Monthly Archives: February 2012

Lent…

season of temptation
tantalized with the forbidden
(though self-imposed)
limitations force the hidden
into view

at worst little more than a mind-fuck
creating obsession where thoughtlessness prevailed
frustration out of abundance
desire replacing the carefree

foibles exposed by preoccupation
freighted with shame
this is good?

give up…

season of seduction
enchanted by abundance
toy around the edges of the holy
enticed to consider others

at best faults are a reminder:
tempting me towards forgiveness
to fool around with fidelity
to eat at the table unworthily

to be allured by the divine temptress
to laugh and levitate relations
to lace with love; garnish with grace
this is good.

give in…

 
you know you wanna…

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MK mischief…

My family furloughed from the mission field in 1985.  “Furlough” consisted of returning to your ‘homeland’ for one  out of every five years, and raising funds for the next four years’ ministry expenses.  During this furlough my family was invited to be the ‘missionaries in residence’ at the denominational college in the midwest.  We were provided a home to live in, fully furnished.  And in return, my folks made appearances in chapel services, taught some occasional classes, and just generally were available for students to talk to.  On top of these obligations to the local college, my folks traveled and spoke around the country, fundraising.  Mom indicates she and dad were gone 47 of the 52 weeks that year.  Meanwhile, my brother and I enrolled in classes in the local high school (he was a junior, I a freshman) and went about our business.  We were quite independent by this point–largely because we’d already been at boarding school for several years.

My folks met all sorts of people as they traveled and spoke, and often they would drop by the house to meet my brother and me if they happened to be visiting campus.  Neither of us kids found these little encounters much fun, as we didn’t know the visitors (we’d not previously met them) and often they were intrusive–assuming unwarranted familiarity.  They would tour the house, ask us kids to speak ‘that language’ or to sing or ‘tell missionary stories’.  We were much like a petting zoo–interactive yet none-the-less on display.

Mom phoned us and let us know one day that a couple they’d recently met would be coming up to the campus that weekend.  All we knew about this couple were their names.  Mom said she and dad had offered to let them stay at the house, instead of having to pay for hotel during their visit to campus.  She told us she’d describe us kids to this couple, and they were nice and would enjoy meeting us.

My brother and I put our heads together, irritated that once again we were stuck entertaining the masses.  Then it hit us: it wasn’t just that we didn’t know this couple–THIS COUPLE DID NOT KNOW US. We schemed with two of our highschool friends (a guy and a girl) to come spend the weekend at our house pretending to be us.  They could tell “New Guinea missionary stories” and no-one would know the difference.  They assumed our identities, and my  brother and I headed out on the train for a weekend in Chicago–sleeping in the bus terminal one night, and O’Hare airport the second.  We never said a word to anyone about the switch.

Then one day, months later, dad announced that we would not be returning to the mission field: instead, he was going to be taking a pastorate in the States.  To our surprise (and subsequent horror) the church he was now going to pastor was this couple’s home church.  My brother and I were now their pastor’s kids.  We had a lot of explaining to do.

Indeed, “your sins will find you out”.

Global litter…

I had an enlightening conversation this morning with  a Nigerian cab driver who talked about Nigeria prior to discovering its oil, and how oil corrupted his people and his homeland.  He spoke of the hopelessness of his generation and how “Nigerians now litter the world because we have no future in our homeland.”  He described how he’d promised himself that he’d only come to the U.S. for four years, then he would return home–but how much had changed at home in those four years, and how he realized that as much as he missed it, he could never make a life there for a family.  Many of his college mates have been assassinated for trying to evoke positive, moral change on behalf of their country’s poor.  And he expressed disgust at his own betrayal: earning a living dependant upon the very industry which ruined his nation.  He has now been in the U.S. (legitimately) for 34 years.  It was a gut wrenching, heart breaking conversation and tears rolled down his cheeks while he talked.  When I asked how things could change, he sucked air in through his teeth (in that Northern African way…) and said “I believe there is no hope for that land.  To go back and fight the system is certain death. Better to be littered across the globe than to go back.”

