Sunday, October 26, 2008

quote of the month 2

Thanks to my friend Alicia hounding me about her favorite book 8 months ago, I’m finally reading “on the road.” Her and her dad swear by the book, so I thought I’d give it a chance. So far I’m intrigued. A few pages in Kerouac sucked me in with this quote…

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ”

I love it. I can’t help but think of other quotes from authors begging not their readers, but their own selves to live. And I think of Jesus offering “life that is truly life” to the downtrodden, disadvantaged, depressed, and despised of his day. I’m sure to them his life looked much like a “fabulous yellow roman candle exploding like spiders across the stars.” Thanks to Mr. Kerouac for an encouraging quote this weekend.

Friday, October 24, 2008

saipan good baptist church

i got to take a one day trip to saipan on monday. its a bit smaller than guam and about 150 miles north. we flew in on a small prop plane and visited with a korean pastor most of the day.

the pastor and his congregation minister to a unique group of ladies on the island. there are / were a few garment factories (glorified sweatshops) on saipan which hired chinese ladies to work 12-14 hours days. they were paid $3 an hour before taking their food and housing the factory provided. they actually made between $.80 and $1.70 an hour. this church takes seriously the call to love and fight for the least of these...

the pastor and his wife teach these women in a life skills school at night from 10:00pm and 2:30am so they can get better jobs when they get back to china. they also provide food and clothing for many of the women. when the garment factory closed down early this year, the owners left the women stranded without enough money to get back to their country. the visas they had were restricted to that specific factory, so the ladies were left without money, the ability to work legally, and a place to live.

the church stepped in and began helping these women with visas and finding them jobs. they provide food and limited housing the best they can as well. i don't know how to tell you how refreshing and wonderful it was to sit and talk with this family living out the way of the kingdom of God. They've seen many of these women come to faith in christ, but they've seen even more helped and loved by their church. matthew 25 is a way of life for this congregation.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

someone may hit me with a hammer??

i sat down with a fellow texan today to talk about possibly doing a weekly bible study for a recovery center. the center has two campuses, one is for kids and youth with severe anger issues and non-compliance problems along with rehabilitation from abuse and tragedy. the other center is for adults who have been placed in their care because of serious drug addiction in the past or mentle illness or anger management problems.

we were talking about different ministry experiences i'd had in the past and what i liked to do blah blah blah... when the guy asked me a very interesting set of questions.

Q: how would you feel if someone hallucinated in the middle of your bible study?

a: umm... i would be confused, but i suppose i would move on if the person didn't need to be calmed down. is that the right answer?

Q: sure. and what if the adults had to take serious drugs to keep them from experiencing bouts of intense mental illness?

A: umm... man, i... i guess thats good. as long as the drugs are perscribed correctly, i mean, i don't know.

Q: and would you be okay if while you were teaching someone had to physically restrain a patient because he got violent... some people don't like that, but what if like... he wanted to hit you with a hammer?

A: what?

Q: well, i mean, some people don't like the idea of physically restraining clients or patients. they say it bothers them. would you be okay with that?

(seriously? would i be okay if someone stopped a guy from hitting me with a hammer?)

A: yes. i would be okay with that. in fact, i would feel the need myself to stop someone from trying to hurt me or someone else. is that going to happen?

GUY: good answer. i just wanted to make sure it wouldn't scare you if someone happened to lash out or something. some people just don't like that kind of thing...

ME: well yeah, i mean... not many people like that i guess... but is someone going to try to hit me with a hammer?

