Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Poor in Spirit

My upstairs neighbor, Rekha, is one of the most generous people I have ever met. The other night, she came home with a couple bags of groceries and started unpacking. “Want some blueberries?” She asked me, and put some on a plate for us to share. Then she told me about how God spoke to her, while she was still Hindi, and he promised to bring her safely out of a terrible situation, and he did. “God is so good, isn’t he? Have you tried goat’s milk before? No? Here, you can try.” Before I knew what was happening, she handed me a full glass, and then kept telling me how God has continued to speak very clearly to her and provided for her and her daughter here in the States. “He can do all things, I know this now. Do you like tea? Yes? Well here, you can have any of my tea you want, all the time.” She showed me where her stash was and continued unloading her bag and praising the Lord. “You eat rice? Ok, I have a big bag under the sink, so, you eat. And I have rice cooker here, so, you use.” I thanked her, and she smiled and asked if I liked my goat’s milk... Which I did, amazingly enough.

Thing is, Rekha doesn’t have much money and works at probably less than minimum wage. She is poor, by our American standard, and yet she doesn’t horde her possessions, doesn’t fear losing anything. I’ve seen this before – people who I know are going through financially difficult spots and yet they delight to bless others with their stuff. I wonder if in some ways it is easier for them to give away because they have less to lose. But why is it so hard for those of us with so much to casually pour tall glasses of milk for strangers from our new bottle?

I’ve often wondered what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” I don’t think that this blessing is only extended to those who don’t have any money, as some people like to interpret it. After all, it says “poor in spirit,” not just “poor.” I also don’t think it means those who are spiritually bankrupt, who have nothing to hope for, because the rest of the phrase says, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In the context of my kitchen space, sharing Rekha’s groceries with her, I understood. Blessed are those who don’t claim any worldly thing for themselves, who choose to live simply and generously, as many "financially poor" people do… Whether you get paid $5 an hour, $50 an hour, or none at all, you are blessed when you live as though you have nothing that is yours to keep, nothing to lose by offering what is in your bag to someone else.

And you can live in this attitude – in this spirit – when you realize that the kingdom of heaven has been given to you. God, who owns everything, has poured out on you the very best of his own possessions to have for eternity. When you understand that, it is easier to do the same for others, because you want them to experience the same joy and hope you feel when God gives to you.

Blessed is Rekha, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to her.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

International House and Home

Well I’m still not in my own room yet, but I am closer – the house next door! My laptop is fixed, and a new router later today should be all we need. In the meantime, here’s a picture of th view from my desk in my bedroom where I write and study every morning…

The house is big and old, and has a lot of personality, from the squeaky wood floors to the wooden inside shutters. I want to name the house, but haven’t come up with anything yet.

Dad, I think you’ll be impressed with the ramp that was built on the side of the house just for me! It’s really sturdy and strong…

Here is my room, complete with antiquey dresser and a bed that can raise my head and/or feet and even give massages! Never knew a missionary would have such a comfortable place to rest.

Tuesday night was the first time the house really felt like a home. We have two Malaysian families who live upstairs – one a mother, Rekka, and 6-year-old daughter, Rosheni, and the other a husband and wife (whose names I can’t spell yet) with a 2-year-old son, Michel, and a 3-week old baby girl, Deborah. Over the weekend I think we were all unsure how friendly we could be with each other, but last night the spell was broken when Leigh Ann went up to ask if she could see the new baby. A few minutes later, she carefully came downstairs with a beautiful bundle in her arms.
The mother came down too, smiling and making her grand appearance for the first time. The father and little boy started cooking, the other mother unloaded her groceries, and the little girl ran to get her coloring book. Our new friend from Ethiopia, Hilina, was here as well, and we all stood and sat around the kitchen talking for a long time, mostly about how God is so good and answers our prayers… a strikingly beautiful conversation to have with refugees. Turns out the new mother was a language teacher in Malaysia, so she eagerly suggested I teach her English and she teach me Tso (spelling?). Sure, why not! Later when the kids went to bed, Hilina told Leigh Ann and I more about the corrupt governments of Africa, especially what she knows about her home country, and the long process her family has gone through to come here to the States.
It was close to midnight when we got to bed, but I was so thrilled – my house is an international home!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The brief catch-up

I am in the public library, the keyboard is hard for me to use, and the little timer at the top of my screen blinks to remind me I only have 30 minutes to tell you about the last three eventful and adventurous days... not exactly the setting I was hoping for, but we make do. Hopefully my laptop will be fixed this afternoon and next time I write I will be in a place that is a little more condusive to poetic inspiration.

Greetings from Ft. Wayne!

Saturday Leigh Ann and I spent close to twelve hours on the road, but what a road it is! It was beautiful to ride through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, and then slowly watch the landscape flatten out and the sky stretch wide its arms across the open fields of Ohio and Indiana. I just stared in wonder at one edge of the horizon to another. A person can just breathe deeper here.

We've begun to explore our surroundings - located familiar spots like Wal-Mart and Starbucks and new and exciting places like Culvers and Krogers. Our house is literally in the middle of everything, and the furthest anything is is 8 minutes away. There is a citywide handicap bus system too, that I plan to try out very soon.

Yesterday we got to meet "The Teams" - my caretakers and the ministry leaders. They are all great women with beautiful hearts and I can't wait to get to know them better and maybe even introduce them to you!

My first ESL class begins tonight. I am very excited but also very nervous about meeting a lot of new people and knowing what to do for our first time together. I am encouraged to know that when Jesus sent out his disciples as missionaries, he assured them he would go with them.