A to B in 4500km

Apparently it is May.

In the last month, Matthew and I have: completed our Master of Divinity degrees, finished up my work with CMHA, said goodbye to family and friends in London and surrounding cities, packed up our house and overseen it being loaded onto a moving truck, and packed up the corolla and driven through six states and five provinces with ourselves and a cat.

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After 4500km, we are in Victoria!

13091910_10101404984637131_5467908939173001290_nIt is a bit surreal. A month ago, we were both finishing up our last week of classes and looking at spending the next couple of weeks writing papers. It is hard to believe that three years (2.5 for Matthew) are over and done already. In so many ways, it feels like just yesterday that I was packing up everything in Victoria to move to London. And now it is all in boxes again…

The boxes remain on the moving truck and we are eagerly awaiting their arrival sometime in the next week or so. Meanwhile, we drove ourselves across the country, stopping in Minneapolis, Brandon, Lethbridge, and Sorrento before heading over to the Island.

For Matthew, most of the drive was new. For me, the entire route south of the Great Lakes was a new adventure and the cross prairie trek was a lovely reminder of the beauty of our country, as it has been 20 years since my family made our first major move from Belleville to Lethbridge.Attachment-1 IMG_7009 IMG_7011We crossed Manitoba and Saskatchewan in nearly one day, flying along the prairie Trans-Canada highway. Matthew marvelled at the flat flat flat of the land, attempting to see the horizon at every turn (who am I kidding: there were no turns in the road) but continuing to remark instead: “Nope, it’s still very flat!”

I drove from Swift Current to Lethbridge. Once we turned onto Highway 3 from the Trans-Canada, it was remarkable how familiar things began to look. I learned to drive in Lethbridge and it showed. I was still able to navigate the city quite well, taking Matthew by my old home, down to the Oldman River Valley to see the famous high level bridge, and around by my old high school.

bridgeThen it was off north through more prairie to foothills, through Calgary to the mountains. We could see the mountains from Lethbridge, but it never ceases to amaze me how one can drive all day and not seem to get any closer. Three hours from Lethbridge, however we finally entered the Rockies.IMG_7017

Their majestic peaks were still topped by snow and there were some valleys thick with snow alongside rushing streams as we wound through the mountain passes. Then we were out, into the Interior.

We stopped the night in Sorrento, BC, about an hour outside of Kamloops. The Anglican Church has a retreat centre there and a good friend works there full time. The last time I was at Sorrento was exactly three years ago, when I attended “ACPO” – the Advisory Committee on Postulants for Ordination and was recommended for theological training in advance of pursuing ordination in the Anglican Church of Canada. Talk about full-circle. It is a beautiful haven on the Shushwap Lakes with amazing programming all summer long.Attachment-1 (1)

From Sorrento we drove down the Coquihalla, through Vancouver (waving at Dad and Colleen as we travelled the new South Fraser Perimeter Road to the ferry terminal. After a one-sailing wait, it was onto the Spirit of Vancouver Island and over to Victoria.

We are blessed to have wonderful friends and colleagues in Victoria with whom we are staying while we wait to be able to get into our new suite. It has been an adventure and we are looking forward to what comes next!

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The Holy Innocents

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,

 Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:13-18

 

The largest massacre of the conflict in El Salvador happened in El Mozote on December 11, 1981. Reports vary, but anywhere from 750-1000 civilians were killed by the Salvadoran army that day.

IMG_2676El Mozote is a small town near the border with Honduras. There are a few homes around a square, a small store, a big tree with the open-air market, and a church on a small rise at the base of one of the surrounding hills. The church is simple – whitewashed with blue trim. There is no steeple or tower, just two small crosses on the outside corners. Whether or not the church looked like this 35 years ago, I do not know. But there has always been a church.

The church is surrounded by a concrete retaining wall and a short iron fence. While the gate is closed today, I can see another gate, made of iron in the shape and colour of a sun with rays and rainbow, leading into the garden beside the church. Over this image is the words, “Jardin de reflexion los inocentes” – The Garden of Reflection of the Innocents.

