Hearing Their Narrative

With every face you see, hand you shake or voice you hear comes a story.

I consider myself sort of spoiled in the story-receiving world. I hear about so many tragedies and victories, faiths and follies, cultures and worldviews.

Everyone has a story– it’s their life and the ongoing journey they must be on.
Upon swapping stories with so many people of all ages, faiths, and cultures, I’ve realized that the specific stories we choose to speak aloud are exactly what define the ongoing narrative we tell about our own lives. Do I continuously share stories of pain, hope, wondering, learning moments? You can learn a lot about someone’s life and perspective on the world simply through listening well to their ongoing narrative.

Let me tell you a few stories I hear.

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Middle-school girl friends– one from Iraq and the other from Afghanistan– have become afternoon hang out buddies and friends of mine. I recently invited them into a card-making session with me, asking for their artistic assistance in my efforts. They showed up at my door on a Thursday afternoon, informing me that they were ready. Upon coming in and settling down to a table around some iced tea and pistachios, they each began to switch off telling me stories of family members they had tragically lost in their home country years ago and how they perceived those happenings as young children. I listened. We shifted from the murder of an uncle to two older cousins committing suicide. They were treating the stories as light, factual statements. My question to them was. “Do you think its okay to commit suicide?”. “No!”, they responded. “Why not?”, I inquired. “Because we are all on a journey that we must live out.” Thus says a 12 year old. Stories continued and eventually they asked out loud, “Why are we talking about these sad things?”. I shrugged my shoulders to give them the space to answer their own question…and they did. “I guess everyone just needs to talk out loud about these things some times and be listened to.” Smart girls. 

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A single Afghan gentleman whom I met through World Relief approximately one year ago has a profile picture on his messaging account that says “Worship the Creator, not the Creation.” This photo sparked a conversation between us that allowed for spontaneous contact until finally we got to invite him to a June fellowship dinner held in my apartment. The young man graciously bent against the Afghani way of being treated as a guest and brought some food and donated a sufra (an eating mat for the floor) to my household items. He lives with a few other Afghan Muslim men, but expresses a desire to have intentional conversation with those of other cultures and faiths than just his own. His request after the iftar dinner was that I send him a digital picture of our group so he could send it to his family back in Afghanistan. I later inquired how his family responded. He told me how happy they were to see him looking so at ease and content. He also told me he felt like he was at  home at our iftar fellowship dinner that night. 

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A story recently shared with me all the way from Southeast Asia: A Muslim man who has come to faith in Jesus told a friend of mine, “There is a saying that during Ramadan demons are chained, the door to hell is closed and the door to heaven opened.” Then he said, “So what about the other 11 months? Ah, that is what Jesus means to me. For with Jesus all through the year the demons are bound, the door to heaven is opened and the door to hell closed.” 

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These are just a couple. Are you listening to the narratives of people God has placed in your life? Are you wondering about their relationship with the God of the universe or trying to better understand how they see the world you both live in?

How enriching it truly could be if we paused to listen to the stories being told (or wanting to be told) and then subsequently let our hearts, minds and discerning spirits interpret the narrative flowing out of each human we know–each human that God created and loves so, so deeply.

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In a Spirit of Peace

It was yet another day in apartment land. Post-school hours and mild weather brings every last kid out into the open to enjoy their roller blades, watching their siblings and kicking around soccer balls. By now, my fender-bent gray Mazda has been established in the minds of my young friends, so they can easily identify my pulling into the complex. I may have been parked 5 seconds before I was overwhelmed with greetings.

I always find my spirit and mind pretty tired by the 5 o’clock hour, but the presence of the kids seem to rejuvenate me. We let my car doors hang open, my trunk serving as a sitting and talking space.

There’s one young guy, we’ll call him Buddy, who seems to have a playful yet rough personality and not the best grasp on his anger and his tongue. He spotted by pink volleyball and asked to play with it.
“Sorry, it’s flat”, I said. “I have a pump!”, he blurted and ran to grab it so he could fix my problem.
My payment for this service? 10 minutes of volleyball with the boys in the lot.

