Tuesday, December 30, 2008

All Dressed in Black

Yesterday we found out the Biruk's paternal grandfather died.
So I got to find out the traditional Ethiopian way of dealing with a death in a family.

They recently changed their phone service and got a new phone number, so although he died on Christmas Eve, they were not notified until yesterday. I guess Biruk, his mom and I were the only ones who knew yesterday.
Biruk took it fine, he doesn't remember him that well.
See it is customary to wait to notify people of a death until first thing in the morning. The whole family comes over, the family is told of the passing of a loved one, then they cry, eat breakfast and have some coffee. After the person has cried themselves out, the laughing starts. The rest of the family's job is to laugh and be joyful.
Biruk's father, Getachew (yep, spelled that way, pronounced that way: Get-a-chew) is the main focus of this.
So I woke up this morning at about 7 am to a knock on the window. Z----, a friend of the family who is basically family and staying here for Christmas was out late last night with friends and arrived back early this morning.
I run up the stairs in my pjs to let him in and then head right back to bed.
About ten minutes later I go to the bathroom (still in my pjs) and on my way back see the living room full of Biruk's extended family. Now I feel a little awkward.
Biruk's dad is told and you can here him crying loudly.
Which wakes up Biruk's younger siblings, who want to know what is happening.
Their cousins and Z---- are in their bedroom, they just woke up to loud crying noises and it is nearly 7 am on their Christmas vacation. So their cousins tell them, and then they cry.
I didn't mean to put on black clothes purposefully, I just threw on some black pants and a drab-colored sweater.
Biruk didn't mention that I was supposed to dress a specific way, but when I enter the living room I notice that the brightest shade in the room is brown, and the overarching theme being black.
I help make breakfast.
A few days ago I made french toast, which everyone liked. Biruk asked me to make it today for breakfast. So he and I spend the next half hour whipping up french toast for about 15 people, which ended up being eaten like toast- no syrup, no forks- but I think they still enjoyed it.
After breakfast was served I ran back to the kid's room to sit with them- they will speak English.

So I followed what I was told was tradition and told them stories to make them laugh;
like falling in a lake and having to wear my friend's clothes the whole rest of the night at my first Jr. High co-ed party.
or when I messed up the word for 'chicken' and 'male genitalia' in Thai; the difference between 'ghai' and 'khai'-very embarassing because I thought I was asking a boy where his chicken was... only I wasn't. He was very polite about it.

So I got them laughing, and when the over-load of family members had started to dwindle, they came out to mingle with the family.
We ate lunch.
A few more people left.
We played with playdough, and when I say we I mean everyone present. I am actually quite talented at creating things out of playdough, if I do say so myself. I made a little display of birds being hatched- an egg which was cracking, a bird half-way out of an egg, another bird with an open egg beside it and a momma bird flapping her wings.

It was very different from what I am used to with family members dying; being told right away, given space and alone time. Perhaps being a little pampered- one's favorite meal, watching TV to get one's mind off of it.
However, I see the benefit of the support group that comes around you, family coming in and out all day to pay their respects and sit with you so you don't feel so absolutely lonely. It was very different for me.

Tomorrow we are supposed to leave for Edmonton- three hours north of Calgary.
It's my Christmas present from Biruk; a few days in Edmonton and....


I'm super excited about that.
It's indoors- in North America's largest shopping mall; which also has an indoor beach and a roller coaster. If you've ever played with an elastic band after it's been out in the cold you might understand why it's best to do bungee jumping indoors when it's in Canada.
I am still trying to convince him to jump with me, but he won't give.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In the early, early morning

there is a one-hour time difference between Calgary and Winnipeg.
Last night, before I went to bed I prayed about this summer. I prayed about if God wanted me to return to Winnipeg and spend the summer there. I felt that I was supposed to spend my summer there this year when I was in Venice and other places in Europe; why would I be thinking about that little city while I was on vacation? I felt that God was calling me back there to work.
And then my school closed and my focus has been else where; should I transfer? what should I do? will I graduate on time? if I can spend the next semester anywhere and take online courses, where should I go?
And... somehow I didn't feel an urge back to Winnipeg. Not that it is all about feelings... I just wanted to more clearly hear where I was to go and what I was to do. Perhaps with my school closing other aspects of my future were to change?

Last night I prayed (and I know it word for word because I often write my prayers): Lord, please lead me and guide me concerning this summer. There are so many options...I'm not sure what ot do. Please help me to listen to your voice, understand it when I hear it, and believe what you have to tell me, and act on what you have said. Before, I really wanted return to Wininpeg and now I just don't know. Can I not hear you as clearly simply because I haven't been listening? or is the plan really changed? Am I supposed to go somewhere else? To do something else?"