GUY: oh no. its cool. so do you want to come and see the center this week?

even looking at the conversation written out i laugh. i'm sure he was just exagerating with the hammer thing, but seriously? he said it in a "example" type of tone and all, but geez. all kidding aside, i'm excited about the possibilities of working with the Latte Center. from the hour long conversation we had today i imagine these guys and girls would have been some following Jesus everywhere he went. and i imagine when Jesus said "least of these" he was talking about people like this. people that've had a rough hand dealt to them or some at the end of the rope with little reason to hang on. i bet we have some great conversations about the life of Jesus.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

an old man and a hard day

I met an old man in the aids hospice one afternoon. I prayed for him and asked if he wanted lotion on his feet as he began to tell me his story. He explained that his wife was from the city and he from the country. Now there’s even more of a difference between the rural and urban cultures in South Africa than America. So this man tells me that his wife worked at times in the city and would travel there often. He was a trusting man he said with disappointment across his face. He called himself a trusting and foolish man.

His wife had multiple affairs in the city and contracted HIV. Then she gave it to him. And now he was in a hospice slowly leaving. He did nothing wrong. He was faithful. He was a simple man in a rural town like my own hometown, and he trusted his wife to be his wife. And she gave him an incurable virus. She killed him.

He didn’t seem angry anymore. His bitterness had turned into disappointment and shame. His sadness made him tired. And I’m sad I don’t remember his name.

The time I spent in the Dream Center wasn’t always hopeful. It gave me the glasses to see the human condition when bleak. And I didn’t like it. It was hard enough to go home after throwing a pizza party with some 25 year olds and hearing a girl say she knew God was reaching out for her. But when we would visit people with no hope, people with shame that covered their lives and their words and their reasons and their selves, well, its just hard to shake it off or know how to feel. Some days were like this.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

quote of the month...

I just finished a wonderful book I’m ashamed I haven’t read sooner. Richard Wright’s “Black Boy” is his 1945 autobiography of growing up in a spiritually abusive home in a racially abusive south trying to venture to a politically abusive Chicago. Please read this book. My favorite quote or thought was on page 272-273.

“for the anti-negro attitude of whites represents but a tiny part—though a symbolically significant one—of the moral attitude of the nation. Our too-young and too-new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of process, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness. Am I damning my native land? No; for I, too, share these faults of character! And I really do not think that America, adolescent and cocksure, a stranger to suffering and travail, an enemy of passion and sacrifice, is ready to probe into its most fundamental beliefs.”

Haunting words. And in 60+ years I realize we have moved forward in ways my 25 year old life cannot remember or understand, but I also know we have a long way to go. Hearing the terms and catch-phrases of our coming election while watching the world react to us as we seek to spread our “rightness” of living shows that we still “salve our conscience with self draped cloak(s) or righteousness…”

And like Wright, I notice too often that I have the same faults at the core of my character.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Duncan thoughts

After I heard Duncan had died, I was torn between wanting to stay away from the Dream Center and wanting to go everyday and sleep in the empty rooms downstairs. The next visit went okay I think. I don’t remember anything striking happening, but I remember not being able to get the picture of a grown man in a 95 pound body curled up crying while throwing up in his bed pan out of mind.

So I walked around in angst. I didn’t know how to talk to a patient who’s end was going to look a lot like Duncan’s. I didn’t know how to pray with anyone. I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer anyone in the Dream Center, South Africa, or anywhere for that matter. And then I read a parable from Jesus and a page from one of my favorite books.

The parable is this:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells ALL THAT HE HAS and buys that field.”

The quote from the book is this:

“We have betrayed the message that the kingdom of God is available for all, beginning with the least and the last and the lost – and have instead believed and taught that the kingdom of God is available for the elite, beginning with the correct and the clean and the powerful.”

I don’t know that I had some great, empowering revelation… but I know I decided to hope. I decided to not only love, but HOPE FOR the “least and the last and the lost.” The new life and kingdom of God happening all around them and me is a “treasure hidden in a field” after all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Duncan introduced me to the pain of aids. I feel so ignorant and foolish and ashamed to type this, but for some reason I didn’t know aids killed people painfully. Before my six weeks in South Africa I thought aids killed people quietly, at worst in a tough bout of pneumonia. I didn’t know viruses and bacteria would eat away leg muscles and eye sight. I didn’t know tuberculosis was waiting in the eves to hurt lungs. I didn’t know eating was almost impossible in the final months because of stomach pains and vomiting. I didn’t know infections attacked the entire body unchecked, hurting internal organs and skin and bones and the mind. I didn’t know these things, or if I did I hadn’t seen it first hand.

