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a poem by Rubem Alves

God as father.
God as mother.
God as wind.
These are metaphors.
Attempts to put into words that which is beyond all words.
God as gardener.
God plants a garden.
The universe is destined for Paradise –
joy, pleasure for God, for women and men, for all beings.
God destined us to be partners –
put tools in our hands, pruning hooks and ploughs;
put words in our mouth,
and invited us to name all created beings in the garden,
so that they may become our brothers and sisters.
Words – they are of two kinds.
Some are produced by the brain:
they serve as tools.
With them we build boats, bridges, wings.
These are the words of knowledge, science, and technology.
We cannot survive without them. They give us the means to life.
Alone they have no power to create happiness:
Boats, but not the vision of unseen lands;
Bridges, but not the vision of the garden beyond the abyss;
Wings, but not the vision of paradise to which we should fly.
They can break the chains of oppression,
but cannot provide the vision of freedom.
For vision, a different kind of word is needed.
A word which no brain can produce.
It comes with the wind.
It is given to the heart.
It is grace.
When the heart hears it, it begins to dream.
It is power to see beyond the visible.
Those who dream are those who provide direction
to boats, bridges, and wings.
They give reasons to our lives.
They are the prophets, the poets, the seers.
The words the community of the spirit is called to give,
these words are of a very special kind.
They have the colours of the rainbow,
the music of laughter and crying,
the perfume of flowers,
the hands of a lover,
the taste of bread and wine.
God speaks and life blossoms.
God’s Spirit is constantly at work re-creating the world.
In Jesus, God dwells among us holding all things together.
To live in communion with the creative word of God;
To say the words which re-create:
That is the mission of the community of faith.

Women’s rights are human rights [Hillary Rodham Clinton].  Happy International Women’s Day.

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by Above the Golden State

when shadows turn to faces
when faces take on names
when names tell us their stories
of their brokenness and pain

when love flows through the cities
through the grid of all the streets
under bridges in the alleys
like blood through our veins

chorus:
love is real
love will bleed
love will heal, love
love will need

when love is used like money
it turns into our greed
when love is more like water
then everyone will drink

so, let it flow through all our cities
(like the rivers fall)
and flood them like the sea
(love fill us all)
fill the souls that hunger
Lord, give us what we need, yeah

chorus x2

love, change the world, yeah
love, change the world

you can see it when He walks around
you can feel it when He moves the ground
we’re all colored with a crimson stain
can you see it now? can you see Him now?

from the clouds to the world below
from the mountain to the city of gold
love is coming like an urgent rain
can you feel it now? can you feel Him now?

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MRSA

We just admitted someone with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, though we don’t know where the site is.  So I came home and read up on it:

Some settings have factors that make it easier for MRSA to be transmitted. These factors, referred to as the 5 C’s, are as follows: Crowding, frequent skin-to-skin Contact, Compromised skin (i.e., cuts or abrasions), Contaminated items and surfaces, and lack of Cleanliness.  Locations where the 5 C’s are common include schools, dormitories, military barracks, households, correctional facilities, and daycare centers.

You can protect yourself by: 

  • practicing good hygiene (e.g., keeping your hands clean by washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and showering immediately after participating in exercise);
  • covering skin trauma such as abrasions or cuts with a clean dry bandage until healed;
  • avoiding sharing personal items (e.g., towels, razors) that come into contact with your bare skin; and using a barrier (e.g., clothing or a towel) between your skin and shared equipment such as weight-training benches;
  • maintaining a clean environment by establishing cleaning procedures for frequently touched surfaces and surfaces that come into direct contact with people’s skin.

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by Joshua Radin

some are reachin’
few are there
want to reign from a hero’s chair
some are scared to fly so high
well this is how we have to try
have no envy and no fear

have no envy no fear

brother brother we all see
your hiding out so painfully
see yourself come out to play
a lover’s rain will wash away
your envy and your fear

so have no envy no fear

when your sister turns to leave
only when she’s most in need
take away the cause of pain
by showing her we’re all the same
have no envy and no fear

have no envy no fear

every day we try to find
search our hearts and our minds
the place we used to call our home
can’t be found when we’re alone
so have no envy and no fear

have no envy no fear

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If you couldn’t make it to “A photographer’s view of the homeless,” here are his photographs and below are some of the words on the walls.  He’s also trying to make a film, like this one I guess.

