The Journey Forward

1 January, 2010

Railroad tracks, Kaçanik, Kosovo, 2009.

Railroad tracks. Kaçanik, Kosovo. 2009.

We live in the present, and every evening brings an end of a day that will never be relived. Yet, we mark some days as special because they mark more than just the end of a single day. The end of December 31, 2009 brought the end of a year and a decade. I wanted a photo in this post that connected the past to the future, and a reminder of the ecclesiastical truism that there is nothing new under the sun.

This set of rails is in the town of Kaçanik, Kosovo. I stood looking down the tracks toward the past, only ten years prior, when 31,000 Albanian refugees fled the Serbian forces evicting them from the country, “getting ‘a free ride to Macedonia’ as a ‘gift from the government’ in exchange for the houses and cars.” They traveled these rails by train and by foot, fleeing for their lives. Thousands never made it, primarily those males aged 13 and up who were of “fighting” age.

Every few years we are shocked anew by atrocities visited upon one people by another. Why do we still look upon these with horror and surprise? We look on with horror because we are amazed at actions of depravity, evil wholly outside our sphere of experience. We look on with surprise because deep down we wish the lie was truth; that man is getting better. Yet, we are continually met face-on with the truth of human nature; as Christians we should not be surprised because human nature is the manifestation of sin nature.

Christians should look at the future with an element of pragmatism. Do not think that everything will be getting any better, but be not concerned with that. Will the economy recover or plummet anew? Will Iran comply with the demands of the west? Will Afghanistan come under control or fall into deadly chaos? Will Russia continue to provoke neighbors in a display of nationalistic machismo? We don’t know, and it’s not that we don’t care, but our outlook does not hinge upon events out of our control. We know that all things are in the total control of our heavenly Father.

Happiness, blessing, fulfillment, contentment –however you want to define it– should be based upon being in that prefect will of God, solely. All other so-called measures of blessing or affliction are really neither. We just meet them with an attitude of openness to God’s leading and purposes, or we grasp and claw at temporal vanity.

So, we wish everyone a happy new year, blessed in the understanding that God has a purpose for us. We continue here in the turbulence that is the human experience because we emissaries of the one, true King. What a blessing it is to need no other thing.

© 2010 A Mission Proclaimed

A Mission Proclaimed is a federally recognized 501(c)(3). Your support is greatly appreciated.

Family Blessings, Part V

31 December, 2009

Roma children, Skopje, Macedonia, 2009.

Roma children. Skopje, Macedonia. 2009.

One of the greatest aspects of traveling is experiencing new cultures and customs (I could add cuisine to that as well). These differences expand my understanding of people and countries. Another enjoyable aspect is the discovery that there are so many similarities; similarities with different flavors, but similarities none the less.

One such similarity is the importance of family. This becomes the topic of this final Family Blessing series post. This image was taken while I was walking around a Roma community in Skopje, Macedonia. In most situations I can’t move unnoticed, especially in an area such as this Roma enclave. With my blonde hair and western clothes (and camera) I garnered a lot of attention.

These children were walking down one of the many small alleyways that criss-crossed the community. As soon as they saw me they wanted me to take their picture. I obliged them as they propped their younger siblings against the fence for a photo. However, this photo of them prepping their siblings for the photo was my favorite. The older brothers and sisters lovingly cleaned up their younger siblings for the photo. It is especially interesting since there was no expectation of their receiving a print for the photo. They just enjoyed that they were receiving this attention.

This is a cross-cultural similarity among all cultures, the love and care of the younger siblings by the older. Yet, a growing incongruity between this community and the one I left in the US was the fact that this group of kids walked about their community without their parents which showed a sense of security in this poor community that may be disappearing in the communities of the west.

In some ways, these small communities in the poorer countries I visit bring to mind what I imagine the US was like before this modern era of instant communication and the electronic segregation of communities that it has caused. We in the first-world are losing the blessing of 3-dimensional locational community in exchange for a 2-dimensional cyber community. We are exchanging a deep understanding of our neighbors and community for text-bytes of information of groups of friends, loosely grouped and hardly known.

The Christian community is an aberration to this trend, where community is still valued. In order to keep values in perspective, I believe that Christians need to visit other countries where needs are great and engage themselves in these other communities of believers. Through these experiences we not only gain a greater depth of knowledge of the world in which we live, we also gain a better understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. Keep in mind that we are in the world solely by the grace of God, so live as instruments of his blessing to others.

© 2009 A Mission Proclaimed

A Mission Proclaimed is a federally recognized 501(c)(3). Your support is greatly appreciated.