Rode Hard And Put Away Wet

my God, where do these days go?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

This month is the 13th anniversary of the death of a hero of mine. September is the 8th anniversary of another hero of mine. Mark Heard died of cancer in 1992 and Rich Mullins died in a Jeep accident in 1997. Heard was 41, Rich was 41. Two songwriters who were fundamentally opposite in style, yet exactly on the same page when it comes to purpose: revealing the mystery of God.

I count myself lucky to have been exposed to them. There are lots of people who haven’t.

“I think that of all the diseases in the world, the disease that all humankind suffers from, the disease that is most devastating to us is not AIDS, it's not gluttony, it's not cancer, it's not any of those things. It is the disease that comes about because we live in ignorance of the wealth of love that God has for us. What a great message we in the church have. It's relevant to people with AIDS and people without AIDS. It's relevant to homosexuals and to homophobes. It's relevant to Republicans and Democrats, to abortionists and anti-abortionists. It's relevant across the board.”
-- Rich Mullins

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My apologies for being largely absent these last few days. What with multiple video side projects, Sam’s birthday, life, et al.

Anyhoo, I promised myself that if I started this blog back up (my old one was here: Barberman), politics would be off the table. Nothing political in the new blog. Well, I’m going to keep that promise. Scouts’ honor.

On a completely non-political note, I’ve discovered of late that I am enamored of the early Elton John stuff. I’m listening to Tumbleweed Connection at the moment. There’s poetical beauty somewhere in Elton John (Elton John!) writing a whole record about gunslingers.

His early records seem to be much more melodic than the mid-80s, early 90s albums – which were generally angry or overly schmaltzy. Cameron Crowe and I seem to share the love, because he finds a place in all of his movies for an early Elton cut. With Almost Famous (my favorite movie, by the way), it was Tiny Dancer. With Elizabethtown it’s My Father’s Gun.

Anyhoo, I’m gonna do some work, listening to Captain Fantastic, and thinking of cowboys with huge, glittery, pink glasses.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Sam turns six today. Six! He's having a sleepover birthday party tomorrow night with some of his buddies. Not to get too sentimental, but I remember a time when he would have said that I was his best friend. Even if he still said that today, I'd have to wonder if he has just humoring me... trying to make an old man feel better, you know?

Last night, I overheard a conversation that he was having with my mom on the phone. He said, "Grandma, can I tell you what the word 'insouciant' means?"

Well, do you know what insouciant means? I had to have my six year old explain it to me.

Friday, July 15, 2005

This is Part III of my Dominican Republic journal. I traveled there for five days.

There are few experiences that all Americans have in common; few things for which one or two words will evoke a common memory. For instance, if I were to say “wardrobe malfunction,” every single person in America would know exactly what I was talking about. Another such shared experience is this one: “Sally Struthers.” Now, does everyone have the same image in his or her mind? Little Ethiopian boys and girls, flies, tears, “for the price of a cup of coffee a day”…. Everybody on the same page? Good.

After Peralta, we few, we proud, we band of gringos traveled to a town called Bani, and a suburb called Santa Rosa. Remember Sally Struthers? That was Santa Rosa. Houses made of concrete with corrugated tin roofs. Children bathing in the same water that women were cleaning their mops in. Filth and dirt as a way of life.

In the below picture, can you see the concrete trough running through the center of the street (the man in the white shirt and blue jeans is sitting on the edge)? That trough carries the neighborhood’s water. Water for bathing, cleaning, etc. comes through there. (By the way, that’s me with the video camera, if you didn’t know).

In this place, we met a man in a Hawaiian shirt. His name is Esdras Kelly. Esdras felt the call of his God to create a church in the dirtiest place in the world. A large part of Esdras’ ministry is a youth center with a basketball court, a small gym, and a library where the kids can do homework. The gym charges 10 pesos (about 50 cents) a day.

