Thursday, March 26, 2009
Fig. 1 Uganda. 1980. "Starving Boy and Missionary."
The photo "Starving Boy and Missionary" by Mike Wells (United Kingdom. Karamoja district, Uganda, April 1980) was named 1980's World Press Photo of the Year. A young starving boy lightly and desperately grasped a strong, stable hand. The boy stood beside the missionary, casting a shadow that could be seen on the ground beneath them. God knows what the boy had endured; his hand told a myriad of stories. At first glance the only images seen are the small, frail, emaciated hand of the young boy and the large, healthy hand of a servant. It sends a message that we witnessed a moment of commitment, but upon study the scene told an in-depth story that had an even greater meaning: The boy and the missionary convey an unspoken connection that one cannot explain. It seemed to me that when I first laid eyes upon this photo, I was compelled to write about it because of the vast contrast between the one hand that had promise and the other desperately trying to survive.
That feeling was similar to when I went to Guatemala in 1995. I saw the devastation and poverty that filled the streets as we walked through a village on a March afternoon. The cobblestone covered streets were the backdrop for the shanty makeshift houses, where poverty stricken people spent their long and hungry days. The mood of helplessness and hopelessness was abruptly transformed with the laughter and joy of children thanking our missionary group for candy. As Canadians, we sometimes put on a façade of being happy, even though we are not half the time, but the Guatemalan people have an indescribable joy even though most of them live in poverty.
The chocolate brown, sparkling eyes of a little girl in Guatemala are the eyes of a girl that captivated me. I knew the children needed my help, so I took the opportunity to make a difference in whatever way I could. I first saw her in a picture, wearing her colorful Guatemalan dress, her dark, flowing hair pulled back. Her gentle, sweet spirit took my breath away, as I gazed at her smile. She held a brand new pair of shoes proudly in her hands; shoes that my sponsorship money had helped her to buy. I could see how happy this made her.
The background of this photo is filled with lush greenery, a red wreath placed upon a green wreath woven together to decorate a makeshift Christmas tree. Elvia Natalia stands beside it with a grateful look in her eyes. There is so much I need to know about my little girl Elvia. I hope to return to Guatemala one day to meet her, hold her in my arms and gently kiss her cheek-tell her how much she means to me-and how much joy she has brought to my life.
Elvia Natalia brings to mind the "Starving Boy and Missionary" photo, a photo that spoke volumes to me with a sense of urgency; I did not want Elvia to suffer the same fate. I felt an unexplained connection between her and I. Something inside told me to give her as much love and support as she needed and that I needed her as much as she needed me.
I want to share a memory of mine that happened on a summer's day when the sun was shining brightly and all I could see was blue in the sky.
I hiked a mountain in Herald Park in the summer of 2006, near the west shore of Shuswap Lake. My friends, family and I hiked the steep mountain until we reached the waterfall. The surroundings were filled with majestic trees and the sounds of nature were in the air, a variety of bird species spotted in the branches above. My friend Terry had rigged me up a back pack out of an old wheelchair seat with straps to hold me in place. It was amazing to me that he could carry me on his back all that way, stride by stride!
The trail was so steep that sometimes Terry had to crawl. I was concentrating on the beautiful scenery around me, but was also concerned with his well-being. The words that kept going through my head were "thank-you," and "awesome." At the time I had strong feelings of emotion and felt like crying with happiness and joy. The people with me could not comprehend my feelings at that moment in time; I could not verbally express myself.
I was taking it all in, a variety of colors and shapes that flashed before my eyes. I was sure on one thing: I was in very capable hands with Terry. I knew that he would not let me fall. Still, I often asked myself the question, "Why would anyone do this!?" A conversation I'd had with Terry before we left kept playing in my head: "I love you; of course I will do anything for you. I count it as an honor. I want you to share my special day with me."
The day he was speaking of was his 30th birthday; my Mom had prepared a picnic lunch. When we arrived at Margaret Falls, we took a well-deserved break from our expedition by eating the delicious food while laughing and joking. My friends had extremely tired muscles from the long trek up the mountainside, their legs were about to collapse.