That was around 1:30 am Calgary time, which is 2:30 am Winnipeg time.
According to police and people who heard the gun shots, that's what time he was shot.
The Free Press had the best story on it of the newspapers I've read.
I heard about it this afternoon... but it's still sinking in.
The main thing I imagine when I see him in my mind are some of his tattoos- mainly the portrait of Mary, the mother of Jesus on the inside of his forearm.
I remember when he grabbed my purse and took out the Bible...
I remember I used to be scared of him, but then I had to repent of that; for the opposite of love is fear and it was keeping me from caring about him... it was unfair of me.
I remember writing him letters when he was in jail.
His family lives in the same apartment building I used to live in- actually, only one or two away from my apartment.
I wrote a poem for him...
He made a significant impact on my life; he was the first drug dealer I ever met.
That needs clarification; met other people before him who were drug dealers...but I didn't know for sure until I met 'the Boy in the Red Hat' as I called him. He was the first to be so real infront of me, to trust me, to know I wasn't an undercover cop.
A good source told me this morning that as far as she knew, he hadn't been getting into trouble and since being released from jail not too long ago, had been 'being good'.
The news suggests the murder was a result of a fight at a party that same night.
L----, boy in the red hat, Hot Sauce- rest in peace.
You had a huge impact on my life, I won't forget you.

I think I'm going to Winnipeg for sure this summer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I had a premonition!!! on December 11 the Upland campus will decide to not accept the Criminal Justice program... I'm just kidding. I received an email which had tomorrow's date on the memo. I still don't know where this leaves me, but at least a decision was made!
Now I just have phone calls to make, questions to ask, schools to visit and time lines to think of.
Graduation seems... like.....it's.....just...within...reach....

Monday, December 08, 2008


I got a 100/100 on this paper, so I thought I'd share it. The only thing written anywhere on it said that it was one of the best papers my professor head received on this topic. I don't know that I did that good of a job, but I'll share it anyway, if it seems choppy, it's because I cut out parts that I didn't think you'd be interested in reading. Also, I got a 100/100 on my final- but it was only three questions and they were oral, so, ya know. It's my social work class, too bad that's not my major anymore, but to any future employers- it still is my concentration for my associates!!!

Correlations Between Social Work Values and the Christian Faith

The profession of social work has been shaped largely by the Christian faith’s belief system. Many not-for-profit organizations and other charities are religious based, or have values that reflect the values of Christianity. According to Beryl Hugen,

“Historically, the whole shape and operation of organized welfare is inexplicable apart from…religious conviction and commitment. Jewish, Catholic and Protestant thought have continuously shaped the ideological basis of social work practice.” (2008, p.1)

However, at times, humans used Christianity as a reason for refusing to assist the poor. The early murmurings of social welfare in America, such as the Charity Organization Societies, proposed that the poor needed a friend and a moral uplift to help lift them from poverty. Poverty was seen as a moral issue; the result of sin or laziness (Trattner, 1999, p. 67). Thankfully, as social work has developed, this idea is not held.

Although some would argue that the gospel is about saving souls and not justice, the scriptures are very clear that social justice is a foundational aspect of Christianity. Consider the life of Christ, and how he challenged the social structure of his times, concerning the foreigner, females, and the outcasts. Jesus tried to bring equality to people and break down the barriers separating them, he came to bring justice and preach of a perfect world; how things were created to be (Cunningham, L. & Hamilton, D., 2000). Consider for a moment that Jesus’ words of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ as about the perfect society; and how greatly that would have offended the leaders of the day. No wonder he was sentenced to die!

The social gospel emphasized the primacy of changing unjust social and economic structures as opposed to a focus on individual change. Transformation of the individual would follow social and economic change and individuals would find meaning in their lives through radical alteration of the very fabric of society in which they lived... the social gospel proposed a world that took up the teachings of Jesus that challenged privilege, power, prestige, and social conventions. (Schmidt, 2008, p.169)

Social justice in the field of social work also seeks an ideal world where all people would have the same opportunities, rights and social benefits. Service within social work is necessary; it is the practice of “providing help, resources and benefits” to clients, groups and communities (Kirst-Ashman, 2003, p. 31). Notice that this is providing help, not establishing or carrying-out such things independently; but with the participation of those involved. This incorporates the dignity and worth of a person- to not take away their rights to choose; therefore retaining their free will, which is often termed ‘self-determination’ as well as the importance of human relationships. Social work recognizes that human interaction is important and such connections are influential in promoting change.

Service is not a passive option, but one of action. Jesus came, yes preaching and teaching, but also healing and feeding. He met practical needs and took action. Likewise, social work is action-based. It is not a profession that focuses on meetings and talking about making changes- it works on practical ways of implementing plans, programs and actions to help people. Even those who work in the area of making policies, part of the process involves making sure a policy can be effective in the real world. Social work is about action and about effecting real people’s lives. As is the Christian faith; James 1:27 says “Religion that our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress” (NIV). In other words- real religion, true following of Christ is to be acted out in caring for the vulnerable; widows and orphans. This is exemplified in the life of Christ, who did not merely say that he loved the world and preach sermons, but healed the sick and fed the hungry. Christ took action and Christians are called to do the same. It is best summed up as; “The Christian biblical command to love God and love one’s neighbor as one’s self was directly translated into a sense of moral responsibility for social service” (Hugen, 2008, p. 30). Christ combines all the other laws into two: love God, love others, within these two commands we see backbone of the Christian faith. Luke 10 is the parable of the good Samaritan; a parable that emphasizes taking action in helping others. It is interesting to note that it comes as the answer to an expert in the Law’s request of how to inherit eternal life, and after Jesus sums up of all the laws into ‘love God, love others’, and he ends with “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37). It is a command for all others who claim to obey God and follow him to also love others in action, not only words.