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Immediately what springs to mind is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which we are commemorating today in the chapel at Huron. This is the feast where we remember those children massacred by King Herod when he was hoping to kill the child Jesus. But that isn’t entirely what this garden is commemorating, though it may be a reference. This garden is commemorating the massacre in El Mozote.

No one outside of the immediate department in El Salvador really believed that there had been a massacre of civilians of this scope in El Mozote. The army took great pains to hide it from everyone. Yet years later when they finally began to excavate the site, they found the bones of approximately 150 children buried in this space beside the church. One hundred and fifty innocent children massacred in one place.

IMG_2686With tears in his eyes, the brother of the lone survivor, Tomas, told us of how his sister Rufina was carrying her eight-month old baby and had her other children by her side that morning when the army rounded everyone into the square. First the men were brought into the church, interrogated, and killed. Then the young girls were taken into the hills, raped, and buried. Rufina’s baby was knocked from her hands by the soldiers who then picked it up, tossed it into the air, and “caught” it on the end of their bayonets.

Slaughter of the innocents.

Entire families were wiped out in this massacre. Lives changed – and taken – in an instant. Soldiers set fire to all of the buildings in the village, with the bodies piled inside, hoping to remove all evidence of what they had done.

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I asked if justice had ever been served. They said no: those who ordered the massacres are still serving in the Legislative Assembly and until they are no longer around to block the process, they cannot seek justice.

[For an extensive report of El Mozote: here.]

It is hard to have hope, witnessing something like that. These massacres seem to have been going on for far too long. Who knows what will someday be uncovered about our history? Perhaps the only hope we can offer is that in the second reading for today:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1-4

God is here and is making all things new. We are participating in that renewal of the earth. Awful things are still going to happen, unfortunately, until the new heaven and new earth becomes reality. Until then, we continue to hope and pray and work to make it our reality.

Global Citizen Youth Leadership

I have very briefly mentioned that I spent a few weeks in El Salvador this summer. My time there was through the work I do with PWRDF. One of our partners, the Committee against AIDS (CoCoSI), was chosen to host a delegation of young people from Saskatchewan. The trip was designed and run by the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation. Its purpose was, as the title “Global Citizen Youth Leadership Program” suggests, designed to promote being a global citizen amongst young people.

What does it mean to be a global citizen, you might ask. This was explored through discussions of international development – good and bad, through understanding privilege and oppression, through living and interacting with people with a different history, culture, and worldview to the ones we may have grown up with, and through being open to being changed and willing to ask tough questions to ourselves and our society.

The eight teenagers from all across Saskatchewan who joined in on this journey are amazing young people. They rose to the challenge and let their hearts be broken time and time again by shattered worldviews, poverty, pain, and love. Their experiences, and the stories of some of the people we met have been captured in a 30 minute video by a Regina filmaker.

For those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to see the video, take 30 minutes and be challenged by some amazing young people.

Privilege

Privilege and race have been on my mind. Then this buzzfeed quiz came across my Twitter feed this morning.

Privilege.

I scored 62 out of 100. Not high for a quiz – though high enough to be called “quite privileged.” Buzzfeed is by no way scientific and, from what I have seen on Twitter, there has been quite a wide variety of scores received. Some scores seem to make sense to the recipients, but some do not. Either way, it has opened up a conversation about what privilege means.

Later on this month I will be helping to lead a group of high school students on a “Global Citizen Youth Leadership” program in El Salvador. Part of the pre-trip conversations have included this topic of privilege. What is white privilege and what do we do with it? Interestingly, not all of us participating are white and I am sure this will add a lot of good insight to the conversation when we finally meet face-to-face.