I went in, but found myself back outside in a flash as my dog needed to be walked, once again. My friend Dida came running up to me, advocating for another young friend, Zella.

“Emily! Emily! Can you help us? Zella is upset because Buddy said mean things to her, about her family.”
“What do you want me to do?”, I inquired.
“I don’t know; go talk to him or something. Will you solve the problem?”

Life around my refugee neighbors has its unique moments, but you might be surprised to hear that most occurrences, skirmishes, rejoicing, or pain is close to and familiar to that which penetrates everyone’s life– the mundane day to day events.

I wasn’t sure what they expected of me, but I meandered in their direction. Buddy ended up letting me talk to him and agreed he should say sorry to Zella. We walked over to Zella together and forgiveness was humbly exchanged. It was the oddest of moments as Zella’s parents were standing right there and I was being asked to orchestrate the peace. My conversation to follow was sweet. It was good to finally meet the Iraqi parents of my young lady friend as they sincerely thanked me for handling the situation and asked about my life.

Jesus often found Himself handling disputes. People knew Him as wise, knowledgeable, bold, and peaceful. Because of this, they sought Him out when issues arose.

Pursuing a spirit of peace on a daily basis looks something being neutral in a situation where your Afghan friend is explaining her struggles at home to you and you choose not to take sides. It looks like suggesting to my middle-school friends that we say encouraging words to each other instead of insults. It looks like simply maintaining patience and gentleness when irritation is knocking at the door. It looks like asking what positives exist in someone’s life when they’ve expressed hopelessness.

And somehow, someway this speaks to others that at your core, you are a peace-maker.

Yet again was I invited into a situation when I wasn’t seeking integration.
Blessed to be living amongst and alongside this community. Thankful that a spirit of peace goes before me.

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Through the Eyes of a Kid.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It is so easy to make friends with kids.

One day I returned from a bridal shower and without changing out of my nicer clothes, took a walk with my  6-pound dog named Mia. No matter the age of the kid, this tiny dog seems to captivate the eyes and hands of almost every kid in the apartment complex- girls and boys alike. As I headed back to my apartment after the walk, each eye that spotted the puppy drew right toward her.

“It’s Mia! Awww, hi Mia!” ….. [stroke, pet, drool,]… “Oh, hi Amelia!”
Though I must be at least twenty times taller than this cute creature, I tend to be the second one noticed. It’s alright; I’m the one who ends up in conversation.

That particular day, the boys were playing soccer (better known as futbol) in the alley way. An abandoned roller blade boot and razor scooter serving as one set of goal posts and the red painted curb serving as the other. Mia eventually went back in the apartment and a few of my young girl friends helped me make some fresh popcorn. We sat on the curb, stuffed our faces, I listened to the latest school drama and we watched the boys whip around with their fresh futbol skills. I wanted to play, but needed an opportunity to prove myself. The ball rolled through one goal and straight to my toes. Now was my chance. I hopped up, scooped up the ball and drop kicked it back into play.

“Whooaaaaaa”…and then a few glances back in my direction, as if the boys didn’t know girls could kick a futbol correctly. I eventually invited myself into the game. We formed teams and played to 5 goals. I may or not have shown off my skills.  That day the boys learned my name and haven’t forgotten it since.
Futbol and food makes friends and the acceptance I received from those kids that day filled my heart right up.

Most of the kids that hang outside in my apartment complex are the children of refugee or immigrant parents. Most of their families have come from Iraq, Afghanistan, or Mexico.

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This past week had been a rough one and not just for me. As if trying to process two deaths in my circle of relationships wasn’t enough, I was also battling some minor seizure activity that flares up from time to time. Sometimes it takes me a while to regain all my speaking and listening abilities after an episode. I had just experienced some activity but let myself out for an evening walk with Mia. Some of my favorite girlies in the complex found Mia (and me) as we walked. I wasn’t feeling too great, so I dismissed us, promising to loop back around on our way in.