  • The Understanding Poverty Project.  People are living on the streets–oftentimes the sickest among us.  People are languishing in the prisons–oftentimes those with the cruelest pasts.  We are getting used to this.  This is not something any of us want to get used to.  This is not a tolerable situation. For 22 years photographer Ben Tecumseh DeSoto has been documenting homelessness and poverty in Houston. “I have been living on the streets of Houston with my camera,” says DeSoto, “and I want others to see what I’ve seen, and understand what I’ve come to understand.  More and more I see poverty in terms of trauma, and interpret the behaviors of those I meet on the streets as those suffering from PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder].  Shock.  Inability to plan.  Persistent frightening thoughts.  Emotional numbness.” Drawn to document and understand the lives of the “broke and the broken,” DeSoto drew attention to these issues through his work for the Houston Chronicle, where he served as a staff photographer from 1981 to 2006.  Oftentimes DeSoto would find a subject, publish a story in the Chronicle, then continue following his source for months and years.  Judy Pruitt and Ben White are two such subjects; DeSoto has been documenting their lives since 1988, and cultivated a partnership and relationship far deeper than the typical report-subject construct.  In 1992, DeSoto exhibited his work in a one-man FotoFest show at DiverseWorks, “Urban Poverty.”  In 2006, DeSoto left the Chronicle and decided to focus his efforts on his homeless project fulltime, joining forces with writer/journalist Ann Walton Sieber.  He created the Understanding Poverty Project, an ambitious undertaking that includes this exhibition, a future film and book, and a far-reaching collective network. “The Understanding Poverty Project is working as a collaborative in Houston, Texas, to build bridges across the vast gulf between the haves and have-nots.  Our vehicle is communication and understanding, through photographs, words, and film.  Some of us are storytellers, others of us have a story that needs to be told: We are working as a team of journalists, surviving witnesses, direct aid workers, artists, and fellow travelers.  We are in this together.  We are all agents of change” [Understanding Poverty Project vision statement].
  • Join the Understanding Poverty Collective.  What does joining the Collective mean?  You tell us. It means that you will think about these issues of poverty, disparity, despair, and illness. It means that you will notice these things, do what it takes to feel what you need to feel, look for places to take actions that are right for you. It means you will do your best not to let despaire or discouragement stand in the way of acting, whether it is your time to offer help, or your time to need help. It means you won’t let the guilt and frustration about the enormity of the distress keep you from doing the smallest things.  Or dreaming about and undertaking the hugest things. It means you won’t leave it to other people to solve, although you can look to them for help, leadership, support.  It means you won’t let other people leave it to you to solve. You are probably already doing a little.  You may already be doing a lot.  You’ll let this be a part of your life.  You’ll share the road, those who have so little and those who are rich and blessed–and in your mind at least think about ways that you both might someday sit in a room together and have a cup of tea or a glass of beer and relax in a profound way and start to tell each other everything you might ever want to know.  In dreams begin reality….  You’ll be open to being changed.  You’ll be open to becoming an instrument of change. You’ll be part of the solution, and you’ll help us al in your individual way to understand poverty and wealth and thereby come that closer to that dream of fairness, of succor for those suffering, of relief for the aggrieved, of the possibility of joy for everyone.
  • If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. …For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’   [Deuteronomy 15:7-8 NASB]
  • Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. [Hosea 8:7]
  • To love is not to give of your riches but to reveal to others their riches; their gifts; their value; and to trust them and their capacity to grow.  So it is important to approach people in their brokenness and littleness gently, so gently, not forcing yourself on them, but accepting them as they are, with humility and respect.  [Jean Vanier – posted at Healthcare for the Homeless, Houston]
  • Of those that are drawn away, each is drawn elsewhere toward another: once more a man and a woman, in a loneliness they are not liable at that time to notice, are tightened together upon a bed: and another family has begun: Moreover, these flexions are taking place every where, like a simultaneous motion of all the waves of the water of the world: and these are the classic patterns, and this is the weaving, of human living: of those fabric each individual is a part: and of all parts of this fabric let this be borne in mind: Each is intimately connected with the bottom and the extremest reach of time: Each is composed of substances identical with the substance of all that surrounds him, both the common objects of his disregard, and the hot centers of stars: All that each person is, and experiences, and shall never experience, in body and in mind, all these things are differing expressions of himself and of one root, and are identical: and not one of these things nor one of these persons is ever quite to be duplicated, nor replaced, nor has it ever quite had precedent: but each is a new and incommunicably tender life, wounded in every breath, and almost as hardly killed as easily wounded: sustaining, for a while, without defense, the enormous assaults of the universe:  [James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 1941]
  • He who gives to the poor will never want, But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.  [Proverbs 28:27 NASB]
  • We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless.  The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.  We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.  [Mother Teresa]
