Friday, October 28, 2011

Todo el Mundo, en sus Manos

Throughout the month I spent in Colombia I struggled to see how people could maintain hope amidst such crisis. The people of Urabá face a reality radically different than I do. They are imprisoned by poverty, living on land that is not theirs, yearning for the land that was taken away from them. They deal with political corruption which makes any corruption in the U.S. look like child's play. They face the threat of violence from paramilitary at all hours of the day.

I could not understand how they hold on to hope.

We spent a lot of time with kids while we were there, probably because kids are more bold and willing to talk to us foreigners. All of them were eager to practice their English skills and learn more. We found ourselves teaching them a lot of songs, one of their favorite being "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." We spent a lot of time in our apartment in Apartado teaching this song to a 6 year old whom I'll call Marcella. On our final day in the city, when the taxi pulled up to take us to the airport, Marcella hurriedly asked us to go over the words with her one more time. As we drove away I watched her out of the rear window of the cab, going through the hand motions, singing the song to herself.

I was grateful to be wearing sunglasses, as they hid the tears welling up in my eyes. This is the image of Colombia that I cling to, months after my time there. A young girl, immersed in a chaotic context, holding on to hope. Trusting in God's providence. Resting in the assurance that the whole world is in God's hands. I now realize that when a person lives in a place that is unstable, she won't put her trust in things of the world. She'll put her trust in God, the only constant, stable thing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gross Day

Today was one of those days when I wanted to throw in the towel and walk away. I'm currently working on a paper on atonement, an assignment that has got my head spinning. I thought I had a grasp on it this afternoon, but when I sat down with it again this evening I was lost. I fought the urge to keep working on it into the wee hours of the night, but I decided to go meet up with an old friend who is in town. Sometimes taking a break is a good thing. After seeing friends and being reminded that there's more to this seminary thing than cranking out papers, I felt recharged and ready to go.

And then my dog rolled in shit.

The stress and frustration of the day came pouring back in. I was on the verge of major tears as I hosed her off outside, realizing it was going to take several baths to get the stench out. I cussed under my breath as we walked up the stairs, realizing that my apartment was going to stink because of my dog. And then I calmed down as I bathed her, realizing that she's a dog. Dogs roll in poo. This 10 minutes of bath time turned into a reflection time over my day.

I thought about how wonderful it was to drink my tea this morning.
About how much I enjoyed my classes this morning.
I thought about my friend who took the time to tell me about her understanding of atonement, which gave me great insight.
About the break I took from writing when I picked up my clarinet and worked through the major scales.
I thought about how much I love having classes with close friends and with people I don't know very well.
I thought about the two hours I spent at the public library this evening, trudging through my paper, but loving the sound of children giggling at the book they were reading.
About how much I enjoy conversation over beers at the Local, and how sad I'll be when all but three people at that table tonight will be leaving next year.
About awkward, wonderful hugs in the middle of the street.
And I thought about how grateful I am for a patient boyfriend who is willing to help me walk the dogs.

It seems peculiar that I close out this day thinking it was a not so great day, when really the list indicates that there was a great deal of beauty in it.

For that I am grateful.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Colombian Free Trade Agreement

Today President Obama signed the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. My heart laments as I think about what this means for the future of the people of Colombia. Here is a quote from this website regarding the "losers" in this deal:

"Losers are expected to include small producers in rural and urban areas, and small farmers. These will certainly constitute a reservoir of “crises” for the insurgency and organized crime to draw upon. In other words, the FTA, in spite of benefiting a few winners, might generate enough violence amongst to the greater number of losers, which could erode the economic gains of everyone!"

Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Remembering Laughter

Remembering LaughterRemembering Laughter by Wallace Stegner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This little book is full of wonderful reflections on life. Stegner creates a story which draws the reader into a dreary world of pain and resentment. It is honest and it is beautiful. As soon as I finished I wanted to start from the beginning and read it again.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 10, 2011

Walking Far From Home

While in Colombia we did a fair amount of walking. Some weeks more than others. This made me think of Iron & Wine's song "Walking Far From Home." Check out the youtube if you haven't heard it.

