Saturday, September 27, 2014

Using Our Voices

The past couple evenings, our home phone has been ringing at odd hours. We'd given up racing down for the phone and let the answering machine pick up in the night. This morning, I was baking in the kitchen, hands deep in dough, when the phone rang. I quickly rinsed my hands, hit mute on the soundtrack I had playing, and picked up, only to hear that familiar lapse and click that often indicates you've run for the phone only to be the target of a telemarketer. I somewhat impatiently said "Hello" and then I heard a raspy voice over the line. At first, I didn't know who it was but I believed it to be the husband of a dear friend in Zambia who often places the call and then puts her on the line. Today though, a few sentences in, I realized it was my friend, Reuben.

Reuben was calling on behalf of the family of the friend I assumed it was, asking us to please pray with them. They don't speak English confidently so Reuben was calling to explain their situation.  Over the past few months, they have been harassed by the original owner of the land that they purchased 7 years ago in Mulenga. They have lived there and built a small home there and have been raising their 5 children on that piece of land since I've known them. In the past few months, the original owner has been demanding more money from them, stating that they had not purchased the land, that they had only paid for a lease/rental of the land. Now, the owner wants the land, and subsequently the small home they've built for themselves on it, back.

At first glance, it's about money and greed. On a deeper level, it's about corruption and the instability and vulnerability of even the hardest working families. This little family has worked hard, paid for a piece of land, slowly built a small home over the years, such as it is...and just faithfully put down roots and done their best to care for their children and one another. And yet, they are vulnerable to the greed and whims of those who would exploit them.

On an even more incredulous level, it's about the love of the Reuben for his neighbours. As we talked and he gave me the news, I asked him if he was well. He sounded hoarse to me and I asked if he had been coughing or sick. He said no, he had been up all night for the past few nights, praying for this family, for the needs of his neighbours around him, for the community based organization of care workers that he is leading and for the procurement of land for them to build a larger school in the community. He has lost his voice on behalf of his community. Oh. Indeed.

I should demand that we all take one night, pull an all nighter and pray with Reuben for these things. What I will ask, is give it more time that you think you can afford. And remember that whatever we offer, is less than a small man with a gigantic faith is pulling off every night, while his days are filled with children looking to be fed, widows looking for sustenance, and families looking for stability. If anyone doesn't have the extra energy or ability to lose sleep, it's this man. And yet.

So please pray with Reuben. For this family to retain their land and for the community council to see the original landowner for his exploitive behaviour. And pray for Reuben. That his health would be good and that he would continue to be such a beautiful example to others in his community.

UPDATE: September 30th - I had a text message today from this family saying that they must go to the council for a decision on October 3rd. Please keep them in your prayers. Everything they have worked for is at risk...their home, their security and their kids' stability in a very vulnerable community. Thank you.

UPDATE: Oct 4th - this morning, this family called and told me that their meeting with the council has been delayed until Oct. 31. They are super thankful for all the people who are praying for them, and they ask that we please continue. They are hopeful that they will be able to keep the house and land that they've worked so hard for.  They were very upbeat and it was lovely to hear their voices!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Staying Afloat

You may have noticed I changed the photo at the top of the blog. The truth is, this is one of the only photos of myself that I truly love. And it's a bathing suit shot, no less. Thankfully, despite the zoom lens, the fact that I'm in a bathing suit and hate photos of myself, it's an absolute favourite.

I mean, the photo in itself, that my husband took off the deck of his parents' place this past summer, is pretty in the colour and composition, but it's more than that to me. It's a rare and privileged photo because in this photo I am completely and totally relaxed. You may not know that to look at it but it was the result of several attempts on my part to quiet my mind and find a space in nature to just breathe. I had gone for several walks and a long kayak paddle up the lake into the river that feeds it but to be honest, it wasn't until I sat on this floating chair and paddled out to the middle of the lake, that I was able to find absolute calm. I think it helped that the lake that day was an absolute mirror of the sky above it and the only movement on the lake was that of my hands paddling myself out to the middle. I could see each ripple that I instigated and could watch the effects of my every movement as the small waves emanated from where I sat. At one point, I reached over the edge of the chair and rescued a small dragonfly that was floundering on the surface of the lake. I set him (or her) on my knee and continued to float. The water was cool but it was sunny and warm and the longer I sat out there, the calmer it became, and so too, did I.  I fought the thought that I was being selfish, spending too much time alone out there, or that there were other things I should be doing, until I had to actually speak the words out loud, "Be quiet. Sit still." We tell children this all the time and yet we find it so very difficult to do ourselves.

