people are not objects to be won.

Posted by pamela on Mar. 03, 14 | 0 COMMENTS

It is raining outside. Not a little drizzle, but a real rain. Living in the California desert in the middle of a drought makes this precious and wonderful. I have spent hours these rainy days sitting by windows watching the rain fall and listening to its soft patter on the ground. The land has been parched and is in need of this soft but steady rain to soften the soil, feed the plants, and fill the reservoirs. No drop is unappreciated. The hills are becoming green and full of life.

rain

As I sit watching the rain come down, giving life to this region, my mind wanders back to just a couple weeks ago when I was in a very different land experiencing beauty and life in a different way. My body was sick – in need of meds and rehydration. My night had been restless and painful, and the morning found me unsure if it was wise to leave the guesthouse. (I talk about this run-in with disease HERE.) But I had only one day to go to the field with this specific team, and so I did what I could and prepared to go into the field, hoping it would be worth my time, but also hoping we could make it a short day.

As we set out across town and headed into the hills, I began to gather that it would be anything but a short day. The little van we were in had seats that faced each other, and so I was face to face with my host, Vikash, when what I really wanted was to close my eyes and get some sleep. It was a little bit like being in the desert – I was tired and dry, but in this case, I did not know what it was that would fill me up that day.

I asked what I thought was a simple question, “How does your organization work? And are the home churches growing?” What followed was a lesson on culture and loving people that was food and water for my soul.

“People are not objects to be won. They need to know we love them.”

In two short sentences, Vikash had changed the foundation of a discussion that would last the day. He comes from the highest caste, the caste of priests. One day he found a book on his uncle’s shelves – a book of Bible stories that would forever impact his life. Both he and his uncle loved to read, but Vikash knew the stories to be true, and this launched his life into a new direction.

As we drove the countryside, Vikash pointed to a building, “That’s a church. I know because it is a different building, using western style windows. Why did they do that?” I could hear his heart become heavy as he talked about Christians being different – not because of their love, but because of how they lost their culture. Of buildings that looked like western churches, songs with tunes and chords from distant lands, of greetings foreign to the villages. When he found a church, Vikash too followed these practices as it was all he knew.

But now, he teaches something different. God is the God of the universe. He is outside of culture and he is in culture. He loved so much as to give His son, His life. No big church buildings and foreign songs. No greetings that separate you and leave others estranged. Instead, he encourages people to keep their cultural heritage — gatherings that meet in homes, use local music with new words, and greetings that include others. Every year these home churches come together and share and celebrate new life together, encouraging one another. Vikash points to the home churches found in the Bible, of Jews and gentiles who both held their own traditions while becoming new.

No, people are not objects to be won. We truly must let them know we love them. Period.

On this day when my body was sick and tired, my soul was fed with rich and fragrant food. Vikash, a man from the line of Hindu priests, provided hours of teaching on how to truly love, on how to worship, and how to live. His words were strong, and his actions as we visited homes and walked through communities even stronger. We are to love.

Some days it is the rain that feeds, and some days it is the words that feed. Both have the ability to bring life and fill reservoirs. Today, I am thankful for both.

belovedness: a foundation for my work

Posted by pamela on Dec. 24, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

I wrote this for staff at Lifewater who I am honored to serve alongside of, and I thought you might enjoy this as well.

Quite often out of an intimate encounter with God encounters with other human beings become possible…If you are the beloved of God, if you start thinking about other people’s lives, you start realizing that they are as beloved as you are. One of the profound experiences of the spiritual life is that when you discover yourself as being the beloved son or daughter of God, you suddenly have new eyes to see the belovedness of other people. 

It is very interesting because it is the opposite of what happens in the world when they say you are very special, that means you are not the same as the rest. If you win an award and they say you are different than others, then that award is valuable because not everybody gets that award. The world is saying that you are only the best when not everybody else is the best. 

~Henri J.M. Nouwen, “Discovering our gift through service to others,” a speech given to members of Fadica, 1994 as quoted in Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen. Liguori: Liguori Publications, 2004. pg 42

I love these words by Nouwen and they make me pause to think about the work that we are called to. At times I am caught up by the urgency of our work and of the demands of the many different things that we balance. There are partner needs, fundraising needs, field trainer needs. There are the needs in the office and outside of the office. The industry is changing and growing. We want to be innovating and improving both the industry and our work — we want our voices to be heard. There are budgets and numbers and proposals and reports. We put in hours to make better programs and find more dollars to fund the programs. Each and every thing is important in its own right.

But, in the moment I pause, I am reminded that not one of these things is as important as our foundation and the perspective that we bring to our work. Our foundation is in Christ and His view of both us and all of humankind. He calls us His beloved. We are truly loved by God — not because of anything that we have done, simply because we are. As I pause to take that in, my heart lets out a sigh as it is filled with goodness. I am the beloved of Christ. When I sit in this, it truly fills me and I want to invite other people into this goodness and I want this to be the foundation of my relationship with others. I want this deep love to flow from me to others, that others would know of Christ’s goodness through my interaction with them.

Yes, I want us to do great work, build great systems, and I want our work to be known. But, at the foundation of everything, I want everyone to know that God loves them because of how we choose to care for them and express this through our actions. Yes, I want the young girl in a village to have water. But, what I really want, is for her to know that she is the beloved of Christ – that she is worthy of that love and the dignity that comes with it. I want us to be known by this deep love wherever we go — in our offices and in the field. Let’s do great things, but may it always be on this foundation. In this season and always, may our hearts know that we are the beloved of Christ that we may, in turn, see everyone from our officemates to the village mamas to the new born children as the beloved of Christ. May this be the foundation of our work.

