2010 Women's conference Paper
Power, Self-Discipline, and Love
From 2 Timothy
For the NPQWTC 2010 Peggy Senger Parsons
Power - I have been mentored by a dead woman for the last decade or so. Some people carry so much spiritual power that they do not have to be present for it to be felt. Charlotte Macy died seven years before I became a Quaker. But soon after I became convinced, her name started to come up and every time it did some alarm bell went off in my soul. I started paying attention and seeking out stories. Every story had a lesson for me. The lessons are applied to my life on a regular basis. I believe in the communion of the saints - so I talk to her at times, Mostly she is quiet companion. But she doesn’t need to talk to mentor me, she is just there.
Self-Discipline - I have been eldered by a teen age girl. Daniella Hayo took care of me, watched after my safety, she watched out for the things I am oblivious to. She gave me important feedback on my ministry. With the holy boldness of youth, she told me the things that the adults wouldn’t have the nerve to say to me. She told me when I was hitting the sweet spot and when I was shooting wide of the mark. She critiqued my fashion. She prayed for me. She occasionally gave me deep personal advice - sometimes I even took it. She forgave me when I did not.
Love - I think our culture over-rates romance and under-rates devotion. A loyal, committed, devoted Friend is about the best kind of love a person can get. I can’t maintain very many of these. I have four of them, I think. I think I am very blessed. To be healthy they have to be two-way. If you maintain them well, it will limit other relationships. These friends may ask you the tough questions, but they are on your side and you know it. They make me want to live up to the image they have of me. I know, and they know, that I fall short, but they hold that image for me, the best me that they can see, and I reach for it.
Mentors, Elders and Friends - the very presence of a timeless, ageless living God.
And You Think Your Commute is Bad
Here is a fun video Doc of some brave souls in the DRC trying to get their goods to Market. The show is called Deadliest Roads. This trip is more tedious and frustrating than deadly, but it is reality.
(above photo AGLI Quaker Peace Teams in Congo)
My 1200 mile trip will be spent all on Tarmac (I think) so more like the very early section of this trip where they can speed along at 25 mph! I have been through some washouts, and mud traps almost this bad in Burundi. I got to drive one once and slid my car off the road and had to be pushed back on - but only once - pretty good for a mazungu! Not dissimilar to driving on ice - some of the same rules apply, don't slow down, don't over-steer, counter-steer in a slide.
I don't expect to be a driver this summer. But I am always prepared to be useful
Cute Baby interlude
A Report from Kenya
From David Zarembka, AGLI Friends Peace Teams
On August 4, Kenyans will do something that Americans have never done – vote on a new constitution. As happens in Kenya, this vote has already become contentious and perhaps violent. The Yes side is supported by the Government including both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The No side is led by two men; William Ruto, the MP and minister who lives across the road from Lumakanda in Turbo Division; and, Cyrus Jirongo which is our MP here in Lugari. Turbo is an area where we have been doing a lot of peacebuilding work.
More disturbing is that the National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK) has joined the No vote. The papers have reported numerous times that the Friends Church is part of the No campaign since the leaders in Nairobi are part of NCCK. Nonetheless, out here in western Kenya, I would say that the vast majority of Friends are on the Yes side of the vote and I know at least one yearly meeting which has unanimously agreed to the Yes side as opposed to the leadership of the Friends Church in Kenya which represents Friends on the NCCK. In other words this has polarized the Friends Church in Kenya and is leading to a new division.Peace,
This has hurt the work of Friends Church Peace Teams, which is purposely neutral in all of these political wrangles. When Getry went to the USAID office in Eldoret to obtain funding for civic education on the constitution in Turbo Division, she was told that Friends could not receive any funding because they had already publicly taken sides!
The NCCK objects to two items in the very long new constitution. One is the inclusion of the Kadhi Courts which are domestic courts in which Muslims resolve disputes when both parties are Muslim. The current constitution includes Khadi Courts so if the No side wins, the Kadhi Courts will still be in the constitution. I cannot interpret opposition to this item as anything more than an anti-Muslim crusade. After the fall of Communism in 1990, the conspiracy theories in Africa changed from being "the Communists want to take over Africa" to "the Muslims want to take over Africa". This theory is promoted by fundamentalist evangelicals in the United States. Kenya is about 10% to 15% Muslim and of course they support keeping the inclusion of the Kadhi courts.
