The following post comes from a guest writer. Nikki was one of the American participants of the 2016 International Artist Residency put on by The Create Commission. This is an annual three-week-long event where local and international artists are invited to Delhi to live together and work around a chosen theme. The days include discussions facilitated by the resident mentor; presentation of each artist’s past work with feedback and critique from peers; chai time (a very important social affair); and lots of free time to work, create, interact, reflect, talk, listen, teach, ask, learn, encourage, and build up. The group also got a chance to go to a couple art shows, to engage with alumni participants, to visit a local artist’s studio, and to dive into the vibrancy of the city. The culmination of the residency is an exhibition of the created works, which was an engaging, moving, and delightful event. Each year the participants describe their experience as deeply meaningful and the community as a family. All of them have very personal and unique stories of the ways the residency has shaped them. Here’s Nikki’s:
Matthew 17:20 New International Version (NIV)
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Small, by definition, means of limited size, not great in amount, degree, or value. Challenged with the task of meditating on the word small as a theme for the artist residency this year, I found myself thinking why small?
As I am sitting in a cab on my way home from a meeting with Rahham’s director and his family, fresh information and vibrant images swirl around in my head. Did you know that HIV-infected people need up to 30 percent more nutrition than healthy people? Or that it is often co-infections, like tuberculosis (TB) and hepatitis C, that end up killing infected people, because their immune systems become so weak? Have you ever thought of what it would be like, as a healthy child, to live with HIV-infected parents and siblings? Or how difficult it is to keep a job when your body is constantly busy fighting off disease and infection?
If, like me, you haven’t followed news and research about HIV closely since it ceased to be a hot topic, let me bring you up-to-date on some basic issues. HIV can be spread in four different ways: through sex, from infected mother to child, by sharing needles, and through blood transfusion. There are antiretroviral (ART) centers all around the world where people can get tested, and if HIV-positive, can receive medication. They then have to take this cocktail of drugs designed for them, usually twice a day for the rest of their lives, to keep the virus dormant. As Rahham’s director explains it, you want to keep the cobra in the cage. You will never be cured, you will never kill the snake, but you can keep the disease at bay and live a long life if you are able to follow protocol and take care of yourself.
Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and The Light of the World
With Advent candle lit, I sink comfortably into the corner of my sofa. A sip of coffee warms the room, soothing my nose with pumpkin spice. Wrapped in security, the blanket snuggles my chin, as I read the morning’s devotion. I am comfortable, safe and warm, and so are my children.
My imagination conjures up a different setting, facing war and devastation. In Jordan, where I was just a month ago, I remember gazing across the skyline from the rooftop of a three-story church building. I could see the mountains of Syria on the horizon, a place of torment for millions and still home for many living in fear.
HOPE: The First Week of Advent
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.’” Luke 2:10
Over 2,000 years after Christ’s birth, Amman, Jordan rests at the edge of unsettled tension. She borders Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. East of the Jordan River, the Old Testament sites cities established as places of refuge. Providing asylum for millennia, Jordan is a sanctuary for many people fleeing today. In 2016, more than 50,000 Iraqi, 1.4 million Syrian, and 2 million Palestinian refugees call Jordan home.
Violence against women, especially domestic violence, is a major problem in India. About one-third of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced domestic violence here. Sadly, the problem is also prevalent among believers within the church. Ending Gendercide (EG) is committed to address this issue and to educate people about the value of women and God’s perspective on marriage and family relationships.
EG staff regularly visit new churches and introduce their domestic violence training. Whoever is interested from the congregation is invited to come together once a month for three months to learn. In mid-September, EG held an award ceremony to celebrate those who had completed their latest training.
One of the participants, Mira, is a married woman with a teenage son. She says she has learned since childhood that it was normal for men to be controlling, overpowering and violent. She never felt it was right but it was simply the way things were everywhere. She comes from a Hindu family but by a twist of life married a culturally Christian man. He made her go to church but when she became an actual believer, her passion for Christ started concerning her husband. He wanted to keep her in check and became more violent as time passed. Women have no brain, he would say.