Merry Christmas.

a few thoughts on gratitude

Posted by pamela on Dec. 02, 13 | 0 COMMENTS

Gratitude is a choice. You cannot be both grateful and resentful, both grateful and judgement, both grateful and fearful. Gratitude is the response to grace. 

These were the thoughts that welcomed the start of my Thanksgiving holiday at an ecumenical service. I am so grateful that was how these last few days began. Gratitude is a response and a choice, and it is truly amazing how it changes one’s perspective. Do you know what you are truly grateful for today? As I sit by my fire with Christmas music playing in the background, I thought I would share a few things that I am grateful for today.

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I am grateful when churches put aside their preferences and choose to worship together.

I am grateful for getting to know extended family, sharing meals, and making memories.

I am grateful for new friends and for rich laughter.

I am grateful to be welcoming the advent season with others in great anticipation of celebrations to come.

I am grateful for hot apple cider and full tables.

I am grateful for this house, how it is becoming a home and welcoming others.

I am grateful for time to be creative and time to be in nature; both food for my soul.

I am grateful because I love a God who delights in beauty, who loves His children.

I hope that your Thanksgiving was full of richness. I hope that you are full of gratitude tonight.

 

a brilliant night sky

Posted by pamela on Aug. 21, 12 | 1 COMMENT

Last night I was lying under the an absolutely brilliant night sky contemplating divine beauty. The day had been near perfect: my soul was filled with the laughter of friendship and silly adventures, my stomach full with good food, and my skin sun-kissed from a day outside. And then the day was pushed to perfection when the clouds cleared and the stars emerged in a way only possible where there is no light pollution. The Milky Way was a cloud across the night sky. I could not help but say that this is divine beauty made by a creator in such a way that I, that we, could enjoy it. My dear friend added, “And that we would be made to appreciate beauty.”

no room in the inn

Posted by pamela on Dec. 28, 11 | 3 COMMENTS

On my last trip to Northern Kenya, I spent one night out in the desert and it changed my understanding of a story I have heard since I was a young child. We arrived at a small village not too far south of the Ethiopian border in the afternoon. In the local language, the town’s name means ‘windy’, and it could not have been more accurate. It was flat in all directions, volcanic rocks and thorny shrubs littered the landscape, and the wind was a constant presence.

After our meetings were done, we checked in at our hotel – one of two in this town on the main (though still dirt) road from the south to the north. The hotel was six simple rooms in a line, a latrine, and a shower room, all surrounded by a wire fence beyond the generous rock yard. Each room had two simple twin beds, each with a pillow, a towel, a bar of soap, and a portion of toilet paper. Simple, but clean and thoughtfully laid out. That night a feast of goat (100% free range and organic) was roasted over the open fire, which we shared from common plates with our hands. And then I turned in for the night, placing the stone behind my door to keep it closed since there was no latch.

Half of my hotel room. And this is with the wide-angle lens.

At 3:15 am, I suddenly awoke to the sound of voices and a rock scrapping on concrete. My door was being opened. Groggy but suddenly wide-eyed, I called out to the person pushing my door open.

“We heard there was a bed available in a room with a woman. There are two women who have just arrived and both hotels are full.”

Well, yes, there was a bed available. Not knowing quite what to do, I said as much and promptly cleared the bed of my things (I had been using as a make-shift dresser), and crawled back into my bed to await the arrival of my new roommates.

My groggy mind was filled with random thoughts. Did I not pay for this room? They must have come in on one of the cars that travels through the night – much cooler than during the day. Where had they come from and where were they going? Does the whole village know that there is exactly one mzungu (white person) woman and the exact room where she is staying?  If it was me, I would be so grateful to share a room with a stranger too. And, mostly, I was just stunned.

Twenty minutes later the two women arrived, closed the little window, curled up in the twin bed, and promptly fell asleep. The next morning I left before they woke, so I never actually met the women that were my roommates for four hours, but I doubt I will ever forget them.

Since I was a child, I have heard the stories of Mary, Joseph, and the birth of baby Jesus. When Mary was pregnant, they traveled to Bethlehem and there was no room in the inn. An innkeeper made room for them in the stables. By squeezing them in where there was a bit of space, he provided for a woman who labored and gave birth to a child. Although I have shared my home with many (beds and floors), I have never been woken by strangers in a hotel room. I cannot help but wonder if this was more like the story of Christmas than I had ever before imagined.

Strangers helping. Shared spaces. Confused thoughts. Unknown roommates. Midnight awakenings. Star-filled nights. 

This year, the Christmas story came alive for me, and as I await Epiphany, I keep wondering what it would have been like if I had stayed longer in that windy town in my shared room.

faiths standing together in egypt

Posted by pamela on Feb. 06, 11 | 1 COMMENT

I have been watching the news from Egypt – as I travel mostly through my twitter feed thanks to Al Jazeera – and there are a couple headlines that have stood out in my mind, things that make me proud of humanity.

In the early days of protests in Cairo, I heard about Christians who surrounded Muslims so that they could say their prayers without being disturbed. Today I read about Muslims surrounding a Coptic mass at Tahrir square. In this moment, I want to take a step away from the politics and the protest and the violence and the lack of free speech to celebrate these people. In a time that could become religiously charged, these Egyptians chose to stand alongside their Christian or Muslim brothers and sisters. I find incredible hope in these acts and a lesson that I wish the world would hear. Though our faiths may be different, we can stand together in dignity and in hope.

Where I am presently staying in Rwanda, I can hear the Muslim call to prayer. It is off in the distance and I find it beautiful – an instant reminder of my childhood in Egypt and an ever-present reminder to lift my thoughts in prayer. Today my prayer is that stories like these will continue to happen, and that they might spread like wildfire.

Please forgive me for the lack of details or links about these incidents in Egypt- my internet is slow and limited. If you can provide a link for others to read about these, please leave it in a comment to this post.

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