NCCK’s second main issue is abortion. If adopted, the new constitution will be the only one in the world, except that of the Vatican, that includes the phrase "life begins at conception". There is also a clause that says there can be an abortion to save the life or health of the mother. Although this is not in the current constitution, it is the current law of the land. The NCCK claims that this clause will lead to abortion on demand and the Catholic Church agrees with this assessment. Some of the Protestant Churches on the No side are receiving financial support from fundamentalist churches and organizations in the United States.
What is really behind this? I think that the above is mostly a smoke screen for the current establishment. One of the main issues that leads to violence in Kenya is land, particularly the large, illegal land grabbing by influential, rich Kenyans, including much government owned land. The new constitution will require that any land grabbed illegally will have to be returned to the State. Clearly this will upset many of those who have benefited from land grabbing but they cannot publicly fight the constitution on these grounds.
Already this has led to threats of violence. Since many people in Kenya are illiterate, the Yes and No sides have each been given a color – green for Yes and red for No. Church leaders on the No side have accepted this color because they say that it represents the blood of Christ and the bloodshed that they new constitution will bring! In Kitale just north of us to the east of Mt Elgon, fliers have been distributed in the town saying that if the new constitution is passed everyone in the region who is not a Pokot, who claims to be original owners of the area, will be forced from their homes and have to return to where they came from – clearly this is a campaign tactic of the No campaign rather than the Pokots themselves.
The old electoral commission for the 2007 election was dismissed in disgrace and a new one appointed. Their task has been to register voters, which has just been completed. The Friends Church Peace Teams (FCPT) held a seminar for about 50 Friends to do registration monitoring during the enrollment process. We have learned elsewhere that the fraud in elections in this region begins in the enrollment process so that this must be monitored closely. Below is a report from Getry Agizah, the Coordinator of FCPT. I have put in brackets my comments that will explain some of the observations.
New webpage: www.aglifpt.org
Getting Me There - (And Back Again)
I have a call, a plan, and an itinerary.
I absolutely need your help to make this a reality.
First a Gratitude! My plane tickets to and from the Continent have been paid for by a generous grant from the Susan Bax Fund. This cost was about $2250.
My budget for the rest of the trip looks like about $2800.00 more.
I am picking up the prep costs, the per-diems on travel days and life in buja - about 1200. I can clothe and feed myself.
The rest I hope to raise through book sales and sponsorships.
Books Sales: My two books, So there I was and So There I Was in Africa
are in the black financially and all book sales in the next six weeks will go to support the Africa ministry. The suggested donations for them are $20 and $15 respectively and I will make the special two book deal available at $25 please remember to add postage. The paypal button on this page and the Unction.org page are working. If you have your copies already, why not send a set to some Friend you like, or want to annoy, I will gift ship with credit or anonymously!
Direct Donations: If you would like to make a direct undesignated donation you may do that through Freedom Friends Church and get your tax deduction. Make sure you designate it "Pastor's Africa Fund"
FFC has a paypal button on its site, or you can mail a check to 2425 13th Street Se, Salem Oregon 97302.
Sponsorships: Want to feel a little more directly linked to what I am doing? Why not sponsor a piece of the trip? You can do this through my paypal or the church. Make sure you send me an e-mail telling me what piece you want and I will update this post with the sponsorships (you can be anonymous if you are that kind of person) Also feel free to take a portion of one of the larger expenses.
Peggy in Mombasa with FUM $550
1200 miles of bus trips $125 -SPONSORED
Visas for five border crossings $300 - SPONSORED
The costs of the Institute in Buja $ 140 - SPONSORED
English Bibles for the Students $360
Flying Doctors $50 - SPONSORED
(this is an "insurance" donation to a great organization - If I get hurt or sick real bad they will come scoop me up and fly me med-evac to Nairobi - the expense we hope we don't need to use)
Anti-malarials $60 0r $250 - SPONSORED!
I will be deep in the malaria zone for the whole trip. $60 gets me generic Larium, gut stripping and anxiety producing but it works.
