I wanna say thanks again for all the help for five years and especially the last year or so as I got ready to leave—financially and through your prayers and your love you made it possible not just for me to be here but to be here in good spirits, with a good head of faith on my shoulders and the knowledge that I’m loved by some amazing people. We are a part of each other and if there is anything I can do from my end please let me know.
The locals are a gracious and time-generous people. They have made the transition here quite easy and pleasant, all things considered. I hear Mr. Gideon told you guys about how some strangers basically saved my life, or at least kept me from sleeping in the mud with dogs and junkies and probably getting arrested and thrown in what passes for jail here … and on 9/11, no less! That was a muddy, pitch dark and dangerous adventure that forever burned these words on my brain: “Ma ra-e khona-e dost-e ma faramush kadum”—rudimentary for: I forgot the way to my friend’s house.
As I go further in my experience here, I realize more and more just how much of this is completely a result of the kindness of others and the grace of God. The faith, bicycle, art and East side communities in Austin blessed me in major ways. So did artists from our city, Dallas, Portland and Seattle and like-minded brothers and sisters in Houston, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Baltimore. Vox has been a huge role in my life. Through all of this I see God watching my back and rescuing me from myself, making me into someone useful and helpful. This has been a group effort from the first, and continues to be one as locals from every walk of life, from the top provincial medical officers down to the mud-dwelling illiterate villagers we train in women’s health, look after me, give me tea, help me with language, tell me if I’m getting ripped off and generally practice hospitality found only in the finest and most generous of American households.
So, for at least these two years, I’m here to stay. I already have roots, projects, friends and language-learning here which, barring terminal injury or illness, make being here worth it.
The challenge—as I remember Da’Shade Moonbeam improvising at a particularly delicious Round—is to open doors and remove hinges. I am finding that love doesn’t come from me, as if I could cultivate it and produce it on demand. Instead I’m finding that if I “play pretend” at love then it cultivates itself, it produces itself. When I open the door it simply comes in, but I must, at all cost, open the door. So I have been snatching up as many opportunities for connection as I can—meals, street-side chats, post-lesson small talk, three-hour-long conversations over kebabs. And the more I do that, the more capable I feel of truly loving these people. God just makes it happen, as long as I choose his way.
I am so happy to be making that choice. I am still the same guy, of course, flawed through-and-through. But I was so happy to be able to say to one of my new friends, after reading to him the story of the Woman Caught In Adultery (in the local language), this: I am this woman, and I am set free. Isa forgives, and I am changed. You can imagine how the story, as well as my statements about Isa forgiving and my being like a woman, threw him for a loop. Well, it also shook me to the core, to be able to say those words after all I’ve done. How grateful I am for the beautiful story God is writing in me. And in you, if you open the door and choose to love. Do it. Don’t be afraid to.
Looking forward to the future, soaking in the present and deeply grateful for the past.
Alright, God bless, do good and I’ll see you very soon—Kho, Khuda khafez, kar-e khub kunen wa ma shuma-ra besyar bazudi mibinum—
[Photo by evanistan @ Flickr]