  • Urban Poverty Causes PTSD:  PTSD Increases Hospitalization Rates in Urban Poor by John Gever, MedPage Today, March 28, 2008.  BOSTON, March 28 — Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among poor, urban residents and those who suffer it have more and longer hospital stays, researchers here said.  Of 592 patients at an urban primary care clinic, 22% were found to have PTSD, and they were more than twice as likely to have been hospitalized in the previous year as clinic patients without the disorder, reported Jane Liebschutz, M.D., M.P.H., of Boston University, and colleagues in the April issue of Medical Care.  …Dr. Liebschutz said in an interview that the findings are important because PTSD is “under-recognized and under-treated” in patients whose condition does not stem from military combat or sexual assault. …Better recognition of PTSD in urban populations and its negative consequences could improve their long-term health, since effective treatment for PTSD is available, the researchers said.
  • Eventually I became homeless enough to suit anyone’s definition.  In spite of the challenges that homelessness presented, the chief characteristic of my experience of homelessness was tedium…. One of those days was so much like each of the others that to call any of them typical would be an understatement.  Our immediate needs I met with more or less trouble, but once that was done I could do no more.  Day after day I could aspire, within reson, to nothing more than survival.  Although the plants wandered among the stars and the moon waxed and waned, the identical naked barrenness of existence was exposed to me, day in and day out.  I do not think I could write a narrative that would quite capture the unrelenting ennui of homelessness, but if I were to write it, no one could bear to read it.  Every life has trivial occurrences, pointless episodes, and unresolved mysteries, but a homeless life has these and virtually nothing else.  [Lars Eighner, Travels with Lizbeth, 1993]
  • I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
    …who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,
    …who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
    …who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
    ..who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,
    …who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup,
    …who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
    …who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts,
    …with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.  [Allen Ginsburg, “Howl”]
  • It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty.  You have thought so much about poverty–it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it, is all so utterly and prosaically different.  You thought it would be quite simple; it is extraordinarily complicated. You thought it would be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring. It is the peculiar lowness of poverty that you discover first; the shifts that it puts you to, the complicated meanness, the crust wiping.  [George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933]
  • But that something to eat was a hard proposition.  I was “turned down” at a dozen houses. …At other houses the doors were slammed in my face, cutting short my politely and humbly couched request for something to eat.  …It began to look as if I should be compelled to go to the very poor for my food.  …They never turn away the hungry.  Time and again, all over the United States, have I been refused food by the big house on the ill; and always have I received food from the little shack down by the creek or marsh, with its broken windows stuffed with rags and its tired-faced mother broken with labor.  Oh, you charity-mongers!  Go to the poor and learn, for the poor alone are the charitable.  They neither give nor withhold form their excess.  They have no excess.  They give, and they withhold never, from what they need for themselves, and very often from what they cruelly need for themselves.  A bone to the dog is not charity.  Charity is the bone shared with the dog when you are just as hungry as the dog.  [Jack London, The Road, 1907]
  • When I give food to the poor they call me a saint.  When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.  [Dom Helder Camera, Bishop of São Paulo, Brazil]
  • To be honest, the whole idea of working with the homeless is totally new to me.  I worked in retail in Houston and Dallas.  I sold my business and started working at Harmony House as an RA.  I wanted to get back into the community.  [Preston Witt, Director of Harmony House, interview January 10, 2008]
  • Ah, my own, my darling, it is often that I think of you and feel my heart sink.  How is it that you are so unfortunate, Barbara?  In my eyes you are kind-hearted, beautiful, and clever–why, then, has such an evil fate fallen to your lot?  How comes it that you are left desolate–you, so good a human being!  While to others happiness comes without an invitation at all?  Why should that raven, Fate, croak out upon the fortunes of one person while she is yet in her mother’s womb, while another person it permits to go forth in happiness from the home which has reared her?  “You, you fool Ivanushka,” says Fate, “shall succeed to your grandfather’s money-bags, and eat, drink, and be merry; whereas you shall do no more than lick the dish, since that is all that you are good for.”  [Fyodor Dostoevsky, Poor Folk, 1846]
  • I look at people in general society–they want to create a safe world for themselves, especially when they have children.  But the world has shrunk.  They think if you want to be safe, you have to hang out with people like you.  That is so sad to me.  [Eva Thibaudeau-Graczy, Director of Community Initiatives, Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, interview January 11, 2008]
  • I just spent 60 days in the jail house for the crime of havin’ no dough.  Now here I am back out the street for the crime of havin’ nowhere to go.  [Robbie Robertson of The Band, “The Shape I’m In”]
  • “He came back different” is the shared refrain of the [returning veterans’] family members, who mention irritability, detachment, volatility, sleeplessness, excessive drinking or drug use, and keeping a gun at hand.  …In earlier eras, various labels attached to the psychological injuries of war: soldier’s heart, shell shock, Vietnam disorder.  Today the focus is on PTSD, but military health care officials are seeing a spectrum of pscyhological issues, with an estimated half of the returning National Guard members, 38 percent of soldiers and 31 percent of marines reporting mental health problems, according to a Pentagon task force.  [Deborah Sontag and Lizette Alvarez, “Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles” in the New York Times, January 13, 2008]
  • Antinoos, you did badly to hit the unhappy vagabond; a curse on you, if he turns out to be some god from heaven. For the gods do take on all sorts of transformations, appearing as strangers from elsewhere, and thus they range at large through the cities, watching to see which men keep the laws, and which are violent.  [Homer, “The Odyssey”]