Before we walked in Duncan’s room we could hear him moaning and struggling to breath. As I entered his room I saw him shaking on the bed curled up in a ball. He looked about the size of a 6th grader curled up on his twin size bed. He smelled terrible. His roommates wouldn’t look at him. One was trying to read and the other lay on his side looking at the other wall. I can honestly say I didn’t know what to do. When I tried to touch him he flinched and contorted. When we spoke to him he just groaned and shook.

He started to cry and mumbled something in zulu. We asked his roommates what he was saying, but they couldn’t even understand him until he had repeated it for 2 minutes louder and louder. One of his roommates said without looking up from his book, “he needs to vomit right away.” “Where is a bucket?” I asked and starting looking around his room. “Where is the bucket he needs?” I looked in the cabinets and under the small sink and under his bed. “Its under his bed.” The man said over the cover of his book. “I don’t see it… all that’s under his bed is his bedpan.” The man put his book down and said matter of factly, “that’s what we use. It is our bucket. We always vomit in those.”

So I picked up his bedpan and watched him throw up in his bloody urine stained bucket. It was terrible. We had to put the Duncan's bedpan against his cheek so he didn’t have to raise his body. He didn’t have much to throw up because he couldn’t eat. When he was done he lay in a ball crying.

We prayed for him and his pain and sat next to him on his bed. The only visitors Duncan had 2 days before he died were 3 white Americans holding a bedpan for him to vomit. I was overwhelmed with sadness while my friends prayed. I had nothing to say. I didn’t know how to articulate my fear and frustration and… I don’t know. Even thinking about him on my yellow couch here in Guam makes me confused and shocked and sad. He looked alone. Because I love, like, and believe on Jesus I hope and believe Jesus was near. But in all honestly I had a hard time seeing him and his kingdom while Duncan threw up in a bedpan. it was a hard day.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

so much cheese you can't tell its pizza

on the way back to the dreamcenter a buddy and i went to the local pizza place and picked up a few cheese pizzas. i told the lady working the counter they needed to be loaded with "so much cheese you can't tell its pizza." after a strange look and less than $20 i had fuel for a party in hand.

she had asked me not to forget her zulu bible so i didn't. we arrived to her room with a bible or two and a few pizzas. as we walked in stinbille sat up with wide eyes and asked,

"what do you have in those boxes??"

i answered, "what do you think is in these boxes? its pizza!!"

her immediate response was, "what kind? what kind of pizza did you bring?"

"so much cheese you can't tell its pizza." i answered with a grin.

she closed her eyes laying back on her bed and gave a smiling sigh. with eyes still closed she almost whispered, "i prayed for pizza. is it okay to pray for cheese pizza?"

you know, i'm so glad she prayed for pizza. i'm so glad she was shown Jesus is concerned with her present, with the little details, with pizza dinners for 20 year olds, with her. i'm so glad he showed he loved and cared and even LIKED her. and oh my goodness we had a fun pizza party. they asked me to go get their friend a few rooms down because she couldn't roll herself in her wheelchair. when i came back we ate pizza, played music a little too loudly and even danced a little. my friend and i were the only ones dancing on our feet, but there was dancing from everyone. we acted like normal college aged young adults. we weren't sick or depressed or bedridden or aids patients. we were friends eating pizza.

after the party i cleaned up and noticed the four ladies didn't quite eat three pieces of pizza together, and a rush of reality made me sad... but what was the ultimate reality? was the depression or the joy of the party the reality? were the shrunken stomachs or the dancing arms with pizza in hand the true story? so we see the movement of the kingdom of God. its like a daisey in the dark or a pizza party in a hospice. it doesn't screem for attention but isn't easily missed. its here and its now and its lovely.

and often, its vehicle can be a cheese pizza or two.