The Bible clearly shows that God is concerned about injustice, and the life of Christ represents one of caring for the oppressed and fighting for justice. The commands given to God’s chosen people, the Israelites, involved rules about caring for the poor, the widows, and foreigners living among the people. For example, in Exodus chapter 22 Moses tells the people:

Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will by aroused…your wives will become widows and your children fatherless (v21-24).

Also, according to Hugen, the Hebrew concept of charity, represented in the Old Testament was directly related to this notion of justice:

The helper benefited from the act of charity as well as the one receiving help. It was a reciprocal benefit that balanced relationships between people. God specified the need for interdependent relationships, and charity was an aspect of this...God intended that society benefit by sharing resources among all its members in a just and equitable way (2008, p. 30).

Social work apart from Christianity sounds very humanistic; it holds that people all have innate value and worth, and strives to help people reach their full potential (Plotnik, 2008, p.442). However, where is the basis for humans having more worth than any other creatures? In a Christian perspective, there is the recognition that humans are made in the image of God, and that the death of Christ has redeemed humans, therefore each person has value and is deserving of dignity. How does this connect with serving the poor?

The earliest biblical records reveal distinctive guidelines for the care of the poor. The guidelines are shaped by the covenant relationship of a people with their God who represented love and justice. If God is Creator, then all people should be treated with respect and care. This is a way to honor God. The guidelines apply not only to individuals and families, but also to the larger community and society (Hugen, 2008, p.106).

One was to practice justice and care for the poor to respect humanity, as the image of God, the Creator.

Here I took out about 2 pages worth- discussing the aspects of 'importance of relationships, integrity and competence within social work. I thought that might be much to read and it really was not all that interesting...

Just as a social worker is to take action to impact the lives of people, Christianity is to be lived out. As the apostle James says, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (2:18). Sadly, too often churches leave charity up to faith-based organizations, not-for-profit groups and the government. Those roles were commanded for Christians to fill. Jesus refers to the ‘sheep’ as his true followers when he says “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36). Each one of the listed things involves action, and does not refer to a position of the heart or an amount of faith. Christ expects his followers to do something, and says that in helping someone in need, they have helped him.

Social work and the Christian faith have foundations of service, social justice and integrity. Social work recognizes that humans have value and worth and that healthy human relationships are important; Christianity holds that people are made in the very image of God and that their worth is tied up in their Creator and that they were made to have relationships with one another and with God. The career of social work and one’s faith working together can be a powerful force in influencing society.


- do you really want to read the bibliography? I have it, if so. But that's just nerdy...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Who knows?

As you probably know, my school is closing.
The announcement was made about two months ago, but sometimes it still feels surreal. Colleges just don't close, right? and with so many unanswered questions and people's futures hanging in the limbo, it seems even more ridiculous that it is being closed so hastily.
I am still a criminal justice major and I do not intend to switch or change, I really feel this is where I am supposed to be. However, Taylor University Upland has announced that they refuse to make a decision about the criminal justice program being added to their campus until November of 2009.
That's right; after the school year has started,
after people would have made decisions about their future schools,
too late for me to take any classes there (not that I wanted to),
but also too late for me to know the requirements for the new program for completion of my degree.

It's incredibly frustrating having your future waiting for other people to decide about.
And I'm a junior and I don't want to be in school for two more years (or more!).
Looking at nearby schools, ones that have announced that they will take all credits from Taylor Fort Wayne that have criminal justice programs, but the outlook is not too pretty, but I do have alternatives in mind and I'm waiting for further guidance of what to do.
It would be nice to just put it in the back of my mind and enjoy my time, but I've not been able to do just that.
Why couldn't I just be normal? why couldn't I just finish up in four years like most people?
I definitely feel the urge to just take another break from school... but I am coming back spring semester- I am determined to graduate with a degree this spring!
Last night was Dec 4, Dr. Duane Kilty Day. No really, it was. The mayor of Fort Wayne, who was fighting to keep this campus open wrote out the papers and made that day, (which I believe is also Dr. Kilty's birthday) an official holiday. It was the school's present to him as we all said good-bye. He was working and planning and creating strategies to keep this school open, when it closed he was offered a job at a nearby university and he took the offer. We are all really excited for him and will miss him.
I've learned so much about trust and faithfulness because of the school closing. The professors, students and staff teach me new lessons every day. And as we grow closer as a school I learn more about community, supporting one another, grieving and rejoicing together than anywhere else I have ever been.
I think that perhaps my one semester (soon to be one year) at this school has taught me more than all of my other educations ever could; how ironic that this is the school which is closing.
I am thankful for my college. Although I often wonder God's hand in it, I haven't doubted his direction to come here, and I still believe I was called here. I see it more clearly in all the lessons that I have learned while here; it might be temporary, it might make a longer journey to graduation and a degree, but it was, and will be worth it. I don't regret it one bit.
I am thankful for Taylor University Fort Wayne.