Where’s the food?

Whenever I hear the story about the feeding of the 5,000, I nearly always hear the same interpretation.  The story shows the awesome power of God’s miracles, the little faith of the disciples, and the willingness of the young boy with the fish and loaves to share.  But today, I saw that story in a slightly different light.  Let’s set the sceen:

So, Jesus is starting to gain reputation around the area.  He has already healed sick people, and his stories are starting to spread.  So when he comes to Galilee, the crowds are quick to assemble.  Not assemble really so much as follow Jesus.  He was going to the mountain side to teach, and the crowds just followed.  I have this image of people leaning of their open windows, watching the crowds overflow the streets, following the man they have heard to be the Healer.  Jesus leads them away from the city, and to the hillside.  The time is approaching Passover. Which meant holiday for the Jewish culture.  So imagine, right before taking vaction for one of the most important religous holidays, walking out of the office in the middle of the day!  Thewse were men and women who were busy attending to other things, preparing for the Passover Feast. I imagine there were women cooking and cleaning, children setting the tables and making room for relatives.  The men were preparing to take time off from work, trying to squeeze in a few extra hours of work, to finish that last wood carving, mending nets.  Suddenly, a whisper, a mummer, from home to office, all throughout the town. “He’s coming.” As they see Jesus passing by, heading to cross the sea towards the hill, people by the thousands simply abandon their current task and follow behing like they were following the Piper.  Ovens left burning, brooms dropped to the ground, needles and chisels stopped without notice.

Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee and people met him on the other side. They were so anxious to hear or see anything.  There is no stage, no fancy sound system, just nature’s accoustics.  As people start to settle in on the hillside, Jesus tells Philip, “Look around at all these people! What are we going to do about feeding them all?”  Now imagine the panic that sets in with Philip.  He was only expecting to come and listen to Jesus teach, he wasn’t prepared to fix anyone dinner, much less the…one, two….FIVE Thousand men!!  And women and children!  Where did all these people come from?!

From here out, the story focuses on the miracle of the loaves and fish, the way the disciples, especially Philip, lacked faith, and how the meager offerings of a young boy were multiplied for the good of all.  And these are all great lessons to learn.  But my question is…how did all those men and women leave their homes and not a single person think to bring supper!? Now, I can see, with the men, how it would be easy for that to not be on the forefront of their minds.  They were at work, expecting to return home in a few hours for a meal.  But the women, in that day and age, that was their job.  To prepare the meals, tend to the home and raise the children.  And not one thought to bring a loaf of bread, meat, or a handful of fruit to snack on.  They were so enthralled with the thought of following this great Healer, that they abandoned every other thought.

What an amazing way to live.  In the New Testament, we don’t always see the Jewish community getting it right when it comes to accepting the coming of Jesus, but here in this story, it seems natural.  What does it mean to be so involved in something, so entranced, hopeful or even just curious, that you leave everything else behind.  No thought to the burning ovens, the huge feast that needs to be planned and prepared for, the daily duties of work, what everyone else expects, to just leave that behind and follow.  To follow in complete faith that the needs will be cared for.  These men and women followed by the thousands because they had heard of Jesus as a great Healer and a great Teacher.  They were willing to leave all else behind in hopes that he could heal and teach them too. They went with the faith that their needs would be cared for.  And they were not disappointed on any level.  They were feed through a miracle, they were feed through community, and they were feed through Jesus’ teachings.

As I am preparing to leave, to follow something that I have only heard about, I am scared.  I have had a lot more time to prepare than the 5,000.  The ovens are turned off, the nets folded neatly away. I have a month to say goodbyes, pack my bags and anticpate.  But do I have the faith to follow God’s lead, sit back on the hill and listen to the teachings, and not ask, “Where’s the food?”

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Walking on streets of gold

It is very easy for met to fall into a shallow routine with my blog.  Updates are quicker, easier, safer.  But my life is none of those things, so why should my blog be?  So, in an effort to ward off the mundane I am so prone to communicating, I am pulling out something I wrote while in NYC about a life changing event I experienced there, along with three other amazing people.  So, here’s to being brave and open in my blog – a trend I hope to continue:

The smells drawing us in – like a group of pregnant women seeking out a craving. We stop to look at Tai, or maybe the Key West diner. We’re on a corner, but its not the right one. We walk another block – how much changes in a New York City block. There are so many options, so many voices. Maybe Indian, or Pizza, the diner, or sushi?

“I’m up for some sushi.”

The voice from a man. A man, a voice, we hadn’t noticed, until he spoke up. He was carrying an old black briefcase, held together with white twine, and the shell of a piece of Tupperware. He was smiling, a hint of a joke in his eye. He was wearing a watch that didn’t tick, and seven rubber bands on his right wrist. He engaged us.

