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“Go not gently into the night, rage, rage, against the dying of the light” March 26, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 4:47 pm

While up in the Cloud Forest of the Costa Rican mountains where it is undeniable that there is an amazing God, Michael Leroy gave us a lecture (more like sermon) on creation and stewardship. It was everything I needed to hear. I’m choosing to share it with you.

The issue that many students have on the CASP program is that they see so much hurt and pain and have a difficult time understanding why a God would exist that would allow this. Many of us in the the U.S. understand a relationship with God to be a vertical one- one that is between you and him alone, not reaching anything or anyone else. This type of relationship cannot explain the hurt and the injustice. For this reason, the creator of CASP, Ron Fraise, said that we all need a second conversion. This conversion will mark the difference between what you know if your head and what you come to believe in your heart. Faith becomes a faith that reaches out, not only up like American Christian culture has led so many to believe. So, it is important to develop practical ways to “kick at all the darkness.” Francis of Asisi once said, “Go not gently into the night, rage, rage against the dying of the light.”- we cannot allow ourselves to surrender to the darkness that many people in the world live in on a regular basis. Therefore, it has now become our job to challenge the North American cultural chains that stop Christians from reaching out. We need to work to make sense of the world that we live in that allows us to have hope. Anger and rage can be destructive emotions, but they’re rooted in a good thing: protection. They keep us from being hurt more. We need to protect ourselves from being hurt, but in a proactive way that leads to good.

Creation: With God as the Creator, we read the narrative of his intentionality in Genesis. The four main points are that God is preexisting, not the universe, God is transcendent, God is creator and created something infinitely creative, and God is the sustainer of creation. (John 1, Psalm 29, Psalm 104, Hebrews 1:1-3). In Genesis we also find that all was created by God and it is unnecessary to see it as science- it was meant to be poetic and inspiring. He created humans, and humans alone, in his image. These humans serve as an expression of freedom and humanity. This is a God that wants to bring out the good and harmony. He wants a thriving creation. He developed his creation with certain characteristics: it has inherent value- human rights should always be defended- they are ineliminable; It was created not only for humans, but also for God’s own delight.

Sin: Although sin has its effects on creation, it can only corrupt and distort- it cannot destroy. Sin is described as living between a curse and a promise (Bonhoeffer, Deut. 30:19-20). We can see the curse, we can see the promise- they are co-existing. Sin is comprehensive, therefore effecting all of creation. It has a corrupting influence, not obliterating one. Everything remains retrievable. It can explain death in the world. It is the only thing that really explains death.

Redemption: Althougth sin exists, God’s goodness allowed for the creation covenant (Gen. 8:18-9:17). It instructs us to cultivate, keep, and name. It shows the commitments necessary between God, creation, and humanity. It was God’s way of showing his unconditional and everlasting grace and favor on humanity. In this same way, he created the sabbath to give creation and humanity the rest that they both require. He gave us all we needed. Yet, because of sin, we broke this covenant. Our greed cannot sustain us- for this Jesus came (Is. 5:8-9). It was understood in the Old Testament that when a covenant is broken a sacrifice needed to be made. Humanity should have had to pay for the greed, yet Christ came. We have been redeemed. All of creation was and still is being redeemed whether it recognizes it or not. In this redemption, humanity tends to see it as individual redemption story rather than an all encompassing story (Rms. 8:19-23, Mt. 27:50-52). Yet, when Christ died, it shook the whole of creation. And now, we have the privledge of knowing the end of the story- redemption. It ends well. (Psalm 147).

From this, I can see how individualistic my faith has been. This type of faith will not sustain the world, nor carry us through the hurt and need. The world is in need because humans aren’t doing what God wants them to be doing. If humanity chose to follow his instructions, there would be no inequality- there would be shalom. For this reason, our faith needs to be much BIGGER.

The tendency that humans have is to understand life through a fallen perspective. So, when we hear the biblical idea of ruling and subduing, we think “dictator.” God didn’t mean it this way (Gen. 2:15). Ruling and subduing means not being greedy. It means diligently observing the law. It means bring peace, to be great, and serve (Is. 9:6-7, Mt. 20:25-28). It means fully participating with God knowing that because we don’t have the capabilities to do it right, he will be coming right behind us, ready to fix it and clean it up. Because humanity created sin, we are redeemed with the purpose to serve, to fix what we have broken, and be a part of the redemption project. To be a part of the redemption project there are some things that we can do, some practices. 

