turkey and pumpkin pie so that we could all feel at home. It was very sweet of them. I’m pretty sure every American in town showed up (there were over 200 in attendance), and waited 45 minutes in line for food (i had to go last because i didn’t RSVP in time... of course :). It was worth every minute. There’s something really beautiful about bonding with other Americans on such occasions. Who said we didn’t have a culture? Jealous europeans, that’s who.
(Justin, Amy, Me and Jenny at Thanksgiving dinner)
AND, thanksgiving morning we played flag football at the sports center in town! there were 25 of us, 4 teams and I scored 3 touchdowns! our team was the best... and that’s all that mattered. My family called me on skype for, I believe, the first time in history, and it absolutely made my day. After dinner, we further stuffed ourselves with popcorn and peanut m&m’s and watched “Love Actually” to get into the “christmas spirit”. it was a good day.
i tried calling my parents on skype the other night. i was badly dehydrated because the thought of water was making my gag, so i was calling to see what i should do. the skype connection was splotchy and all they heard was "i'm really sick" in a pathetic voice...and then it cut out. within 5 minutes i had received 5 phone calls from various friends and had a personal visit from the minister of commerce, Rosemary, who brought her husband and her doctor along... by way of her cell phone. over the next few days rosemary was an angel, sending fruit baskets and fresh juice and texting me 3 times a day to check in.
all quite overwhelming, actually. but it's very nice to know you're cared for... even in africa.
when i think about things i’m thankful for... oh forget it. does anyone want to hear another personal dialogue from the girl living in africa on how we should all be more thankful than we are? i’m not so interested in “shoulding” to be thankful... and i doubt you are either. i think we’d all just rather be truly thankful. (Lord, give us all eyes to see what you’ve given us.)
There’s a quote in my new favorite devotional book that says (Jesus is speaking):
“hasn’t it ever occurred to you that this or that grace was given to you because of some prayer said for you, or some priest’s blessing, or what your parents won by their efforts, or because of my divine compassion, or the goodness of My mother? Don’t ever get the idea that the cause is any goodness of your own or anything in yourself.”
“He and I” by Gabrielle Bosis
(ps. every woman i know should own this book. you can get it on amazon or half.com)
now, i don’t think Jesus is saying here that we are crap... but saying how much our lives depend on others... on their prayers, their faithfulness, their love. i’m truly humbled by this. my mom prays for me. my grandma prays for me. my friends pray for me. mrs. bell prays for me. the beautiful women in our women’s prayer group listen to the Holy Spirit and pray for me. if i believe that prayer is powerful, which i do, i literally owe them my life. where would i be without their prayers? i don’t really want to know...
when people say “i’m praying for you” i believe them. i try not to use that phrase lightly. because i am saying “i am petitioning to the Lord Almighty on your behalf, that He will do GOOD things in your life!”
wow. how did we ALL get so lucky?
because of an insight of a dear friend, i have been thinking about the nature of my previous blogs. i like writing blogs. it helps me to document my time while communicating with the outside world... but it’s definitely kept to that: semi-personal documentation that i wouldn’t mind if anyone in the world read.
i think the reason i keep my letters within the safe boundaries of humorous stories and sicknesses is because i’m afraid if i talk about the most personal/important thing in my life (i.e. GOD) that it will sound like those missionary letters, which, bless their hearts, i usually have difficulty reading... mostly because they seem inhuman to me (which i know isn’t true... just an impression i can’t shake). and since God is the most human thing i know of... i mean, he’s the most real thing about my humanity... i want to avoid dehumanizing Him at all costs. But i think that’s more of an excuse. i’m probably just scared.
so here i am, i’m in bed, at a guesthouse in Kibuye, waiting for inspiration of what to write. i feel most of my life is that... waiting for inspiration. and in the meantime i either make myself busy, or just sit and wait. each has it’s downside. but the latter option at least leaves room for surprises.
so, what have i done in the last 3 weeks? close to nothing, from my perspective. i spent the first 2 weeks lying in bed, at the mercy of those kind enough to care for me and your prayers. at this point, it’s too hard to justify my presence in africa... so i’ve given that up. when people here ask “what exactly do you do here” i’ve started to say “i don’t really know”. i mean, i have some ideas but they’re all sorta lose associations, not really practical jobs. by the time i got over dysentery, my boss, eric, was bedridden with a virus. figures. oh, satan, you little devil!
i’ve long since given up the notion that i’m here to change africa. mostly i feel like i’m supposed to let africa change me. of course, God through africa. is it changing me? i hope so. i guess you’re a better judge of that than i.
all i know is that when i’m here, I NEED God. I need Him because i’m sick. I need Him because i don’t know what to do when i wake up at 7am, and shopping or hanging out with friends isn’t an option. I need Him to tell me what the hell to do with my life.
i will never forget the time at the AMIA conference, when a rich white guy asked Archbishop Kolini
“what are we, in the west, supposed to do with all our money”
The room full of suburbanites leaned in for the answer.
Archbishop paused for a moment, and replied, simply and unforgettably:
“The question for you is, do you need God? If you need Him, everything will fall into place, if you don’t, you’re in trouble”
This answer has haunted me since that day. How do I NEED God? I mean, I know the ways that I think he might be providing... but even those things are removed, and seen through the lens of my own effort (i.e, you work to eat). But NEED is desperate. It’s needy. You know, NEEDY. Like the relationship that suffocates you. Do I feel that way with God? I don’t think I do very often. The closest I’ve felt to it in a while was lying on that hotel bed in Cameroon, wanting to rip my insides out. I needed God in that moment. And, in that moment, it felt like my life was truly in perspective.(Lord, help us to need you more.)
Because, i think, that only in our need are we in our rightful place... and do we truly see our thankfulness. And it’s not things we SHOULD be thankful for, it’s what we actually are thankful for. Jesus, who loves us terribly, above all.
i don’t know if any of this makes sense. but i have a lot of love for those of you i love...(i think you know who you are) and i’m looking forward, more than ever, to be with you for christmas.
let me know how you’re doing and what you think.
the images are mostly from the other day when i went to Ruhungo district with my friend, Justin Hughen, to document his work there. this community is made up of refugees from Tanzania [people who fled Rwanda during the genocide and had set up their lives in Tanzania, only to be kicked out by the government, decades later, and have all their possessions taken away (cows, houses, chickens, everything). they were sent to rwanda with nothing but the clothes on their back and are now being set up in random communities, out in the middle of nowhere, without food or work. can you imagine? i can't. in this particular district, 20 (that's 2-0) families were living in one abandoned house, as big as my living room in west chicago].
Justin had installed a water pump a few weeks back and we went out the other day to deliver some blankets and mosquito nets... which doesn't begin to cover the needs of this community. but the most beautiful thing about these people was their gratefulness. not once did they ask for a handout. they only said thanks.
the chief of the village --the one in the picture holding hands with justin-- hitchhiked on a truck carrying beans for 3 hours the other day to come to justin's office, just to say "thank you". (--the story of the ten lepers rings a bell.) after thanking justin, he went to leave, not even asking for 2 dollars for a bus ride back.
when we went back on friday, he presented Justin with this letter:
I hereby kindly apply for a job from you which will help me to live.
I’m very courageous and brave to do whatever work or job you can give me, essential is to find how I can get my life.
I hope you will consider this application favorably, and I wish to assure you that I will do my best to give satisfaction if you give me that job.
when we left, he leaned in the window of the car and pointed to Justin and exclaimed: "Dis is my FRE-end!" and then he paused, looked at me and said "an YOU is my NEW friend!"
God bless these beautiful people.