I decided to write my own version of this song, using similar lyrics. Hopefully I don't get arrested for Copyright issues.

I was walking far from home
Where the potholes could swallow mid sized cars
Saw a giant sanctuary
But the church was so small, church was so small
I saw downpours, lots of storms, and a shantytown full of poverty
I saw piglets in a pen, they cried out for release, out for release

I was walking far from home,
But I carried your love in my heart
I saw merchants, selling goods, just trying to get by, trying to get by
I saw hunger, and Compassion,
I saw tears and a few of them were mine,
I saw children who were smiling, but their hearts were so hard, hearts were so hard

I was walking far from home,
And I thought about our foreign policy.
Saw a field full of bananas, and the plantains were also nearby,
I saw knitted little dresses, handmade with care and with love.
A sleeping man on the bus, fatigue set in, fatigue set in.

I saw iguanas on a bridge and a theater pumping the A/C.
Saw a soldier with a gun who was guarding the road, guarding the road.
Saw an old man, in his home, where he sits and he weeps, sits and he weeps.
I saw families in their hammocks, swinging to and fro, to and fro

Saw a turkey with a tumor, and some chickens in search of some food.
I saw babies want their mommas, crying out for some milk, out for some milk.
Saw mountains, saw an ocean, I saw driftwood and debris on the beach.
Young men on their motos, cruising all around town, cruising all around town
I saw small homes with dirt floors, housing so many ones, so many ones.
I saw a woman, learning to read at the age of 62.

I was walking far from home, where the potholes could swallow mid sized cars
Saw how God is working there, and liberating people, liberating people.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Accompanier Report #4

Here is the final accompanier report I submitted. Life at seminary is starting to calm down, so hopefully I'll sit down to write very soon!

Questions of Faith, Theology and Politics in Urabá.
From Urabá-based accompaniers Becca Weaver and Kelsey White, received 3rd September, 2011. (Linda’s note: Becca and Kelsey have been back in the U.S. for a while now. I held back this report until we were through some of the “excitement” of Antonio’s disappearance, and Colombia FTA advocacy work. As the latter still continues, perhaps we should consider the conclusion of the Colombian church, reported here, that “the social and public dimension of Christian faith pushes toward a social-political commitment”. They come to that conclusion in a context where to do so is far more dangerous than it is here. Let’s take encouragement and strength from their commitment and courage. If you haven't already signed up for Colombia Advocacy alerts at - top right of the page - then maybe now's the time to do so.)

One of the best ways to understand a church is not to look at the answers they give, but to look at the questions they ask. The church in Colombia is asking a heavy question: “What should the church be doing for the world today?” We saw how the church is trying to answer that question. They take care of each other and minister to those who have been displaced. They provide space for Compassion schools, giving the children of the community a safe place to learn and be empowered. And they are seriously considering the church’s role in the politics of Colombia, discerning how they should be getting involved in bringing social justice to their country.

We got a taste for the dialogue on church and state at the first ever Seminar on Faith, Theology and Politics hosted by the Presbyterian Church, and open to all Protestant Churches in Urabá. We weren’t sure what this seminar would be like, but we knew this day would be a unique experience when a rambling, colorful bus called a Chiva, or “party bus,” came to pick us up. We arrived in style and found ourselves at the Inter-American Church in Apartadó where roughly 200 people were gathered.

The first speaker gave a message about how the church can no longer overlook the injustices that are going on in Colombia, encouraging the use of faith when considering politics. His rhetoric and mannerisms were reminiscent of Biblical prophets who spoke with conviction about the injustices of the times. Next, we heard about the history of the Presbyterian Church in Colombia, which was a fascinating look at how the church came to be.

Finally, one of the elders of the Central Presbytery examined passages of scripture, looking at how faith and politics are related. He used 1 Samuel 8, Romans 13, and John 11 which all address the relationship between church and state. This thorough examination of scripture made it clear that church in Colombia has spent much time with the Bible, discerning how they should respond to the situation in their country. The elder concluded his presentation with a theological reflection on how salvation is related to social and economic issues, therefore theology must be political if there is to be change in the policies that are oppressing the citizens. This indispensable social and public dimension of Christian faith pushes toward a social-political commitment, considering the needs of the people, especially the weakest and poorest. In his final statement he acknowledged that Colombia is living in turbulent times of political disillusionment, but that isn’t a reason to give up hope. Now more than ever Christians must engage in the socio-political realm, to seek out a better way, one that liberates the people.