Santa Rosa is infested with dirt, disease, and drugs. But, among the infestation, there is a glimmer of hope. It’s not quite shining through the darkness yet, but it’s starting to. People, the lowest of the low, who would have otherwise never understood their worth as a being created in the image of God, are beginning to see that they carry a spark of the divine inside themselves.

Esdras works for a couple of thousand dollars a year.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

We arrived in the Dominican Republic late last Thursday night. We were treated to a lovely dinner of chicken, yuca, boiled green bananas, rice, and El Presidente beer. Then off to our hotel for the night.

The next day, the first destination for our traveling troupe of gringos was a community up the mountains. Peralta, a place unlike anywhere I had seen before, was a good two hour trek for us. A trek through the country, the city, and a startling level of poverty and desolation. I am constantly curious about a man's perception of himself when he is so firmly ensconced in poverty. Does he see hope? Has he resigned himself to this life of scraping and scratching? Does he believe that he or his family is somehow responsible for their condition? Is there any pride or self-worth at all?

Peralta is a kingdom of rubble. Desolation left over from Hurricane George still has the town scarred and seemingly more than in a physical sense. The king, or rather the saint of Peralta, is a man named Francisco. Francisco is, to put it quite bluntly, the most amazing human being God ever made. I didn't realize it at first, but as I sat in his house and ate lunch prepared by his family, and drank the most heavenly coffee, and I listened to his story and the story of Peralta, I came to that obvious conclusion. Of course, his story and the story of Peralta are one and the same.

When Hurricane George hit the town, Francisco, already a fixture in the community, first led the prevention effort, helping people off of the mountain before the worst of the storm hit. But, when weather wants to destroy, it destroys. And when all of the bridges to your town are washed away and there is no hope of escape, it takes a man authentically anointed by God to become Christ in the flesh - a savior in the most literal sense. And listening to the story of how Francisco and his team walked down the mountain, across flooded rivers, and through thick bush to get help for his people, I was truly aware of those whose presence I was in. On one hand, there is no doubt that Almighty God is present of the side of that mountain. On the other hand, there is no doubt in my mind that the man who was sharing his living room with us was a hero. Not a "Johnny saved the kitten from the tree" type of hero, but the Oskar Schindler type of hero - a man who's sole purpose is the salvation (not just spiritually, but literally, physically) of his people.

Some six years after the Hurricane desolation, Francisco decided that God wanted him to provide healthcare to his community. So, after hitting a one in a million shot for an International World Fund grant, Francisco has instituted healthcare for all of his people, for essentially 65 cents a month per person (think about that the next time you drop $3.50 on a Starbucks coffee - healthcare for 5 people for a month). In the four years that the system has been in place, infant mortality has dropped from 35% to 0%. The same for maternal mortality. People are being treated for tuberculosis, HIV, diabetes, and hypertension.

Funding for the program runs out in two months. Please pray that the money shows up, somehow.

-- More stories from my trip to follow--

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I made it back from the Dominican Republic, safe and sound. I'll spill my guts on the whole trip soon enough, but for now... Some Photoblogging, anyone?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

If you've got a mind for it, I could use some extra prayers this week. I leave on Thursday for the Dominican Republic. I'm going with a local church (not mine) to do some video work for them. Imagine creating a partnership between a small Columbia, MD church and an inner city Santo Domingo church. It's the future, man.

The beauty of this trip at the moment for me is that I essentially have zero idea of what we're going to be doing. I know I'll be slinging a camera for the duration, but beyond that, I'm clueless. And I find myself locked into this mindset of the ingorant American. What will I need? Should I take a sleeping bag? Where are we staying? Should I exchange some money for pesos before I go, or can I do it there? I have to know EXACTLY WHAT I AM WALKING INTO.

Then, I take a breath. It's going to be an incredible trip and the little details will take care of themselves. Anyway, like I said earlier, I could use an extra prayer or two this week. And, don't worry, I'll post pictures when I get back.