Friday, February 24, 2012

Why not

I've always been a journaler, but I've never really been able to bring myself to become a blogger. I've tried and have never really followed through, as is evident in my sporadic past posts..

I journal things away on paper so that I can preserve my past and so that in the future I'll be able to learn from myself.

But sometimes I think... what is the point in keeping the countless things that run through my mind all to myself? My skepticisms, my inspirations, the depth, the beauty, the contradictions, the fear, the accomplishments, the strengthening moments?

We learn from each other.

So many of the ideas I've adopted as my own came from someone else being daring enough to put it out there for me to see.

I communicate best as a writer, I think. And I suppose here I communicate with open space, with this dialogue that is the internet.. this archive of human activity... true, I like my books and pages and pencils more, but these computer screens like the one that is slowly dying before me are windows before the eyes of anyone who encounters the words we share.

And so, here I am.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Africa Journal: 2/8/2010

February 8, 2010

What a big day. A LONG day.

We left Dar Es Salaam on the very back of a bus around 10:15 am, and drove all the way to the middle of Tanzania - 7 hours. I had so many thoughts going through my head. I hoped to write them down, but I know that probably wouldn't happen. I had the feeling I used to have all the time when I was younger - so hopeful, so sure of the bigness of life.. and just in love with it.

I loved riding on that bus.

Tanzania is the greenest (most green?) place I've ever seen. Everywhere you look, something is growing. Towards Dar it's very tropical. I saw monkeys on the side of the road! There are huge mountains that rise up from nowhere, then land that stretches for as far as you can see. In the cities and towns, everyone has something they're trying to sell. This is called "piece work:" work that you can do to try to earn enough to get through the day. Buses are swarmed with people waving ears of corn, tomatoes, bananas, cashews, peanuts, sodas, mangoes, bread, carrots.. this is their livelihood. An American would call it pushy, obtrusive, but this is the way they must be. And it doesn't look easy, by any means.

In rural areas and villages, there are huge plots of land, and there might be one woman - she looks so tiny in the vastness of the field - swinging a hoe with a baby on her back.
An old woman or man will set a few bags of charcoal at the edge of the road and wait to see if someone will stop to buy them.
You see huge herds of animals - goats and cows - being herded, but by who...? Then you see a tiny child walking behind them with a stick.

Everything is picturesque - Groups of uniformed schoolchildren walking together or sitting under a tree being taught by a lone adult; villages with women carrying buckets on their heads and babies on their backs. I though so many things.. that I now don't remember.

Now I'm in Dodoma!
Mama Askofu picked us up. She is a remarkable woman, I could tell from the moment I met her. Welcoming and laughing. We came to their house - the Muhagachi house - in what is a kind of middle/upper class "neighborhood."  It consists of two larger rooms, with a few smaller rooms on the side. The only thing that I am even the slightest bit apprehensive of are bathrooms.. but it's not unfamiliar. I've done it before. :)
The rest of the family living in the Muhagachi household are Baba Askofu's mother, "Bibi," Mama and Baba's two daughters, Grace and Peace, and three other relatives, who I assume are nieces and nephews: Shangwe and Kibero who are around my age, and Justin, who is about 10.
I played cards with Peace, Grace, and Justin tonight, and they are really fun. The whole family speaks English, so it has been easy to get to know them. Plus, having kids in the house definitely makes me feel at home ;).

Tomorrow I go to the office/church and start seeing how things work! I'm excited that they have internet there, so I can let my family know that I am alive. I can't believe I've only been in Tanzania for 4 days.

-Kait (My new name, as of lately..)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Africa Journal: 2/7/2010

February 7, 2010

Good Morning!
I came up with a strategy for going to sleep. I played Mahjong on my laptop until I couldn't keep my eyes open.

You know, yesterday I accomplished something. I made is all the way to Africa. All by myself.

I was waiting for something to go wrong, but it all went so well! It was a fantastic trip.

My room is infested with ants.

This morning we are going to a church here in Dar. It will be my first time attending an African church. It is SO humid here in Dar Es Salaam. It was raining earlier even though it was still sunny... and there was a rainbow :)

Five days until I turn 20. I'm still a teenager!

They say I'm getting a bad first impression of Tanzania, because so far everything we have done has been very nice. This is like a mini-vacation for them, so we have eaten at restaurants, visited a very wealthy friend in his nice house, and rode in his NICE car. Nicer than anything I'll drive in my whole life.  I've been getting to know them though, so that's good.