My friend, Dida, found me again. She had been having a hard time (6th grade and refugee life isn’t all sunshine and butterflies, you see) and needed to enter into a venting session. I tried to explain to her why I was struggling in my communication and listened to the best of my ability as we sat on the curb and talked a bit through her latest struggles. I didn’t know how much my explanation of seizures had really made sense to her or how helpful my words or advice about life really were.

Next week came around and I saw the girls again. Dida came up to me, reunited with her best friend in the complex, and they both gave me hugs. She asked me how I was doing and if my brain was okay by now.
Sweet girl. She had remembered.

Dida and her family are from Iraq. Her Dad is living in Arizona and working a job there, visiting the family only once every couple months, according to her. Her family of 7 is living in a two bedroom apartment. I don’t write this to provoke pity. But seriously, take a glance. Refugee life and youth life mixed? It’s not easy.

Some of my favorite moments in the week come from 5-15 minute moments spent with the kids. It’s times like these–stealing their soccer ball, greeting them by their names and asking them about their day or seeing them put a water bottle on their head and challenging them to a more impressive balancing job– that allow me to be a very real human who isn’t too busy to stop and have a little fun or listen to whatever they deem most important in the moment.

In the midst of a week filled with pain, struggles and not enough energy or time to feel very capable of hardly anything, what I could do was be present with my neighbors.

The kids in my complex are some of the best at paving a way for neighborly relationships.

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Community in Practice

It was Saturday afternoon. My apartment had been given the royal treatment. Candles were burning to create the aura I desired, though I knew that appetite-stirring aromas would soon dominate the room as valued guests found themselves in my home, bearing dinner dishes that properly represented their country of origin.
It is an honor to open up my apartment and my arms.

There are a handful of varying activities or places that bring me sweet joy. Those include everything from hiking mountains to attain glorious views to tasting the intricate flavors in a vast array of coffee beans. But no matter the experience, it is almost always enjoyed more when shared with a friend.

On a broad scale, there are few things I enjoy more in life than COMMUNITY.

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Here is a perfect representation of just that!

This past Saturday night, I had the privilege of co-hosting a group of Intervarsity college students who opted to spend their weekend away from Sonoma State and in Sacramento. They wanted to try out the flavors of our domain here , particularly the ever-growing refugee community.

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Food + Folks = Fellowship

So we collaborated…my refugee friends and I. Sometimes I forget how recent their transition to the states took place because it feels like we’ve been friends for years.  Fatemeh, Rustam and their son Arsalan are from Afghanistan. Bahram, Arezoo and their son David are from Iran.

I’ll admit.. collaboration was a stretch. It’s not within the cultural/societal norms in Afghanistan nor Iran to ask a friend to help you host other guests in your own home. You are either a guest or a host and culturally-speaking, you would never ask a guest to share in the work load. But I was brave enough to ask and they were brave enough to give it a shot. Together, we all understood our unified purpose of representing our city and community to the students through an enthusiastic presence and some authentic food!

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Learning from each other.

The evening was lovely. There were 14 of us in total, gathering around a suffra (An Afghan-style mat for eating on) on my living room floor, dishing out delicious dinner onto each other’s plates with little to no self-control. We each told where we were born, our names, and if we could travel anywhere in the world where we would go. I loved the diversity, but I particularly loved the bravery of my sweet friend, Dida. She is 12 years old and her family is from Iraq. We made friends here in my apartment complex a few weeks back. She heard about my dinner and wanted to come; I invited her and so she came! Sweet girl was the only one her age in the room and while Fatemeh and Arezoo could converse in their mutual language of Farsi (Dari in Afghanistan), Dida could only participate in English. She was ecstatic to share with the group where she would love to travel when she is older.

I was especially proud of the ladies.
Arezoo and Fatemeh made such a grand effort to engage the women students, even while they are still improving their own knowledge of the English language.
The men engaged swiftly as well, swapping stories of their favorites philosophers and theological teachers.

Differing culture, different faiths, differing paradigms, philosophies, and perspectives.
Isn’t this what the Honorable Jesus did while He dwelled on earth?

I had many reasons this night to be proud of the community I am surrounded by. We were accomplishing exactly what I know I’m commissioned by God to do here… connection, stories, community.
We were creating Raft Amad.

