Monday, April 30, 2007

Sticks & Stones (& Bullets), but Never Words?

Last Tuesday I went to see a friend who lives just around the corner from my office and down the street from where I used to live. I hadn't seen him in a few weeks, so when I heard that he was home I gave him a call and hurried over to see him.

We sat on his porch for about an hour, chatting. We ended our conversation talking about how some people are given titles by society that take their humanity away- like women involved in the sex trade become 'prostitutes' 'whores' 'hookers' and slowly stop being real women in our eyes. Members of a gang become 'thugs' 'gangsters' and 'drug dealers' and they too, stop being real people and turn into monsters.

It made me think how hard it must be to change your life when everyone- society, the media, police all consider you by those titles instead of as a human, instead of as a man or woman deserving and worthy of our respect as a human being.

I gave him a hug and said good bye.

4 hours later he was sitting on another porch, further down the street, chatting away with friends when he was shot twice in the leg.

I hate when Canadians talk about how much safer Canada is because of fewer guns- that is b.s.. This guy came from one of the most dangerous countries in the world and was never shot, only to be shot in Winnipeg, Canada. He didn't do anything, he had never seen either of these men in his life, they just walked up and shot him. He was shot once more as he was running away. Someone showed me a picture of the grass covered in his blood.

The newspapers all called him a gangster or gang member. How do they know that? There are no police records of him as a gang member and he is not on any gang lists or profiles, so how can the papers say that? Why did the news report that he would not give the police any information when really, he had never seen them before in his life? Slowly people stop caring so much that a person was shot, even if it was along their street, because it was a gang-member (so he deserved it?).

No one minds that there was blood shed and possibly attempted murder, because it wasn't blood, it was the green-ooze of a creature less than human because of a title that the world gives him. We make name tags and stick them on to people, and not matter how hard they try to take it off, that's all we ever call them and then we wonder why they begin to answer to that name.

Why does everyone make it so hard to start a new path? Telling the world he is a gangster, with everyone treating him that way makes it so much harder. Now the newspapers say he is a gang member and no one really cares that he's not because he's black, he wears baggy clothes and has tatoos.

I hope he sues the newspapers.

A weekend at Gimli

I can think of few things scarier than a dozen 8-year-olds with exacto knives and hot glue guns.

Friday I was asked if I would help with the boys' camp archery or arts and crafts. Little boys with bows and arrows? No thank you- I would rather be covered in paint with arts and crafts. But they didn't tell me what they were making.
Oh yes, the boys purposely aimed their arrows at people, but I still think my job was harder.

Practically all the boys either burned or cut themselves. The exacto knives were brand-new, so incredibly sharp. Some boys even had to make their little boats with materials that had blood on them.

So many boys spilled hot glue on themselves and sat there, screaming or whimpering that it was burning, but letting the hot glue slowly cool against their skin. I burned myself at least twice pulling hot glue off of fingers.

But none was so bad as the boy who I caught purposely squirting hot glue on the arm of his neighbor.

My weekend was full and tiring (which I am still trying to recover from) but it was worth it. When I wasn't in the kitchen or the craft room, I was in the woods; either taking boys for a hike to keep them occupied or chasing down some runaways. I tramped through the woods, ran into a fence and scraped myself on some tree limbs to catch some boys. I sat outside the chapel, holding/hugging a boy until he consented to no longer run away, but go back into the worship time.

At 8 in the morning I took 8 boys on a hike across the road, where we saw 8 deer jump across and followed their tracks until it was time for breakfast. I just had to mention all those 8's.

My favorite was watching the boys float their boats down the water, or little Jordan rolling in the sand until he was covered from head to toe and then asking me to bury his hands and feet.
" I am going to pretend to be Jesus." he announced and laid down with his arms spread out and his ankles crossed and closed his eyes, with a bit of a smile on his very sandy face. So cute!

My least favorite was Montana, about 11 years old calling me 'Buttercup' or 'Sweetie' all weekend. I am almost twice your age, little boy!

