Archive for February, 2013

Extremists

Today marked the 20 year anniversary of the World Trade Center Bombing, where a group of six Islamist extremists detonated a truck bomb beneath the north tower.  A moment of silence was observed at 12:18 and the names of the victims were read as people gathered to remember the fallen.  Over 1,000 people were injured in this attack.

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Yesterday marked the 19 year anniversary of the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, where an Israeli man entered the Ibrahim Mosque in Hebron and killed 29 Muslims praying within, injuring an additional 125.

This past year marked the 11th year after our nation came under attack on 9/11.  Ground Zero remains a place where hundreds of thousands stand and remember the countless men and women who died in the act of violence that brought our nation to its knees.

While studying Art History at Anderson University under Dr. Korb several years ago, we began to look at the responses to violence, conflicts, and war.  When asked what a terrorist looks like, several of the students responded with “Arab”, “Middle East”, and several religious followings.  That question was followed by a history lesson in the violent past of Ireland.

Terrorism is the use of violence to spread fear.  It doesn’t have a face.  It doesn’t have a nationality.  It doesn’t have a religion.

When the same Art History class was asked if a Christian has ever conducted an act of terrorism, several individuals immediately stated no.  History proves otherwise.

Freedom Fighters.  Jihadists.  Rebels.  Extremists.  Politics and the rabble that follows them.  The mob and the peaceful protestors.

There are extremists in every Religion, every nation, every community that for some reason decides to act out in violence, but I have come to realize that violence cannot be contained.  Nations are ripped apart.  Families are torn.  Revenge and retaliation takes control and we are left killing one another.

An eye for an eye, until everyone is blind.

Politicians say we need more laws, more control.  Take away the rights, suppress your anger.  Religion tells us to forgive, but we can never forget what they did to us.  Our nation is driven by war, so we seek out the next fight, be it in the big sand box overseas, in the jungles of our past, or the foreign shores of our rivals.

What we need are extremists who will take a stand to forgive and to love unconditionally.  There has been enough blood shed by our generation.  We need warriors who will fight for peace, who will take a stand against retaliation and embrace the faith that teaches us forgiveness and acceptance of others.

God Bless and PEACE

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Where Lives are Changed…

As many followers of this blog know, I spent the summer of 2010 aboard the M/V Africa Mercy working in the Stewards Department as part of the dining hall crew.  In my time in Lome, Togo and on the voyage down to Durban, South Africa, I had the opportunity to meet and get to know some amazing families, friends and individuals that lived and served aboard the ship.

Recently, CBS News’ 60 Minutes did a piece on the Africa Mercy, Africa Mercy: Hospital of Hope, where they revealed a piece of the story for the ship.

So many lives are changed each day, every week, month, year because of the work that these amazing individuals.  The ship is a place where the blind are returned their sight, the lame learn to walk, and those that have lost their lives are given new hope.  It is a place where miracles happen every single day.

But there is so much more to the story.  From the day workers who come onto the ship each day to the crew that has become so much more than family, this story could fill hundreds of pages and thousands of books through all the lives that have been affected, from patients to crew.

Yes, the mission of Mercy Ships is to serve the poorest of the poor, but so many lives are changed through serving aboard this ship, alongside its crew.  While not everyone has the ability or the skills to be the hands of healing, the hearts of service are evident in all the alumni that have returned home after serving as a housekeeper, in the galley, as a photographer, as an engineer, plumber, or mechanic.

The crew of the M/V Africa Mercy taught me what it was to love.  To truly embrace someone as a brother or sister, no matter who they were.  I grew in my faith and it is still changing me as I continue to remember the lessons that are buried deep within my heart.

I feel as if I have a family that stretches across the nations and I smile when I think of the memories; the laughter and conversations that echoed throughout the nights into the early hours of the morning at times.  I have brothers and sisters that come from all walks of life.

This is the story of Mercy Ships, a family that continues to grow and continues to serve the poorest of the poor around the world.  It’s in the hearts that continue to beat out in love that we find the words and the beginnings of a single chapter of a story that continues to be written through the miracles of modern medicine, faith, and caring hands.

God Bless and PEACE

Windshields and Rear View Mirrors

There is a commercial that I saw for the first time yesterday that made me smile and think of this journey of life.  It simply stated that the rear view mirror was created to be small, so that we could see what was behind us, but the windshield in front of us was vast so that we could see everything in front of us.

(NOTE: I believe it was an AARP commercial, but I could not find it, so I cannot be certain)

Throughout my journeys I have discovered that whenever I am looking back, I begin to second guess my actions or I begin to fear that I missed something.  Did I do my best?  What if I didn’t do enough to save someones life?  Did I fail?

If God wanted us to constantly see everything behind us, he would have put eyes in the back of our heads.

We can learn from our past.  We can dissect it, analyze it, and discover what we were in that moment in time.  We can document it, but there is nothing we can do to change what we have done (or didn’t do).

We have a whole world in front of us.  Our journey does not slow down just because we are looking back.  We are constantly moving forwards in our journey, be that towards God or along a different path.  But we are constantly moving, we are never completely still.

If we are not looking ahead, what will we miss when we have our eyes off the road of life?

Just some thoughts this morning…

God Bless and PEACE

The Sacrifices We Make

Today is Ash Wednesday, the official start of Lent, where cultures around the world begin the journey towards Holy Week and Easter.  Over the next 40 days, many of us will willingly give up something from our lives to bring us closer to God.  It’s a sacrifice that reminds us of the ultimate sacrifice of the Son of Man on the cross who died willingly for our sins.

Over the past several weeks I have struggled to maintain positive throughout my journey with AmeriCorps*NCCC – FEMA Corps.  It’s a daily battle to pick myself up in the morning and be present for my team because I am so physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained.

I love the work that I am doing.  I find the field of Emergency Management extremely interesting.  I thrive off of helping others.  But there is something missing that for the longest time, I could not comprehend.

Over this past weekend, while Winter Storm Nemo slammed into New England and started to drop snow into NYC, I took the opportunity (and a snow day) to run down to spend time away from my team at my Godmothers Pink Paloosa Party, celebrating 4 years of being cancer free.

It was there, for the first time since being deployed in response to Hurricane Sandy, that I was able to physically distance myself from my team while on project.  In doing so, I was finally able to take a step back and comprehend parts of this adventure here in New York City.  I was able to think.  I got the opportunity to clear my mind, if only for a brief space of time.

We have sacrificed so much while serving here in FEMA Corps.  The men and women that we stand beside have all left so much behind.  I never noticed how much it affected me, my decisions, thoughts and attitude, until I was able to step back and see with refreshed eyes.

Members of my team have sacrificed relationships with friends and family through this opportunity to serve.  Others have sacrificed opportunities while they remained in this program.  We have given up some of our comforts, personal space, and freedoms because we have put our team before ourselves.

And despite all of this, we continue moving forwards, rushing headlong into our work.  We strive to take care of each individual survivor who walks through the doors of our DRC.  We seek out all those that have not registered for assistance.  We knock on endless doors with the hope of helping in any way we can.  Survivors and responders alike walk around with blank stares because they still cannot comprehend the sacrifices that they  have had to make, the sacrifices that they were forced to make.

I struggle with the sacrifices that this program has brought, but I embrace them because they are a part of the greater answer to the single question we all ask, “Why?”  I do wish things were different, but I know without those sacrifices, this program would not be what is has become.

I look forwards to Lent not because I have given up another item in the way of God, but because I have received the chance to step back and see all those things that I have been forced to sacrifice through service.  Over the next 40 days, I will be reflecting on these things, giving thanks for everything that I was forced to leave behind.

God Bless and PEACE