 


 

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Raft-Amad

There is something sweet that we often overlook within a tight-knit family, and that is the way that they commune under one roof and freely come and go from their fortress, their place of refuge. This is particularly seen when adult children live with their parents or when teenagers become licensed to drive.
There is an unspoken permission to come and go as they please.

In Middle-Eastern culture, this freedom to come and go oh so regularly spreads beyond the family and into dear friendships. In Afghan culture, it has a specific name– RAFT-AMAD. If you and I have Raft-Amad, then I will come to your home and expect that you come visit my digs as well. We are participating in mutual friendship, hosting each other, welcome each other into our lives and homes.

It’s the going and the coming. It’s personal relationship.

“I wish your family and I can have this Raft-Amad”, I said recently to some friends of mine.
“Yes, we will keep the raft amad”, they said, blessing me in the process.

They are a family of three from Afghanistan: two well-educated parents and their sweet 3 year old boy. I’m still getting to know their story, but the bits and pieces I’ve heard so far have been amazing. We enjoy swapping information about American and Afghan ways and increasing our cultural-intelligence on both ends. This is the way we all grow relationships, build trust and invest in people, is it not? I love to intentionally invest into my Afghan and Arab brothers and sisters here in Sacramento because by doing so, I learn so much about them but also about myself and my own culture.

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Who is my neighbor?”, asked an inquisitive religious leader of Jesus’ day.
The Good Samaritan. You know the story. There was no hero or “better” man. There was a random act of kindness that completely sidestepped a huge cultural gap. There was a neighbor. Apparently loving your neighbor doesn’t actually look like tolerance or small favors, but investments that, like any other relationship, come with vulnerability and risk.

What are the chances you have opportunities for a going and coming sort of relationship with a neighbor of yours (And who is your neighbor, again?) and you’re missing out on its benefits?

If you’re a visually-oriented human being, growing Raft-Amad looks like this:

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Sharing personal life after it’s clearly been a long day.

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Sharing Personal relationship with the whole family.

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Sharing Personal Life by intentionally communing

Sharing Personal Life over Food.

Sharing Personal Life over a lovingly-prepared meal.

 

 

 

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Shift

As I stepped out late with my dog into the brisk night air, I was overtaken by a feeling of mystery and change. The wind blew with great strength and the coldness of the atmosphere barely bit my skin. I looked upward to lay my eyes on great clarity as the constellations shown in clear view. The contrast to the previously cloudy sky was indefinite. Something was shifting. The unknown bewitched me as I could not yet put my finger on what change was about to take place. 

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To Make Way for Peace

It’s been an invigorating year and 3 months and I continue to have the privilege of working with World Relief Sacramento. NOT ONLY THAT, but I now have received the gift of living within one of the most concentrated Arabic and Afghan populations in Sacramento.

I love it. God has blessed me with relationships here. I met and made a dear friend, Adara , whose family came from a well-off life in the middle-east to escape violence and threats and find refuge here in the states. They are one of the loveliest families I have met, embracing me with their arms and hearts– every inch of my outer and inner being.

Day by day work continues to be of service to the refugee community and seeking to ask Jesus’ Church in Sacramento follow His command to LOVE THE STRANGER in both practical and relational ways.

Today, work sent me to make a home visit to a recently arrived family from Afghanistan who was temporarily staying with the husband’s well-to-do uncle and aunt in Tracy, CA. I took my friend, Adara, with me as a companion for the excursion.

God continues to bestow on me a gift of being received by others in a way that allows for stories to be told and lives to be shared.

As is polite and tradition in Afghani culture, the family’s uncle invited me and Adara to stay in his home for lunch after our staff-to-client relations had concluded. I evaluated the remainder of the work day and decided that we could graciously accept the offer.

Lunch brought a time of traditional Afghan eating–sitting with crisscross legs and knee to knee with each other on the floor while our food lay in front of us on the eating mat. It is a beautiful place of fellowship.