Now what? First, it is vital to remember that God is bigger than those without faith. Cultivate: help with the growth process. Bring out the best quality in a thing. A nurturing process. Keep: Conserve and preserve in the same way that God does. Name: To name you must know that thing- really maximize your understanding of it. It requires a level of intimacy, study, and knowledge. It requires that we pay close attention. Knowledge: We can be knowledgable and continue to know more. Concern: We should be concerned about what we see and know. We should be concerned for the world in the same way that we are concerned when we make mistakes. Sacrifice: Give up for the greater good. There are serious things going on in the world that require serious sacrifice. It will require us to be uncomfortable in small and big ways. We must not only sacrifice for ‘things’ but for people, too. For we are redeemed and tehrefore able to assist in the redemption, the healing and restoring, of creation only by God’s grace and with God’s help. Solidarity: Be self-sacrificing, committed, and disciplined to working with or for people suffering more than us. We must do this while being mindful of who we are doing it for so we continue to engage. We need to come and meet and know why. 

We should strive to be pilot plants. We should want to be and be the first to go into a new area, take on the hardship, so that the path is clear and ready for the others to follow peacefully. It sounds lonely. But maybe life as a pilot plant is only lonely for a short while until it is safe enough for others to rest in the new life as well. Shouldn’t we want to be lonely if it means that no one else will experience the hardships, but insetad have the privledge of experiencing the safe and good?

So, it sounds like life is never going to be the same. How wonderful is that? We will not, and shouldn’t, feel at home in a world that isn’t working in the way that God intended it to. When our faith grows in this way, we cannot be comfortable. We should take this news, use it, and serve well, all the while “thanking God regularly that we are not God.” 

He’s amazing. He’s present. “Be still and know that I am God.”

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Pooh….it’s really quite useful. March 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 1:13 pm

We just got back from spending a wonderful week on the Caribbean coast, soaking up the sunshine, eating vegetarian, and learning how to live sustainably. We were surrounded by hundreds of different kinds of fruit (two of my favorites tasted like sweet potato cream pie and cream custard), and all kinds of fun animals. The first one we encountered on our hike through the jungle to get to the magical Punta Mona was a spider that doesn’t bite and whose web is being used to design bullet proof vests…SO COOL. So obviously, Erica played with it.

We ran into howler monkeys, a few sloths, lizards, a million evil ants, and many more exciting creatures. This was just on our hike in. The jungle is crazy filled with all kinds of things- one thing to watch out for are the bullet ants though because they bite and it feels like you just got shot in the face 15 times but still won’t die. Perfect. (I think one crawled on the back of my leg, but thankful Taylor swatted at me to remove the little guy). We hiked right near the shore enjoying the black sand and edible plants.

We arrived at Punta Mona and were welcomed with a friendly “Welcome Home!” by the owner, Stephen. He and his wife and the most wonderful, free-spirited, wise people I have ever encountered. I would say that they are only border-line hippie, really just trying to protect God’s creation. Sarah, his wife, cooked every meal for us, 90% of which was grown right around the house. There were hundreds of species of edible plants and we were able to enjoy most of them. Ali and I posted up at the kitchen before every meal time in order to learn about how to eat healthily but also create the most yummy food in the world- whole wheat, garlic, coconut tortilla anyone?

The farm consists of 3 main sustainability systems- a composting toilet. Our pooh and pee is mixed with sawdust to create some of the richest soil that can be found in today’s world. How cool is that! And it doesn’t really smell too bad either! There is the water catching system that catches rain and then purifies it through rocks and sand. And there is the solar panel, electric system that went right over my head, but it sounded cool! Also, they built all of their structures using the wood in the jungle that comes from fallen trees- no deforestation for them! On top of all of that, they rarely have to buy anything to eat because they have created such a distinct ecosystem that can pretty much give them everything they need. All of this and more can be found right on the Caribbean coast. The most lovely place. Oh. One last thing…Anyone see themselves taking a trip to Costa Rica, Punta Mona specifically, for Spring break next year? I do. Join me!