Hearing this message was encouraging and our hope is that the momentum continues. This was a reminder that the church is the greatest hope for the broken world.

Accompanier Report #3

My colleague Kelsey wrote this beautiful accompanier report about the women we met in Currulao.

Women of strength and faith in Currulao.
From Urabá-based accompaniers Becca Weaver and Kelsey White, received 24th August, 2011.
"Mujeres de fuerza y fe: Presbyterian Women of Currulao"

We recently spent around five days in the large settlement of Currulao, widely recognized as the epicenter of displacement in Urabá. Although both of us had previously traveled in developing nations, Currulao presented something of a shock compared to our reasonably sheltered experience in El Tres. The poverty here seemed somehow more visible, the close-clustered houses more humbly constructed, the muddy roads more deeply rutted, the children and animals more apparently malnourished. Also clearly evident were the effects that violence and social instability have had on family structures here: most of the adult church members in Currulao are single, and many are widows or widowers due to violence or illness. Of those widowed, the vast majority are women and single heads of household who often struggle to survive and support their families, a pattern that repeats itself across Urabá.

As the days passed, we found ourselves astounded by the diverse yet unified experience of the women in Currulao. They are small business owners, teachers, students, artists, farmers, fiercely dedicated mothers and grandmothers. They are elders, deacons, worship leaders, fundraisers, tireless supporters of their church and community. With much respect to our brothers in the faith, in a country where "machismo" remains a daily reality, we felt a sense of sacred comfort in the company of these sisters. The sketches below offer snapshots of our time spent with four women in Currulao, who either shepherded us through busy days or welcomed us into their homes for visits.

• At the front of her house is a tienda stocking basic groceries and household items; in the backyard, pigs snort and chickens cluck in a small farming operation. "Noemí" is one church member who has proved that she has a keen sense for business. A mother of four sons who is now also raising a young niece, Noemí recounted her experiences using microloans from a local bank for women to build her two small businesses, including the backyard farm that raises funds to support church activities. She proudly sold us several items from her store, making sure that we chose the highest quality products!

• When "Marina" showed up with her children in tow, we immediately noticed the colorful outfit worn by her three-year-old daughter: hot pink crocheted overalls topped with a crocheted hat, electric blue and embellished with a flower. As we ooh'ed and aah'ed over the detailed work, she casually mentioned that she had made both pieces by hand. "It's easy," she shrugged, as she pulled skirts, hats, shawls, belts, and bags of all colors from a wardrobe in her bedroom, "I do it to pass the time." Despite her modesty, Marina's knitted and crocheted clothing is nothing short of artwork! As amateur knitters ourselves, we were in awe of her creativity and skill.

• A shelf overflowing with books was our first clue that "Dora" had been privileged in terms of education. A lifelong Presbyterian, she teaches at a local colegio, where she puts her "whole heart" into working with her students. Dora explains that she enjoys combining her love for natural science with her primary subject, Spanish, in order to teach her students practical lessons like caring for the environment. She applauded Becca for studying ministry and theology, saying she believes it necessary to hear a feminine perspective from the pulpit.

• In the face of the tragedy and horror that many Colombians have experienced, a sense of humor is both a blessing and a necessity. "Anabel," a deacon in the church, kept us in wonderful spirits, responding to everyday interactions and mishaps with a quirky and subversive wit. Anabel's life has not been without hardship: she has given birth to eleven children, three of whom have died, and she now lives as a widowed woman in a small house with her grown daughter and infant granddaughter. She remains firm in her faith, confident in the belief that God is leading her through life. In addition to her faith and her immense care for others, Anabel's indomitable sense of humor undoubtedly keeps her going.

Our prayers go with these and other "mujeres de fuerza y fe" whom we've met in Colombia, these women of strength and faith whose impact on our lives and our understanding will not soon be forgotten.