The uncle, whose name was Qader Qudus, eventually shared his story of being here since 1982, his complete successes in working his way up the economic ladders and later facing imprisonment and injustice here because of the way he was compassionately transferring donated money from individuals and churches to poorer students and communities back in Afghanistan. He was suspected of money-laundering for drug dealers and even terrorist activity and held for over two years, though they could not find any evidence against him.

With tears in his eyes, he told us “I know God had a plan for me through all of this.”
My heart broke and stretched at the same time.

Friends, if the heart of a Muslim man (or woman) can tread these paths, there is certainly something beautiful and cultivating of peace to be learned from and loved. It is worth building peace and understanding between followers of Jesus and followers of Islam. Truth may find its own way to the surface if unconditional love and empathy pave the way.

Let us begin to love our neighbors, share a meal, and ask them their stories.

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The Empathy in You

Empathy.
How do you help me?
You can’t help?
No “woe is me”,
Just please don’t spit upon me sympathy.
“You’re okay”, “but at least..” you say
That my feelings aren’t real
And my pain should lay
Quiet until you’re gone.

Empathize and join me in the pit,
Down here ain’t no room for sympathy spit.
I’m real. You’re real. We’re human and pain is a thing.
Sometimes supposed sayings of comfort leave less of a calm and more of a sting.
So tell me my feelings are valid and present,
Connect with me via a feeling in you that understood my vent.
I’ll remind you of my hope in Jesus and you’ll realize all along
That empathy does not endorse self pity but sings a prophetic song.

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Rise and Wonder

Proud of my early rising; the first body in the house to stir.
The morning sunshine is my daily splash of cold water—invigorating and awaking body, soul and mind for the day.

So I venture out for my walk.
My path, usually tread by running feet of mine, is an ugly beat up gravel road beside a ditch holding garbage treasures.
But in the early day, it’s a glorious auditorium facing the stage of the sunrise.

My morning tradition of oil-pulling restricts my lips from uttering a word or singing a note, though my head is filled with thoughts and my heart with a song.
Perhaps silence is the best symphony.

Halfway down my road I perch beneath a tree, the only one of its kind.
Leaning on a branch, I gaze into the growing daylight.

I think of a somebody… Maybe two. I think of my Jesus. What do each of these mean to me? How have I shown them so?

This poetic wording of sorts begins forming in my head. I reach for that electric device we entrust to capture our lives, finding it to be still at home asleep…

Feelings of gratitude and disappointment wash over. Will my memory do its job and cling to these words in my head for me? It’s been as a slacking, lazy employee lately and I’m afraid I’ve been the overbearing, impatient employer…
Unwilling to teach and repair, willing to implode.

I look forward. Shall my walk finish the running route?

I look back. Dreaming has a time limit. It’s time to return and face my day.

Loveliness captures my eyes so I stop to take it for myself. The golden petaled stems stick to my fingers like sap, as if to punish me for breaking them from their root of life.

I move on only to swoop low for some lavender. Pick and sniff, only to be greeted by a pungent odor. Lavender ’twas not. Punished yet again.

I suppose some forms of beauty were not meant to be mobile.

Home I continued… Releasing my mouth to speak and choosing silence as the better option. Perhaps such a choice would reserve my words and thoughts for paper and pen such as this goes.

Thus begins another day of living with the potential of being worthy of ink at the end.

-Amelia MaySun

 

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Stranger in the City

City blues.Travel far and wide,
Can’t pick all the cues.
I come to explore you,
I intend to find out,
Who and what
You are all about.

Dynamics and diversity,
They rage and range.
I’m sensing new in this place,
Many others feel strange.
For they’ve come from a land
With far greater gap
In culture, weather, and aptitude
Than from where I fall on the map.

Semi-stranger me
meeting fully-stranger they,
At the end of the day we’re each humans
Needing acceptance and support day by day.

#arriveministries #worldrelief #refugees #welcomethestranger #lovethestranger #wearethestranger

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Water.Land.Sky.Joy.

Joy.
Unspeakable joy spilling from see-able places.
Water, land, and sky flood in through my eyes,
Trickling  down into the depths of my heart.