$250 if you want me to have the nice Malerone - works without nasty side effects.
(a young Burundian preacher at a youth meeting in our yard - Kibenga - 2007)
The Kamenge Institute for Future Quaker Leadership
Summer 2010, Bujumbura Burundi
Jointly sponsored by Kamenge Friends Church and Freedom Friends Church
Participants: 24 to 30 young Quakers age 17-24. Half of them Female. On break from finishing secondary school or starting university. Students will be chosen by the Elders of Kamenge Friends church from application essays. If logistically possible, some seats will be set aside for students from other areas.
Prepare post-genocidal African leaders
Develop functional peacemakers and earth care-takers
Teach Quaker history and values in a way relevant to the Burundian culture and the 21st century
Present a Biblically grounded, generously orthodox,
Improve the English skills of the students
Connect their spiritual, academic and civic lives.
Build long-lasting cohort relationships
Schedule: We will teach mornings, three days a week for four weeks. We may also do a work project together. Each morning we will have a Bible lesson, a Quaker history lesson, a conflict resolution lesson and an Earthcare lesson.
Freedom Friends Church will help fundraise for Pastor Peggy Senger Parsons to travel to Bujumbura and teach, and provide spiritual nurture and accountability for Peggy. Kamenge Friends Church elders will designate one of their adult members to supervise and oversee arrangements. A young adult co-facilitator will be chosen to work closely with Peggy to keep the material culturally and generationally relevant. Certificates of completion signed by Peggy, a representative of Freedom Friends Church and a representative of Kamenge Friends Church will be awarded to all who complete the course.
The Core of the trip - Back story
David and I had a chance to talk and sit together in worship around our concern for Central Africa. We were both feeling that it would be time for me to go back in 2010 but neither of us had a clear sense of what work there was for me to do. The trauma work of THARS has gone well. His people that I trained in 03 have exceeded their teacher and been multiplied. THARS does not need me this year. Yet in our discernment process, which continued after our parting, we both found clear and harmonious leading.
Our prayers and conversations took us to the continuing concern that another wave of genocide in Central Africa be prevented. We reviewed the very sizable gains that have been made in awareness of trauma, and trauma healing. We both believe that without healing the violence will be repeated. We reviewed the gains that have been made in restorative justice and conflict resolution. We feel that AGLI is doing good work in this area. There are other educational efforts going on the area among Friends, notably an EFI effort for education for pastors and pastors in training.We indentified areas that we feel at not being met a well, and we came up with three areas and a target group. We feel that the biggest needs are; religious tolerance, better governance in the church and the society as a whole, and an integrated spirituality that includes Earthcare.
We feel that the most underserved group is, in fact, the most critical group, the youth - specifically secondary and university students. Half of the population of the region is under 20. Rwanda has recently declared that all government business and all teaching will be done in English, Burundi is following this lead. Students between 17-20 have taken most of their education in French, and they will be at a particular disadvantage as they move into adult life. We feel that these young people are the future leaders of the three Yearly Meetings in the area, and future leaders in business and government. We believe that this younger generation needs to come into adult life with new ideas, new skills in peacemaking, tolerance, and Earthcare, as well as with competency in English. We are aware that their religious upbringing has not integrated their academic life with their spiritual life; that the Ethics of Gospel Order applied to business and governance is a new idea for them. We are aware that there has been division, estrangement and sometimes competition between the Yearly Meetings in the area and even between areas within the Yearly Meetings. We know that female ministry has been difficult to empower. We believe that we can have special influence with this young group, and change them in ways that will affect the region for decades to come.
We feel lead to attempt to do this.
After 5 days in Mombasa, I will be headed west. I have opted to travel by land and take a couple of weeks to get to Bujumbura, instead of what would be a two hour air trip from Nairobi.
The first leg will be across Kenya from the sea to the great rift valley. I will be riding the bus along with Kenyan sisters from the conference and AGLI Friend David Zarembka and his wife Gladys. Zarembka has invited me to land at their home in Eldoret for a couple of days before moving on. I am looking forward to this trip though I know it will be long and tiring. Kenya is about the size of Texas. I expect a standard Matatu - a Toyota ten person van with 20 people in it. I expect the roads to be mostly, sorta paved two lane affairs. But this will be the best way to see and feel the country.
