'I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.' John 14:18 NIV http://www.facebook.com/Repurchase
I have had literally thousands of inter/cross-cultural experiences. My first one, however, sticks out in my mind above the rest. I was four, a very happy, friendly, bubbly little girl with Shirley Temple curls. Mom was in Bowling Green for the week at a yearbook conference, staying at a rather nice hotel. Dad and I went down to visit for a few nights. I was beyond ecstatic when I learned there was a lovely indoor pool, and in utter heaven when it finally came time to swim. It didn't even bother me that there were no other children around! As an only child, I made a habit of making friends with any children that were near since I didn't have the constant comradorie of siblings most children have (plus, when out in public, book characters that only you can see and hear can only provide so much entertainment). It was nice to get out, play with kids, kids who saw the world like I did and understood just what my life of new and exciting discoveries was like. It was always an adventure, finding a new friend, even if that friendship just lasted a few hours. So after an hour or so of playing and splashing with my parents, I began to look around for other amusement. I immediately noticed some newcomers to the pool; an adorable little Asian girl and her father. I was so happy, thinking "Yay! A new friend!" I started to swim over to them, thinking of all the fun things my new friend and would do! I like to think I was an approachable child, and very well liked, as I tried to be as nice and friendly as possible and make my new friends happy. Smiling, I swam up and stood on tippy-toe ( I was tall, so the 3 ft water was just shallow enough for me). I introduced myself "Hi! My name's Mariah...do you want to play?".....................................................*perplexed stare from the girl*............................nothing. I stood for a moment, waiting for the response that would surely come.............................still nothing. She turned to her father and said something in a language I had never heard before. I asked again, only quieter "so...would you like to play? Just swim around?"........they both stared at me and I was crushed, as well as embarrassed. It was a new feeling for me. I turned and swam away, wanting to cry. My parents gently explained to me that the little girl didn't mean anything, she just didn't understand me. I'm not really sure why this story stuck with me all these years....probably because my first cultural outreach will always be remebered as a failure in my mind,
I, on top of being a procrastinator, am a HUGE perfectionist. Especially when it comes to putting any of my artwork on display. Little known fact about me, God did gift me a bit artistically. I can draw rather well when I put my mind to it. When Casondra charged us with expressing a Bible story through some form of artistic medium, I immediately knew I would draw something...the question was what? My full name is Mariah Magdalene Akridge, so I have always had a soft spot for Mary Magdalene. It came to me in a rush after a lot of praying and pondering, just exactly what I should draw. I love cartoons, and what you see to the left is my very rough draft of Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb and Jesus revealing Himself to her. I have decided to paint each panel as a separate piece and then when completed, fuse them together on a large, rectangular canvas. As my summer class has finally ended, I will have two months of freedom to enjoy projects such as this :)
The story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb has always intrigued me. What would it be like to be the first person to see Jesus returned from the dead? How utterly amazing, awe-inspiring, ethereal, humbling, frightening, etc. would it be to witness the something of this magnitude? Though it will be represented in a cartoon-like fashion, I am going to put a large amount of effort into really conveying Mary Magdalene's emotion of the moment in the short space I have allotted myself. There is a saying, that the eyes are the window to the soul, so my task at hand is to give my interpretation of the soul that first saw Jesus Christ returned from the dead through her eyes.
This Biblical story has always inspired me, for Jesus chose a woman, Mary of Magdala, to spread the news of his return. I find it very empowering and can be used as a boost of confidence to the gender as a whole to realize that He entrusted such vital news to one of his own. Perhaps, one sweet girl in Kenya will take this tale to heart just as I have...if possible, (if i find my finished product worthy of it) I can put the captions in Swahili and leave it as a gift for the girls...God willing...
**On that note, I feel I must make it known that I will not make my Mary Magdalene white. She will be appropriately represented ethnically and culturally.**
I am a professional procrastinator. This has always worked fine for me, as I have no problem pulling all-nighters to complete any and every assignment. That being said, I have procrastinated with my part in Redeem lately. That is, until Heartbeat. Our wonderful production inspired me and injected charisma and life into me. I think it is because I finally felt like we were actually DOING something; the action had started and we were truly working in the public eye, showing everyone what our purpose was. Though I was slow to start, I am now constantly thinking of what I can do to help our cause. I am no longer procrastinating, and am anticipating the next step and wondering what God will show us. It was beautiful to see so many people come together for the benefit and really show true support. Seeing the passion of others was a wonderful thing, and it really made my heart start to beat for Kenya. So, just as a teaser for everyone....there will be a round 2 benefit :) so get ready world! We're making a difference.
To continue the thread of my last entry, I have never participated in mission work as classically defined. I have, however, worked with refugees as they resettled here in Lexington and tried to adapt to the lifestyle here while still keeping some semblance of "home".
The children in the picture are three young boys from Burundi who I was able to spend time with. They were particularly fortunate in the fact that their entire family was able to relocate and eventually become one again. Even in this extreme stroke of good fortune, I was immensely saddened by their flight from their home country and the violence that was left behind. Many, many do not have anywhere near such a happy ending as this family. One thing that struck me, however, was that through this immense culture shock and change, they were still resilient and happy. They had experienced the simple gift and joy of life on a level I could ever imagine. Their strength was inspiring, and it helped us work even harder to make sure they found their home with us here in Lexington; to make sure they felt safe, secure, loved and welcomed and that they truly were meant to be there.
This quest to have a safe home and to feel secure in their own skin and world is what I anticipate us working towards in Kenya. These girls have had an extremely harsh brush with life, and yet still possess that hope and love that is arguably one of the greater gifts from God to mankind. The fact that we can feel such extreme compassion and care for one another is truly unique. As I stated previously, my heart was broken for these girls and their situations; they don't have that safe home that so many of us have known at least part of our lives. I pray that in this trip, God can use each of us to help them further the formation of a good life, one that is appropriate for their culture and worldview, and also secure and safe enough to truly be worthy of the title "home".
I must preface this by saying, I do not consider myself as a missionary. I don't really feel my call to Kenya is as a "missionary', but more as a witness of Christianity and a student of these girls' culture.
Looking back on the events of my life, I can see how God helped me evolve into the person I am; one who is ready to be used in the most effective way possible to improve the condition of life to those around me. My dear friend Casondra and I bonded over our mutual frustration of how mission work has historically been conducted, as well as our shared love of culture. My background is in anthropology and philosophy and I have an intense passion for knowledge of other cultures and how that knowledge and understanding can be applied to the furthering the global church. When she asked me to be on the Board of Directors for Redeem With God, I was flattered and knew immediately God had paired us together for a true and good purpose.
After learning more about the girls we will be working with, I felt to my core that this was one thing my academic, life, and Christian background had been preparing me for. I am blessed to come from a wonderful, supportive, loving, caring, whole Christian family. My heart breaks for these girls when I think of how they don't know the endless love and support that has been my every day. After 24 years of life and learning, I have matured through the hands of God to the position to be able to fill these girls life with the love I have known from birth: the love of a caring Redeemer who will take away your every pain and rejoice in you, as He created you, each and every minute of the day. Crucial to this relation of ultimate love is an understanding of the world these girls have grown up in.
My call and place with Redeem With God is understand their culture and see the ways in which we, as a group, can most effectively reach these girls past the initial bonding experience. I feel that God has given me a gift in being able to pick out the threads of cultures and sub-cultures, a gift I know will be key to this mission trip. As I stated previously, my call to Kenya with Redeem With God is as a Christian and as a student of the girls. I know God will use me as He see's fit, and I am beyond joyful and excited to be with these girls and learn of their struggles.