So we spent the week in debriefing mode from Honduras, spending a lot of time just hearing everyone’s stories. It feels like forever ago that I was living with my dear Mirna, but we all have a lot to talk about. It sort of put me in a weird funk for a week while I processed how different my experience had been compared to everyone else’s. It took the entire week and a whole lot of conversation to realize why my experience had been so different: while most people left wonderful relationships in Honduras, I found myself wondering where I had gone wrong to not form any strong bonds. Then it hit me. God didn’t place me where I was to let people get to know me. He placed me where I was to understand what it means to be humbled; to not talk about myself for an entire month. I spent the whole month learning how to be a companion to a woman that needed it and learned how to quiet myself in order to listen and learn from the people around me. He taught me how to live without the need to be heard and the He is the only one I need to have by my side to hear my thoughts and fears. I don’t need to vent or whine, I need to listen and learn. So, although I didn’t form any deep bonds, or feel the need to go straight back and continue living in that community, I learned something that I don’t think many people have the opportunity to learn in the U.S. where life is too busy and too self-involved. I am incredibly blessed to be here and that becomes more apparent each and every day. I still have a month and a half, and I have a feeling there are many wonderful lessons still to come- I simply pray that I am open to the changes despite the busyness of the rest of the journey.

I miss home a lot. I miss my friends and my family. I miss my bed and my milk. But, I am so so excited that I still have a month and a half to explore this part of the world and take you all with me. I hope that you all are getting a little taste of the Latin America that I love. Let’s come back here together.

 

Baleadas, piece of cake. Literally and figuratively. March 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 8:21 pm

So, I was literally the last CASPian to be dropped off in my homestay at 6:30 pm in the evening on Friday. The head of police escorted us to my home, Quebrada Seca. We pull up to a house that was real nice compared to the surrounding homes, and it was filled with young boys and bags of coffee. Panic/reality started to set it. Kim, my professor, forced me out of the car with a smile on my face to say hello. A man with a cowboy hat, gun, and huge beer-belly comes to me and tells me he is my new dad, but that I wouldn’t be living with him. Panic. Instead, I would be living with his late wife’s niece, who is not married, lives by herself, and is half my size- meet Mirna. Me and Mirna for four weeks…Not sure about that. After an hour of dicussing how I cannot simply live with this one woman, we learned that the 8 year old neighbor girls sleeps in the house with us at night…to be safer? Yet, Kim decides it is a great situation for me…and left me there to fend for myself. Aw, nuts.

I went to bed in tears, but was excited to go into the city that was only 20 minutes away the next day to meet two of the people who helped place me. Day 2, Mirna and I went to a conferencia at the municipality in order to form committees of citizens to help the mayor be aware of local problems. I put a smile on my face and told the head of police that I loved my new home (a bit of a stretch). The conference was cool though because Mirna joined the security and justice committee which I felt was appropriate since she lives alone as a female across the street from the town drunk 🙂 awesome. After 3 hours we headed back to Quebrada Seca and my distraction from reality was gone. I hated it. I wanted to go home and to top it off, my amoeba and stomach infection decided to have another visit. Physically and mentally….I was ready to make up an emergency.

The first week was full of tears and self-pity. It was pathetic. I spent my days more enthralled with my homework than the people because I really didn’t want to be there. I continued to pray the most ridiculous prayer- “Lord, please give me to be the desire to be here- or make me have an emergency so that I can go home”. Pathetic. The one positive was that there was frequent activity around me. Men would come every day to de-pulp coffee and Mirna and I went to the Catholic Church every night…I was they’re newest convert project. Also, I learned to needle point. Stitched myself a napkin.

Ok so first, who are these men that are walking all around when I wake up in the morning? Should I be afraid (of course that’s the first thought I had)…No. Rafael and Evelio employ some of the men in my town to work. Evelio owns Mirna’s house, and she can live there for free if she feeds them while they work. Evelio’s daughter became my new friend. Dania is 16 and spent most of her time at school, but thought I was real interesting so would come hang out whenever she could. Second, we literally went to church 5 nights a week, and I spoke, outloud, to everyone, EVERY time.

