Thursday, November 27, 2014

One Single Body?

I wanted to write a more positive blog post about Thanksgiving and the things I am thankful for. I truly have a lot to be thankful for this year and every year. I know that.

But I’m also angry.

I’m angry at my country and my city. I’m angry at people of my race who are not bothered by the system that is set in place in the US and the consequences it has on so many lives – on family, friends, classmates, and moreover other human beings. I’m also angry at the country I’m currently in. At the inequalities that exist here. But also at the violence that is present and increasing as a result of both of these systems of inequality.

Either here or in the US, this violence hits closer to home every day. And I feel like I am surrounded by it.

But I know that in either situation I am privileged. I’m privileged because of the color of my skin. Because of the neighborhood I live in in Bujumbura. Because I have health insurance. Because if it comes down to it, I will be evacuated. And others won't. Because I can go home at the end of the day in the US and not worry about the color of my skin affecting my safety when interacting with police. 

I know that I'm privileged. But I'm still angry. How can we say we are all part of the same body, if we are all acting like many individual parts? 

There are many things that I want to share that I am thankful for though. 

I am thankful for those who are fighting a system that has been in place for too long in the United States. I'm thankful for those who are angered by inequality. I'm thankful for my family here in Bujumbura, and the opportunity to gather together today and eat some amazing food. I'm thankful for babies gaining weight who were born too small. I'm thankful for the internet which will (God willing) allow me to see and talk to my family in the US today. 

I'm sorry this post maybe isn't a complete thought. But here is a classic quote for the day: 

"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. 
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
- Lila Watson

Monday, November 17, 2014

Between the Lines: More to Read!

While you're waiting for updates from me, here are some other blogs you might want to check out!

These two are from fellow Americans living in Burundi! : 

Emily Ambrose works for the Province of the Anglican Church in Burundi as well! She is here doing projects with the development office related to agriculture and nutrition. She's here on part of her program from Cornell University with Episcopal Relief & Development. I've been lucky enough to work alongside her during her time here. 

Amy Marsico is working for the Friends Women's Association in Burundi as a Conflict and Peace-Building Practitioner. She does amazing work with this organization in the areas of providing health-care particularly to vulnerable women and people who are HIV+, empowering women, and peace-building initiatives. 

I also want to share the blogs of my fellow YASCers! They are working all over the world in service! 

Willie Lutes is in South Africa! He's working in communications for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa Environmental Network and Anglican Communion Environmental Network in Cape Town. Basically he is working hard and saving the planet from environmental destruction! He's helping to create a movement from within the Anglican Communion to address these issues. 

Kirsten Lowell is an amazing young woman working in Uruguay! She inspires me everyday to deepen my faith and to allow myself to define, question, and be confident in my beliefs. In the Diocese of Uruguay she is working as an Administrative Assistant for Special Projects.

Ryan Zavacky is living, praying, working, and teaching at Holy Cross School and Monastery in Grahmstown, South Africa. He is assisting teachers at the school and running an after-school program. He's also having quite the experience living and worshiping with the Brothers!

Dearest Kayla Massey is serving in the Philippines this year! She is also working very closely with Episcopal Relief & Development at the E-Care Center in Halsema. She's doing a lot of work getting her hands dirty with agriculture and food security programs!

Justin Davis III is "visiting ships and chillin' with Bishops"! He's working with the Mission to Seafarers in Hong Kong! He's really connecting with people and seeing some amazing things.

Rachel McDaniel is oh so patiently awaiting departure to Santa Maria, Brazil where she will be working with women's and youth ministries.  She is waiting for her visa before starting this wonderful work that she will be so great at.

Joey Anderson is working on a farm in Japan! Asian Rural Institute is his host for the year along with many chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, and gardens!

David Holton is another volunteer serving in the Philippines.  He's working as a teacher in an Episcopal secondary-school, using his many musical talents to enrich the lives of his students!

Elie Echeverry is another member of Team Africa for YASC! She is faithfully serving her community in Kenya this year!

Delaney Ozmun was a YASCer in Eldoret, Kenya that unfortunately had to end her year of service early. Her blog still offers some great insights into life as a YASCer in Africa in particular! And she is a great friend.

Judy Crosby is an honorary YASCer! She is a missionary for the Episcopal Church this year in Dodoma, Tanzania with Carpenter's Kids!