When I think of privilege and the privilege my whiteness gives me, one of the most vivid examples I can think of was on Offshore when we were in Madang, Papua New Guinea. I and the other cook were in charge of provisioning the ship and we enjoyed our trips to the market to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Across the Pacific, these trips were usually filled with laughter as we all struggled between broken English and limited Pidgin to make it understood that these two girls wanted to buy that entire pile of carrots and that whole bucket of potatoes, plus all the watermelon we could carry. The laughter continued as we would struggle to load them onto our shoulders and carry the produce back to the boat.

The market was full of friendly laughter. It was different at the grocery store.

We shopped at the grocery store with some regularity over the week we were in port. It was a good place to stock up on canned goods, meats, and everything else generally not available at the open-air market. PNG is a country not particularly known for being safe and so we were not surprised to see armed guards at the entrances and exits of the store. I was a little uncomfortable when everyone’s bags were searched upon leaving the store – everyone’s except ours.

But nothing was as uncomfortable as the day we arrived to shop and there was a queue of about 30 people waiting to get into the store. We joined the back of the line, happy to wait our turn and attempt to converse with the people around us in line. The armed guards had other ideas.

They saw us waiting in line and came and told us to come with them. It wasn’t safe for us to wait in line, they said: two white girls in a line of New Guineans. It wasn’t safe. What felt not safe were the hisses that followed us as we became escorted queue-jumpers, passing all 30 of the people ahead us in line and into the store to do our shopping. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up to hear those hisses and I saw exactly what privilege – and dislike – my whiteness could afford me.

I think this is why I always strive to respect local customs and attire as best as I can when I travel. I just want to blend in. I count it a compliment to be treated like a local and always try to be as respectful as I can.

Not all of PNG was like this. In the remote Tsoi Islands where we worked together with local villagers to build a dugout canoe, a profound moment came when our Captain was talking with the chief boat builder after a long day of work. The boat builder held his dark arm up beside our Captain’s very white arm, looked into his eyes, and said, “It doesn’t matter, does it? We are brothers.”

White privilege. I know I have it. How do we live with it?

 

Niagara Falls

This past week was Faculty of Theology reading break here at Huron.

Matthew and I took the opportunity to take two days away and go to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake – time with each other, time to explore nature, and time without having to think about school or school work for a couple of days.

It was a lovely getaway to a place I have not been since I was 11 or 12.

Turkey: A Sneak Preview

Silence here the last few weeks has been because I was travelling in Turkey. We got back earlier this week and I’ve gotten as far as uploading my zillions of photos to my computer…but no further.

Until I get a little more organized, here are a couple peeks into the gorgeousness that was our trip there. (These are from the NEW! real camera, other pics from my phone can be found on instagram.)

Click on one photo to enlarge to a slideshow.

One Year

One year ago this weekend I finalized the pack-up of my life in Victoria and got on a ferry for a few days in Vancouver, before flying to Ontario to start a whole new chapter.

A whole new chapter? Yes, I suppose it was, though the chapter has been just one in a journey of many that started with the first conversation I had, out loud, pondering a call to ordained ministry as a priest.

The last year has had lots of new adventures. I’ve been exploring a new city and region and re-exploring the province of my birth. I’ve been within spitting distance of extended family members who I haven’t lived near in 20 years.

I have started the seminary journey, completing first year (with top grades in the class!) and have begun to lay the foundations for my field placement for this upcoming year. Lots of new friends have joined me on this journey, some who I know I will have for the rest of my life.

I had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador, participating as an international elections observer and witnessing the human rights and development work done by PWRDF partner the Cristosal Foundation.

And there are more adventures to come! Later this month I will be experiencing the Stratford Festival for the first time! Then, I head to Turkey with a group from the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa. I continue to work with the theological society to plan orientation for this upcoming year of school. Second year classes begin in a little over a month (eeek!) and I’ll be starting my field placement at a local Anglican church.

Southwestern Ontario is a far cry from Vancouver Island,  but it is beautiful country with wonderful people, and more things to learn and places to explore.

Here is to year two in Ontario!

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