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Dear Abby: Now that election time is nearing, I would like to address a question that invariably comes up this time of year — that is, people asking me who I voted for. I think this is a personal subject. I am registered with a party and support it at election time. Who I vote for is my business.  My answer is, “I voted for the person I want to win.” Sometimes this is not good enough for some people, and they insist I tell who I voted for. I just repeat my answer and go on. Any advice on this?  — Registered Voter in North Carolina

Dear Registered Voter: I agree that it’s nobody’s business for whom you voted. I find it interesting that if I answer the question and my candidate isn’t the one my questioner prefers, I then hear a recitation of their candidate’s campaign slogans. You are handling the situation correctly.

Dear Abby: I am writing in regard to the letter from “Registered Voter in North Carolina” (Sept. 23). I never tell anyone whom I voted for, not even my husband (even though I usually tell him everything). It’s not that I don’t want him to know, but we respect each other’s rights to voting privacy. We have lots of discussions about the candidates and issues, and both research them together. We have similar political views, and through our discussions we pretty much “know” whom the other voted for.  I hate when people ask me whom I am voting for, and I always decline to state. My husband went to war to protect our rights — including the right to privacy — and more people should respect them. — Gloversville, N.Y., voter

Dear Voter: Thank you for writing. I was pleased to hear from a large number of readers also stressing the importance of exercising our freedom to vote. I am sure I don’t have to remind everyone how important it is to vote in the Nov. 4 national election. This is a crucial time in our nation’s history. Your vote will affect generations to come. Read on:

Dear Abby: I say you should be proud of your candidate of choice and say it! If someone refuses to say whom they voted for, to me it seems like that person is ashamed to admit he or she supported this candidate instead of that one. If someone asks me whom I voted for, I gladly let them know. — Proud Supporter in Columbus

Dear Abby: When asked, I say, “I voted for the person I want to win.” If the questioner persists, I say, “I don’t discuss politics. My doctor says my blood pressure is too high as it is.” — Middle of the Road in S.C.

