It’s Advent season and in church we are singing Christmas carols. This Sunday we sang one particular carol that spoke of the coming of a King. I know that as humans we try and fail to wrap our minds around God becoming flesh. I sang this carol and tried to wrap my mind around the coming of a King.
As a citizen of the United States, I have no idea what it means to hope for a king. Truly, in our modernized, industrialized, and globalized world, hardly a country exists anymore that waits in eager expectation for a king. Instead, Americans anticipate election years or demand resignations from world leaders. We threaten economic sanctions on governments who would propose to oppose us. And, if we must, we send our very own, our young women and men, to bear the cause of democracy. No, I have little idea what it is to long for a king.
Where monarchies still exist, they are mostly in name only. Still, they seem to be a common rallying point for their people. Japan’s monarchy claims to be 2,666 years old with an unbroken line of emperors. Much historical debate exists around this statement; still it is a monarchy that outdates any other existing one in the world today. And until this year, it was a monarchy on the verge of dissolving due to the inability of either of Japan’s princes to produce a male heir. Between the two of them and their wives, they have birthed three daughters and according to the law, the crown cannot be passed on to a female. An initiative was being drawn up to change this law, until one of the wives became pregnant and then the entire country held their breath and awaited the birth. A son was born and the unbroken line of emperors remained intact. This was an interesting political and cultural dilemma for Japan because the royal family holds no political power. The Prime Minister and the parliament, all of whom are elected officials, hold political power. Instead the Japanese monarchy represents a state religion, even though the Emperor cannot claim to be divine. Still, Japan heaved a sigh of relief when a son was born.
In America, we don’t anticipate the birth of a prince, or for that matter, a princess. We are a democracy and in theory we vote in order to be represented in all forms of government. America represents a level political playing field where, also in theory, a poor boy from Arkansas can become president or a woman can become Speaker of the House. Still, we have our own ‘royal families’ composed of old money and bloodlines. But instead of births we lie in wait for election years anticipating the political victory of a president or governor.
1 Samuel 8 in the Old Testament records Israel’s desire for a king. They were the only nation without one, and so they looked around and wanted to be like everybody else. They wanted a king who would represent them, who would lead them into battle and judge them. Israel was a theocracy, with God as their leader. God warned them about kings, about what kings wanted, expected and demanded. He told them a king would be their demise. Still, they asked for a king. And so, they got ‘em, a whole list of kings that divided their nation, fed their children to the fires of Molech, taxed and impoverished them. In the end, Israel waited and expected only that one King who would make everything right again. He would restore the monarchy and the nation.
The King who was born for Israel was not the King they had been expecting. Truly, not many Jews even acknowledged Him as King. He did not come and overthrow a government and He did not restore Israel as a nation. Instead, He turned water to wine, healed the sick, hung out with public enemies, and occasionally did some fishing. I don’t think this is the King I’d be expecting either. In fact, the carol I sang on Sunday went on to say that this King would set the oppressed free and I thought to myself, “27 million slaves exist in the world today, more than at any other time in human history. The expected King came, and the oppressed still are not free.”
I find myself getting caught up in that Kingdom where the oppressed are free, everyone has enough to eat, disease no longer exists, and everyone lives in equality. I believe in Kingdom living, a way of life that is gospel-centered and hinges on more than mere personal conversion, but on righteousness and justice that make up the foundation of Christ’s throne and lovingkindness and truth (Psalm 89:14) by which He leads and should be demonstrated toward all humanity. I recognize my own tendencies toward living in a materialistic fashion, and wonder how I can live in a more just and loving way.
I immerse myself in considering what it means to belong to Christ’s Kingdom, and forget to expect a King. My days are so filled with what I see as wrong with the world that I fail to recognize the importance of a King. A king represents his kingdom. This King is just, is righteous, is love, is truth, and because of who He is, so will His Kingdom be. I believe that Christ’s Kingdom can find immediacy on this earth and that I as a gospel follower must seek to represent both the Kingdom and the King. But how can this be done if I am not expecting Him?
In the Christmas stories of Matthew 2 and Luke 2, I read that when those who came to see the Baby realized who He was, they worshiped Him. They recognized that the One, the King they’d been expecting, had arrived. The import of His arrival, I am certain, was not lost on them. But they didn’t get caught up in what it would mean for their King to be born. It probably seemed odd to them that a King was born in a barn. But their focus did not remain on His poverty or on a coming Kingdom. Instead they simply brought their gifts, bent their knees, and worshiped.
The course of human history was changed because this King was born and I know that it should change the way I live my life. I hope I am changing a bit more each year because He was born. The future for me and for the world changed because this King was born and died and rose again. But this Advent season finds me hoping that I am changed because I am expecting Him, a King who is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Because of who He is, and not just the Kingdom He represents, I will worship.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
It’s Advent season and in church we are singing Christmas carols. This Sunday we sang one particular carol that spoke of the coming of a King. I know that as humans we try and fail to wrap our minds around God becoming flesh. I sang this carol and tried to wrap my mind around the coming of a King.
Posted by April at 12:56 PM
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
USCCB, for whom I loosely work, just issued this statement in regards to refugees and asylum seekers. Please read and respond...we are all just refugees, really, waiting for a country to call our own.