Quotes from the weekend:
"Quit calling me 'buttercup'!"
"It's time to line up, not wave around a flaming stick."
"Get the feathers out of your mouth."
"Give me that knife!"
"I need water! It's for my new pet; he was sucking on my ankle." (the boy has a new pet leech.)
"Who's not wearing their pants?"
"No, don't kill the cat."
" Sorry could you repeat that? I was taking a machete away from a kid, so I didn't hear you."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Happy Conception Day!

What? you've never heard of this holiday? That's because Alana (a daughter of the family I live with- so my sister) and I invented it.
April 25 is 9 months before Christmas, so we thought that that should be celebrated.
The colors are red, pink and white. Pregnant women are to be especially blessed on this day, strange foods such as pickles and icecream or cutesty- baby carrots or applesauce are to be eaten. But most of all, it is to remember that our Amazing Savoir stepped down from heaven and came to earth to be in the womb of a mortal, sinful, human. That he formed as a human, began all the processes that lead to becoming a human and suffering pain, and breathing and having skin, having temptations and be in a physical form that dies.
Today should be remembered as the begining of the fullfilled promises that God gave his children- that he would send them a Savior that would reign forever and wipe their sins away.

And I have to tell this story- its just too funny. Biruk told me this yesterday and I was almost squealing in the restaraunt:
In his church, people frequently get up and give a testimony about the goodness of God in their lives. So this one lady gets up and praises God for being so good- that past week Jesus had put groceries for her on her porch, and how much of a blessing that had been.
Well, there was a man at church that didn't really like this woman, so that next week he went out and bought a bunch of groceries and put them on her doorstep.
The next week in church she got up again and talked about how God had blessed her.
"Jesus came again and put groceries on my doorstep this week!"
So the man jumps up from the audience and yells, "She's a liar! That wasn't Jesus, that was me!"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday Lunch Break Typing

I have a new addiction- dried cranberries. They've got that sour/tart zip, but are sort of sweet, too. I can take them anywhere because they aren't messy- no juice, no wrappers. I don't feel guilty when I gorge on them, and they don't go bad.
Last week I ate really unhealthily- the first 3 days were all restaraunts. I had an awesome burrito. Really good, terribly greasy barbeque, 1 pound of crawfish covered in some cajun seasonings, and plenty of hamburgers. Not to mention I ate half of a package of the refrigerator cookie dough- some of it was my breakfast one morning. So I feel very healthy to say I'm eating dried cranberries right now.

I recently returned from a week-long vacation to Texas.

It was fabulous; restful and fun.
I have to thank my generous friend who took good care of me and blessed me so much for taking care of my plane ticket (I wonder if I should say 'bought' because pilots tend to swing certain benefits with airlines).
I slept in every day, tanned, went to the beach, saw the Alamo, and went to the Gulf of Mexico.
And now I'm back in Winnipeg. It's chilly here.
Today was drop-in- so I made sandwhiches and cleaned up, spent some time talking with friends.

Fred was mugged on Sunday- he laughed because they took his wallet which only contained his I.D. and no money. And if you have ever seen this man, it would be impossible to attempt to look like him- big glasses that exaggerate the size of his eyes, balding on top of his head, but the rest of his hair is long- almost to his shoulders, his round face is shaggy from an unkept beard, but always in a smile that is missing a few yellow-ed teeth. No one could ever pretend to be him.

And then I spent time talking with Violet, who has been living at the Main Steet Project, hoping to find a more permanent residence- but I'm glad that she finally decided to go there, instead of sleeping on the streets. She wouldn't tell me why she was crying, perhaps because of the recent murder of a girl she knew. But I got her a cup of tea and sat beside her when I finished washing off the tables.

I just recently returned from walking some kids to school, and there are sure to be more this afternoon, because I gave them cookies earlier and I showed them the gift I brough back from Texas- aerial maps. One side is completely blank- perfect for coloring, the other side is a big map. The very top of one of them shows a red smudge that is Winnipeg and at the very bottom is another red blur that shows San Antonio- so now they have a map to pretend they are traveling on.

