Friday, November 23, 2007


there's something meaningful about knowing a person's name. it recognizes their identity. honors their exisitence. as much as i remember to, i try to ask people their names when i meet them. sometimes i immediately forget people's names. and have to ask again. but after a while i get it.

in grenada its common to yell out someone's name as you pass by their house. regardless if you're planning on visiting or not. and though i'm not much of a yeller, i love to be able to greet people as i walk through my community. love to be able to say good morning daisy as she sits on the veranda across the street. good morning sherman as he starts his welding project for the day. good morning veronica as she gently waves. good morning joey as he heads to the bay in hopes of jacks. good morning dodoo as she admires her flowers. good morning kenneth as he ventures up into the bush. good morning leila as she promises to walk with me next time. good morning lena as she washes her dishes by the pipe. good morning desalyn as she gets her kids ready for school and takes care of her mom. good morning hilda as she thanks God for another day....

and more people know my name than i know their's. i guess i kind of stand out. and might be easier to remember. but it means a lot to be greeted by name. to be recognized as a person. as a part of the community.

i've been going to a little methodist church outside my community. in guoyave, a town where i don't know everyone's name yet. and there have been moments of worship. there have been moments of questioning. i've taken some sundays off. yet something in me doesn't want to give up on the greater Church. so i found myself trying church again on sunday.

as we were waiting on folks to gather, a man showed up at the door. go on. get away from here. go home. we don't want you around. that's paraphrasing, but that's pretty much what one of what one of the church ladies told the man. i asked what was going on. she said don't study him. he's a vagrant. a troublemaker. he smells. and he would steel our purses if we let him in.

but wait, i thought that's who jesus told us to love.

the man showed up at the other door. and another church lady dealt with him similarly. the lay minister, an american who doesn't always strive to understand grenadian culture, intervened. he welcomed the man in. told him jesus loved him. or something like that. the church ladies grumbled. the man stayed outside a while. wandered off.

hemingway, the minister, said we should pray for the man. the man had obviously been around before. so hemingway asked if anybody knew his name. no one knew his name. no one had ever bothered to ask.

so the preacher man prayed a nameless prayer with faith that God knew who he was referring to.

amidst an offering that would probably go to a church building. amidst songs that seemed empty and hypocritical. amidst a sermon i knew i would disagree with. i became restless. i couldn't stay in church. not with the man right there at our doorstep.

so i left church. actually the second service i'd left in the past two weeks. but that's another story.

and i went and asked the man what his name was. mitchell. easy to remember. its the surname of my neighbors in grand roy. mitchell was soft spoken. with mismatched shoes. i could barely hear what he said. we established that he was hungry. so we decided to go to the shop down the street.

mitchell hesitated to express what he wanted to eat. a lady named ruby jean stepped in. ordered mitchell a coke, some crackers, and vienna sausages. then asked him to step on outside. but encouraged me to stay. she was medium intimidating. so i obeyed. talked a bit to the shop owner. floyd. a cousin of folks i know in grand roy. eventually left. saw mitchell who asked for a dollar to buy cigarettes. this time i said no. conversation was limited. we parted ways and i ended up talking to a few other people liming on the street.

back at the church communion was over. the table we methodists open to everyone had already fed those allowed inside.

everyone knew what i had done. hemmingway commended my compassion. on the way to catch a ride home, another man, clarence, asked for bread. i hopped in the supermarket and paid a dollar for bread. he said thank you. but i don't think the church ladies approved.

the thing is. clarence is always on the street begging. and most people don't give to him. there's another man, whose name i regretably don't know, who begs around the same area. and people run him out of their shops.

i don't think always giving handouts is the answer. i don't think it solves anything. i don't think it contributes to long term justice. but how can i deny people when i have plenty in my pocket?plenty in my fridge? i want to believe in a kingdom where there is enough room for all at the table. enough food for all at the table. but i don't see the Church striving towards that. at least not the church i went to sunday.

and i still don't know how to respond in a way that is truly just.

in a different context to be written about on a different day, ms. williams said we must pray for God's spirit to guide all that we do. we must seek to live out the gospel. and jesus said, when i was hungry, you gave me something do eat.

God of compassion and mercy. may you bring your justice. and may you guide us as to how we might be a part of it. as to how their might be enough for all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

a fishing sequel.

as a sequel to the previous fishing story: i actually got to go fishing in a little boat last weekend. caught, or "held," seven fish. between kimo and i, we held around twenty. snapper. mirian. butterfish. etc. some areas of the sea were flourshing with fish. some were vacant. very few people use fishing rods in grenada. we used iron weights with fishing line and hooks tied to them. jacks for bait. lessons in patience. in waiting. in timing. in letting go. in trusting. in abundance. in scarcity. in grace. managed to get my fishing line ridiculously tangled up on several occasions. and the fish flopping around in the boat with their big eyes looking at me medium freaked me out. got caught in the rain. chatted with other fisherpeople out on the water. overall a joyful adventure.

abby held seven fish. what? returned with congratulations from the neighbors for our catch. helped clean the fish in the river. but i didn't have to do the gross part of cleaning. of course kids wandered over at the prospect of cooking. we seasoned and fried much of the fish. served them alongside some fried bakes. a houseful of kids. but enough for everyone. afterwards the dishes were cleaned, the kids stayed a little while. telling their family stories as they often do. making fun of each other in love. sharing laughter. and joy.

glenda keeps asking me when my next fishing adventure will be. with a laugh she says i must experience everything grenadian while i'm here. i don't know when the next fishing adventure will be. but i trust that many more grenadian adventures are in store. and i greet each new day with a certain openness and wonder. as to how life will beautifully fall into place.

