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Archive for the ‘films’ Category

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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http://www.tomandnancylin.com/bio/

Risk-Taking: Holy Investment Challenge
Luke 19:12-27
targeted to college and career

Doing risky business with

  1. Our opportunity to be students
              Those who go off to college often find themselves in a different life stage than the rest of us who are workin, building marriages, and raising children.  They have the opportunities to build close friendships (how many say their life friends were made in college), study academics with vast resources around them, to talk late into the night.  Examples of those who have taken advantage of this include a trash outreach in one of the biggest dorms in the nation.  “We are Christians who just wanted to serve in a small way.  Would you like us to take out your trash?”  Some wanted to pay them, others gave them even more trash, but by the end of the night four joined them to see what they were about.
  2. Our money and possessions
              John Ortberg wrote a book titled When the Game Is Over It All Goes Back in the Box.  What do you win that you get to keep?  We need to invest what we have before it all goes back into the box, before we leave this earth, before the Master returns.  A college friend of the speaker’s barely had enough to pay rent.  But whenever JP would come upon some cash he would immediately celebrate by spending it with a friend.  He’d want to play tennis with the speaker so JP would use the money to buy a racquet.  He bought a television set for his roommate.  He’d give (not sell back) his books to incoming students.  And sure enough, there would always be enough by the end of the month.  A couple in their thirties wrote the speaker a $10,000 check because they believed God’s work through his ministry and wanted to invest in that.  A group in Harvard donated $20 each and then used that combined amount to serve their classmates on campus with free coffee during finals week.  The speaker himself, at his initial job, would hold a raffle at his desk to give away free stuff.  Coworkers would congregate around his desk and eventually they built personal bonds.
  3. Our social networks
             Instead of sticking to the same subjects (e.g. weather, daily routine, television shows), we need to risk conversations.  The speaker said that one time the Spirit prompted him to ask his nonbelieving roommate about God.  “Anybody but him!  He’s my roommate!  I have to live with him!”  But eventually he finally asked, “What do you think about Jesus?”  “I’m glad you asked.  I was just thinking about the time I had this near-death experience in a car crash.  I told God if he saved me I would start seeking him.  I went to church for a little while but eventually stopped….”
  4. Time
              We start out all the same, as the parable demonstrates.  Instead of imitating the attitude of the third servant, who knew the minas weren’t going to be his soon anyway and thus did not pay much attention to it, we need the attitude of Schlinder in Schlinder’s List.  At the end he still realized that he had not done all that he could have (e.g. his pin and car).  “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”  Being trustworthy in a small matter, the first servant was given more.  The command is to invest (not to make as much as possible). 

What prevents us from risk taking?

  • Fear (of the Master, of what others think, of failure, of a language barrier..).  “Do not fear” is mentioned 366 times in the Bible, perhaps due to our cowardliness in investing what God’s given us?
  • Asian adverseness for risk.  We recall what our parents tell us essentially: “We took those risks so you won’t have to.”  We’re encouraged to keep a low profile so as to not make waves. 

Pastor Dick asked what we thought of this idea:  He would give everyone in the congregation $5 (financial risk for the leaders) and ask us to give it to the kingdom in some way (social risk for us congregants).  Maybe we want to take someone out, maybe we could pool the money and do something bigger.

Middle of Nowhere: Mongolia 2002 – 2006
I Kings 19:1-19
targeted to the English congregation

Elijah’s Gobi Desert experience:

  • Beersheba is a desert
  • he left his servant behind
  • he made an additional day’s journey deeper into the desert
  • broom tree is only about ten feet high
  • suicidal

Speaker’s desert experience

  • sixth and eighteenth months were the hardest
  • strained marriaged
  • declared he’d buy plane tickets back to the States
  • issues unresolved from the States were brought up in Mongolia

Our own dry isolation experience

  • Quarterlife transition.  We moved away to attend college and miss the familiar community we had at home.  We’ve moved back and find everything different.
  • Family transition.  We recently became engaged, married, had children….
  • Tragedy.  A loved one is severely ill or has died.  No one understands.  We’ve experienced loss and disappointment.  “Where are You, God?”
  • ‘Dry’ spiritual life.  The spiritual connection with God is not felt.