So, speaking of church, I became a part of the youth group. The first weekend we were there I attened the Dia de San Valentin party…ok. They are between 18 and 25 and act like middle schoolers. We did “Amigo Secreto” which is basically secret santa with Valentine stuff, and then played “Whichever boy is holding the ball when the music stops gets to dance with the Gringa!” Perfect. Talk about uncomfortable. I put a real quick end to that and let me tell you, they were not happy. But instead of letting them talk me into another round, I ran to the kitchen to help serve cake. My first cake of the month.

The following day we went up to the mountain. Now let me tell you that it had been raining really hard for a week and the roads are made of dirt and feces- so naturally the truck could not make it up the hill, therefore forcing us to hike up, carrying a few pounds of mud on my shoes the whole way. Mirna’s dad and brother are super wealthy and live at the top, overlooking all of Quebrada Seca and La Entrada. For the special occasion of my visit, we killed a chicken. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something fly through the air and saw a tiny 90 year old women twirling a chicken in the air by the neck to kill it. Brilliant. Then it was defeathered, gutted and added to the fresh chicken noodle soup. At first I thought I had become a vegetarian….but then it just tasted soooooo good. So much for being an animal lover.

So then, the start of week two. Between needle pointing, making tortillas, visiting the city, and doing homework, I investigated. Mirna was pretty much my only source for a while since I couldn’t go anywhere without her and she wouldn’t let me talk, so I learned that they got running water 9 years ago and electricity 4 years ago. I figured electricity had to be new because everything was on all the time, and music and tv were listened to at the highest decible possible. Everything was SO loud. I stopped missing home so much this week and really began to LOVE the slow, peaceful, completely stress-free life that Mirna leads. So apparently God chose the former of my prayers. This was great news to me because it would me up to an opportunity to learn a lot about Him from the people and town that He created and designed for me to be in for that month.

The people in Quebrada Seca might be the most hospitable, caring group of people to have ever lived. Mirna doesn’t have to work all year round because it is dangerous for her to travel alone, so as long as she cooks  for the workers, Evelio brings her what she needs. The neighbors all provide for one another despite not having enough for themselves. Everyone is always welcomed with open arms and lots of food.

So Kim told my mom that my birthday was this month. There was no question of whether or not there would be a party…or 2. Plans started to be made and I overheard cakes (plural), pinatas (plural), tamales, music, and government guests. Whoa.

The Friday before, we spent the night in La Entrada, the big town,  to go grocery shopping early Saturday morning. The homes were so nice, with bathrooms inside- HUGE plus. And they had refridgerators. Wow. We spent the night watching telenovelas and laughing a lot….but then when I woke up the next day. I freaked out.

I woke up with a swollen leg and a spider bite bigger than a quarter! It hurt! I thought it must have been a bite from the deadliest spider in the world and went into 36 hours of panic where I convinced myself that this was the end of my life. We applied cream. We watched. I called the organization. I was sure it was the end. The next day, the swelling was down and the bite was tiny…I survived.

Yet in the midst of all the terror, I had things to learn! We made tamales from scratch- like we ground the corn ourselves for the dough. We made  baleadas (think burrito in quesidilla form…but SOOOOOOOOO good), aka the hardest tortillas in the world to make. More on that later.  We made pastries out of bananas, and we made PASTA! Not like US pasta, but still…who cares at this point?

The day before my actual birthday was my big party. I was woken up with the Latin American birthday song at 4 am by two girls in the youth group, and then was surprised outside with a decorated patio that said “Happi Betdey” or happy birthday if you speak English. It was the most precious, nicest thing in the world. At 4 pm, the guests (that I had never seen before) began to arrive and give me big hugs and kisses. The neighbor kids all came too because they heard about the pinatas. We ate a huge meal, then it was time to break that sucker open. Everyone yells “Arriba, abajo” and I swung like an idiot. I hit it twice, then the little kids got to go at it. I was ordered to change into a dress (even though i was wearing a skirt and my nicest top) to cut the cake. Then, I had cake smeared all over it!

We laughed and ate cake and it was the best birthday in the world. I felt so loved and well cared for.

