you know that part in return of the jedi when princess leia and chewie get into jabba’s palace by pretending to be a bounty hunter and, well, chewie plays himself, but leia wears that helmet that makes her voice all robot garble? i saw an ancient italian man today, ageless, creased skin, and as we walked by i heard him speak; his voice was ridiculously spot on for that voice from the helmet. it was terrifying and wonderful.
we had more than enough food at the feeding today, more than we really knew what to do with, besides of course giving extras to who ever wanted. i asked elisabeth if it would be weird if i took one of the extra meals at sat with my friends. she said, that would actually be quite good. she said also that she hated that they were more often than not forced to be overseers and passer out-ers only. tim had months ago expressed a great desire to make enough to be able to eat with the guys as well. but seeing as though most weeks we give everything away and then some, we, who have money to buy food, can’t really eat a meal we technically don’t need just for the community aspect while those who could use a good meal don’ t get to eat. but there was quite enough today. so i sat with my iraqi friend mohammad and ate. many of these guys never get around to telling me much in depth about their stories, he being one of them. but some how we got to talking about something and he told me things. he was in jail for three years in iraq. he showed me the scars on his wrists from his shackles. he told me that his father had been a friend, or at least a staunch supporter of ol’ saddam. i should say that he is kurdish, actually. so the iraqis dubbed him also a supporter of saddam, saying he was going to kill americans and all sorts of nasty things. so he sat in jail for two years for no reason, until the americans finally arrived. he talked with a soldier about the nothing he had done to deserve jail time; the soldier wrote his name down. another year goes by and he is finally brought before some kind of trial in which the americans say he has done nothing wrong and is set free. but he left iraq then, as the mark of his father’s affiliations still exists upon him. but this man is short, rotund, with a jolly big nose; looks more like a cartoon character than anything. certainly doesn’t seem like anyone who would kill anyone else. goodness. but those scars….
ali showed up a bit later and ate with us as the crowd dwindled and dispersed. our singing iraqi friend asked more questions about the bible, the gospels in particular. so i got to talk about the authors of those four awesome books and things like divine inspiration. ali and i had planned on going to the ocean some time soon, and as it was decently warm out and sunny enough, we figured why not go right then. mohammad came with, tickets bought for them, but of course ali slipped through the gate after mohammad.
ali used to live near the ocean, as i have related to you previously, and it has been a long time, almost a year, since he has been on any shore. you should have seen his face when we got close enough to smell that great wondrous body of water! such instant joy beaming from everywhere. he seemed a new man, younger, vibrant, alive. he breathed deep, a smile quickly filling his face. ‘ahh! there it is!’ he shouted, in his robust, accented english, hands jabbing up towards the sky. i let out a good laugh, happy to be there with him. it was a windy day, and we endured it for a while, before the bathroom called both of them away. we stopped in the nearby mcdonalds. here we met a man from senegal selling these amazing wooden motorcycles that he and his brother had made. just beautifully done! that was a bit out of my price range (like i would have anywhere to put it in my suitcase anyway), so i relieved him of one of his cool bracelets. this also, honestly, was two euros out of my price range, i only having 3 euros on me at the time, but he gave it to me for this discounted price on account of i was from america and he likes obama. nice guy.
ali, mohammad, and i found a way down to the beach, which we then took and walked around in the sand. mohammad took of his jacket and shoes and socks and waded around a bit, splashing his arms and face. he then whent back up to a little wooden platform and did his daily prayers. he and ali discussed for a minute as to which way he should face to be pointing towards mecca. as he did his prayers, ali and i sat in the sand and he explained to me the ways of prayer in islam; the cleaning and the reasons and the rituals. he asked about in christianity. i talked about praying continuously, about how Jesus Christ loves us so much, how he died for us and took away our sin while we were still in our sins and muck, and how He takes us no matter how dirty we are. so we don’t need to clean in order to pray; we can pray anytime, and He will hear us, He will listen. Ali listened intently, asked questions, learned some things.
mohammad joined us again and added on to what ali was saying. he said that some people think all the cleaning and ritual takes too much time, that it is too hard. but they are just being lazy. he likes cleaning and praying and the whole, well, everything. it was such a beautiful moment, sitting on this beach, the sinking sun cracking the clouds wide with light, the constant surf the music to our conversation, and mohammad’s face lit like a candle as he explained about the joys of prayer and the connection to our Creator. i could have sat there for hours and listened to him talk about this stuff. and his english at that moment was more impressively clear than usual. just beautiful.
ali spoke of christians, in rome particularly, who, like the lazy muslims who don’t want to pray, don’t do much more than just slopping some food on a plate and calling it good. no one else, he said, takes the time i do to hang out with them (which isn’t exactly true). he said it was good. elisabeth and tim have expresed pleasure in the fact that i have connected with these guys so well, but never have i had that affirmed by the guys i was connecting with. they were both extremely thankful. this was kind of weird for me. my shouldn’t i hang out with my friends? it seems so natural.
mohammad reached into his bag and gave me a little italian treat of some sort. he and ali split the other one. he also gave me one of those lanyard things for keychains. i think we are all pretty thankful here. it makes me wonder what kind of ministry this is, that i just make friends and go places i like with people i like. it’s not just handing stuff out. i like this next step. a lot.
we sat for some time, just enjoying each other’s company, talking about anything really, then started to wander down the beach, occasionally throwing things in the water, as the sun burnt itself a bright orange globe between layers of cloud.
back at the station, heading towards rome, the train sat still, beckoning us with open doors, until we got two steps away, and without warning the doors snapped shut and the train rolled away. well, i guess we’ll wait, we said. ali bought a coffee, as did mohammad, but when i handed ali his drink he said it was for me. mohammad added that ali doesn’t drink coffee. gee wizz guys. we rode the train back and i learned some new arabic words. at the station mohammad left, and ali took the metro with me, hopping off at termini.
i couldn’t have asked for a better last saturday meal here.
yesterday raymond came over and we learned the intro to bob marley’s redemption song. he played it amazingly well by the end of the hour and some. i think we were both pretty impressed. it was perfect. bob marley is his favorite music artist (right above 2pac) and he was very excited about learning one of his songs. the boy is doing very well at all this. and as usual, God loves me so much comes from his lips often. i have some extra money and i am going to buy him a guitar and a book so that he can amaze everyone when i am gone, by teaching himself some excellent things.
and if you haven’t heard the song, i suggest it.
here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12QZDSaBfps
i just feel in awe today. shaken. humbled. amazed. blessed to a overwhelming degree. like the feeling i get when i am given a car, or when people fix said car when it has broken, or give me a guitar, or bless me with oil changes or plane tickets to europe, or money in general to do what i want to do and feel called to do in this world. i mean, here it is! i am engaging with a very high number of other cultures and people groups; i am learning languages and bits of languages; i am having spiritual conversations where i get to tell people about the great love of God; i am building amazing friendships. and this is exactly the sort of thing that i want to do! i want to talk about Jesus, and live on miracles, and learn and grow and experience life with people from all around the world.and i have been blessed with three months of doing just that!
one of the big reasons for taking this journey was to test the waters a bit, see if this whole international missions thing is really what i could do with the rest of my days here on earth, what God may really have been calling me to. and i feel like there may be a big yes coming here, for at the end of three months i don’t feel like ‘wow, that was cool, i’m glad i did that;’ i feel frustration and joy at the fact that i feel like i have only scratched the surface! i can’t tell you how many ideas we have that we haven’t had the time or means to bring to life! and this is only one corner of one city! and here i am in the last few days.
i am waiting for a day when God will make all things new. but until then how can i not do His work?