I write concerning a matter of utmost importance and urgency, which requires your active involvement in advocacy on behalf of refugees currently barred from the United States on account of an overly broad interpretation and application of U.S. anti-terrorism laws.
Thousands of refugees and asylum seekers are being prevented from receiving the asylum, resettlement, or permanent residence in this country they desperately need. Under U.S. anti-terrorism laws refugees, for example, have been barred from entering the U.S. because they were forced at the threat of death to provide "material support"- money, food, or other support-to an organization now broadly defined in U.S. law as a terrorist organization (including pro-democracy rebel groups.)The U.S. refugee resettlement program, a lifeline for those who flee oppression, has been undermined by the failure to resolve this crisis. Tens of thousands of refugees have been denied entry and asylum seekers here have had their cases rejected.We need you to generate grassroots letters written to President Bush about this problem. There are two particular requests that should be made of him:That he require the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State to recognize "duress" as a waiverable circumstance when considering refugee applicants; and That he support bi-partisan legislation, hopefully forthcoming in the new Congress, which legislatively fixes these unintended consequences of current law.
You can access a model letter and send it directly via email to the president by going to www.justiceforimmigrants.org/materialsupport.html .I encourage you to reach out to parishioners and others in the community to have as many letters as possible sent to the President.Ideally, letters can be sent on December 12, 2006 to the President. In this way, we have a better chance for impact. However, if you cannot get letters in on that particular day, please send them whenever you can.Thank you for your essential help on this important initiative. We will keep you informed about developments.
This message was sent from
Migration and Refugee Services
Office of Executive Director
3211 Fourth Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017
Posted by April at 1:07 PM
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
There are 27 million slaves in the world today...
more than at any other time in human history.
Posted by April at 1:10 PM
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
It's been a bit since I posted anything 'creative.' So, I thought I'd just say something about what I've been thinking about.
I'm in the process of joining a church, something I don't think I'd ever thought I'd do, but I'm excited about. I'm eager to covenant with other Believers and live a life of gratitude with them. There's just one thing I've been struggling with, and that is their position about women in the church. Now, I wouldn't call myself this die hard feminist, but I do believe that being a woman has made me more aware of those who are marginalized in the world, and therefore has shaped my calling. I'm also aware that I'm theologically conservative, for the most part, that is. That is why I feel comfortable becoming a member at my church, because it, too, is theologically conservative. I have also almost completely dedicated my life to social justice, which conservative groups are only just now beginning to awaken to. The church I've been going to, however, feels strongly about social justice and serving the poor, which is another reason I feel comfortable becoming a member.
But. The age old debate, the role of women in the church and, I guess, therefore in life, comes up and I'm faced with old ghosts. I haven't studied this issue extensively, but from what I can tell some of the hard and fast scriptures which support a male only clergy, are mostly cultural. Like headcoverings and holy kisses. Or slaves and scrubbing mildew off of walls. Additionally, I know Adam was made first and as a result of the Fall he would rule over Eve. But, it also seems that Eve was the crown of God's creation, created last as the final touch. Created to 'be as one who saves,' as that passage should most closely be translated (instead of helpmeet. The Hebrew word used here is used about 20 other times in the OT and each time it is in reference to God when we really need Him. And so it would seem, Eve appeared when Adam really needed her.) These thoughts are not my own, I read them in Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. Finally, because of Jesus we are living in a redemptive Kingdom, one that should try to see outside of the curse of the fall, and therefore past Adam's rule over Eve.
And. We are both created in the image of God. Male and Female, He made them. To silence one is to hide, even betray, part of that image and therefore keep us all from knowing more fully who God is and what He has to say to us.
So. Because of the area in which I work, I'm often thinking about the exploitation of women. My dad sent me this article the other day that mentioned some of the atrocities that are occuring to women all over the world. One of them is breast ironing where a young girls breast are ironed and beaten down when she begins to develop so that she is not atractive to any marauding men. This practice can so harm a woman that she is unable to breastfeed after she gives birth and her child may starve to death. There is also female circumcision, or female genital mutilation, which is supposed to keep a woman from enjoying sex and therefore keep her faithful to her husband. It can also cause her or her child to die during childbirth. As a result of childbirth, she may not heal correctly, leaking urine and feces, being shunned by her community and left to die. (I'm just trying to remember what I read, the article isn't in front of me...)
These practices don't occur here in the United States....mostly in Africa and Middle-Eastern countries. What do they have to do with the role of women in the church?
I think they may have everything to do with it. Since the beginning of time, women and children have been the most vulnerable creatures in creation. When devastation, war, or poverty hits, it is the women and children who suffer. As long as the majority of the church views women's roles as being different and in many ways less important, not equal to that of men's, then we are unable to truly fight any battle against the exploitation and marginalization of women elsewhere in the world. I know men, fathers and brothers, who after watching a special on Dateline about brothels in Thailand selling little girls for sex, were ready to jump on a plane and do their own raid Rambo style in order to liberate these little ones. Why is the same not true here in the United States? When many women who are hugely talented, immensely intelligent, and marvelously gifted are relegated to secretarial jobs and children's ministries, is the atrocity any less horrifying?