Four stages of desert life:

  1. Stripping process.  Elijah, by leaving his servant behind, he was declaring that he quit his job of being a prophet for God.  There appeared to be external successes but he still felt like a failure inside.  There was the incredible demonstration by God on the altar and yet Jezebel is still unrepentant and wants him dead.  Victory after victory and yet there is still failure. 
  2. Wrestling with God (v. 10).  We complain to God.  “I’ve done all this for You, and there’s nothing still.  It’s unfair!”  The critical decision comes down to this:  Do you give up on God, or go deeper with God?  Coming to this point is a given, but it is especially keenly felt among leaders.  The only question is WHEN (not if) this point will come.  Horeb, the mountain of God, is actually only a seven-days journey from Beersheba, yet it took Elijah the “long time” of forty days, probably because he was wandering and wrestling with God.  Note that though Elijah gave up, God did not give up on Elijah.  God helped Elijah continue to wrestle.
  3. Intimacy with God.  “Angel” in the text means a messenger from God.  This can be a human being who is doing God’s work, or simply feeling the presence of God.  In other words, God doesn’t always come “supernaturally.”  Intimacy is God meeting us at a time of great need.  Sometimes you wonder if it was right that you moved, that you were supposed to be here.  The place where you are now is not a mistake but the very place where God has brought you to meet Him.  Elijah didn’t run away to Horeb; God brought Elijah to Horeb.  And then God asks, “What are you doing here?” (v. 9).  Why did God bring you here?
  4. Transformation and release
    1. From self-seeking confidence to dependence on God and others.  In verse 14, Elijah speaks as if he is the only hope for God’s redemption of Israel.  For the speaker, he was doing pretty well in the States.  But in Mongolia, the children made fun of his since he couldn’t speak Mongolian.  It was quite clear that God would be doing the brunt of the work there.
    2. From being a lone ranger to a community participant.  We think we’re all alone, very unique, but we’re not. 
    3. From an old identity to a new identity.  Other Biblical examples include Moses and even Jesus.  Moses was a prince but had to go into the desert before returning as God’s prophet.  Jesus went into the desert for forty days and forty nights.
    4. Only then did God told Elijah what to do next.

Practical suggestions for going through the desert:

  • Be honestThis is so hard!  Especially for us, with our emotions.  We need to admit that we have an issue with God.  We need to bring our burning questions to God.
  • Determine ahead of time to go deep with GodOur temptation is to seek a thing, an action, another person to fill the loneliness and void.  That’s what the Israelites did by making the golden calf.
  • Rest with the other 7,000 (v. 18).  If you don’t know who else is in a similar situation as you, maybe your pastor would know and bring you two together.  If you can’t discern God’s voice, ask another fellow believer to help you hear God’s Word and see why you are going through this desert.  Don’t wait; initiate.

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This past Wednesday after work I walked from Ben Taub to the Museum of Fine Arts/Houston and purchased five student tickets (totaling $30) to Lifting the Veil/Afghanistan Unveiled.  Good thing, because it turned out to be sold out (people had to sit in the stairstep aisles!).  After work today, I walked to McDonald’s in BTGH’s main building’s basement (chicken nuggets, a parfait, and orange juice) and ate dinner in Hermann Park.

At the museum, I saved two seats on either side of me near the center, sprawling my belongings.  I tried to read, but I was getting antsy because seats were filling up quickly (crowd outside trying to get in although the viewing was sold out) and I couldn’t call out due to no reception.  I really hoped they wouldn’t be late.  People were asking if the seats were taken, saying “This shouldn’t be allowed” in a frustrated/disdaining tone.  Even the row behind me, which was originally reserved, were filled up when they removed the reserved sign.  Finally, we all sat together and watched the film.

Afterwards there was a Q&A period with the journalist in person!  Anyone could tell Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy was very knowledgeable and passionate about not only the film but everything surrounding the backdrop.  She shared the story of how money donated wasn’t used efficiently (they bought chickens and had them transported from so far away that they were dead on arrival), and was very detailed and forthright in her answers.  She is from Pakistan but Afghanistan has captured her heart.  She’s married, but we never hear anything about him or her children.

More information:

  • Directed by Hugh Thomson, 2006 , Color, 50 Minutes.  Cosponsored by the World Affairs Council of Houston. Special thanks to Kirsten Davis.
  • http://sharmeenobaidfilms.com/afganistanunveiled.html
  • In 2001, Beneath the Veil revealed the plight of women living under the Taliban in Afghanistan, uncovering evidence of women being denied employment, education, and freedom. In this follow-up, journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy returns to Afghanistan to find out how life has changed. Her journey starts in the bustling city of Kabul; then takes her to Herat, on the Iranian border, where the suicide rate for women is shockingly high; and on to the remote rural areas in the north where Afghan life is at its most basic.
  • http://www.marigoldfund.org

Afterwards we went to A&W for some food.  They were closing up the “here” but we could still order “to go” so we used their restroom then ordered through the drive through.  We climbed into the other car, and the two cars discussed the movie with rolled down windows.  No one admitted to crying.  I couldn’t get over how the girls were in first grade (well, that’s me counting the age) and sold by their parents to pay for their entertainment debts.  One husband murdered his wife because she was so outspoken and was more known than he was.  It was interesting that Obaid-Chinoy is a Muslim and she was outraged by how the Taliban was warping the Koran (or Qur’an or however you spell it).  I wonder how these males grow up viewing females, especially their family (mother, sister, daughters).

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