Saturday, July 25, 2009

News8Austin Covers Refugee Story

Here is a news story about Refugees in Austin from News8Austin. And if you click on and watch the video of the story, you can see me in the background working with the kids (I'm wearing a green T shirt).

Refugee Kids Field Trip

This past week I volunteered with AAIM at their annual Refugee Youth Day-Camp. This program is designed to help refugee kids, aged 5-17, prepare for school. Many of the kids land in Austin for the first time over the summer and so we wanna give them a little advanced preview of what school (and learning in English is like).

This week, I got to meet children from Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Burma, Nepal, Iraq and Guatemala. Each child had his own special culture that they were so proud of, and yet they all had an eager curiosity to learn about their new home, Austin, Texas. Many of these kids have experienced some pretty rough things in their young lives, but they are slowly healing and starting over. Many don't know English, many are new school.

These kids will have to work hard to adjust. And learning will be exhausting for them ("My brain is soooo tired" and "My brain is spinning with words" were two comments I heard this week). But I hope they succeed. I hope this Day-Camp was encouraging for them... making them feel like they CAN learn, they WILL learn.

During the Day-Camp, we simulated school learning centers for 3 days, and then we celebrate at the end of the week by taking a field trip together. This week we walked to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. The kids learned fun facts about their new home state... and we watched a 15 minute documentary at the Texas Spirit Theater. I think the kids were definitely overwhelmed, but loved learning about Texas at the same time!

A boy from Afghanistan sat next to me at the movie and whispered, "I've never seen a movie in the theater before... they didn't have theaters where I am from." All the kids were so precious! They stole my heart!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book Review: Interrupted

My favorite piece of summer reading so far has been Jen Hatmaker's latest book, "Interrupted." It's Jen's personal account of how God shook up her & her husband's faith and started steering them to interact with & befriend "the lost, the least, and the last" in this broken world.

They've been church-going people since they were kids & vocational ministers their entire adult careers... yet in 2007 they couldn't shake the lingering question inside their heads "God, isn't there more?" She prayed and asked "God, raise up in me a holy passion." And God responded.

"Interrupted" puts words to an inner angst that has gnawed at my insides for almost 2 years now. I have been a Christian just long enough to have gotten a good hold of the "routines" of American Christian life-- I go to church weekly, pray & read the Bible almost daily... I have attended plenty of "Bible Studies" and classes on what we think, I've studied theology, I've read a billion Christian books-- I have learned plenty (that is NOT to say I know it all, or even anywhere close to it). But at the end of the day, what was I doing with any of it? Mostly just talking to other church people about it.

I feel sometimes like we are all just "playing church", and that can be a suffocating place at times (just being honest) because... well, here's the way Jen put it: "Why did I spend all my time blessing blessed people who should be on the giving side of the equation by now?" (p. 21) Answer: because its safe and because its comfortable.

Joey Shaw charged a group of us one time with the parable of the shepherd who went in search of the one lost sheep-- he left 99 other sheep behind to go and pursue the 1. Joey reminded us that we like to stay with the 99 because that's easy, its comfortable, its safe.

But if we want to act like Jesus, we go out from the flock, in search of the lost, the least, the last.

I am hungry. Hungry to serve outside the four walls of the church. In Austin. My city is full of poor people, hurting people, hungry people, beaten-down and broken people. Do I know any of them? Do I spend time with them? Do I know their stories? Have I listened and loved well? How much of my life (my time, my energy, my money, my sleep, my home, etc) have I sacrificed in order to love them well?

I am increasingly wondering... not just "have they HEARD about Jesus?" but "have they SEEN & EXPERIENCED Jesus through MY interactions with them?"

This book will challenge you to live beyond Christian comfort and mediocrity. It will tempt you to be crazy enough to actually DO things Jesus talks about in the Bible.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dogs (Water) Fetching

These are from last summer but we couldn't figure out how to post em until now.

Lady jumping in the water with a running start.

Lady showing off her long jump skills!

Lucky copies Lady, but he doesn't have her hops.

Lucky & Lady's teamwork bringing in the ball.

(not pictured, Applejack- who isn't a fan of the water or teamwork.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

3 Short Videos from Ethiopia

Here's a video of the waitress serving our dinner the first night in country (Injera & Wot):

Here is a video from a Cultural Dinner Show we attended where they performed local & traditional dances. Using their shoulders is the most common dance move:

Here is a video from the church service we attending while in Ethiopia at Beza International Church (this is from the worship time):

Ethiopia in Pictures

A photo-blog post of my travels in Ethiopia...
Melissa, Shara, and Camilla evaluate (apprehensively) our first night's dinner before digging in: traditional Ethiopian food of Injera & Wot.
The kids at Kids Club showing off their Jesus & Zacchaeus drawings.
These two boys from Kids Club were my little boyfriends.
I spent most of my time at Kids Club with the teens who couldn't decide whether to like me or think I was weird.
Melissa enticing a little girl into her arms for some T.L.C.
During lunch at Kids Club, when I sat too close to these girls they would scoot over (I think they thought I would try to share their food).
Making plates of peanut butter & honey sandwiches, bananas, and fruit punch for Kids Club lunch.
Women from the mountain side who came to the parenting class.
This is an 11 yr old X-prostitute we met at the transitional home for women trying to escape prostitution. (that is not her baby)
At the home for X-prostitutes, some of the women shared their very hard stories with us. Although my effort did not compare, I shared my photo album from home so we could have a sense of knowing each other.
This photo hangs on the wall of the prostitute transitional housing. There are about 15 girls living in the house as they get job skill training to be nurses, hair stylists, computer techs, etc.
The group of women from the prostitution transitional home we visited. They glowed with praise for Jesus for rescuing them from their pasts!
This is Birukti and two of the Street Boys that she sponsors. One night during our trip, we joined her on their weekly dinner date (her and about 20 Street Boys that she cares for go out to dinner once a week-- she treats them to a feast!).
The boys crowd around some of the women on our team for a group picture at the end of dinner. At first they were unsure of us but by the end we were all buddies.
Because many of the Street Boys didn't speak English, we got creative in order to bond with them... above: Shara plays "thumb wars." And below: I played the "sneaky slap" game.