I believe the conservative, Evangelical American church will have little voice in the world of social justice if these matters regarding women are not settled. How can we tell a little girl in Cambodia she has worth, was created in the image of God, and therefore should not have to be a sex slave, when we also define that worth as something less than a man's. Does it not appall you to think that a mother irons away a young girl's breasts so she is not appealing to a man? It should also appall us when a young American woman irons away who she is in order to remain appealing to a man, in order to save her place in the conservative Evangelical church. This has happened, hundreds of thousands of times. And in so doing, we are missing part of the image of God.
These are my ramblings....but I think they are becoming convictions. I think I believe that the church has to change if we want to see change, if we believe in justice, if we believe in the redemptive Kingdom of God, if we believe in the gospel.
My dad had 4 daughters and no sons. He has 3 granddaughters with a fourth on the way. (Acutally there's 2 on the way, but one we're certain about and the other we won't know forsure until she's born.) We have all been born into privilege, and we were all born women. Once, years ago, the statistic for a woman being raped was 1 in 4...my dad told me that. It meant that statisically speaking, one of his daughters could be raped. The same could be true for his granddaughters. This kills me. The thought of one of my neices being mutilated or violated in any way, brings out the warrior in me...as it would for my dad also.
As a woman, I want to stand in my church, I want to stand in my community, I want to stand for my sisters, my neices, my girlfriends, and for ones far off who cannot stand. I also want to stand for my four nephews, who have yet to grow into men. And while I may stand rather quietly, I will stand all the same, as an equal, both in value and in role. I will stand as a woman of prayer, who believes that as the men who lead the church truly seek God, they will come to see that that which was far off has come close, and women are their equals as much as they are their partners. This will be social justice, this will be the voice of the church saying loudly and clearly, "We will not stand for the marginalization or exploitation of any human being."
Hopefully this sparks some conversation...
Posted by April at 6:19 PM
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
So, they've released the safest cities in the U.S.....Out of 371 cities that released certain information, Seattle was 262....San Bernardino was 348!!!! and St. Louis was....371. I'll be praying for you, my friends in St. Louis!
Portland wasn't on the list....
Posted by April at 9:45 AM
Monday, October 30, 2006
Posted by April at 2:57 PM
Nope, this time they were pumpkin bars for a little Murder Mystery party my sister and brother had at their home...for whom, I'll add, are so much more fun to make pumpkin bars for than the FBI. And they're nicer, too!
In these pics, you'll find my decidedly balding brother-in-law who was Hannibal Schlecter, the worlds only kosher eating cannibal...he bic-ed his head just for the event. It was decidedly creepy.
I'm Madam Aretha Garlique...a fortune teller who ends up being a vampire!
My sis wasn't in any of the photos, but she looked so great as Lizzie Bordeaux, a Frech hotelier.
And, as you can see, everybody had a good time, good wine, good food, good laughter...and I ended up dead!
Posted by April at 9:34 AM
Friday, October 27, 2006
I saw this movie a couple of weeks ago...and it really impacted me. In fact, I was surprised by how good it was since I wasn't expecting it. So, I recommend it but know that there is some language, sex, and other issues. But, 30,000 children die each day because of poverty and we seem to be able to handle that just fine. (When you see the movie you'll understand why I put in that last line...)
Posted by April at 12:42 PM
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
That's an increase of child internet porn in the last 10 years...a statistic that nauseates me as I think of all the little ones I know and love; my neices and nephews, my friend's kids, the children I have taught, the children I've nannied, the children's hands I've held in Calcutta, in Sri Lanka...all so vulnerable. My friend John sent me this email. I hope you join us by lighting a candle. A favorite verse of mine is this: Light illuminates the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
(Make sure to watch the TV commercial...it's powerful.)
The innocent victims of Internet child abuse cannot speak for themselves.
But you can.
With your help, we can eradicate this evil trade.
We do not need your money.
We need you to light a candle in support of
We're aiming to light at least One Million Candles by December 31, 2006.
This petition will be used to encourage governments, politicians, financial institutions, payment organisations, Internet service providers, technology companies and law enforcement agencies to eradicate the commercial viability of online child abuse.
They have the power to work together. You have the power to get them to take action.
Please light your candle at lightamillioncandles.com
Together, we can destroy the commercial viability of Internet child abuse sites that are destroying the lives of innocent children.
Posted by April at 3:58 PM
Please check out the new issue of The Other Journal: Earth to Christians.... and tell your friends!
You'll find the site listed on my side-tab...
Posted by April at 9:52 AM
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I've been re-discovering Amy Carmichael, if you will. She was a huge influence on me in college (through her writings and life story), and in the last 10 years or so I've explored other writings and people...but she so often hits it right on:
"He who begins, finishes; He who leads on, follows behind to deal in love with our poor attempts and our mistakes; to cause His blessed pardon to flow over our sins till they are utterly washed away; and to turn to flight the foe who would pursue after us. He is first and He is last, and we are gathered up between, as in the great arms of eternal lovingkindness."
I love those words...that I am caught up in the eternal arms of lovingkindness, those arms that time does not effect, and that love that my circumstance or sin cannot not change. He is first and He is last and we are gathered between...in a place of rest and refuge.
Posted by April at 1:13 PM
Monday, October 16, 2006
My sister was showing Jonah my blog and when he saw the pictures of me with his sister he said: where's the pictures of me and Bepo??? Here they are....
I went with Elisabeth and the kids to the Apple Festival at the Portland Nursery this weekend. Lots o' fun to be had....and plenty o' apples!
Posted by April at 12:39 PM
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Last night I decided to make muffins for a meeting our office was hosting with the victims specialists from the FBI and US Attorney's office. So, I went and bought muffin mix, cracked a few eggs, greased a few pans and suddenly realized: I'm making muffins for the FBI...
I also wanted to attach a link to an article my dad sent my about human trafficking...
Posted by April at 4:29 PM
Friday, October 06, 2006
A couple weeks ago my friend Kristen Compston, who I met and spent 4 months in Calcutta with, sent me this email about Darfur. I thought it was great and worth posting...
"last night i had the honor of hearing Paul Rusesabagina speak about his experience in Rwanda and how he feels that darfur is escalating to the same need for assistance that Rwanda was in the early 90's. this morning at work i was reading the paper and somewhere around page four or five there was an update on darfur. it said that the UN is considering sending troops to support the understaffed African peacekeeping force and to try and get Sudan to sign a peacekeeping agreement; which the UN acknowledges has a slim chance of working since Sudan has told them they don't want to make a peace agreement. call me crazy but it seems to me that this line of thinking hasn't worked that well in the past, why do we keep relying on it?"this is the twentieth century, not the middle ages. who would allow such crimes to be committed? how could the world remain silent? i have tried to keep memory alive, i have tried to fight those who would forget. because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices. i swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. we must take sides. neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented. sometimes we must interfere. when human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must- at that moment- become the center of the universe." -Elie WieselDarfur has been embroiled in a deadly conflict for over three years. At least 400,000 people have been killed; more than 2 million innocent civilians have been forced to flee their homes and now live in displaced-persons camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad; and more than 3.5 million men, women, and children are completely reliant on international aid for survival. Not since the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has the world seen such a calculated campaign of displacement, starvation, rape, and mass slaughter."how much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? for we know the one who said 'vengeance is mine; i will repay'. and again, 'the Lord will judge his people.' it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God." - hebrews 10.29-31this verse calms my anger that God is not idle, he is outraged my what has happened and what continues to happen all around the world. but it strikes fear into my own heart, as a believer i am God's plan to alleviate suffering in the world. how am i not joining with the oppressor when i hear that 400,000 people have died and do nothing, it doesn't affect my day in the least. it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.let this affect us, let is ruin our days, and break our hearts. join in the suffering of the millions of men and women of darfur. let their pain leak into our lives. "if we don't have courage we will do whatever we can to run from or alleviate our own pain. excessive entertainment, shopping, food, drugs, alcohol, sex, and even manic exercise are common opiates of our society. i, too, have tried to escape. but in the end, i have (mostly) turned around, looked suffering in the eye and stared it down. this is when the evil part of suffering loses it's power and becomes redemptive. but suffering is only redemptive when love is there." -The Cry, WMFso, if you've made it this far, all the way to the end of this email, don't just walk away unscathed, hurt, cry, get angry, do something. visit www.savedarfur.org and send letter to congress and the president, tell them that it's time to step in. fall in love with a cause deeper than ourselves so that we can all stand up and mean it when we say "we've had enough." "
Posted by April at 7:05 PM
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Here are a couple photo's of the Goertzen wedding that were sent to me by Angela, but taken by Daphne. I'd also like to include here what Angela wrote about the ceremony as what she said was lovely and captured the day:
This weekend I had the privilege of attending the wedding of Heather & Wes, who are dear to me even though I haven't spent a lot of time in the same city as them. They serve with Word Made Flesh in El Alto, Bolivia among exploited women and their children. Their wedding was the celebration of the great surprises God has in store for his children.The setting of the wedding was a beautifully deep greeny-blue back yard in Port Huron, Michigan with a creek running through it, chairs on the lawn, and a rustic chuppa draped with lace. The homily was a charge, a blessing, a celebration of sacrament. The Episcopalian father who delivered it reminded us that "sacrament" is defined as a visible sign of an inward grace. I think it was one of the most moving weddings I have attended. Their lives are concecrated first to the giver of that invisible grace and, as a mysterious blessing, a covenant and visible sign of that primary sacred bond, to one another.
It was even better getting to spend time with friends whose wisdom, humor, compassion and convictions are a blessing to me and to those around them. And who can forget the generous hospitality and plethora of pumpkin spice donuts provided by good old Tom Horton and Bob Newton? My favorite line of the weekend had to be: "This fillet o' fish is SO good." Or maybe: "My jacket is missing. I left it at Curves. You just get so hot working out."
I had such a great time seeing old friends, talking about India, dreaming for the future. Wish we all lived sooo much closer to one another...one day, one day.
Posted by April at 9:58 AM
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Posted by April at 9:34 AM
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
"In bad times good people must do more good, so that justice does not die."
from Afghanistan: Where God Only Comes to Weep
Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
and verse 27 of that same chapter:
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
Posted by April at 4:35 PM
Friday, September 15, 2006
and in the middle of a storm
he said: throw me in!
He would rather have died than live through the storm.
And then, he was swallowed.
By a whale.
Lewis says God shouts in our pain.
Storms can cause suffering,
but being in the belly of a whale,
had to hurt as much as any storm.
Still, he stayed, three days,
holding out, holding on.
Did God lose his voice?
Was Jonah deaf, dumb, or just selfish?
More willing to die holding on to what hurt the most,
than to let go and live?
Posted by April at 9:03 AM
Friday, September 08, 2006
I was honored to receive this email from the daughter of the man who pastored the church I attended in Calcutta.
I don't think we've met. I'm Kavita, the youngest of Vijayan's four daughters. He was visitng with me in Towson, Maryland when he had the heart attack. I wanted to let you know some details.
He had one heart attack while he was watering the garden in my home. He didnt tell us. We heard of it much later. He suffered with the discomfort all night and then in the morning, my sister's brother-in-law's wife who is a nurse came to do a quick check up. We the took him to the ER where he suffered a second heart attack. The first heart attack blew a hole in the wall separating the two chambers, the second heart attack just made it worse.
He was in the ICU for four days in a St. Joseph Medical Center just 5 minutes down the street from my house. The doctor said that open heart surgery was inevitable but it would be dangerous at the same time because he wasnt sure if my dad would make the recovery he needed.
We were all sure my father would make it. This man faced challenges every day, faced death so many times and came through victorious....we knew he would pull through. What we did not know that God was arranging to take my father home to Him and He did everything so well, perfected every detail.
My mother heard the news, a friend from the US bought her a ticket and within a few hours she was on a plane. She was in the air when the madness hit London with that whole terorrist scare. But like I said, God arranged everything and her flight was the last one to leave Mumbai before they cancelled all flights to Heathrow.
Sh was only a few hours late - another miracle. She came straight to the hospital. My father was overyjoyed, the graph dangerously fluctuating on the monitor screen.
We had three wonderful days together in the room in the ICU. my sister and her husband. My mom. My husband and I. We laughed, prayed and talked. My father had a balloon pump assisting his heart and he had to lay very flat and still but he was just as cheerful, just as lively. News of him spread throughout the hospital and the doctors and nurses just loved him. They said there was something different about him. Some called him a "holy man". But he was just simple, loving Vijayan, concerned about the nurses and their long work hours.
On the day of the surgery we prayed together and sang his favorite songs. He closed his eyes, raised his hands and said 'I have perfect peace. This will be for the glory of God." We all said goodbye. That were the last few words that he spoke.
The surgery was supposed to be 3 and 1/2 hours long. It took almost 9 hours. The doctors later said that his heart was so damaged it was like sewing on cheese. The sutures to repair the patch burst open right as they were ready to close him up. They had to redo the entire procedure.
He was in a stable condition for a day and a half before everything started to go downhill. His blood pressure really fluctuated. His heart was not pumping adequately to support his body. His kidneys started to deteriorate. They started dialysis. This whole time they kept him heavily sedated and on a ventilator so he could not speak or open his eyes but they told us he could still hear. So we encouraged him and loved him and prayed.
They tried one last effort to help his heart heal. It didnt work. They called us in on Saturday morning and told us to get ready to say farewell to our beloved Daddy. I will never forget that ride to the hospital.
We surrounded him all day. People travelled from as far as Colorado that day just to get a chance to see him. I sang his favorite song close to his ear.
Finally at 2:25 AM on Sunday morning, the machines started beeping. One by one, the machines shut down. We clung to him.
The nurses were so kind. They wept with us. I will never forget the kindness and compassion shown to my father and all of us in that hospital. So the question was asked by many here in Calcutta: Why did God take Daddy to one of the best cardiac hospitals if he knew he wasnt going to make it? Why did he have to go all the way to America?
These are our thoughts regarding those questions: My father's whole life was spent in service for others. In many way, I feel his heart was physically broken with the pain and suffering that he took on himself. He always, always showed kindness to those in need, even to those who were undeserving. I feel that God, who loved Daddy far more than any of us, wanted to show him the same kindness and compassion in his last few days on earth. Honestly, the care imparted to him by those nurses and doctors was really, really special. They were so kind even to us, his family. Just the way they spoke was so encouraging and gentle. It would not have been the same in India.
Even though those last few days in the hospital brought many visitors, we stildl had some wonderful, private, family times of togetherness and fellowship. That also would have been difficult here.
There are other many details that prove that God's hand was in all of this. So we have no questions. We accept that God called His faithful servant home. We miss him terribly. The loss at times is unbearable. The man who spoke at his funeral, Dr. Tony Sargent said that 'Vijayan was a man who was twice alive". Its true. Thats why he's left such a deep void.
At the same time, we are witnessing the fruit of his labor. The entire ministry and church has shown amazing unity. My mother will be taking over. SHe spoke at the funeral. It was awe-inspiring. The funeral was so unique - it was more like a celebration of his life. he would have liked it. God got all the glory, just like he said.
I want to thank you from the family for what you wrote in your journal. You captured the heart of my father. He truly did weep for the city of Calcutta. I saw that many many times. It is true that something beautiful that once was, is gone. You are right. Things will not be the same. But I believe that his dream will continue. He instilled something in us that will never die. We will continue what he started.
Posted by April at 9:45 AM
Friday, September 01, 2006
A couple weeks ago in church, the speaker said that what people long for most is beauty...
I wonder about this thought. At first I agreed. But then I began to reconsider...and I wondered if we in white upperclass America too easily run to things like beauty and say it is what we long for most, when those in other cultures, especially cultures of poverty, would have a differing response.
Perhaps, what we long for most, no matter the culture, no matter a person's story, is to belong.
Posted by April at 3:48 PM
Friday, August 25, 2006
Today I was reading a post on my friend Kristin's site, and I heard the sad news that the pastor of the church I attended in Calcutta died suddenly of a massive heart attack.
The news left me in tears at my computer at work. It was as if, for me, suddenly, a piece of India had died.
This man was an amazing pastor. He and his wife ran Emmanuel Ministries in Calcutta, which, just to name a few of the many ministries they ran, served those in alcohol and drug recovery (with rehab homes), feeding and educating children, and a ministry to rickshaw pullers.
I was visiting with the pastor's wife one day while I was in Calcutta, and a picture of the pastor talking to a rickshaw puller caught my eye. I wish I could post the picture with this entry, but I will try and describe it to you. You must know that rickshaw pullers are a sorry lot of man, a human horse. Typically, they are without shoes, maybe sandals. They are very lean, from running all over the city, pulling over-weight men and women as they do their errands. They hold onto pieces of wood in their hands, pulling a wagon type device behind them. It is hot in Calcutta, and this is hard work. I've heard it said that Calcutta is the last place on earth where this type of work is still legal. Rickshaw pullers do not live very long, as the work is a hard strain on the human body.
Rickshaw pullers are of the lowest caste. They are despised, rejected, neglected. No one pays them much attention, much less cares for them. But this pastor, who was an Indian himself, would sit with these men, talking, giving them water, shoes, or rain gear during monsoon season. I said to his wife: I love this picture. She smiled and said she did, too. She said that once her husband saw someone beating a rickshaw puller. He ran into the fight, stopping the beating. The man who was doing the beathing asked the pastor: Why do you stop me? The pastor said: Because this man is my brother.
The weeks I sat in the pastor's church were healing ones for me. On Mother's Day he had every woman in the church stand, and he said: All over the world today, mother's are being celebrated. But I believe every woman should be celebrated, for each is born with special gifts, extraordinary talents that we desperately need. Today should not just be Mother's Day, it should be Woman's Day. And then he prayed for us. I cried that day. I am not a mother, but I am a woman, and it felt to me, that for the first time ever in church, I was being acknowledged for all that I was, and celebrated besides.
This pastor made me want to go to church again. He inspired me to believe in a church's leadership and in the calling of the church as the Kingdom of God. In the far reaches of India, in a little town called Calcutta, I found some healing from the hurt I'd experienced in churches. This man, to me, was truly my pastor.
He is gone. I've heard that those he pastored could only respond to the sad news with these words: Today he is with Jesus.
And I am sad, although I know I do not grieve like those who do not have hope. But for me, a part of what was precious in Calcutta, a part of the beauty I experienced and the change I found in India, is gone.
But, I am also glad to remember. I am glad and I am thankful to have known such a good man. I wish you could have seen how he loved those he pastored...how he loved India, how he longed to gather Calcutta like a hen gathers her chicks. He was a man of the Kingdom, and I wait with eagerness to see him again.
Please pray for those he leaves behind. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it cannot bear fruit...so please pray that the fruit that is left behind is 100 times greater than any he saw in his life.
Just to end, when I sat with his wife, we were talking about educating a little girl my friend and I had befriended. It was my belief that unless this little girl received an education, and a good one, that her prospects in life would be slim. His wife listened to me, nodded and said: Does this little girl love Jesus?
In the end, it's all that really matters. It is what this Kingdom is about, because we love Him our lives will be different. Not because we are educated, not because we have good paying jobs, not because we are married or having children, not because our prospects for retirement are good. But because we love Him. And not that we love Him, but that He loved us...
Posted by April at 6:54 PM
Thursday, August 24, 2006
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Posted by April at 3:19 PM
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Posted by April at 5:05 PM
This is a must for any parent who cares about the spiritual welfare, or warfare, of their children. My sister and I especially think the head-dresses are appropriate.
Posted by April at 1:17 PM
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Today is Mary's day...thought I'd post something in her honor.
She's the greatest friend I've ever had, one of the most beautiful women I've ever known. Mary is strong and smart and has a great sense of humor. She has a remarkable sense of the beautiful, whether it be in art, music, decorating, ministry, friendship, marriage, or children. She brings so much life whever she is. I'm wishing I was with her today, to spend the day with her...
My love to you, sweetest friend.
Posted by April at 9:41 AM
My friend Zach sent me the following quote yesterday. I'm sure it has something to do with the "random question" I answered on my profile....
''Feminist author Linda Hirshman is here. I'll explain to her that a woman needs a man like a fish needs to be cooked and served to me for dinner by a woman on a bicycle.''
STEPHEN COLBERT, ON THE COLBERT REPORT
Since the early '90's when I was at Multnomah, I've had guy friends give me things with the old saying: A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. I still have a t-shirt from college that was given to me by Brian, Jason, and Pat. Although, that may have had more to do with U2 using the saying as the lyrics in a song...
It's not true....I dont' believe it. Women need men....as much as men need women. As much as a fish may need a bicycle when it tires of swimming.
Posted by April at 9:16 AM
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Dave sent me the poem that goes along with the painting by VerMeer that I posted earlier. Dave says I'm a poetry snob, making reference to a comment I made once about poetry that he listened to in some sort of a jam session. Today I post the poem he sent me to a) show that I am able to appreciate all types of poetry and b) I especially appreciate good poetry...which I believe you will find here. So call me a snob. :)
There is no flattery here: this thick-muscled,
broad-bottomed girl has milked
cows at dawn and carried sloshing pails
hung from a yoke on shoulders
broadened to the task. She has kneaded fat
mounds of dough, sinking heavy fists deep
into voluptuous bread, innocent
and sensuous as a child in spring mud.
Evenings she mends and patches
the coarse wool of her bodice, smelling
her own sweat, sweet like grass and dung
fresh from the udder.
Her world is grained and gritty, deep-textured,
rough-hewn, earth-toned, solid,
simple and crude. Reed and brass and clay,
wheat and flax and plaster turned to human use
have not come far from the loamy fields
where they were mined and gathered. The things
she handles are round and square, tough-fibered
and strong, familiar as flesh to the touch.
The jug rests in her hand like a baby's
bottom. She bends to her task like a mother
tending her child, hand and eye trained
to this work, heart left to its pondering.
How like tenderness, this look
of complete attention, how like a prayer
that blesses these loaves, this milk
(round like this belly, full like this breast),
given daily into her keeping, this handmaid
on whom the light falls,
haloed in white, hallowed by the gaze
that sees her thus, heavy, thick-lipped,
weathered and earthbound, blessed
and full of grace.
I'm not sure who the author is...but isn't it beautiful?
Posted by April at 6:02 PM
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Monday, August 14, 2006
Last Saturday I took part in what Imago Dei Community (the church I am attending) calls Sacred Space. Basically, about 40 different groups of people from the church came together all over Portland and did various projects within the community. Projects differed from landscaping a run-down park to passing out food to low-income families. I was a part of distributing food to families. I took my nephew Jonah, who is 5 1/2 because I thought it would be cool for him to see how other people live, play with some kids who don't have very much, and also pass out food. I hoped it would be a time for him to see the Kingdom here on earth.
I told Jonah about what we were going to do and that I'd need his help getting the work done...I've never seen a 5 year old work so hard. He jumped in the truck that stored all the food and started hauling heavy boxes as if the whole project depended on him. It was such a blessing to me to see this little guy, who I also had the privilege of seeing be born, work so hard for something where he had little to gain. I hope he remembers this day...I hope it is embedded in his heart that the Kingdom we belong to is real and is all around us everyday, if we are willing to see and take the risk to be a part of it.
Tonight, I was leaving the house (I currently stay with my sister and her family) and Jonah said: Where you goin' Bepo? (When he was little April sounded like Bepo and it's a name that has stuck.) He was working out in the garage with his dad on their '64 Impala. They were both squatting in front of a tire, looking under the carriage. And they were both wearing these blue rubber work gloves. As I began to drive away, Jonah came out of the garage wearing these gloves, which were much to big for his little boy hands, and made the 'i love you' sign.
Such sweet moments.
Posted by April at 7:39 PM
Friday, August 11, 2006
This week was big for me.
I learned how to post a blog.
I bought my first ebay item!
I received a new cell phone in the mail with bluetooth capability...whatever that is. (Learning about it would require reading an owner's manual...which I have never been very good at doing. If I can't figure it out by either looking at it or breezing through the directions, it's probably too complicated for anyone's good.)
I better be careful, next thing you know I'll own an ipod and be downloading music.
It's not that I don't like technology...it's great. It's just that sometimes, I'm really not interested and I'd rather spend my time slipping a cd into a player rather than spending hours downloading a bunch of songs onto a computer chip. I'd rather be eating chips. Not to mention the thousand of hours it would take me to actually learn how to download music, because I'd probably have to read a manual. Don't get me wrong, I love ipods; they're so handy. But if I bought one, I think I'd hand it off to someone to put music on it.
This has been a big month for me. Exactly one month ago today I started working at Catholic Charities Oregon as the senior case manager for victims of human trafficking. For the last 30 days or so, I've been immersed in learning legal terminology, how to deal with grants, and sitting with people whose entire lives have been broken. I also spent a good amount of time frantically searching craigslist for a place to live, scouting out open houses, feeling very predatory.
This month, I have not spent much time sleeping. Nor have I spent much time in communication with friends. I've not written a word....well, in an organized way, that is, towards a publishing end, since before I moved.
And now I sit, considering time, and how it passes so quickly. In the last year, I have lived with 4 different families: the Herreros, the Reids, my parents, and now my sister's family. In between, I had my own place. Next week I will move into my own little apartment again. I have worked 2 major jobs, as well as just readjusting to life after being in Calcutta.
I think I am reeling. Technology, new places, new jobs, and me, trying to hold it all together.
At 3a.m. last night, or early this morning, I woke up, which has become a sort of normal occurance for me. I wake up, use the bathroom, and lay in bed for almost 2 hours before I finally fall asleep again. But last night, it was different. I still woke up, but as I was trying to sleep, trying to make myself fall asleep, I realized I can't hold it all together. Time will pass, techonology will change, and I may even be forced to learn how to download music or learn about bluetooth capabilities, but, no matter how hard I try, I won't ever be able to make myself fall asleep. No matter how hard I try, a slice of my life exists that I can't learn to overcome. Not even by reading a manual.
And so, I prayed, because I was humbled. I was humbled to think that this woman, who is so fragile and tries so desperately to keep herself from falling to pieces, is woken in the middle of the night, when she is finally silent and vulnerable, to talk with God.
So, we talked. Mostly I lay before Him what is heavy on my heart, these people I work with whose courage and determination daily humble me. I lay before Him the longings of my heart, which also remind me how I humbly walk before a God who ordains each moment of my life, time spent that I can be anxious about, or in which I can find rest.
I fell asleep, almost begrudgingly because I knew what I was experiencing was sweet. But the rest I experienced was also sweet. I woke to a day spent sorting through immigration visas, police reports, and brothel raids. I woke wondering why it is I who finds myself in this place, at this time, where I never thought I would be. He does more than I can imagine...which may include learning about bluetooth technology.
Posted by April at 3:00 PM
Thursday, August 10, 2006
A few months ago, someone I knew was killed in a car accident. The story of this abrupt death was told in several church services and many came to Jesus because of it. Which, on the whole, is good and feels as if this life taken too early had at least some reason.
But I ask myself, is that all this life is about, an attempt to cause us to choose salvation? And do it today, because tomorrow you may die!
When a life was lost. And while we know that this young person is with Christ, there is the loss we feel here. We experience the tragedy that this young life is over before it had hardly begun. And so, there must be that in us which understands that in serving Christ we are doing more than escaping Hell, or we wouldn't experience the tragedy, that loss of a life too shortly lived.
Salvation is important, it is essential, but not only in order to evade Hell.
Salvation reminds us why we were created, what we were created for. It anchors us in the present- it inspires and drives and burdens us. It reminds us of air we breathe and loss we suffer. It washes our lives in sacrifice because we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb that was sacrificed for us. It causes us to want to give our lives away because we have been saved by a Life that was given away. And it reminds us that in the paradox of giving life, we find life.
Salvation is about worship- because at it's very heart we are remembering who we are and who God is. I am in awe of my salvation not only because I am saved from Hell, but because in the being saved I am given the gift of living a true life.
Posted by April at 7:23 PM
Monday, August 07, 2006
1. One book that changed your life:
10 years ago I read Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire and it did 2 things: let me know it was okay to be who I am and see things the way I do, and, two, spurred me on to get the heck out of Dodge so I could indeed be who I am.
2.One book that you've read more than once:
This Proud Heart by Pearl S. Buck
3. One book that you'd want on a desert island:
Does an empty, very big journal count? otherwise....I'd have to say the Bible because a) it is life and it is truth and b) the variety of genres it contains, quality of characters and stories....it'd be good to have.
4. One book that made you laugh:
Blue Like Jazz....I'm sure there are others, but I remember being miserable in Calcutta and luaghing out loud at this book....remember, Melissa?
5. One book that made you cry:
We Were the Mulvaneys
6. One book you wish had been written:
The ones I want to write....
7. One book you wish had never been written:
Anything by Pamela Anderson
8. One book you are currently reading:
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
9. One book you've been meaning to read:
The Brothers Karamozov (sp?)
10. Now tag 5 people:
No one else I know has a blog!
I'll try Courtney again (that's 2 times you've been tagged, Court!)
Posted by April at 7:18 PM
Sunday, August 06, 2006
"I profess, and to my last breath I shall profess it, that both in body and soul, in everything, whether in prosperity or adversity, you provide for me in the way that is most suitable...with one and uncreated wisdom, my sweetest God, reaching from end to end mightily and ordering all things sweetly." Gertrude the Great
This evening I sat on my sister's front porch in Portland and ate my dinner. It's a warm August night, and as the sun set, it hit me squarely, making me squint as its beams flooded my eye. I had a glass of wine and combined with the dinner I ate, warm sun, full tummy, and what is becoming normal exhaustion for me, I was a bit sleepy.
Ah- and then a cool breeze- is there anything on earth like an Oregon summer? At times like this I am convinced He does order all things sweetly.
Posted by April at 8:25 PM
Saturday, August 05, 2006
I'm learning some new things today...like how to post a blog, which i've never done.
And I'm learning how faith is like metaphor...and how it isn't perfect, it's messy. and that's okay.
I'm realizing how much my life resembles time i spent in calcutta..
It's late, this day, and I am sleepy...so I won't say much more. Except, that in this day, I was humbled by the gifts I've been given, by the way God speaks to me, and a lovingkindness that won't let me go.
Posted by April at 10:57 PM