Monday, August 27, 2007

Day 5. Shooting...up? Culture. Shock.

This morning starts off, for me, on a rather memorable note. We were sitting in Starbucks having our quiet time before our day started (as we have been doing for the last few mornings), and Dennis comes by. I don't think i've told you about Dennis. Dennis is the friend we made that sweeps Commercial Drive everyday (seriously, he goes up and down this crazy, busy street and sweeps the street corners). He comes into Starbucks, sweeps it, and gets the newspaper for those that frequent Starbucks. Our relationship became one of us sitting, reading/writing and Dennis coming over to give us the paper. He looks over at Marion and Deb and asks if they were Americans. They told him 'yes,' and that we were all from California, and he proceeded to ask, "Is she (in reference to me) an American, too?" What's funny is that, on this day, our focus was submersion into culture, understanding how broad the idea of culture is preparing to take part in it. To Dennis, I looked different, and it led him to believe that I may be from someplace else.

So after our time spent there, we headed over to the Warkentin's where we all came together and headed towards a park near Downtown. On our way there, we stopped at one of the biggest community gardens in Vancouver. Before we headed in, Tim prompted us to conjure up a metaphor for culture as we went throughout the garden (garden-related or not), and we would share our thoughts as we reconvened at the park. This garden is a massive lot of plants and plots of land that people rent/buy. They are responsible for their particular plot of land. Some people are very vigilant and dedicated whereas others are rather careless. You see dying, dried out plants up against these flourishing bushes of flowers and trees.

As we saw in the garden, for community to thrive and grow, there are needs and responsibilities to meet those needs. When we gathered at the park, Tim began to describe culture as an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg that we do see above water represents the behaviors of a any given culture. But beneath the water, we see three sub levels: 1)values 2) beliefs 3)worldviews. When you understand someone's values, you understand their beliefs and from there, you are able to understand or know from which worldview they are coming from. We also come to understand that values determine how one behaves. The "beneath" needs to be addressed in order for us to understand the surface part that so easily becomes a target for judgment. What tends to happen is we (I) see behaviors, and that is what I tend to react to, not a person's values or worldview. The truth of the matter is, this mentality affects our ministry. We need to be careful that our goal and purpose is not to replicate a desired behavior or set of behviors, but rather, to know and understand one's worldview. (This, again, emphasizes the idea and significance of community. In order to get to know someone's worldview, time is involved. We live in a culture of power where time seems limited.)

We were given examples of how behaviors are judged within the city. In some areas, they have homes called "Vancouver Specials." These are pre-built houses, and all of them look alike. They maximize the amount of space within a home so that the most number of people can live there (cultures where families live multigenerationally). At first glance, there is the common propensity towards thinking that the houses looks a certain way, but where that thought process falls short is forgetting how that house actually functions for the family(ies) that are living in that house.

Years back, there was an epidemic of cultural genocide that occurred in Vancouver. Residential schools came into play, and the goal of these establishments was to "train" the native out of the native children. Children were taken away from their family and forced to unlearn their native culture and to learn behaviors that were seen as acceptable to the new society around them.

The danger in doing things sometimes is that we have the mentality of "bringing God" into someone's reality. The truth is, we need to be sensitive enough to see how God already is in their worldview.

After this, we all started walking to China Town for lunch and our afternoon activities.

After lunch, we were going to split up into groups and do a listening activity. We were going to go through Gastown (where the Old Money is) for 45 minutes, then pass through Downtown Eastside and arrive at China Town again (where the New Money is, for another 45 minutes). The goal of this was to listen to see how God was speaking to us in our surroundings. None of us were supposed to talk to each other, but we had our journals in hand, and we set out.

Our prompts were:
1) What do you hear? What do you see?
2) Is God speaking to you? If so, how is He speaking and what is He saying?

The common thread throughout all of my journaling were these words:
-lack of time
-details, the small things matter (There was a janitor in the train station that was sweeping every corner of the place very meticulously, he took his time, and he wasn't hurried.)
-lack of relationships
-sense of waiting on someone or for someone
-money; having it, not having it
-people wanting to be heard (A homeless man walked by and tried talking to a hostess at a restaurant. Even though she wasn't listening, he kept on talking. That was the closest he could get).

As we went into a store called Revival Art, I saw a painting that showed a little girl wandering off ahead of her mother. As I looked at it, what came to mind was this: sometimes we want to walk ahead and see things but we're supposed to linger and stay behind. This way, we see how God changes the environment we are in. This puts into perspective how much we just need to be willing vessels of change.

At this point, we realized we were way behind schedule and had to get to Chinatown within 15 minutes, which meant-walking...really fast!

On our way, we found ourselves on Corrale (I think that's what it was called). Not much longer than 2 minutes in, our environment changed completely in a very drastic manner. Vandalism, mass crowds of homelessness. I saw a man yelling at the top of his lungs with knife in hand, furious at something. As we continued on in silence, we were coming up on a street corner that was just PACKED with hundreds of homeless people crammed tightly into this area of the city. I have never in my life seen such open drug use, blood, a lingering sense of death. There were rigs (needles) everywhere, pipes, bongs, tubes with other questionable substances...everywhere. People were shooting up freely. We had entered into a place that was their home. I can't explain to you how I felt at this point. Apart from the fear that I felt because we came into Downtown Eastside unknowingly, there was just a deep heaviness on my heart. I felt like I was just walking into a place of complete and utter brokenness, hoplessness. I was frustrated, and very emotional, but I wasn't sure to what I was feeling all these things.

Culture. Their home. Their lives. Their idea of normal. I remembered the truth of looking for God where He already is rather than bringing Him in. I was struggling with this big time. My eyes had seen something that my heart couldn't really understand, and I knew I was going to have to unpack this.

We met up with groups (we met w/ Kat) to discuss what we heard and saw. That heavy, helpless/hopeless feeling mixed in with fear and sorrow were shared sentiments throughout the group. We were overwhelmed.

Psalm 62:1
"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him"


Joe said...

Wow, Liz - that is heavy...I'm starting to see why you wrote that this trip changed you so much - isn't that how it always seems to work though? When you help you are helped? When you change you are changed? When you give your are given more than you know what to do with?

Seung Mi said...

Can we hang out soon and talk about life? I would like that. a LOT =)