Dear Abby: I tell people I voted for “the president,” because whoever wins, I will support and pray that he/she makes the best decisions for me. I believe no matter who wins we must work together to overcome the problems we face. — Jane in Jacksons Gap, Ala.

Dear Abby: The quickest way to get people to drop the subject is to reply, “Isn’t it great that we live in a country with private ballots, so we cannot be persecuted or nagged for whom we vote for?” The nosy person generally changes the subject after that. — U.S. Citizen, Oxnard, Calif.

Dear Abby: I grew up in a household in which my parents sat on opposite sides of the political fence. My mother had a very tactful way of shutting down conversations about personal politics by responding calmly, “We have a secret ballot in this country for a reason.” — Erin in Independence, Mo.

Dear Abby: I have a simple answer when pollsters or friends ask whom I voted for (or will vote for). I say: “I don’t even tell my husband that. That’s why there are curtains on the voting booth.” That usually shuts ’em up. — Anna in Alton, N.H.

Dear Abby: When I’m asked the same personal question, I lean in close and ask in a whisper, “Can you keep a secret?” Of course, they always say “yes.” Then I back away and reply, “So can I!” — Voting In Hastings, Neb.

Dear Abby: I tell people I don’t care how anyone votes, as long as EVERYONE votes. Sadly, not everyone is fortunate enough to have that privilege. — Alexxia in Frankfort, Ill.

I voted in the last election, in El Paso, and I’ve already voted for this coming election, at Lost Creek Park, but I don’t usually reveal who I voted for.  I see nothing wrong with keeping it to yourself or talking extensively about it.  But I prefer to keep it to myself.  I’m hesitant in revealing my choice because I am extremely uninformed.  I don’t even know how McCain or Obama sound like, let alone their stances politically.  And I’m beginning to realize that, even if I feel I have a lot of facts going on, I still seem to make a choice that isn’t any better than someone who makes a choice pretty quickly (this is in general, not only specifically regarding elections).  But Hannah said something on Saturday that made me ponder: “Well, as long as you voted.”  I asked her if she indeed believed that it’s better to vote uninformed than to not vote at all.  She confirmed.  I’m beginning to agree with her (well, I guess my actions would show that confirmation since I’ve voted twice already, uninformed).  As the last Dear Abby reader implied, voting at least acknowledges our appreciation for the privilege to somewhat select who we elect.  If we make a poor choice, we need to admit that at a minimum and work through the consequences humbly.  Lastly, I agree with “Jane” that we need to support whoever ends up taking office.  It is an awesome responsibility. 

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. [Romans 13:1-2; see also 1 Peter 2:13-14]

This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.  [2 Corinthians 13:10; see also 10:8]

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. [Hebrews 13:17]

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They will be going to Vancouver tomorrow (Saturday) to train for five months before heading off to slums and shantytowns.  They will spend a year learning the language and forming relationships with their neighbors before asking where they can help with medical needs, what has been done before that has and hasn’t worked, etc.  Laura was born in Mexico to missionaries to Mexico and lived in Latin America until the age of thirteen.  Jesslyn met Laura when they were both at Baylor (Laura met Jason at Baylor, too).  The married couple shared with HCC’s BASIC their individual journeys and then how they came together in “Following Jesus in a World of Poverty.”

They began having this longing to live with the poor, to join them. “We wanted to be more than believers, more than admirers.  We wanted to be followers.”  Jason mentioned the phrase “all for love’s sake became poor” from the song (see below) we sang, a different translation of 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (NIV).  He referenced Matthew 10:28, saying that he feared the suburbs more than the slums because he knows that his soul would find it hard to truly live in the suburbs.