“My name is Kirby.”

My name is Kirby. So let me tell you a joke. It is about the time I got called down to my landlord’s office, and he told me, “Mr. K. I can’t pay the electricity for both you and Larry. So you are going to have to take care of that.” So I ran downtown, and I stepped in the office. “What do you want?” Mr. L sent me down, and you know why? Hurrrrrrr…its cause I’m the Hulk.

I cook on a hot plate, but you come to my house, and I will have a Bar-b-q, right outside of my front door! We’ll have potato salad and Chinese, and BBQed ribs, and BBQed chicken, and BBQed steaks! For those who like steaks at least. You come, the meat will be ready. And we’ll laugh, and we’ll sing, and we’ll enjoy today, because, that’s what is about.

So I sing a song. This time I sing along with the radio, and I watch their eyes, watching me, as I dance a little in my seat. They are engaged. They are listening to my story. It isn’t all joy. Sometimes the song is sad.

I have brothers and babies. The brothers I hate, the babies I spoil. I sing a song for my first born – she is my world! I let her run the show, and give her the candy from my pocket. And my second, my Michael – he is why I work 16 hours, every day. I don’t like to get up! I don’t like the daytime, it hurts my eyes. But this is my job, so I get up, and I work, ’cause the pockets need money for my babies. For a person who worked behind a hot grill, I was happy.

But my babies, my wives, my girlfriend, they are just a part of my song now. So I chose a different song.

Money money money…Money! Really, money is the root of all evil! Its my story – it ruined me. And I see it, it ruins everyone, because the Holy Book is right, money is the root of all evil.

And speaking of evil, this world, it somehow got messed up. Now, I love this country. I love my colors, the red, the blue, the white, with the stars in it too. But we have many colors. We have rags of red, black, pink, brown, Haitian. And they all count. But we are too busy popping each other. The Jews just need to stop popping the Jews! Or something like that. Everyone, man, they just need to start cris-crossing their shit. Cause that’s what its all about – loving everyone.

I am a Child of the King. I am. I know that. My momma told me that, and I know it. God is good. All the time.

I have choices. The choices I make are my choices. Its my choice, I don’t want a tree-trunk! Nope, no tree-trunk woman for me! I like ’em small, I just can’t do that. That’s too much love for me. But Love, now that’s what its about.

But I still have my choices. And I do what I have to do to eat. This is the first hot meal that I’ve had in years. I almost forgot why people eat their food hot, its because its so good!

Not everyone’s got that. My brothers. Four generations killed in war around this world! My momma was solider. On the home front. My daddy, he was in Korea. So many, they are out there, just doing what they have to do. And that’s what’s deep, when a momma has to be a mom and a daddy! Too deep.

And I’m deep. My poetry, my songs, my life. When I sing, I sing about my life. The words don’t always rhyme, but the words are mine, from my soul. The good thing about this country, I’ll tell you! This country, it will smack you on the ass! And then give you a second chance. Lots of second chances. I live in Brooklyn, because the people here, they don’t know – so busy, they just need to shut up. But my brother-in-law, when Osama bombed the downtown, his life was in that building, and it just crashed to the ground. His whole love, it was a mess. But see, my life, it was already a mess!

I help you. You help me. God helps us all. And where I’m going, I sing, oh where I’m going, the streets, they are paved with gold. Today, I enjoy life. Don’t cry girl, it really ain’t that bad, it really ain’t. I know that God put me on that corner for a reason! I know that. When I close my eyes, and then I open them again, its a new day, and I’m a new man.

 

We danced on the street to ABC/123, we shared a meal together, french fries and burgers, with a waiter with an Argentinean accent, who played jokes on us and made us laugh. We listened to Kirby’s wisdom, his songs, his stories. We watched him dance, shuffle, and light up his cigarette. We walked him to the subway, tears in our eyes, saying goodbye to a new friend. We asked him, “Can we pray with you.” We gathered in a circle, arms around each other, heads in the middle, touching. We closed our eyes, and then, something amazing happened. Kirby prayed. He prayed for us, for the forgiveness of our pasts and for the guidance of our futures. And the tears were falling around the circle, puddling on the sidewalk of 96th St. Tears and prayers that turned Kirby’s street corner, into a street paved with gold.