I exited the cab sobered, vowing to decrease my dependence upon oil.  But it sobered me in other ways: I was reminded of my own exodus from my native ecclesial land–and how very painful the denominational divorce was for me.  Much like my driver spoke, I’d begun to realize that there was no future for me there–but it never dulled the pain of separation from my ecclesial birth-family.  The nostalgia I’ve felt doesn’t outweigh the gravity of the spiritual danger it imposed–I’m better off having immigrated.  It was a death-dealing situation, and my newly adopted homeland (I immigrated 6 years ago) has been life-giving.

My story isn’t unique and is hardly singular.  Many of the colleagues with whom I went to seminary now minister in other denominations.  And many have cast aside all forms of religiosity in favor of a more benign ‘spirituality’.  We are ecclesial litter, to put it in my driver’s vernacular.  And while we have managed to thrive in other environs, there remains that twinge of homesickness.

Devastating theology…

At the conservative holiness seminary I first attended, I was trained to be cut-throat in my evaluations and assessments of my peers (well, of their work, but it never really stops there, does it?).  When I first came to a liberal seminary to study feminist theology, I took on Dr. Dwight Vogel (a professor)  and dismantled his argument in front of a class.  I was ruthless. He initially got flustered and turned red.  But then he very calmly collected himself and asked me to step outside the room.  He politely said that a blood bath wasn’t the kind of theological discourse anyone at this seminary was interested in, and that I needed to step back and tone it down.

I was embarassed–almost wounded by his remarks–and fearful of what the latter half of class might bring.  But when we returned to class, he said to the group “You know, Donna is right… I hadn’t thought that through.  Donna, will you come up here and let’s talk it all the way through so we understand the significance of the argument you made, and where mine falls short.”

I vowed to never destroy someone theologically again.  He modeled for me nonviolence and respect.  And put me on a path towards peaceableness.

Missing wantoks…

I’ve been in a funk this past week and I know it is related to news from New Guinea.  There was a landslide which took out two villages near Mendi (about 40 missing–buried) and then the ferry capsized off the coast of Lae–there were 250 students on board, and 104 are still missing (days later).  Several of those on the boat were from the Melanesian  Nazarene Bible college.  It is heart breaking…  and especially frustrating how little press it received.  (Given how much press the cruise liner off the shore of Italy received… where only 24 are still missing.  I guess it once again pays to be European).

There is a system in PNG called “wantoks”–which literally means “one talk”–that is, you speak the same native language. What is implied therein, is that you are from the same village, and are related, and your concerns belong to all your wantoks.  There is an obligation to tend to one another’s needs.  Sometimes this is good–no one is left out and no one goes without help.  But at times it is also a pain: relatives can just show up and demand things.  It is heavily intertwined with the lack of a notion of ‘personal property’ and the fact that language groups are so very small, isolated, and tight.  Anyway… I’m missing wantoks these days…

And the grief I’ve experienced over the news from PNG kinda exacerbates that feeling: to whom can I turn when I feel like this?  There isn’t anyone around who speaks my language… who has shared these experiences… who shares my grief.  It makes it very difficult to even talk about New Guinea at times.  I remember once when dad and I were riding his motorcycle, we came upon a bus accident.  I was about 10 years old.  Dad worked to triage folk, and we noticed one man who was bleeding out.  Dad said there was nothing to be done, so we tried to make him comfortable, and then went to help the other injured.  We heard a gurgling noise and saw someone pouring water down the man’s throat–literally drowning him.  The rationale: he’d lost a lot of fluid so this good Samaritan was filling him back up.  When we told this story in the US, it was met with disbelief that the ‘natives’ were so ignorant.  Sigh.

And I recall a time when a missionary family was driving the highlands highway (the only highway)–which was treacherous in and of itself with 20 some rivers to ford–to visit us on the north shore for vacation.  They never arrived at the appointed time, and we traveled to find them, only to discover a large landslide had covered part of the highway for several kilometers.  We spent 4 days digging people out, removing bodies and vehicles and debris, only to find out that the landslide had occurred before the missionaries got to that part of the road.  Because it was impassable, they merely turned around and went home, never thinking to notify us where they were, or that they were safe.  And their spin on the situation was that God had somehow intervened and saved them from being buried.

With whom can I share such tales?  Who can hear them without sensationalizing them, or using them for their own agenda?  In my grief, I am missing my wantoks.  And my wantoks are missing…