This morning, we went to the church of Baba Askofu's best friend. First, we went into a small room and met all the church leaders, then sat as they spoke to one another in Swahili for a while. Leisha and Leah says that this happens a lot: sitting in on conversations where you have no idea what is being discussed.
The service was in an outside pavilion-like structure. There was probably more music than there was preaching, and there were probably more people at first in the "choir" than in the congregation.
They danced as they sang. Like that is how God moves in their spirit. And it made me so excited to be here.

(There's distant singing outside right now as the sun is setting. Like there was in Addis.)

During the sermon, their friend Kongoye translated for me. I like him a lot. He spent the rest of the day with us. The sermon was about God's "special grace" being for all people, and being a gift that cannot be earned. Babies walked around in frilly little dresses, their mothers dressed in bright colors.
After church, we were greeted by so many people. Every person here greets so graciously. I need to learn more Swahili.

I already feel like I've been here a long time. It's also only 7:00, and I really want to go to sleep, but I know that would prevent me from sleeping through the night.

After church, we rode in the fancy car to a friend's very nice house. He is a pastor, very wealthy, and will not financially support the ministries in Dodoma, yet he shows great hospitality. We watched American E! tv on his large plasma satellite tv. How crazy.. We were served some very good African food, then after this, we drove for a while to a plush outdoor restaurant, where we were expected to eat again. I played games with Leisha and Leah, and had fun laughing with them.

So far in my journaling, I think I've been very matter-of-fact. Just writing down what has happened, without having much time to reflect on it. Usually I'm a lot more insightful..

I guess, a lot of Americans who come to places like this experience culture shock, and to them the way of life here exists outside of reality. A lot of things stand out to them because it's just not something they've witnessed before. I guess maybe I'm more culturally aware.. Perhaps. Not to sound big headed, I just don't think like the average American. At least I try not to. I love the way life is done here. It should be more like this for me.

For some reason, I am still in this mode where I am anticipating  getting on an airplane very soon. My mind keeps behaving like I'm on the very end of my time here, which is very opposite of reality. But I just rode 8 planes in 5 days, so I'm still a little brain-washed.
I keep wondering how I will be feeling in a week or two. Will I want time to pass faster or slower? What about my birthday.. should I just pretend to skip it?
Time for sleep.

Africa Journal: 2/6/10

February 6, 2010

I'm on my plane to Dar Es Salaam now. I feel intimidated.
It has a lot to do with the fact that I speak no Amharic or Swahili.
I also know that if I got lost and never had a way to contact home, I would be lost forever.
This world is so big. And I'm many thousands and thousands of miles away from anybody I know.
I'm a little worried about getting through the airport here in a few hours. I hope I do everything right..

These next couple of days might be very hard.
We're taking off now.

I don't know what my days in Dodoma will be filled with, but I hope to learn things there that I won't find anywhere else. I hope to learn what life is like there by experiencing it and become close to the people that I come to be around.
I want to be cautious but not fearful.

I'm coming to Africa with a completely different mindset than I had 2 years ago. THEN, I had romanticized Africa. Even obsessed over it. It was strong in my heart and I felt so empowered. I was coming to a world that had yet to exist to me outside of books.
NOW, I'm coming carrying a bit of apathy. Life has worn on me and chased away some of my passion and wonder. I've become distant to the suffering and the spirit of this land. And a bit helpless to it.
I want this trip to transform me, for I know the purpose that is in my life, and renew my spirit. I hope to have my heart broken, for often I find that is where it needs to be.

Right now I'm dirty. I haven't showered in 2 days, and I'm sweaty.
Jesus fill my heart with Your heart.
I'm closer to heaven than normal right now.


I'm now in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, sitting on a balcony in the sun! It's so HOT! (In February! That's a good thing!) That plane ride seemed like the highest flight I've ever been on. Too high. I didn't like it.

We landed by a jungle of palm trees. I could see the Indian Ocean through the window. So blue.

The airport wasn't too bad. I was met there by Leisha, Leah, and Pastor Amos, who is also called Bishop Askofu. I like them. I feel a bit better. We came straight to this hotel, and I got to shower! Now they're visiting someone and I'm here by myself. Interesting.

This seems to be a pretty nice city, as far as African cities go. VERY busy. The country is just very GREEN! Addis (Ethiopia) is brown. Here, LOTS of trees, especially palm trees. It's very noisy.
I can't decide whether I'm tired or now. I have no idea how long they will be gone.
We aren't going to Dodoma until Monday. Tomorrow we are staying here and going to Church. I am assuming that they can't travel on the Sabbath -- ?
Then on Monday, we'll leave on a bus around 10 AM and get there around 6 PM. So my first normal day won't be until Tuesday. I'm really excited for the bus ride. I'll get to see half of the country.