I love this photo because it reminds me that every movement I make has a rippling effect. When I'm busy and being pulled in different directions with things to be done, I know that around me the effect is more tumultuous and erratic waves than the gentle rippling of things done in a calm and serene manner. And yet, I think, there are times to make waves and shatter the surface.  Days like these when things are so still and serene are few and far between, but when they do come, it's in our best interests to embrace them and rest in them, for they come so rarely.

The day after this photo was taken, I was hopeful that I would get to spend another day out on the lake like this. I woke early and as I opened the curtains to peek out at the lake, I could see right away that it was not going to happen. The wind was up, the lake was choppy and at best, we were going to get some warmth from the sun out of the wind. Had I procrastinated getting out on the lake the day before, I would have missed the opportunity.

I'm keeping this photo close as a reminder not only to seek out ways to serve and be active and participate, but to seek ways and opportunities to recharge and be still and remain calm. Somewhere in the balance of those two things is what's going to keep me afloat.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Encouraging the Dreamers

This week, our son Easton, who is 12, was able to live out one of his biggest dreams. Now, some of you may wonder what a 12 year old dreams about and while I know that most of the time, it's about epic battles and floating trampolines from which to propel yourself through the neighbourhood...this one was a big one for Easton.  As with a lot of young boys, Easton loved all things superheroes from a very young age and dreamed of meeting some of his heroes in person. I'm not talking about Universal theme park type dreams...I'm talking the dream of all comic book nerds *ahem* (I say that with the most love and respect)...ComicCon. The fact that I just had to spellcheck that shows the level of involvement I have with this event in my son's life.

As his mother though, I am, however, a big supporter of helping kids set goals and dreams and then chase after them, whatever they may be.  Which is why for the past few weeks (months), I have been listening intently with one ear while Easton chattered about the intricacies of the costume he needed and the supplies and the execution of said costume, which apparently could not be bought online but must be hand crafted by his mother. And then it was two ears open and a mouth full of protest at my lack of skills, but to no avail. Somewhere in the fine print between stretch marks and car pools, was a clause that said I had to design and execute a costume of some unknown-to-me character named Starlord. Thankfully, Marvel had the good sense to release a movie called Guardians of the Galaxy that I was invited (demanded) to attend the weekend I returned home from Zambia in August. And so, Starlord became a part of the running narrative in our household, even as I processed the fact that I had just been in communities where children dream only of food and schoolbooks and football with friends.

This is the science fiction I live with. A parallel universe. One of our North American life and dreams that contrasts so starkly, those of our friends and family in Zambia. And yet, I have come to understand over the years of our involvement in Zambia, that it is okay to teach our kids to dream and to help them attain them. For once a child attains a dream, they will go on to dream bigger and better ones. And so, ComicCon.  Apart from the expense of a couple flights and meals out, what does it cost to let your child dream dreams? Nothing. What does it cost to squash them? Everything. And while we can't finance or grab dreams out of the sky for our kids, when we can, we should. And the extra time and energy on paper routes and recycling cans and mowing lawns...all the things he spent his summer doing to get to this place? Well, from the look on his face in these pics? Totally worth it. 

What began as Value Village boots, leather coat and shin pads became an epic Starlord

Easton and friends from Guardians of the Galaxy.

With his Deadpool tshirt attracts this kind of attention!

I tweeted about this encounter and ended up with 901 retweets/ which Easton had to make a difficult choice between meeting Stan Lee or meeting Nathan Fillion. A "Sophie's Choice" for ComicCon fans.
Logic prevailed. 
 In the end, what ended up being the realization of a dream for my son, really ended up being a dream I hadn't really articulated for myself or for him. I want my kids to be dreamers. I want them to believe that they can make things happen and to realize that their dreams reveal their passions. And I'm all about following your passions. There's the bottom line of what it costs to let your kids dream. Some day you have to release them to follow those dreams, wherever it leads them. I'm watching my youngest figure it out and enjoy where it's been taking him. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the last quiet hours before he returns home with all the stories that achieving this dream has bestowed upon him.