If I were going by plane all the way to Buja, I would allow myself three large bags for two months. I am going to try and do this trip with a backpack and a messenger bag - For those who know me - you know what this means to me. If anyone knows where to order a Dr. Who Tardis Backpack, please let me know.
Once out in western I will make a decision about proceeding. More bus through Uganda into Rwanda or attempt to find a small airways to cross lake Victoria. African border crossings are so much fun. You can get all your visas here in the US, but my experience is that some petty border bureaucrat will still try and shake you down at the border. Showing up without the visa and asking for it is a gamble - it usually works, but they don't have to let you in, and could send you back to Nairobi for paperwork if they felt like it.
But somehow, I will get to central Rwanda and to the house of my Friends Habimana Augustine and his wife MamaElise. They pastor a church outside of Kigali. I will visit with them and try and see as many of my '03 Rwandan students as possible. Then I will bus down to Burundi.
I am hoping that these travels will be calmer than some of my previous bus experiences. But I will become part of the community of travelers. I will learn much. I will have opportunities for prayer and ministry. I will be in the center of the palm of God's hand, as always.
First stop Mombasa
Right about the turn of the century I had a dream that came in the same form, multiple times in one year. I dreamed of a group of black women in white dresses holding a worship service under a canopy of tall trees. They sang in a language that I did not know. I awoke after each of these dreams strongly moved by these women. Then the dreams stopped and I mostly stopped thinking of them. About a year later I saw a movie which had dialogue and music in Kiswahili and I knew what language the women had been singing in. I got a grammer and started working out little bits of Kiswahili - just as a side project.
Then in 2002 I met a Burundian and was asked by God to help this man, and I did. The language of Burundi is not Kiswahili - though as a trade language many Burundians have some. My new friends thought my interest in Swahili was odd, but interesting and humored me with some practice. I did not advance much in my skills.
Eight years later and two trips to Burundi, Rwanda and the Congo in my passport, I know more than once did. I know that the ladies in my dream were likely Kenyans. The tree likely to be found out in Western. The women I have actually worshiped with wear rainbow hews, not white. They dance. They drum. I love them. But I have not forgotten the dream. (I searched Google images for an hour for such a picture and failed)
As I prepared for my third trip to central East African this year I was planning to maximize my time in Kigali and Bujumbura. And then an invitation arrived. Did I know that the USFWI was meeting in Kenya just as my itinerary had me arriving on the continent? Could I divert a bit and join them?
And I found that my heart diverted, and said yes, without asking my brain. So I am going first to the triennial of the United Society of Friends Women International. This is the women's missionary society of Friends United Meeting (FUM). These days there are more women in the society in Kenya than in the USA and Canada.
We will meet at a lovely resort with white sand beaches rather than under the trees of western Kenya (I am determined to know the name of those trees). I do not know what my purpose being there will be. But I feel like I am completing my call by showing up. I will bring with me the spirituality of generous orthodoxy and Christ-centered inclusion that we have found at Freedom Friends Church. I am sure that I will have many interesting conversations, with sisters from Africa and America. We will sing together study together and worship together. I will take all of me and all of the Christ within me, to meet them and the Christ they carry.
Then at the close of the conference I have elected to ride the peoples bus with the African sisters back out to Western Kenya (a very long ride). Perhaps to find those trees, and perhaps they will teach me to sing in Kiswahili.
USFWI.org will get you to the societies web page
What I hope to be doing
If I have learned one thing about traveling in the ministry, it is this; What I think I am going to be doing, and what I actually end up doing often bear not much resemblance to each other. There are some constants, and there are elements of the my travel plans that stay in place, and there are always some Godly surprises.
That said, I want to lay out the major portions of my itinerary, and the concerns that have been laid upon my heart and mind.
I think I will use a separate post for each segment.
USFW - Mombasa
The trip out west.
A stop in Kigali.
The Institute in Bujumbura.
( in the photo above I provide entertainment for the Female Twa construction workers in Gitega, Burundi . I dug about three feet of foundation ditch before succumbing to 5k foot altitude, heat, and limits of my strength)