Still Processing

So after three very intense weeks of training in New York City, I am back in Kentucky, and still very overwhelmed.  Sometimes, it seems like a dream, the fact that I just spent the last three weeks pent up in a room with 16 other people who are so focused on social justice, that they couldn’t help but spur one another along.  We learned and discussed so many topics along the lines of human rights, justice and peace.  There were days that I couldn’t do anything but cry at the lessons we learned, while other days, I could only laugh.  We learned, in the class and on the streets, that one of most important aspects of missions, is listening to someone’s story.  So listen we did.  We heard stories about our brothers and sisters across the world, across the street, and across the hall.  So thank you to all of our leaders, teachers, to Kirby and to all of the US2s and MInterns – from you, I have learned more than my tired little brain can handle right now.  But I have pages of notes, pictures, books, quotes, and ideas that will resurface at just the right moments.  When I am in Hong Kong, facing a situation I don’t understand, something you said, or something you challenged me on, will come to mind, and I know I will stop and listen to the needs and wants of the people I am working with. 

So thank you for your wisdom, thank you for your challenges, and thank you for your laughter.  I am still processing it all, but I am sure it was great!

Pictures and protest

So I got to participate in my first protest today!!  Our session today was at the CCUN (Church Center of the United Nations) on the ideas of social justice applied to labor laws, fair wages and justice-filled and sustainable economics.  We did a role-playing game that gave us an idea of what it would be like to work in a shoe-factory in Peru.  It was very eye-opening to realize that so many families work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, with every family member involved, for 3-5cents per shoe!!!  So sad!

 After our session, we headed down to NMASS (National Mobilization Against SweatShops) to learn about the explotaition of workers.  While one would think of sweatshops only being overseas, we learned about acts of explotation happening right here in NYC!  The organization is currently fighting against restaurants who are overworking and underpaying their workers, particularly delivery-people.  They work for less than $2 an hour (even though the min. wage for tipped works is $4.60!!)  They are forced to work in harsh conditions, internationals are purposely pitted against one another (and most of the workers are documented workers as well), they are fined exorbitant amounts for any minor infraction, and when they finally joined together to demand a fair wage, they were forced to sign an illegal contract saying they made min. wage, even though they didn’t.  They refused, and were fired!!  So NMASS helped them organize and they have been protesting Saigone Grille for two months, hoping to raise working conditions, not only in this one location, but all over the state.  Apparently, the low pay and overworking is a common practice in many New York and New Jersey buisnesses.  So we stood outside with signs and flyers, informing patrons of how the workers were treated, and answered questions.  It was a really positive experience, to be standing next to men and women who’s lives were on hold, fighting for the right to earn a living wage.  As soon as I get them, I’ll post pictures from the protest.

 Speaking of pictures…I am trying to keep updated with my Flickr account, so check me out…http://www.flickr.com/photos/papilio419

Update

I know I know …. I’m a slacker when it comes to updates!!  Sorry.  This past week has just been INCREDIBLY busy with training!!  I am in NYC right now, going through the Young Adult Missionary training with 16 other wonderful young adults!  We are from all over the country, and heading out all over the world!!  We come from all walks of life and denominations with one great intent in our hearts: To serve the heart of God by fighting injustice and working towards peace in the world, by joining in community with others.  Training has been intense.  From topics of white priviledge, racism, child abuse, money issues, and a FOUR HOUR Bible study on Israel/Palestine…ahem..I mean the Walk to Emmaus. 🙂  (by the way, if you ever come across any Bible studies done by David Wildman – drop everything else and read it – he is AMAZING!!)  So while our days have been filled with sessions, lectures and note-taking, our evenings have been filled with community-building.  We have been staying up to the wee hours, listening to each others stories, singing, sometimes dancing, eating a lot of ice cream, playing cards, crying and praying together.  After only a week, I already feel at home with this group of men and women.  I feel free to share my thoughts, my fears, my joys.  There is such an open trust that is felt within the whole group that is usually so rare to come so quickly, and covering all barriers that may have otherwise risen in the group.  I feel blessed to be training with these great people, and ask that you be praying for them, as they are getting ready to start out on journeys of their own.  And prayers will often be the only thing sustaining us!!

 I will try to update more this week, but for now, its time to crash!!

Names to be praying for (as well as the locations they are going to.  Note: Some of those training are in the US2 program, so they have a domestic placement for the full term, instead of a split placement like the Mission Interns)

Me – Hong Kong  ~ Abby – Grenadad  ~  David – Jerusalem  ~  Beth T. – Brazil  ~  Christina – Columbia  ~   Christie – Nicaragua  ~  Lindsey – Philippeans  ~  Brittany – South Africa  ~  Jen – Germany

Beth T. – Denver  ~  Katie K. – Denver  ~  Katy W. – D.C.  ~  Jamie – D.C.  ~  Rebecca – D.C.   ~  Michael – Purteo Rico  ~  Lindsey – Honalulu  ~  Mariellen – Pulaski, TN