Friday, January 29, 2010

uncommon rejoicing

PSALM 82:3 "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy..."

The nations, they're suffering.

Living in carborro, nc, there is a community of Burmese refugees from Thailand. A group of students from unc have begun to go into that community to tutor the kids and help them learn english.

I heard about this and said, yeah of course I'll do it, it'll be a really good thing for me to do. Why would i not? Foreign company in chapel hill.. i SHOULD be there. I'll go once a week and help these kids with their homework, leave, and feel satisfied at my work. check. that was last semester. This semester, they became people, and I've seen something beautiful in them.

I won't say there names, but there are 5 kids, all precious beyond words. the youngest are the most joyous, but the oldest girl -- i see something in her eyes and words that tells a story. she rarely talks, but when she does she often tells stories of her past life in thailand, and when she's quiet, she seems distant, as if in thought about a place far from reach. We ask her about her friends, her school life, how she likes it here.. etc., and she'll nod like she's supposed to and force a smile, but her eyes say something different. She mentions that she misses her friends in thailand, and that she doesn't have friends here like she did there. She talks of mangos and guavas, and traditions they used to do.

Her high school had a dance tonite, but niether her nor her friends went. No, instead, their community was in remorse over a family member's death; a father of one of her friends had passed away after a 5 day hospital stay after falling down his steps. Tonite, me and my friends Katherine and Chelsea went to visit our little family, as their parents were both working. (Usually, the oldest girl is left to take care of her brothers and sisters.) We cooked spaghetti and brownies with them, it was a lovely evening. Then, we decided to go to their Friday night worship that was going to be in a nearby apartment. So we bundled up to leave, as we had just discovered that it had started to snow.

We ran wildly, threw snow at each other, with the young ones in our arms, laughing, squealing.

So we arrived at the apartment where they were meeting for worship. Welcomed with smiles, we joined the circular formation that they were gathered in on the floor. Each one was interested in our presence, giving us nods and moving around so that we would have more room than they had. The two lamps that served to light the room gave a cozy aroma, lighting each of their faces with warmth. There were three men at the focus of the room; an elderly man who didn't say anything after briefly looking at us, a middle aged man who i quickly learned was their pastor, and another middle aged man holding a guitar. He began to play. Their voices joined to sing praises to God, in Koren.

I had to remind myself I was in America, in north carolina, 10 minutes from my dorm.

Their voices, so genuine. so earnest. praise! As I tried to hum along, trying to find the harmonies as always, I looked around at the faces: mothers, daughters, sons, a father, cousins, friends. Large flakes of snow, floating past the window, an American flag on the wall, a poster of the koren alphabet, shoes piled by the door. The man playing the guitar was wearing a traditional skirt, and the young girls had trendy hair cuts. Then my eyes fell upon the elderly man that briefly looked at us. His foot was plastic, evidence of a previous tragedy; his story hinted by the eyes buried beneath fleshy eyelids, so uncommon to me.

Katherine leaned over and whisphered to me that this worship meeting was, in fact, dedicated to the family whose father had just died. Not 4 hours ago had they "done something" with the man's ashes, mourning. Praise is all I heard.

Then we prayed, not for the man who had died, but for those who had to continue to suffer, to work, to live life. The suffering these people have encountered, i am unfamiliar with. Here they were, singing praise to God, something they had learned to do, not in america. This rejoicing was a continuation of how they lived as refugees in Thailand.

The beauty of it, Isaiah says it all...

9:1 "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress."

56:6 "and foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him ... these will I bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer."

51: 11 "The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing wil flee away."

The nations, they're singing.

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