This one’s for Saturday………………
There is a Catholic church near my apartment building that is all brick and concrete stylistic weirdness from edgy architects the decades have gracefully forgotten. The thing is that when viewed from the back, as I walk from the sky-viewing bridge to home, the building is quite reminiscent of the desert lair of the vilest, most sinister slug-like crime lord in the galaxy. That’s right, this church looks like Jabba’s palace. I don’t know if that is really an association the church should be going for, but in my mind, that’s what they get.
The day started with an atmosphere rending blaze of light, dissolving clouds and the gray hands of the remaining dark. Great was the bright crush of sun, speeding across vast reaches of space to warm our lonely planet, but this greatness would be here short lived. For as Lindsey and I bussed our way through the streets of Rome, I began to notice the telltale drops settling and growing on streets and cars. By the time we got to the church it was fully raining. Tim was already there with a couple other ladies helping out by destroying vegetables with knives. Some other group of the church, throwing some sort of missions bonanza at another location, decided to claim and set aside certain special pots and serving utensils that we would usually use to make and prepare the Saturday lunch. We got creative working around these absences, but eventually gave up and took the dishes we needed, being sure to wash them thoroughly afterwards. Tim got creative with some more Afghan dishes and I have discovered that turmeric, cumin, and coriander taste awesome together. I am going to have to try these sorts of dishes on my own!
All the bread we had been given by Marianna and friends I had the extreme pleasure of cutting. And there was a lot of bread. One piece was the size of a Volkswagen and another was in the shape of a donut and easily nine feet in diameter. Maybe I am exaggerating, but these were certainly the greatest, strangest bulbous lumps of bread I had ever held in mine own hands. Thanks for the workout, I have never broken a sweat while cutting up bread before. I ate my fill of tiny corners and end pieces. And if you think me cruel for stealing food from the refugees, they wouldn’t even take all the bread we tried to give them, there was so much. I took a bunch afterwards and Tim and Rachel still have a giant bag full. So there.
During the preparation time, the thunder shells hit a total of twice and then snuck away without another word. The rain was left to keep us company. We had to hide from the constant and heavy dripping of the clouds under ancient archways. There were only forty or so guys there (compared to the usual 100), but that was still a sufficient amount to make things crowded and crazy while trying to peaceably hand out food. Too many reaching hands finding their ways into any open space. Tim actually had to get a bit harsh with them, but this was the only way to save poor Lindsey from being completely smothered against the rotting brick. That was a little frustrating. The last thing we want is to be jerks while trying to help them. Just a weird situation. But afterwards I got to talk to a couple guys, new in town, who spoke a fair amount of English. One of them asked if I worked at a restaurant and if I could get him a job there. Sorry dude. But it was a good conversation nonetheless. I hope to see them again.
And just as we start walking to the car to go clean up the church the rain slows to a trickle and then finally dies. Great timing guys.
I started watching the movie Jesus of Nazareth. I don’t really know why, beside that I just thought it might be a good idea. I guess the darn thing is like five years long. I watched the first two hours. Of course everyone speaks in a British accent (except for Herodias) and is super melodramatic. Some parts were actually pretty legit, others were strange additions or takes on what the Gospels actually have written in them. And I am not so sure about the Jesus character. Cleanest of the bunch and also the slowest speaker, as if he was trapped in slo-mo. “Today…………in your hearing…………..this scripture……..has been……………………………….ffullll…fffffilllledddd.” There are dramatic pauses and then there are dramatic pauses! I eventually decided to stop watching. It was ok until their idea of Jesus made his debut, then it got a little ….weird. It’s not so much that it wasn’t the Jesus I had in my mind, just that it didn’t really seem like the kind of person the Gospels and other Scriptures describe.
I met with Tim later that afternoon, Rachel off at that missions shin-dig, and we held an awesome conversation over the constancy of Joy and her noises and her offering us invisible water and medicine. We talked about the things I have been thinking of, which are also things they have been considering, about how to take the next step of making Christ a bit more known to the refugees, being a little more intentional in that. He said they have considered printing up little flyer deals with a short little word on why we do what we do. I am pretty sure the refugees just come to get a meal and have no idea we are Christians. Tim also said that one of the big things we can do is pray for them, right then and there. He has never had anyone turn down that offer. Of course he prefaces the prayer with saying it will be prayed in the name of Jesus Christ. They are pretty ok with that, too. After all, He is a pretty big figure in their take on history as well.
I also brought up other big thinks that I have been thoughting about recently. The Somali population is a very closed group that tends to not be very thankful for the ‘help’ we try and give them. It is a little (or big) miracles that Marianna has the standing with them that she does. Tim told me that their children’s stories are all ones in which the trickster and typical ‘bad guy’ wins and is actually the hero. Trickery and deceit are thus seen as good things. I was pondering how in the world you make something like the Gospel, words of a sinless Man, the greatest teachings on righteousness ever, appealing to people with that mindset. But we need do nothing, as the message is one for all people and it will be so. I compiled a sizable list of Bible stories of trickery as they came to mind. The deceptions of Jacob, the hidden sword of Ehud, plenty of other examples from the Hebrew Scriptures. Even parables of Jesus, like that of the shrewd manager (Luke 16), applied. Here are stories that could quite possible speak to a different mindset while still, especially in the case of the parables, having a lesson behind it all. I guess I imagine some of these stories more as an entrance into the world of the Bible, and others as legit Gospel teachings about life with God. Of course we are not currently in such a place as to utilize this approach (and it certainly still has some details to be worked out), but it was an idea, and we wonder how much of this Marianna could use in her relationships and outreaches. Again, it would take being on a deeper level of trust with these guys to really use any of these stories well I think. But I suppose we shall see. Mainly it is just cool to see the message of God speak in so many different ways. His Word is alive.
A good Afghan friend of the Uthmann’s came over for dinner and we had some of the exact same things we had cooked for the refugees earlier. Tim is trying to learn how to play the violin, something I played (kind of) many years ago. He actually has two, on account of his buying one and others not knowing of such actions and thus giving him one. So I screeched and scratched and tried to relearn a lot of things. And I also taught our Afghan friend a thing or two. We had a great time with it.
That night I watched The Adventures of Pete and Pete over Skype with my sister, which was a wonderful thing that should certainly happen more often in the days to come. And if you have never heard of this show, well! Stop what you’re doing and go find it. You won’t regret it. Well…then again….you might….