I haven't been to church in 2 weeks- and probably won't be for another 2, perhaps even 4- because I am helping with camps this weekend and next and we have a mission trip in the weekend after that- and then (I think) I'm off to Tenessee.
I'm really excited to go to Tenessee because I will get to see my family- especially my grandparents who I have not seen in quite a while.
Until then- the weather is warming up, soccer has started at Memorial Park (although I won't be playing there for another month because I think it's too cold) and Central Park should be filling up with people soon, and that will give me plenty to keep busy with.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Some of my support goes to buy a weekly bus pass...

The Manitoba Judicial system now considers me a pastor- of sorts. I was cleared to have my first pastoral visit in the youth detention center.
What does that mean?
Well- I can go into a private room for a visit and bring the Bible (because usually only you, your person can go in).
And, most importantly, I can visit youth who are on the gang list, because usually the only visits they are allowed are a lawyer or their family.

A friend jokingly pointed out the irony of that- my 'religious worker' visa excludes me from being able to work with children or the elderly in a position where I am a caregiver (I think I break that rule about 2 times a week, walking kids home from school, coloring with them, or taking them to play at a park), yet I have been approved to give pastoral care to youth who have criminal charges. Does that make sense to anyone else?

As my dad would say- that's Canada for you.

My visit yesterday went really well. So much of my day was banking on the correct timing of things- and thanks be to God- he made it happen.
7:30pm-12:00am: took the team to hand out roses to girls who were working as prostitutes
12:30 am: arrive home/go to sleep.

6:45 am: rise and shine
7:30am-9:15 am: arrive at YWAM house to help make breakfast, eat it and clean it up.
9:30am: be at bus stop to go to detention center
9:55am: speed-walk to get there for my 10 am visit.
10:05-10:40am: have visit
10:50am: get bus to go to other side of city
11:30am-12:20pm: get to church, eat lunch, take exam
12:40-1:30pm: walk kids home, run an errand with some of the mission adventure team, head to bus stop
1:30pm-2:00pm: bus ride to another part of the city
2:00pm-5:30pm: wait in health clinic with Biruk (turns out he has a seperated shoulder)

Today is set to be slower... reply to emails, make phone calls, set up schedules for other people. I have about 3 emails from Living Bible Explorers I have been postponing, which I should probably get around to reading. As well as the one from a pastor in Uganda, who actually called me the other day because I hadn't responded to his email. Well... I actually haven't even read your email yet, sorry! So, I will stop using this as an excuse to procrastinate and finish this post right now.
And tomorrow morning I take a vacation!!! So excited- going to layout, tan, sleep... and relax!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Birthday Dreams

Some clarification before I begin- I had a great talk with God last night, wherein he mentioned that my successes are really his successes. So in reading this post, please keep in mind that I am writing these things to glorfy him and thank him for what he has been up to- it's not been me; it's all been him.

I've spent about 8 months trying to remember 2 sets of names, keep straight whose brother is who as well as figuring out the new words that are being invented, speaking different languages and learning the right and wrongs of some grey areas.
God has let me speak into the lives of these guys (some I would still say are boys) who affiliate or refer to themselves as a gang in Winnipeg. Sometimes it's been letters, conversations or a simple hug. But it's never felt like enough.
Of course it's helping, but so often it doesn't feel like it- or definately not helping enough. But I know forcing anything wouldn't be the solution, either. I don't like waiting, and it's still hard for me to rest everything in God's hands.

However, today was an answer to many prayers and covers over so many doubts and frustrations I may still have.

God also has an amazing way of doing things completely out of the ordinary. I would have expected the guy to have been one of the ones who I have known for the longest amount of time, or one who I have actually given a hug to.
The closest I have ever been to him has been across a table and between a pane of glass. Our conversations have always been via the phone and with the possibility of being listened-in on. Yet, he is the first one who has asked for me to be a part of a change for his life. A few weeks ago I got a phone call asking about what I knew about Teen Challenge. I was so excited, but dumbed it down because I was afraid it was a whim. But we talked about it again today, and the other item open on this computer right now, while I type is the Winnipeg Teen Challenge website.