Laura said a sixth of the world’s population lives in shantytowns.  She shared how, during a mission trip she went on, she came out of a church service.  The church building was located atop a pile of garbage, or right next to a hole where trash was disposed of.  The people who lived there would scour through to find food and objects to sell. Her eyes landed on a small toddler, barely able to walk.  He came across an ear of corn next to a diaper and surrounded by flies.  There were a few kernals left on it, and his eyes lit up and began chewing on it.  She found herself disgusted by the whole scene.  Then I John 3:17 hit her (“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”).  She know there were so many times when she was confronted with a need, and she did nothing. 

She referenced Isaiah 48:6-11.  I went to the restroom, so I’m not quite sure where she went from there.  When I came back, Jason was elaborating.  He highlighted verse 10: “if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”  He says this is the only verse in the Bible he knows where it says a light shining in the darkness is so bright that it becomes like the noonday.  He went on to mention Jeremiah 22:15-16, where he began seeing God telling him to know Him through the needy: “‘He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the LORD.”  Jason says true love beckons towards need; it does not flee toward comfort.

He told us that he attended a university in Pennsylvania where they had to go to the cathedral on a regular basis.  One time they had a speaker who testified that he was called from his Amish community to serve the students at this university.  He challenged the students.  He prayed a prayer, “and that was the fastest God has answered one of my prayers.”  He says as he was pushing through the crowd with the rest of them to leave for class, his friend Stephanie came up beside him and told him that she had signed him up to lead a mission trip to Camden, NJ, the “worst city in the States” in three weeks.  “See you in math class,” she said before leaving.  Jason exclaimed to God, “I didn’t mean it!”  He thought, at least send him to somewhere a little easier, to transition, why straight into the worst city, and in three weeks!  But he said that indeed, at the place known as the “worst intersection in the worst city,” there were those who stepped up and proclaimed the gospel, and it did seem like noonday.

They both shared with us what they titled as the “Passage of Great Compassion”: Matthew 25:34-40.  Jason said that anyone could understand this excerpt.  The easiest to understand is often the hardest ones to live out and obey.  He pointed out that there were no “miracles” mentioned.  Instead, he quoted Mother Teresa: “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”  For example, we were not called to heal the sick but to look after them and to visit them.  The word “compassion” derives from the Latin roots pati (to suffer) and com (with), thus together compassion means “to suffer with.”  In the book CompassionHenri Nouwen says: 

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human. …But it is not said of Jesus that he reached down from on high to pull us up from slavery, but that he became a slave with us….  It is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.

They recounted past tsunamis that killed millions in the country they are entering, but that daily there are spiritual tsunamis that are killing souls.  Jason informed us of some past Christians, such as Tobias Leupold, Leonhard Dober, and David Nitschmann, who wanted to bring Christ to the slaves.  They were blocked by the slaves’ owners, so these two close friends thought surely God would want them to go, “even if they had to become slaves themselves in order to witness to the Negroes.” Dober and Nitschmann became the first two Moravian missionaries sent to St. Thomas in the West Indies in 1732 to preach to the slaves.

So Laura brought up The Message‘s translation of John 1:14:  “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”  She says that 2 Corinthians 8:9 doesn’t say that God reached down and did His thing from up above.  He actually came down from His exclusive bungalow and moved into our neighborhood; He came and lived in a our same limited physical body among a poor family in a poor city.  Laura said she felt so alone, however, in her convictions to actually become poor beyond serving the poor.  People would tell her that she was being too idealistic, too naive.  But then one day instead of being met with “Well….” she was met with enthusiasm.  Apparently there was a speaker at Urbana who actually did this, who actually went to Cambodia and lived alongside the poor:  Janet Cornwell.  And that was how Laura got connected to Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor.

Jason said he felt moved to experience homelessness himself with his director in Vancouver with only some thin blankets to keep out the cold.  For one week he lived on the streets.  Soup was their manna.  “Soup again?”  Every time they’d try to hunker down for the night, they would be kicked off by the police.  They thought, finally, that surely sleeping on some church steps would work.  Yet they were told to leave.  “You don’t understand, the people here are Jesus followers.  Jesus was homeless.  Where could we go? (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:18)”  “A house, duh.”  “….”  He came out with a better understanding of the plight of those living on the streets.  Homelessness is actually illegal in Vancouver, especially with the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics coming up.  He found out that in reality, the people can get food (though it might not be very good or have much variety) thirteen times a day.  The people really were starving for a connection, companionship, intimacy, someone to be there with us, relationships, friendships–fellowship.  He started having people over for meals, and it would be so transformative to a man who has been on the streets for such a long time, to have a child jump into his lap and read a book.

