i have been thinking that maybe i should take the time to mention a couple recent developments in life for me here in the corn desert. ben woods, one of the leading dudes at axiom, put me in contact with a local lutheran church in need of a guitarist for their contemporary sunday service. so contact was made and guitar playing has happened. this was my second sunday with them. they have a student at the u of i leading on the keys and another lady named jan brushing around on a simple drum set. so i sit in front of a microphone on a stool in a room that could easily fit hundreds, but is only populated by around sixty. apparently i will get some small pay for my musical services, which doesn’t really make me angry. but i probably would have done it for free.
the church has a sign out front that says ‘a new beginning’ and has the cliche multicultural smiling faces. welcome to a strange transition for many churches who are realizing that their aging congregations will not be congregations much longer and seeing the need to reach out to the current generations if they are to survive. it is a weird thing to be a part of, though i am only playing a small small role. the pastor and i are meeting this week. he wants to pick my brain about modern worship things and music stuff in general, i believe.
the church is not very far from josh’s house and lies on a road i would ride down often last year on my many bike trips to meadowbrook park. i decided to ride the bike there today, guitar in case upon my back, swaying mightily with my pedaling. yesterday had been warm. today was not. my hands fell off in the cold. had to put them back on with duct tape. wearing gloves would be wise until spring really hits and stops playing this annoying game of deception with winter. the grasping, clutching cold does not fade easily in these parts.
the other thing happening is a weekly meeting with a man named baris. he hails from turkey and for his important governmental job he was given the opportunity to pursue graduate studies abroad. he was in austin, texas last year and is, of course, at the u of i currently. he wanted a conversation partner and through a series of connections, the desire was put before us at axiom and i felt one of those things inside saying, you should probably do this thing. the hope i suppose is for him to work on his english and connect with the campus more and learn more about american culture. but we haven’t talked about american culture yet, which is probably good, because from me such a discussion would most likely come with a heaping dose of bitterness. i have met with him twice now and conversation is good; it flows pretty well and we laugh much. for me it is great to hear broken middle eastern english again. i didn’t realize i would miss the little quirks of a non-native english speaker. makes me smile sometimes and i think of my good friends in rome.
friday was another evening spent on the streets and around the bars, praying and braving the constancy of the sharp wind ripping down green street. josh and i quickly stumbled across a very inebriated girl gaining support from a brick wall off the side walk. one knee was already bloodied by a recent attempt at walking home. another girl, quite sober, was dealing with her, saw our concern and asked what corner we were near. the girl of lessened judgement mumbled something and chalmers. we corrected her response to the other girl, giving two different names. she thanked us and we asked if there was anything we could do to help, but she said no, that it was ok, and basically shooed us off. walking away, josh reiterated the need for a couple females on this little team. we were probably moved along due to our being men.
our prayer walk commenced again, as we hope to do each weekend at least a couple nights. (sneak preview: we missed going out saturday due to josh’s catching of the death of cold) i figured we would do that thing were we talk to people and gather prayer requests, but that might wait. we have been struck again and again with the remembrance of one story from 24-7 where much prayer preceded the actually ministry. watch the story here: http://www.24-7shorts.com/prayer-as-justice. so we figure praying and praying and going where the Spirit leads should take up the preliminaries.
outside of kam’s ambulances gathered, a crowd huddled out and around, kicked out of the bar. a girl lay on a stretcher, strapped down tight, head clenched in the protective teeth of the backboard. the emts wheeled her over to the waiting ambulance doors, lifted her up and prepared to drive away. the crowd outside started moving in again. we don’t know what happened. but she didn’t look very conscious. and nobody seemed to care. that worries me.
down on the main campus town drag, green street, we saw a man supporting his lady friend stumbling along, she holding arms tight across her chest. and he wearing a strip of cloth around his head that…matched the design of her dress. and as they passed we could see her dress ripped in the back and realized she was holding her garment up. she didn’t seem incredibly happy. we prayed for her as they were lost to the crowds. the strange thing is that we saw them again many times that night. she had obviously changed into warmer clothes and he had made a joke out of it by donning the dress himself in its continually growing torn condition. we saw them and a friend at almost every bar we visited the rest of the night. havin’ a good time now, i guess.
there were some glimmers of hope in this strange world that night, though. outside of one bar two friends greeted each other with hugs; one asked the other how she was doing. she responded that she was drunk, sounding very frustrated with that fact, and said that besides that low note, she was fine. but it is her senior year so she feels she should live it up while she can. it was interesting though to have someone acknowledge the undesirableness and pressure of this lifestyle. at another bar, two girls stormed out of the open air area, bitterly exclaiming, ‘what a waste of five dollars!’ this is the kind of stuff that is pretty cool to hear; people realizing, at least on some level, that experiences at the bars leave one dissatisfied. there is something else out there, much bigger. who knows what happened to thse girls after that, but at least ol’ joe’s didn’t do it for them.
before we went out we stopped by the prayer room place and chatted with terry. he and his crew of students and leaders did a prayer chain deal from 10pm friday to 8am saturday. so we set a time to meet next week and hash out some solid details as to the usage of the prayer room and how to get this thing really started back up again. josh and i sat for a good chunk of time and joined the others using the prayer space as it was meant to be used. something about the whispered prayers and quite music, the ever present dripping of the Holy Spirit, the dim lighting, the incredible peace – i felt very at home. truly leaving was hard.
the curious thing was that the student group’s prayer thing at a nearby church started at 8am saturday…. right as the other one was ending. a nice un-realized passing of the baton. i think that this stuff is going to be pretty good.
before even that, steph and i attended a coffeehouse/ invisible children experience. i bought a t-shirt. very very very moving stuff. hurtful and hard. this place is a messed up world. i keep feeling this thing in my head that i should go to africa sometime. invisible children’s big push now is to help scattered villages in areas affected by the insidious lra (lord’s resistance army) keep in contact with radios. this would help the villages stay aware of the whereabouts of the rebels and steer clear if needed. read about it: www.invisiblechildren.com.
i have been inundated with the world’s problems recently; stuff on campus, the constant crap in africa, and learning about the messed up world of the roma people (who we will be hanging out with in may in romania). it is sometimes hard to sing about love conquering when i don’t feel like i see it. and i know love does its job, but do we? i get disheartened, but not to the point of giving up. i just wish everyone had this drive that so few seem to have of actively working to stop oppression in this world. it is a messed up place. but things are moving here and elsewhere. as my friend luke said, justice will be served and is being served now. there is a giant outrage for such ridiculousness. let is spread wide and fast, Lord. His love is strong. and that’s all we really have to go on.
this is the sound of a heartbeat. this is the sound from the discontented mouths of a haunted nation. we are the voice of breaking down. can you hear me? this is the sound of the desperation bound by our own collision. we are the voice of breaking down.