They said this will be a really busy week there in Dodoma, but normally there is a lot of down time. I'm glad I brought a lot of books.


Time for the first night.

Instead of windows they just have screens, so city life, cars, and pop music are in full swing while I try to sleep. I like Leisha, Leah, and Baba Askofu. At least now I'm not alone.

I ended last year, and began this one on a bus.

I ended last year, and began this one on a bus.

I had the beautiful opportunity to go to Passion in Atlanta, GA with my very good friend, Sierra:

I've always had my thoughts and doubts about the authenticity of pop Christianity's big productions. I wonder if the lights and stadiums really mean that much to God, if at all. After all, He speaks through the prophet Amos in one of my favorite verses, saying:  

I hate all your show and pretense—
      the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
 22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
      I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
 23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
      I will not listen to the music of your harps.
 24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
      an endless river of righteous living. (Amos 5:21-24)

Needless to say, I was simply curious as I rode on that bus through the new year.
Here I am now, on the other side of things, recollecting the impact that Passion 2011 had on me.

Simply stated, I think it was beautiful to see 22,000 people my age come together from all over the world, hoping to experience God in a new way, and then to try to express the surrender of their lives to Him. People my age need to be empowered. To be implored to use what we have been given for the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom isn't distant; it's here. And this conference, minus the big production, may have been a small glimpse of that.

In his article "Re-imagining Heaven" in Relevant Magazine, Jeff Cook says:
"When we choose mercy over indifference, when we choose action over apathy, when we choose self-restraint and chastity over a life given over to our many reckless desires, we choose to live now in the kingdom of heaven. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, house the homeless, and die to ourselves for the sake of another, we enjoy the life of the age to come. When we hear the voice of God telling us we are lived, that our many sins are forgiven, we experience now what we will experience forever. When we eat together, laugh together, sing together, serve together, take communion, love our enemies and cancel debts, we choose to live the best kind of life - the life of God's future connected to Hom and to one another."

One of the most incredible things I observed at Passion, was the way in which they married worship and justice. As demonstrated in the verse from Amos, this is the heart of God, and it's something that I've been looking for in the heart of those who follow Him for a long time.
They had set up a village, of sorts, in which people could come and learn about things that the majority of our world are up against; things that break the heart of God. Things like lack of clean water, hunger, human trafficking, HIV... It was amazingly informative and artistic, and provided people with a way to respond to what God was doing in their lives by investing money in organizations that are on the ground, working against these things. As I entered, my heart was in my throat. I'd been waiting to see something like this for a long time.

(Sorry some images are sideways - - ??)
Within 4 days, a stadium of broke college kids was able double the goal they were given, and raise over 1.1 MILLION dollars. 

The conflict within me lies here: I was talking to a girl from another group, and she said that they had encountered a homeless man on their way back to their hotel. He said that for 4 days, he had watched thousands upon thousands of college students pass him by, not even stopping to talk with him.
I thought.. Oh no. We have missed the point.
For God never told us to give our money to World Vision and let them care for the oppressed, sick, and poor. He told us to do that. And if donating money is an easy way out of our responsibilities that God has given us in His kingdom, an easy way to feel good about ourselves, and to justify going out and buying that $100 pair of jeans, then God forbid..
Still, I have to quiet the cynic in me, and believe the slogan that they displayed: That together we are a force for good. That when people are informed of the things that exist in this world, and given a tangible opportunity to be a force for good in that, in God's name, they will. And they will do twice as much as was expected of them.

I have a lot of thoughts for the year that has just arrived, and a lot of them have to do with this blog that I suspect nobody reads. I hope to get those up in the next day or so... if for nothing but my own personal satisfaction. 

More Africa journals are on the way too.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm finally going back and filling in all the blogs that didn't get posted nearly a year ago in Africa.
Starting at the beginning...