In this place my mind is bypassed.
How could a human brain comprehend this joy anyway?

There is a catalyst in my soul,
A distinct key.
Observing the beauty and mystery
Of the Artist’s glories simply betrays me
To unspeakable,
Indescribable,
Who knows from whence it came,

JOY.

 

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The Parable of the Trees

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a true confession of their character” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve only lived on this earth for 22 years. That used to sound like such an old age. When I was a teenager I had expected to have found a spouse and figured out my long time pursuit in life by the time I was this age. I wasn’t opposed to have already been living that adult life that I watched my parents live by age 22. But here I am and with every day passing it occurs to me how truly young I actually am.

It seems to me I’ve met quite a wide variety of people in these 22 years, but that variety just continues to increase and as I get to know a vaster and vaster array of peoples, my perspective of the world continues to shift. Sure, I have filters in what I absorb and pillars that I hold to that not everyone agrees with, but I find it so immeasurably important to absorb at least one thing about this life here on earth from each individual that I have the privilege of getting to know. And on occasion, you may find an individual on your path whose story and experience is extremely different from your own. The temptation is to walk away and commune solely with those who share more commonalities with yourself, but there can be something very beneficial to coming alongside an individual with such difference.

So let me tell you a story. There were once two trees in an orchard—two very different trees. An olive tree and a lemon tree. These trees couldn’t grow within the same environment; they needed different kinds of care, different kinds of watering. Their growth season was different, their harvest season was different. In fact, the same workers couldn’t care for and harvest the fruit from both the trees because their individual needs were very different. There were few things that made sense about their placement in the same orchard.

The olive tree and lemon tree both saw the benefits of warmth and the consequences of frost, but the lemon tree needed much more sun exposure than the olive. The lemon tree expected a completely different bounty from the olive tree and at very different production rates. And there was a specific reason why each of these trees were so consumed by the ways they were cared for and what fruit they produced. Their tree peers hardly counted the gainstwo-trees-at-hill-72 and losses of their environment and care because they figured what was going to come would come and they knew their main uses. The olive trees would be harvested and used mostly for delicious eating and the production of olive oil. The lemon tree would be used for consumption of lemons in the grocery stores or often extracted for cleaning product. But the two special trees were on a mission and they were able to stay grounded in the same orchard because of it. While each tree knew their fruit wouldn’t go to waste- they shared a passion, a strong desire to see their fruit used for something greater. They both wanted the fruit specifically harvested from their tree to end up producing an expensive incense—a beautifully refined and delightful incense that was only used on the finest of occasions and bought by wealthy individuals. They knew that their fruit alone couldn’t make this incense but, if the trees could produce some of the best of the best fruit, it could contribute to this rare delicacy.

It wasn’t easy to produce the best fruit. The utmost sacrifice and intentionality had to be poured into the trees. The environment was never perfect and sacrifice was required from the other trees and the workers as well to accomplish this mission. Growing side by side had its give and take for each tree—they could have been uprooted and placed in their perfect growing environment, but they knew that the challenge of growing alongside each other just increased each tree’s stamina and with time their fruit became better and better.

It certainly didn’t take one or a couple seasons to produce fruit of this quality; no, it took seasons upon seasons of sacrifice and growing pains to produce such a fruit, but their unified mission drove these trees to success. Their fruits would never merge into one product—it would make very different incenses, affecting different individuals and attracting different consumers. Though this was all foreseeable, the trees opted for the time being to endure their locational challenges. One tree thrived during some seasons while the other felt the pain; other seasons proved to be a fruit-bearing year for one tree while the other tree had barely any fruit extracted. Some things just could not be helped, but those two very different trees knew they were learning a lot from watching how the other thrived and failed and eventually bore fruit and they were determined to see each other accomplish their specific mission.

In this life, I find it is far too easy to sidestep the challenges of growing alongside those individuals who constantly challenge your perspective, the way you think, how you see the world and how you react to various circumstances in life. It’s completely appealing to hang around those who will affirm you, agree with you and admire you more often than not. Every now and again in life you’ll find a curveball of a relationship has been thrown. There are options. You can choose to dodge it and risk a strike out or you can take your best swing.

