07 December 2014

Scars and Restoration.

Near one of my placement sites, on rolling green hillsides, there are earthen craters—huge bites taken right out of the ground. My friends explained that the holes are the result of dynamite blasts—a mining technique foreigners used to look for precious stones and minerals. I don’t know when the explosions occurred or what country the miners were from or if they found what they were looking for. All I know is that every time I looked out at those hills, my heart ached. All I could think about the craters is that they are scars of exploitation. Because in my mind they were ugly reminders that humans have a tendency to be covetous and greedy. Why didn’t anyone notice that the hillside was already rich in beauty?

Old mining sites on a hillside as a result of dynamite blasts.
But a few days ago I had the opportunity to take a closer look. I was taking a walk with my friends Fanja and Tiana on those very same hillsides. The two led me through winding footpaths to a spot they often go to do laundry. We kept walking and soon found ourselves inside one of the dynamite-created craters. I had expected the inside of the crater to look like a scene of apocalyptic destruction. Instead, I found myself surrounded by a thousand shades of green, and birds singing from nearby trees. The only physical evidence that this place had once been blown to pieces was the layer of powdery rock fragments that covered any surface unoccupied by plants. But even the non-precious metals in the powder gleamed in the sun like a jeweled carpet. I stepped on some rocks across a small natural spring and saw the tiniest purple wildflower on the bank. It reminded me of the line from Alice Walker's The Color Purple that Tanya, our country coordinator, had quoted during our recent retreat. About God being mad when people walk past the color purple and don’t stop to notice. And I realized I had become one of those people. Because from afar I had judged these mining sites as ugly scars. It wasn’t until others walked me closer that I was able to see the beauty that had grown out of something so “ugly.”

Walking down into one of the craters.

At the YAGM DIP event, Rev. Rafael Malpica-Padilla, director of ELCA Global Mission talked about God’s mission being reconciliation and restoring community on earth. That pit should have been a place of human-created destruction. But, abandoned, God turned it into a self-sustaining garden of peace. I later learned that even the now-exposed natural spring leads to a reservoir that provides water for surrounding families. For me, it was a beautiful reminder that God can take even the worst human-created scars: war, poverty, oppression, injustice, and restore glimpses of the kingdom of heaven deep within. And we are all invited to share in this work. 

An unexpected garden is a beautiful reminder of God's restorative powers for all of creation.

02 December 2014

Retreat.

The seven other Madagascar YAGMs and I spent a week together in November with our country coordinators Austin and Tanya and their dog, Puba. We stayed at a lodge a few hours from the capital and enjoyed time together in fellowship, worship, playing in creation, and sharing stories of our experiences. We explored two different National Parks: Andasibe and Mantadia where we got to see so much of God's creation, from lemurs to vines twisting between trees in the rainforest. We then celebrated American Thanksgiving together with a feast at Austin and Tanya's house. It was a wonderful to week to start processing our experiences, reflect, and relax! All of the below photos were taken by me with the exception of the group picture, courtesy of Austin Propst.
Baby and momma lemur stopping for a snack.
This lemur was the largest one we saw.

A common brown lemur says hello!
A natural reminder of God's love for all of creation.

There are so many shades of green in the rainforest!

Tanya, Michael, me, Molly, Ellen, Kelsey, Espi, Joel, and JD ready for an adventure!

A natural waterfall and pool where we all stopped to swim.
A giraffe beetle!


These plants reminded me that our God is so creative! I love the way they look like they are dancing.

A fog settles in over the hills at our retreat site.