Let’s talk about Friday.
It was a day like any ordinary day except for the parts that made it distinctly unique. Lindsey and I trekked to St. Andrews to find a very flustered Willy saying, ‘Just the people I wanted to see’ as we walked in. John was off doing some other church-y business, and Florence was off doing some other church-y business and the three of us were there to handle all aspects. Ok. Willy went down to the center and Lindsey and I stayed back, I taking the tickets, she handing out lunches. We kind of ran out of food. This is awfully frustrating. Not too many where turned away, but when you only have so many lunches you only have so many lunches I guess. Sheesh. A lady came by from the UNHCR (I think that’s what it’s called), the branch of the UN doing work with the refugees; working with cases, looking busy, getting paid too much, that sort of stuff. (Really? Am I that much of a jerk? I am sure they do a lot…) Anyway, her and this fella were doing a story/research thing on refugee minors travelling on their own. With them was a guy we have played soccer with and who I usually try to talk to as much as I can when I see him. I chatted with the lady for a bit and it was actually really cool to be able to know things about the world of the refugee that I could share. Have I learned things?! She had no idea if this information would help the government be better humans. I am also skeptical. I talked to the refugee friend about it today and basically they just wanted to know a few things about food and sleeping conditions and then they left. I had no idea he was a minor. This may or may not actually be the case. A lot of these guys look a lot older than they are.
Tim and I went to get the free bread from the nice little bakery afterwards. John said that in eight years of living in Rome never has he heard of or seen Italians actually giving things away!!! Awesome. So, toting bags of bread (what joy!), we stopped by in a coffee shop, one of the few with a legit seating area, and had our weekly bro-down. We discussed many wonderful things about ministry, and travel to other lands, and this really cool book we are reading by Brennan Manning. This is always a good time.
That night a thousand Agape people crammed into our little apartment (in the winter time the giant terrace doesn’t seem like the greatest use of space in the world). We were served a traditional day-after-Thanksgiving turkey enchiladas meal and watched Elf. I stopped watching half-way through. There is one scene that caught me really off-guard. I have seen this a half dozen times, but the part where they are getting bombarded by snowballs, and it is trying to be all war movie-like, I just couldn’t watch. I had to leave. Making light of that stuff just doesn’t do it for me. In fact I was kind of angry. Why? Plenty of reasons I am sure. I regret every moment I ever spent playing games where I shot ‘imaginary’ people.
And then there was today…….
Turkey day part 3. We got to the church early to help Elisabeth get ready to serve the refugees a Thanksgiving style meal. Chicken legs, mashed potatoes, and mixed veggies. I think once I walked in the door I was doing something until I left. There was plenty to do, and, after a while, plenty of people to do it, as most of the Agape refugee crew came out to help. But there always seemed to be the strange items left undone, which I found a bit odd. Like doing dishes and having to go out and find the empty dishes left out on the serving tables. I guess when there are a lot of people around we aren’t supposed to do the little things that we normally would do. (Man! It just doesn’t stop!) But we got everything out there and….were short food again. We had made a bunch of little bags of lunch-like foods inside, planning on giving everyone a hot meal and a little baggie, but we ended up giving half a real lunch and the others the little bags as there were a bunch more people than we were hoping for. Which was fine, but it is just lame when the guy next to you gets warm food and you get an orange and some bread and yogurt. And a little cookie (that is the biggest little blast of sugar I may have ever consumed). The Agape team wanted this to be a moment in which Italian friends could interact with the refugees in their backyard, but I don’t actually know if any Italians even showed. It seems they really like backing out last minute.
A lot of new faces here today. Most of the guys we have played soccer with I have not seen in weeks now. I am pretty sure they all skipped town, headed for better lands. With these conditions I don’t blame them. But I feel almost abandoned. Is that weird? wrong? But such is the nature of the ministry I suppose. They come, they go. Darn. I really liked those guys.
But I did get to talk with a guy named Jamaal. He has some stories, holy cats. Fought alongside American troops for four years, personal body guard to one of the top Afghan military commanders, stuff like that, you know. He talked a lot of stuff and he was quite the talker. He touched on how Jesus is not the Son of God; not all Muslims are terrorists; how Afghanistan doesn’t make anything, but all the good and bad things (clothes, guns, bombs) come from other countries; how Mohammed didn’t know how to write until Allah spoke to him; and many other things I cannot here recall, but that I will probably remember as I climb into bed tonight, long after this post is published. Everyone else left to go to dinner town back at the Smith’s, but I wanted to continue the conversation and so Jamaal and I got some coffee, which he would not let me pay for. I steered the conversation back toward religious things, about Jesus, but he launched onto a tangent about this doctor dude, some big time and really smart defender of Islam. We finished our coffee and walked to a little grassy area where he pulled out his laptop (we aren’t really sure why/how he has such a thing) complete with wireless internet getup, and proceeded to show me clips on Youtube from debates where he smashes Christians with outstanding logic! But the last thing I want is a debate. That doesn’t really get anyone anywhere, I don’t think, and the points this guy was fighting with were so minuscule as to be completely trivial. As in, why does anyone give a second thought to such little things in the text? It baffled my mind that there would even be a full debate about such tiny things. If one side is proved correct it still doesn’t prove anything for the religion as a whole. I kept trying to interrupt and talk about real and meaningful things, but he really liked this guy and was subtly trying to convert me I am pretty sure. It was an interesting time. Later I would talk to Tim about Jamaal. Tim says that he has a very loyal attachment to things, people; probably made him an excellent bodyguard. Such an attachment may be held to Islam, even if the actual observance of the faith is not really well seen in his life.
I got to also see and talk with (when ignoring the videos) other friends I met last week. One said I should help to get him an American passport. Don’t think America would be super keen on that, sorry, man. Jahid said we should go to Afghanistan and he would show me all the sights. I said ok. I had my camera with me so we took some pictures and that was fun. Gotta send them to him. We just hung out for a bit afterwards. It was awesome to just spend an afternoon with these guys, talking and laughing. That could happen often and I wouldn’t be angry about it.
As it was getting dark, I finally said goodbye, hopped the metro and then a bus out to the Smith abode and caught the remnants of yet another turkey dinner. I hung out for a little bit, but I was really tired (well, still am as of the writing of this) and had a bunch of stuff to think through, process. Heard a lot of words today. A lot of messed up things. I am sorry for everyone in the whole wide stupid world that thinks shooting a gun will ever achieve peace. I am pretty sure that Jesus is the only way to peace because He does not give as the world gives. And that is what makes Him awesome. He is everything good that the world is not. He is love.