There’s a funny saying we pass around at our office: “People build bridges.” When we face an obstacle that seems too big, a challenge too overwhelming, “people build bridges” reminds us that people are capable of extraordinary things . . .
But we always meant it as a metaphor.
Then this summer, I met some folks who really do build bridges—and no, they’re not engineers, not construction crews, and they don’t have dump-trucks and cranes. Rather, they’re rural farmers, everyday people facing tremendous obstacles, from persecuted churches in impoverished villages.
And their work has made a tremendous impact.
Living as a foreigner in India, it is not so obvious that I am in a land of genocide against girls. I’ve never found a newborn in a trash can, never witnessed an illegal sex-determining ultrasound, never heard from anyone that they despise their daughters. My kids have plenty of girls in their school, I see girls all around me in our neighborhood, on our streets, everywhere we go. Wouldn’t we notice if millions of girls were missing around us?
Of course, I see the way women are treated and looked at daily. I experience first-hand that it’s a man’s world, no doubt. I am often surprised by the way boys are spoiled and catered to. I’ve met many families who only have sons. I know about the dowry system that causes an often unbearable financial burden on girls’ parents. But the statistics are much more staggering than this! They tell me that terrible, blood-boiling injustice is happening right under my nose. And because this is my home for now, people’s worldviews and their subsequent actions become a lot less theoretic and a lot more personal. But October 11th should also matter to you, wherever you live.
Chittoor is one of the most important districts located in the state of Andhra Pradesh. According to the Indian government census, most of the families live below the poverty line. Poverty in Chittoor district affects most areas of an individual’s life—lack of employment, low income generation and food shortages. This district is one of the most unreached districts, with only 0.8% Christians. This is one of the areas where Operation Saturation has begun the TCT program.
Kanthamma is one individual who was touched by the love of Jesus, portrayed through the church. She comes from a poverty-stricken family. She worshipped 33 million gods and a village deity. In 2006 she was married and then was blessed with two sons, but her dreams were quickly shattered. Her husband was addicted to alcohol, drugs and smoking, dragging the family into poverty. She was physically abused. Her children’s education suffered because she could not send them to school. Kanthamma was very depressed with her life and lost all hope for her future. Just as she felt it couldn’t get worse, her husband passed away as a result of years of excessive drinking. According to the beliefs of the community, widows are bad omens. They are looked down upon and are not respected by anyone in the community, even their own family.
When we think about community transformation in developing countries, what comes to mind is often NGOs, CBOs, INGOs and government work. This belief is strongly rooted in the Christian community as well. In countries like Nepal, India and Bangladesh, where Christianity is considered a minority group, we don’t have much significant influence with our community. We are heavily influenced by the idea that spiritual ministry only reaches as far as the four corners of the church building.
When we introduce TCT to church pastors and leaders, they often think we (RW) are bringing some kind of community transformation program. As they go through our training, they are surprised that we will not provide any money for doing community projects (what we call Acts of Love).
Fall is always an exciting and busy time of year for Reconciled World. We turn three in just under a month, and we have several Asia-based staff visiting the US in the next couple of months. They will be travelling across the country visiting supporters and speaking about our work. Check out the itineraries below. If they will be in your area and you want to connect, let Tessa know. They’d love to get together with you!
September 27 – October 27
The director of In His Image visits the US every couple of years. It is an opportunity for her to reconnect with friends and supporters of In His Image. This year she will be spending a month in the US beginning on September 27th in Phoenix. After a few days in Phoenix, she will make a quick trip through Austin, TX and Fort Myers, FL before heading North to Milwaukee, WI and Chicago, IL.
Reconciled World’s TCT program continues to grow and expand around the world. In Africa especially we’ve been building relationships with new partners in a growing number of countries including DR Congo, Uganda, South Sudan and several in West Africa. We are excited to have two great new staff on board to help. Ouattara Koumbondohou and Judith Murungi both joined Reconciled World this year as TCT Regional Coordinators. Here’s a quick intro about each of them: