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...
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.
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