On my actual birthday, I woke up knowing that I would get visited by the TAs and professor at somepoint that day…so I sat around looking for something to keep me busy. That didn’t last too long because while I was eating breakfast one of the workers yells “Kaylee, I think your friends are here” and I ran out into the street to find 3 huge gringos hiking up the road. Happy birthday to me. The whole time they were there I spoke a mile a minute and my thoughts were all jumbled as I tried to tell them everything at once. Then they whipped out a huge bag of letters and I was on top of the world. To hear from everyone I loved at home was the best birthday present I could have asked for. Thank you so much for being apart of my experience. It made my birthday all the more better.

My second birthday party did not top the first…or anything else I’ve ever experienced. We had a pinata hand made for me and got a cake, but never touched them because the Catholic birthday parties are actually just 4 hours of really loud, screaming worship. Super weird. Not to say that it was bad, just a little unexpected. So to say the least, my birthday was very different, but amazing. I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

Week 3 passed and I began to love this little town. I cannot honestly think of a time in my life where I had no plans, no expectations, no stress, and all the time in the world. To not be stressed out was a completely new experience for me, and let me tell you, it isn’t so bad. I could do it forever!

My final Saturday in Quebrada Seca was an adventure. I was told that we were hiking to go bathe in the water source. I was confused. I’m thinking, wow that’s unsanitary, but ok. Turns out, they meant that we were going to splash in a creek. I ‘hiked’ up the slippery, jungle rocks, almost dying every 5 steps, scared to death…yet I prevailed. Tons of people were swimming and picnicing, enjoying the cool water and the hot sun. Insects chose to eat me alive as I sat and watched my crew splash away. We ate these real funky chips and drank pepsi from the empty bags as we had forgotten the cups. We built a fire and toasted tortillas in the open air. We hiked back to the house, enjoying my one moment of ‘exercise’ I had all month, and then was promptly told to make myself “bien guapa” because I had a wedding to attend. What? Welp, I just went with it. I ‘bathed’, I really just stuck my head under the ice cold water for a second, put on a dress, and allowed them to put rhinestones in my hair. The reception was first. I didn’t know who was getting married, and the reception was for ‘non-Christians’ only, so it was quite awkward for me. We ate chicken, not cake because they don’t do that, and left after about 10 minutes. Later, we went to the church, with everyone else in the town, and witnessed the most awful and sad wedding ever. The couple never smiled, touched, or looked at each other. I left very confused.

BUT THEN…week 4 started, which we named La Semana de Baleadas. I made flour tortillas every day for my last week.

I went from this fearful face to a baleada pro in 5 days. The dough is so hard to make and I was sore from it, but the acheivement was worth it.

It was an amazing last week and I was incredibly sad to leave. I had become a part of the community and was not ready to leave it behind. Yet, I was so excited to see all of my group and hear about their months. My month was full of hard and amazing experiences, with a lot of goofy mixed right it. God taught me that I can do it. That I can live on my own and be in relationship with strangers. I’ve never been more proud of myself.

One more thing…

Things I will miss: my most precious Mirna, fried plantains, the little children, not needing to shower, Marmahon (pasta balls), endless time, and my lovely community.

Things I will never, ever miss: washing all of my clothes by hand, waking Mirna up in the middle of night to walk me to the bathroom, all of the fat, sugar, and nasty I consumed, bugs, wearing shoes allllll the time, not understanding jokes, not having people to talk to, the milk straight from the cow, and the cockroaches crawling all up in my bed.

There you have it!!!! I LOVED HONDURAS!

 

Back to life as we know it.

Filed under: Uncategorized — kgrader @ 1:51 pm

I made it through Honduras and am currently sitting in the most lovely school in the world in Costa Rica. Country 3 is now here, we’re half way through our journey, and it couldn’t have flown by faster. I am having the time of my life and wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else than where I am now, and where I have been for the last two months. I am growing more as a person than I could have ever expected, and God is changing me in ways that I never would have fathomed.

 

I will be posting the longest entry of my life sometime before tomorrow, so wait for that….Honduras was an adventure for sure (LOTS of food, LOTS of cockroaches, and LOTS of love).

 

Thank you to everyone who has mailed me letters. It means the world to me to still feel I am a part of your lives and I LOVE hearing about them. My birthday was made to be the best ever because I got to hear from everyone I love in the states.

 

Miss you millions, more later!!!!!!