Just as we were to continue on our journey I had a surprise for my friend Terry, a gift between him and I. He was overjoyed and pleased with the gift that I presented him. My friendship with Terry was an unexpected surprise before all of this began. He is an unlikely character that I am privileged to know over these past years. He has had some struggles throughout his life and now was helping me to overcome one of my greatest obstacles, it didn't matter to him what he had to do. The memory of that day is strong; I'm always reminded of it on his birthday. The heart and soul of this journey will forever be imprinted in my mind, I can always return to that day filled with treasures.
I have fond memories of my childhood, when I first had the experience of horseback riding. It was on a warm summer afternoon. I remember being filled with excitement as I saw the horse's strong, muscular stature and his quick, majestic stride. His white body, splattered with black polka dots, was robust. When I saw him, I was pleased to meet him and I shouted with glee.
Twenty four years later, I found myself sitting in class, reminiscing about my first experience riding a horse. My classmate, who sat near me, reminded me about the first time I saw that horse. The conversation was a strange and peculiar one, but I welcomed it gladly.
His name is one of the things I remember very clearly. It struck me as extremely unusual; his name was Zerap. His mane was jet black and stretched on for what seemed to be miles. His eyes were filled with tenderness and friendship. His ears perked up, listening intently to my voice. He was wearing a brown leather saddle and his bridle tightly gripped his teeth. His manner had an air of confidence and he was undoubtedly going to keep me safe. He moved, trotting slowly, picking up his smoothly polished hooves, with a straight forward pace.
When I rode Zerap, I felt freedom. Constantly. Jody, my instructor used to guide me and encourage me to sit up straight and hold my head high when horseback riding. I listened eagerly to her instructions, paying close attention to every word that she spoke to me. Even though it was therapeutic, it was a very enjoyable experience for me and from ages seven to twelve I had no inhibitions with this animal.
Exploring life on horseback gave me a uniquely profound perspective - and this feeling stayed with me for a long time after. This place seemed to be one of serenity and healing for us with disabilities - determined, empowered, care free, peaceful, adventurous, exhilarated, accomplished, renewed - were all words describing my feelings at the time. Each time I mounted my horse, I felt the warmth of the small of his back against my legs, and the smell of the sweaty horse mixed with dust wafted up into my nostrils and I found myself loving every moment of it and wanting to come back again and again.
The corral was circular and small, only large enough to fit a few other riders at a time. The noises of nature hummed in the background. My sturdy hiking boots were held securely in the stirrups. I could smell the strong stench of the ranch. Occasionally, I noticed my family observing my journey. This event occurred up in Barnhartvale, close to Kamloops, at a place called Robins Run. I rode there several times throughout my early childhood, and will always have treasured memories of that place that will last me many years.
Friday, March 20, 2009
At times I feel many truths bubbling up from within me. Sometimes I don't know how to express it all. It comes all at once.
Other times I sense nothing.
"When one door closes another one opens."
I know that God will open many more for me.
Throughout my life I have often had to learn to become vulnerable. I have learned how to trust people as well.
Recently, I have found this new confidence that I haven't felt before. I've discovered unique and interesting ways to express myself.
And I thank God for that.
You still amaze me and you always will
You still woo me
You still draw me ever so close
You present me with divine appointments
I must open my eyes to see who crosses my path and speak what You want me to speak
Because I know that they are ready to hear
Friday, March 6, 2009
I was sitting in my room, spending time with God as I often do. I was feeling alone and afraid about my future. I do not quite remember what the circumstances were. However I was a typical teenager: I guess I was not feeling so beautiful that day.
God wanted to tell me how beautiful I was and how much He loved me. He spoke it over me. This made me feel like I belonged to Him and He made me feel beautiful inside.
He told me that I am His beautiful bird.
Beautiful, Beautiful Bird
Beautiful, beautiful bird
You are the sparkle of my eye
Beautiful, beautiful bird
I gave you wings to fly
So don’t be afraid
You beautiful bird
I am here to help you
So spread your wings
You beautiful bird
I created you to soar
So you must fly
You beautiful bird