A dear word to my fellow millennials—We are young and while we often embrace the risks and adventures of life in this phase of life more than any other, I believe we tend to embrace those risks and adventures within our comfort zones—as contradictory as that may sound. Start the class you think you’ll fail. Befriend the person that weirds you out. Try your hand at an art you’ve never explored. Stick it out if you’re used to quitting early or give yourself a break if you’re the one that never rests.  I highly encourage us to look beyond and find those opportunities the Lord has waiting to grow and stretch and teach us at our young, moldable age.

 

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Inshallah

Three and a half months in and I am still in constant learning mode when it comes to my work with beloved refugees in the Sacramento area. Within the agency they’ve been called “clients”, “refugees”, “immigrants”, etc….but I prefer to call them brothers and sisters. You might find this hard to believe, but even with each paper signed, each check written and each checklist filled out, relationship grows with these folks. I tell my friends and mentors all the time how much it amazes me that any form of authentic relationship could possibly be developed with those whose case files I handle. I’m their advocate, their counselor, their resources hub, but their friend? That is the work of the Lord.

Half these folks I speak of do not speak English. One hundred percent of them have lived in my culture, at most, for 3 months. Thank God I have darker hair and complexion or I might shock their kiddos more than the site of me already does. But these are my friends. We eat together, talk together, learn together, laugh together, sit in silence together. If that’s not friendship, what is?

One of my dearest family friends is a couple who is expecting their first baby girl this next week! This beautiful couple has embraced me as a sister in the most loving way possible and I can’t believe that after only 3 months I am just dying to meet their new baby girl and hold her. It’s as if one of my own sisters is having a baby and I’m becoming an Auntie! So excited for the time I’ve spent with this couple, soon to be trio, and excited for the time that’s yet to come. We thank God together for things and I get to express my love and loyalty to Isa Al-Masih (Jesus the Messiah)— a prophet to them, a savior to me. L

If any of you have ever had friends amongst the Muslim community, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Inshallah”. This Arabic phrase, in English, means “If Allah wills”, or “If God wills”. Many time they will tell me “Yes, Emily, I’ll be back at the apartment by [this time], Inshallah”. Perhaps it seems silly or just simply traditional to some of you, but I had to think about this. They are acknowledging every turn, every action of their life to be in the hands of God. If not already a wonderful demonstration of faith, is it not at least a good reminder of the sovereignty of God?

James 4:15 says, “…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or do that.’ “

There are things I learn from my dear Muslim brothers and sisters. There is a measure of respect and belief in God that sometimes I find lacking in my own life, even.

I encourage anyone who may read this post to reach out of their bubble and into the life of another whose worldviews or ethnicity you don’t share. There are many things to be learned from such relationships.

Until next time, dear friends, Inshallah.

Amelia MaySun

 

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Past, Present, Future.

That moment when the past is suddenly related to the present. I won’t call myself prophetic by any means, but I do love to put on display the things God was doing with me 6 months ago that I couldn’t connect to anything related to my life—until now.

In April 2014, one month prior to graduation from WJU, I was sitting in the local park having some quiet time of reflection and listening. I kept hearing the word “sojourning” in my heart. There had been a measure of people speaking it directly to me combined with an attentiveness in my moment of listening that spurred my writing of one large metaphor.

It occurred to me that day that the life followers of Jesus are called to is very reflective of a sojourner’s lifestyle. That’s not to say that Jesus followers are all called to the mobile, gypsy life or can’t be planted in one physical place for a lengthy time, but it’s more to say that there’s an element of realizing this physical world–the here and now– is not our ultimate home; it’s not our ending up. Our physical life is just a journey through seasons, trials, joys, healthy and unhealthy relationships and everything in between. But the way I could grasp this best was by the thought of what an actual sojourner (traveler)’s life would look like.
[See here: https://capacityforculture.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/sojourners/ ]

One of the Afghan ladies and her daughter--2 out of a 6 person family we resettled in Sacramento.