As someone described Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor, “Their unique thumbprint is that all of those who are called to serve in this group actually live in the same slums and conditions as those that they are serving.”  Thus he challenged us:  “Mother Theresa often received letters asking, ‘Can I come out to Calcutta?’  Sometimes she would say, ‘Yes.’ But most of the time she would respond with these two simple sentences: ‘Calcuttas are everywhere, if you only have eyes to see. Find your own Calcutta.’  Find your own Calcutta.”

Questions and Responses

  1. Jesslyn: It’s overwhelming.  Where do you start?  During her early missionary days in the south of India, Amy Carmichael first met Thomas Walker of Tinnevelly, the man who was to be her mentor. Miss Carmichael tried to explain to him her desire to live in a mud hut among the people rather than in the more comfortable bungalow. His answer was: “You could not stand it for long.”  “I would rather burn out than rust out,” replied Miss Carmichael.  “That should be as God wills,” Walker retorted.   Jason said that, still, that we probably don’t want to burn out, either.  God doesn’t will us to be burnt out.  He mentioned five things: beauty, rest, celebration, [I forgot], and [I forgot].  He says that when he is on the mission field, there are places at the site to go to rejuvenate, to have a Sabbath.  Laura also shared that she realized she couldn’t reach all the poor around her, and that we need to simply truly encounter each person who comes across our path.  Indeed, Jason said that there was one time where he joined a group to not only hand out physical necessities but actually listen to the life stories of those living on the streets.  One time he was met with, “Excuse me, excuse me, are you the ones who come and listen to us?”
  2. Jireh: How did your parents take this?  Jason says that it is every parent’s desire to protect their child, and rightly so.  It was definitely quite a journey to see his parents come to grips with what he was doing.  It was definitely hard to admit that he had lived on the streets for one week, for example.  However, he says that it was such a joy to see his parents grow in patience, graciousness, and trust in God.  Laura admits that it was probably harder for her parents to allow her to go than for her to come to terms to go.  But in the end, he quoted Matthew 10:34-39: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’  Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
  3. James: What would it look like if Christians around the world interpreted and obeyed the Word like you?  Laura responded, “The kingdom of God?”  Jason said that the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 is a great text.  However, it has gained prominence only in the recent [was it 60 or 600] years. Previously, the verse used for evangelism was Matthew 5:13-16.  As John Stott says in his book The Message of the Sermon On The Mount (p. 65), “The Christian must not become assimilated to non-Christians and contaminated by the impurities of the world, for the influence of Christians in and on society depends on their being distinct, not identical.  God intends us to penetrate the world. Christian salt has no business to remain snugly in elegant little ecclesiastical salt cellars; our place is to be rubbed into the secular community, as salt is rubbed into meat, to stop it going bad. And when society does go bad, we Christian tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat from going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: where is the salt?”
  4. Robert: Is everyone called to live with the poor?  In other words, are ALL Christians called or is this some people’s particular “body part” (1 Corinthains 12)?  Not only did Jason quote Matthew 25 again, but he also quoted Galatians 2:10.  Though Peter was called to take the good news to the Jews, and Paul to the Gentiles, as were their respective”body parts”, they were both called to go to the poor.  Laura elabored on Matthew 25 saying that the criteria that God judged the “sheep from the goats” was whether “the least of these” were treated well.  She gave the example that if someone insulted Jason, she would hurt more than if she herself was the one insulted.  In the same way, for us to not treat “the least of these” well, it is like an insult to God and His provisions and grace towards us.

“Here I Am To Worship “
Chris Tomlin

Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes, let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore You
Hope of my life spent with You

And here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that You’re my God
You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

King of all days
Oh, so highly exalted
Glorious in heaven above
Humbly You came to the earth You created
All for love’s sake became poor

I’ll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

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