Feb 3, 2010
It was hard to tell whether we were rising to meet the sun, or the sun was rising to meet us.
I’m back on a plane home right now. One more night in my own bed.
Oregon is beautiful. I don’t realize how ugly Saint Louis is until I go somewhere wrapped in the splendor of natural beauty. No human made those mountains like a mural against the sky, or trees that stay green in the winter. Living near these things must spark a different state of mind. Being aware that we are a part of this earth upon which we were created more than a system of walls and concrete, services and technology. The American machine. Some people must be inspired by this, because it has continued to grow, and for many it makes sense to them that this is what they wrap their lives around. But I don’t find freedom in that entanglement. In our culture, we learn to live for the goals of our comfort and security, and that is what many work hard their whole lives for. I speak only for myself, but if this is all I live for on this earth, then I have lived in vain. God tells us to protect ourselves from being corrupted by the mindset and the ways of our world. Instead of telling us to lead safe, secluded lives, he tells us to spread His message of hope and redemption to those in messy situations, whether physically or mentally. Instead of telling us to care for ourselves, he tells is to care for those who are sick. Those who have lost husband or wife. Orphans. Instead of telling us to make sure we always have food for ourselves, he tells us to feed the hungry and provide for anyone in need. Any suffering from injustice in an EXTREMELY imbalanced world. God created us here on this earth to live in community with Him. His creation, and those around us. As humanity has fallen away from this purpose, He has continually, throughout history been calling us back to himself, then sending His people into the broken places of this world.
There have ALWAYS been suffering people just as there has ALWAYS been disease, war, unjust rulers and laws, hunger, orphans, widows.. And we have always been called into these areas. Like I said, I speak only for myself, but I don’t want to trade this for a life of security.
As for my time in Portland..
The people at Lahash are really wonderful and welcoming. They are well organized and have a clear vision and exemplary mission. Before last summer, their office only consisted of a small room in the basement of a church, but they have been given a huge, 100 year old house from which they are now operating. Much of the house is in pretty bad condition though, so they are in the process of renovating. During training, I watched some DVDs about serious issues facing sub Saharan Africa, such as crime and corruption, HIV/Aids, and also about daily life there. I was able to eat a couple East African style meals, which I think I will grow to like, and was able to learn a lot more about the history and mission of Lahash international in East Africa.
On Tuesday night, I was really, really excited to be able to see Joo Ai!  (For those of you who don't know, Joo Ae is my good friend from Korea. She just moved from StL to Portland to attend school there.) I visited her apartment and met several of her Korean friends, and her room mate from Houston. We ate Korean food and had a really great time! For those of you who have been worried or missing Joo Ae, she is doing really well and she is very happy in her new home!
I'm trying not to think too much about my departure on Thursday.. I have been trying not to think about it too much. For me it might be better that way. Save it for when the time comes :)
Feb 5 2010
This part of the journey is going to be tough for my spirit, isn’t it. Knowing that I am up in this big airplane over the Atlantic Sea and there is now way that I can turn around. I’m alone. I’m not going to meet a familiar face. I can’t even really call home once we land. And I question whether I chose to be gone for too long. Six weeks was nothing in Kansas City, but I had already settled in , could visit home, call text, facebook, email. At ANY time.
Then I think, that’s not like me, being so attached to home. I’m not like that.
But I’ve never flown to the other side of the world for a month and a half by myself before. I know You have a lot to teach me. I know there is comfort in the familiar and I decided to step away from that. I guess I’m just  feeling lonely.
Our plane is stopping to refuel in Rome, but it will be dark. That really stinks.
I need to want to be there more than I want to be at home. I’ve been wrestling with that a bit.
I think I’m flying over Italy right now. It’s dark outside and all I see is patches of light down there. I’ll see Rome at night in about an hour. I’ve tried to sleep a little bit, but I haven’t been as tired as I expected after staying up all night. I’ve been on this plane for about 7 hours now and haven’t really read much at all.. It’s been alright. I was super lucky to get 2 seats to myself so I can lay down.
Wow.. So we passed a stretch of cities, all lit up. The earth looked golden. Then black. They all ended at once.
I’m in Rome
Still on an airplane though.
As we were descending
A giant cloud burst into lightning
Over a million little lights and golden roads. I’ve never seen so many roads.
Feb 6, 2010
IF I have plenty of room, and IF there is a clear sky, and IF I can see out the window,
Then I can honestly say that flying on airplanes is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world.
I’ve had a great flight, despite the loneliness. I’ve been on this thing 13 ½ hours so far, and I’m really not in a big rush to get off.
I was able to sleep a lot. I got plenty to eat, and was startled with one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen.
Flying over the Sudan and everything was still black. No light yet. So I’m reading something and I glance up and had to gasp. A bright red stripe sliced though the black. It gradually began to expand into blue, amber and gold.
I felt like I was in the Lion King.
Light slowly stretched out across miles of sand, revealing the Nile River, stretching to the horizon. The Sahel. Then a fiery red ball rose above the edge of the desert.
This is how God greets Africa good morning. Even though few live on that stretch of desert. Today I got to see it.
This is why I love flying on airplanes. Now I feel like I could sleep some more…