One of the Afghan ladies and her daughter–2 out of a 6 person family we resettled in Sacramento.

What I did not know when I wrote this was where I’d be in 6 months from then. I had no idea I would have the privilege to come alongside actual physical sojourners–refugees–as they settle in a new land and a new season of life. There’s an amazing connection with them because I strongly believe I will be in their shoes someday–standing in a foreign land with a language barrier, feeling out of place, and with so much less to my name than I had in my own country. That proverb: Do unto others as you would have them do to you— it’s never felt so concrete as it does now. I doubt I’ll be a refugee, but I will be a sojourner and I will go through frustrations and culture shock and struggle hard to learn the language just so I can function on the baseline level in society.

Now I say all this and I can’t say I’ve heard the audible voice of God speak this over my life, but it seems like every time that concept begins to fade away in my mind, something arouses it back to life.

This past weekend I received one of those little reminders.

My extroverted side collaborated with my fiscally-sensitive side and decided I would bounce from one friend’s house to the next in order to save money on gas and cram all my needed social activities into one four-day time span. I think I ended up seeing 7 different friends over 100-something hours. And for those of you who have done that, you know that you’re never going to be fully satisfied with what you pack or where you sleep. There’s always something lacking somehow. The tiniest taste of this “lifestyle” reminded me that it’s okay to get away from my comforts, that humbly asking for meals or soap or borrowed clothes from friends is necessary, that I’m not going to get the best sleep or get to eat within my diet limits. It’s time to be flexible, humble, grateful and full of joy apart from circumstances–that’s just how one must thrive in that scenario.

At the end of it all I realized this was yet another small taste of the less-than-comfortable life I await in the future. I cannot wait to have the privilege to walk in faith–letting the Father lead me from season to season or dwelling place to dwelling place. Delightful will be the day that the Lord teaches me how to live with the bare minimum or at least start from that point in a foreign place where the sojourner mindset is the only attitude I know I must adopt.

By the way, shout out to my brothers and sisters in Christ–we are called to LOVE THE SOJOURNER:

Deuteronomy 10:19

19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Blessings upon your days ahead,

Amelia MaySun

 

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Capacity for Culture

I believe we all have more capacity for culture than we dare to believe.

…or dare to notice.

It’s that moment that we want to greet a stranger in their native tongue just because we know how to say “hello” in what we’re guessing is their language.

It’s those wandering thoughts that imagine what it’d be like to belong to a different ethnic community other than your own.

It’s the normalcy of seeing various skin colors, hearing multilingual conversations, smelling identifying fragrances and odors all around us and being used to it because the state of your city is diverse.

These are all proofs of the capacity we have, but don’t these observations and thoughts get kept to ourselves most of the time? What if one day you actually boldly greeted a stranger in a different language… What if you intentionally moved to another neighborhood where you were the minority…What if you asked someone what language they were speaking, complimented their clothes or asked them what they were cooking. What if…

Have you ever thought about the benefit that boldness, that intentional move would entail? A new friend? New knowledge? Grown empathy? New questions to wrestle with in your mind?

Get out of your comfort zone and embrace the natural capacity you have for culture.20141020_185736

God did not design humans to cling to their definitions of normal, nor their self-created boundaries, nor their own personal theology, but to cling to each other. And “each other” stretches far beyond your own religious community, your own race, your own political party, your own economic status. Dismiss your social stigmas by first asking yourself what your stigmas are. Who, what, or where are you subconsciously sidestepping with the excuse that you don’t have the gifting, the desire, or the capacity to embrace other cultures.

Ask someone this week what they believe about God, how they feel about the immigration issue, what their story is. And maybe, in return, they will have the opportunity to reach back out and ask you the same thing. What a blessing.
Or maybe, in return, you will begin to learn more about another human being, another culture, and perhaps become an advocate for them or their community in some way shape or form. Jesus stepped off His throne in Heaven and embraced humans here on earth, becoming an advocate for us to God. Why shouldn’t we humbly do the same?

Shaw Bakhir,

Amelia MaySun

 

Categories: General, Raft Amad | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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