Another honorary YASCer, Bob Canter is serving in Honduras, building houses and whipping volunteers into shape!

Other Servers in Africa! 

These three don't serve in Burundi and aren't a part of YASC but they are doing amazing work, and I can certainly relate to a lot of their posts and reflections from life in Africa. 

Samantha McNelly has just started her service with the Peace Corps in Cameroon! She will be working in agribusiness after her training finishes in Ebolowa. I went to college with Sam!

Devin Johns is a volunteer for Young Adult Volunteers (YAV) which is the Presbyterian version of YASC! She's working this year in Zambia as a teacher for primary school children. Her blog is particularly insightful I think! Devin and I went to college together and attended Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wooster together! 

Lookman Mojeed is a poet, activist, photographer, and friend working for the Peace Corps in Cameroon as well! He's working in the health field and making a big impact on the community he is serving. We studied abroad and bonded together in Cameroon in 2012. 

Thank you all for reading!

The new 5th baby of Louis! (our helper at the house)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Life in Abundance

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

Life in abundance, in a world run by power.

I try not to talk about my spiritual life or thoughts much through directly using the word "God" or the Bible, because of the perception of Christians and Christianity in the US (and because I already have enough of your bugging me about seminary and the priesthood) but I think given the context I'm living and working in right now I might make an exception in this blog post. We'll see.

Recently I went with a team to Makamba, a province at the southern tip of Burundi bordering Tanzania, to do research and talk to people about their perceptions and beliefs about masculinity and SGBV. What we discovered will be used to help the Provincial  Office of the Anglican Church to design programming for the future.

The context: People in Burundi are generally very religious. Church is an all day affair. A simple prayer after a meeting can take 5-15 minutes. The phrase "only God can know" is used so often. Additionally, because people are so drawn to their faith and churches, churches and pastors have the power to have a very big impact on the lives, mentalities and support of their parishioners. They have another advantage too that churches are everywhere. They reach where NGOs cannot reach. They're everywhere, and everyone goes to church. I think this is one of the big advantages of the church here. It can be a great tool to do amazing work.

This network and the possibilities I see in the church gives me so much hope for the opportunity for the coming programs to make a huge impact on the lives of many people.

But some of the beliefs that I heard from pastors is really what shocked me while doing this research.

A lot of the people we talked to -- not just the pastors -- gave us answers that we wanted to hear. But sometimes they were honest. One of these times was often when talking about the Bible.

We asked everyone if God created men and women equal. A great deal of pastors -- and others -- told us that God created men superior to women. This was often explained by the verse in the Bible that states that the woman was made from a bone in Adam's side, and if God wanted them to be equal he would have taken the bone from the head.

Of all of the Bible verses to rationalize this thought process, it surprised me that they used this one. Had I not been trying to be an unbiased researcher/observer I would have retorted asking them what it meant then that men were created from the dirt on the ground.

There were also positive connections however that I was able to make in the Bible in relation to gender equity and relations during this trip. In Genesis 3 God places burdens on Adam and Eve for the sin they had committed. These burdens also create the first difference we see between men and women. Eve must bear the burden of childbirth and her husband will rule over her and Adam too will suffer. These burdens, I realized, in relation to this work, are also the burdens placed on women who suffer from SGBV.

But what does that mean for us when we read Paul's letter to the Galatians: Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (6:2)? If these are the burdens given to use in the beginning, then what does 'bearing one another's burden's' look like? What does living life abundantly look like? And how can we expect women to "live life in abundance" when they are living lives that reflect a Bible teaching that tells them that they're inferior to men?

While I know that given the context of pastors reaching and influencing so many people is horrifying with these kinds of teachings, there is a great opportunity to change this mentality and create a new theology with these pastors and the people they are serving.

While in conversation with people at the beginning of my time in Burundi someone said, "The church has to be counter cultural if it wants to succeed". I think that is really true here and speaks a lot of truths about this work. Get ready pastors and churches!

Shout out to Prabu for being an amazing facilitator, mentor and friend. 

Freshly transplanted kitchen garden greens not living life in abundance...

Cute sad monkey friend

So happy to be creating a new water point to supply clean drinking water to many hills

Joyful work

Umugenzi (friend)

Rice workers weeding away!