And today was his birthday! Happy Birthday, buddy- I'm glad I got to see you today.

I asked him why he wanted to go to Teen Challenge, what he wanted to get from it, and what he wanted when it was over.
Mostly, all he could say was what he didn't want. I don't care what your dreams aren't- I want to know what they are. I bluntly asked him if he knew what he wanted- actually did want. He shyly, maybe a little shamefuly, admitted he wasn't sure of what he wanted, he just knew the opposites for now.

Amuel can't dream without still protecting himself from attacks or threats.
Hero would rather have rules laid down for how he has to live than struggle through the temptations of living free- so has given up even dreaming.
And Baruke can't dream in the light, only shadows of what he regrets or desires against.

This may seem corny, but Shawshank redemption is my favorite movie, and I remember a part where Andy talks about hope- how no one can take that away from you, even in jail, and it's what kept him going. But then I get sad, because so many of them can't even dream... or won't.

I was at drop-in at my church yesterday. For some reason, we were talking about a prison in the area, where my friend had spent some time. He mentioned how he hadn't wanted any visitors there and I agreed that it must be hard to have a visit and know that your visitor can walk out and go about their life, but you were stuck behind those walls.
He wheeled his head around and said, suprised, "how do you know about jail?"
I don't; it's just something I've observed.

Tomorrow I have another visit, if you read this before Thursday, please say a quick prayer for that. As well as my final exam!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

sightings on a wednesday morning

The man was walking with a cane, but it was his wrinkled face which allowed me to guess at his age- probably early 60's. His greyed hair was done as a pseudo-mohawk; his head not shaved on the sides, but instead the longer hair spiked up with gel which could not have been mistaken for bed-head. That was slightly more amusing to see than the man on the bus in his new jeans. How did I know that they were new? Because they still had the sticker down the back of the leg announcing to the world what size he wore.

It's still very very cold here, and so depressing because I was really looking forward to spring and everything feels like early December (or late October, for Winnipeg) here and I can't help thinking that there are 3 months of winter ahead.

Last night I headed towards home after a long, tiring, day I pass through the YMCA because it's warm and out of the wind and I can walk through the skywalks to wait for the bus without freezing to death. How is it that so many people know me or know about me? It used to sort of freak me out, now its common enough that I'm not bothered by it, but it still doesn't feel normal. Anyways, this boy knew about me and we had an interesting conversation covering dirty words in Spanish, locations of travels/living and how a mutal friend was doing.

More than just people knowing about me are the rumors I hear! Some of them just make me laugh, others are simply ridiculous (like that I am 14 years old), others aren't flattering (but, thankfully, are often silenced) and others are quite beneficial. Like this weekend, when I got a call from jail from a friend, he and another buddy had been talking about me and the subject came up that I could help to get him into a program such as Teen Challenge or the like to help transform his life after release from jail. Those are the helpful rumors (is it still a rumor if it's true?), which make me not mind at all if people talk about me.

It's interesting that I can consider a church 'my church' while still feeling that the church in some ways considers me a visitor- my Hispanic church, for instance. But perhaps that is because the pastor continues to introduce me as a visitor on a regular basis- probably a link to him not knowing me as well because he was in Mozambique for 3 months when I first began attending the church, along with me traveling away for a month, and then Christmas, ect.
But last week there was a guest speaker (who was not a native Spanish speaker, who spoke very slowly and made everything very easy for me to follow) who is a missionary. Later, Angel came up to me and smiled and said " Maria, he is a missionary like you- our missionary."
I love that that church considers me 'their' missionary!

And since there are 7 people headed to Uganda right now, the office and my time will be freed up for reading with neighborhood kids who should be arriving soon, so that's it for now!

Monday, April 02, 2007


It snowed again today. And yesterday.
I am very frustrated. Despite science and multiple facts- I don't believe global warming is happening- but I wish it would!!!