Friday, November 9, 2007

afternoon by the sea.

miss. miss. lets swim out to the boat one more time. kellon's gotten accustomed to calling me miss both in and out of after school class. ok. one more time.

one of the boats in the bay had drifted quite close to shore. close enough for kellon and kobi and i to swim to and climb up on. the boys assured me it was allowed. we wouldn't get in trouble. we floated on the vacant boat. amidst the nets and oars. decided we could float there forever. kellon said his back was burning from the afternoon sun. splashed sea water on his back to cool off. that's what you do, miss, when your back is burning. that's the grenadian way. so i too splashed water on my back.

miss. miss. they're coming to get jacks. we have to swim to shore. so we jumped off the little boat. headed back to the beach. trading places with the fishermen swimming out to the boats. trying our best to stay out of their way. i was medium confused about what was going on. but tried to follow the boys lead.

miss. miss. start pulling the rope in. who me? you mean i can help too? people on the beach started hauling in the nets. and i was allowed to join in. easy at first. then the nets got heavy. word spreading that jacks were coming. more people showing up to help out. tried my best to mimic the motion of the others in line. pull with right. lean back. pull with left. lean back. something you have to put your whole body into. something that takes everyone working together. in rhythm with each other. a community effort.

blisters forming on my hands. burning from the salt water. arms getting weak. back aching. but it didn't matter. i was a part of things. hauling in the nets like a regular grand roy person. not just observing life. but participating in it. allowed to be a member of the community. amidst everyday life. feeling overjoyed at the idea of it all.

we hauled and hauled. eventually realizing there were no fish in the nets. the sea had not provided this time. so we let go. let the nets return. with hopes of abundance in time.

show us where to cast our nets. help us to let go. to trust.

stayed around the bay a bit longer. eating sea grapes that kids picked and shared. watched the sun begin to set. then headed back home. incredibly thankful for the chance to be a part of the community. to be a part of the family that is grand roy.

Friday, November 2, 2007

communion of souls.

although the sunsets in grenada are beautiful. they are fleeting. and night comes quickly. so it was dark when i arrived home from visiting the after school classes with mr. langaigne (a twenty year staff member of grencoda that deeply cares for the people in the communties we work with). and when i arrived in grand roy, the stars were the brightest i've seen in quite a while. like millions of candles glowing in the sky.

neighborhood kids were gathered near my steps. hovering over the candles they were lighting. they had placed candles inside tin cans. the cans were punctured with holes to let the light shine out. aj showed me his glowing can. he had made a face on it. reminded me of a jack-o-lantern. but this wasn't halloween. it was the following day: all saints day. kids went up and down the street. carrying their candles. some people were placing candles on their steps. lighting them in memory of people who had passed away. traditionally, mischievous kids "thief" people's candles and run up the street with them. although i didn't witness this.

azaria remembered that i had a lone candle in my house. the housewarming candle that amanda gave me before i left. so we went to get it. and i too placed a candle on my steps. luckily no one thiefed it.

we went up the road in search of asham, the local treat for this time of year. basically corn ground up with sugar. but alas, the asham had sold out. tomorrow, praise God, we'll have some more, the young man by the shop told me. loud noises were coming from up the street. i was informed people were "busting bamboo." pretty much homemade firecrackers. using hollow bamboo pieces. kerosene. and a little fire. young people gathering to listen. hearts jumping at every boom.

back down the road, lisia was getting ready to visit her father's grave to place candles there. invited me to go along. so we went, a few kids tagging along, down across the bridge to a humble burial place. no head stone. but she knew where to go. she carefully placed a few candles in the ground. it was simple. and beautiful. that's my daddy, she said. the kids lit some candles that had extinguished on a grave nearby. lisia took a moment. then we were on our way back. from across the river, we could see the candles glowing.

lisia explained that this had been all saints day. tomorrow was all souls day. she said that all saints was to remember christians that had died. all souls was to remember everyone.

still trying to process the distinction. i'm thankful for the idea of communing with saints. of being a part of a greater body of the Church that goes beyond place and time. of learning from the traditions of those who have gone before us.

but recently, especially with amanda, the giver of the candle, questions have come up regarding the afterlife. and what that means. if anything. and i like the idea of a day to recognize all souls. to remember all people. regardless. because something in me wants to believe of an eternal union between the Creator and all the created. but i don't really understand how all of that works. and i don't really know if being a christian makes a difference. because the idea of afterlife isn't why i'm a christian.

i tend to believe in following jesus now. in the moments we're given. of studying the way he lived. of striving to be like him. following his compassion. his justice. his love. and ever thankful for grace. i tend to believe that God can restore this world as he originally created it to be. that glimpses of kingdom. of heaven. of whatever you call it. can be present on earth. when people live side by side in the spirit of christ. in the spirit of that same compassion and justice and love. when there is a place for everyone at the table. enough for everyone at the table. when there is communion with each other. communion with God.

but what happens to our souls in the mean time? i don't have answers. i don't know if we can. i think we can live the best we know how to in this moment. live as if this was it. and be overwhelmed with joy if there is more to it. and be satisfied with how we spent our days if there's not.

so tonight i'll light my candle again. and i'll hope for a display of candles in the sky. and i'll wonder about saints and souls. and i'll consider a God present from the beginning. now. and evermore. and i'll pray for restoration. for heaven come to earth. for communion of souls.