The team leader for the weaving project shows me a bag of the days work, lots of spun cotton.
The ladies here are spinning cotton in order to make fabric. A "small group" from the church we worked with had the idea to create this job opportunity for the women who otherwise would haul 85 pounds of timber down from the mountains on their backs.
One woman tried to teach me how to spin the yarn. I was terrible at it, but she enjoyed laughing at me.
This is a photo of one what the yarn-spinning-women used to do. It would take all day to gather the wood and walk it down the mountainside, for 50 CENTS a day.
When we visited homes on the mountainside, we met some of the children of those with HIV/AIDS.
This is the doorway into a small 10 home "compound" community on the mountainside, which HIV/AIDS families live and grow small crops of food to eat.
Inside the "compound" doorway, there are 3 buildings like this, with several one-room homes in each building. This is 3 different families' front doors.
These are 2 ladies whose homes we visited on the mountainside. On the left is a married woman who's husband is in his final weeks (she too is infected). On the right is a 23 yr old widow who also lost her child (all to the same disease she also has).
This is a sample of traditional Ethiopian food.

Ethiopia Invented Coffee

Ethiopians say that coffee was invented in their country. They are proud of coffee and brew it strong! Here is the process of making Ethiopian coffee (backwards, sorry the pics uploaded in reverse order). And fun fact: they serve fresh popcorn with their coffee.
After boiling the water & grinds they pour them into your cup. Then, as an American, you might fill at least half your cup with milk to cut the PUNCH Ethiopian coffee has.
Once you grind up the coffee beans, you add them to a pot of water and boil it.
After you roast the coffee beans, you them grind up by hand. They hold these sticks and smash them into the little wooden pot until the beans are just powder.
Once you pick the coffee beans from the tree, you roast them over a hot flame until they turn from light to dark brown.
This is a coffee tree. The red & yellow berries are the "beans". When they turn red they're ready to be picked and cooked.

Sudan in Pictures

A photo-blog from my trip to Southern Sudan for all you who think I am too wordy! :)
This is the border between Southern Sudan and Uganda. I had to go into the "immigration office" (4ft x 4ft room) to register my entry.
This man is a tailor in Kajo Keji. He hopes to apply for one of the small biz loans so that he can pay to be trained on a machine he already owns that makes patterned sweaters (like on the magazine covers).
This is one of the local brewers and her child. She hopes to get trained in another trade because she doesn't like the alcoholism that results from her biz. But for now, it's the only way she can make the money she needs to pay for her kids' school fees.
All the full time workers in Sudan this summer. Missy is working on the micro-loan biz & starting the internet cafe. John is starting a Sudanese "Celebrate Recovery." Will is digging wells. Heather is Missy & Dave's full time worker on the ground (the liason between the American side of the biz and the Sudanese side of the biz). Holly is working with the local women's minister and helping John with the women who attend Celebrate Recovery.
This is Cecilia. She makes soap. She hopes to get a micro-loan to buy a bicycle so she can make more deliveries to buyers in the village (right now she mostly walks door to door).
Some children ran to the road to greet us as we walked the village.
A UN Refugee Camp just north of the Sudanese-Ugandan border. When we drove by I could see them sorting bags of grain in a giant warehouse.
This is the UNHCR tents that are given to those repatriating back to Sudan from the refugee camps. When the refugees return home, they are given a tent and a bag of grain to help get them back on their feet.
While walking the village one day, I got to meet one of the Chiefs. I asked his name, but he said to just call him "Chief."
This is Rose, the women's minister. She travels through Kajo Keji and all the neighboring towns & villages on this motorbike meeting in the homes of all the women to pray with them & do Bible studies together.
When you walk from one home to another, you have to stay on the worn paths because they haven't finished clearing the fields of landmines.
The roads are still littered with gun shell casings from the war.
This is an example of an uncleared landmine. The people mark them with red sticks so that you know not to step there.
This is the family who's house I stayed at in Sudan. Gloria & her two children Tommy (girl), and Mike (boy). Her husband Kaya is on staff with e3 Partners.
These are typical homes in the area I was in. Called tookals (i made up the spelling).
This is the first class of tailors in the Vocational School. They are being trained for several months in how to sew and then hope to get micro-loans to start their own sewing businesses.
This is the sewing sample poster on the wall of the vocational school classroom.
These are the sewing machines in the vocational school classroom.
This is the local market in Kajo Keji, where Missy & Dave hope to meet future clients who need micro-loans to better their small businesses.
This was the market diagram that Missy made as she mapped out the various sellers and what they sell (market research).
Missy & Heather & Kenneth interview a candidate for the Internet Cafe Manager position. They hired him!
Missy checks the final product of the electrician installing the wiring at the internet cafe (which will all be run off of solar panels and generators-- no electrical grid in Kajo Keji).
Missy meeting with the carpenter who was contracted to make the desks/tables for the Internet Cafe.
Missy gets measurements for glass to finish the windows to the Micro-Loan Office.
Missy buying the paint for the Internet Cafe & Micro-Loan Office.
This is Kenneth. He is the Director of Micro-Finance for Missy & Dave in Sudan.
Here is the building that houses the Vocational School, the Internet Cafe, and the Micro-Loan Office. You can see the solar panels atop the roof, and the satelitte dish where we'll get internet from.