Remember Afra?

Lindsey Minerva with Afra and her friends.

Afra, the Sri Lankan girl I sponsor through World Vision didn’t only affect me. She also touched the heart of Lindsey Minerva, the WV staffer who led our trip. She’s blogged about Afra’s birthday party on the WV blog, and what she’s written is beautiful and profound:

After candles were blown out and cake had been cut, most of our group left. Tony and I stayed behind to spend some more time with Afra and her family.

Afra’s parents opened up to Tony about the incident, and Afra and I played together. Soon, there was a crowd of neighborhood children around us. I tried to think of games that were easily translatable to entertain them. We limboed, did what Simon said, and played duck-duck-chicken, because in Sri Lanka, there are no geese.

On the outside, I laughed with Afra and the children. Internally, my heart was filled with a somber, silent prayer. It sat in my chest and grew stronger the more time I spent with Afra.

My heart was filled with so much joy and desperation, all at once. By the time I left, the desperation had all but overtaken me. Seeing Afra smile so genuinely and freely kept me glued together.

Everything in me wanted Afra’s heart to be etched with the truth that she is beautiful, valuable, and loved. I don’t think I have ever wanted something so much for another human being.

I was desperate to drown out the message sent by so many in her life: the man who maimed her, her schoolmates, and her community. The message that she wasn’t enough; that somehow her disability made her less than human; that she wasn’t worth it.

I pleaded with God.

I hoped that somehow our gifts of cake and presents wouldn’t be trivial and temporary, but would speak a lasting message: Afra, you are worthy of celebration.

There are 10 children that I would like to see sponsored in Mundalama, Sri Lanka. I’m hoping that you, dear blog readers, will join me and sponsor the children who live around Afra and go to school with her. Here they are:

If you decide to sponsor one of these children, please email me so that I can take him/her off the list.

Thanks for considering it. These children are worth it.

When Christians Play Well with Others

I’ve got two articles elsewhere today. They carry the same title, but they’re a bit different. One is an OpEd in the Minneapolis StarTribune:

It may have been the jet lag, but a couple of articles in the Sept. 1 Star Tribune rubbed me the wrong way.

After 30 hours of planes, layovers and passport control lines, I’d returned home from Sri Lanka to see headlines and photos of Christians happily worshipping outdoors (“Summer in the Cities: Heavens above“) and Muslim worshippers being suspiciously watched and photographed by their neighbors (“Cities tread warily on holy ground“).

I am a Christian — a Christian theologian, not to put too fine a point on it — so I’m generally sympathetic to my coreligionists. But here’s what was striking: the Lutherans of Burnsville have been worshipping outdoors, unmolested, for four decades. Meanwhile, the Muslims of Bloomington, only seven months in, are under duress because they’re causing traffic problems in the neighborhood.

I visited Sri Lanka, the tropical island that hangs like an earring off the southern tip of India, at the invitation of World Vision. A Christian development and relief organization, World Vision is best known for its child-sponsorship program, and that’s what I was there to see.

The other is an article at Relevant Magazine:

[Read more...]

When Your Mother Immolates Herself

Simras and Fathima (photo by Lindsey Minerva/(c) World Vision)

I have a guest post up at Jesus Creed:

As she continued to speak, I watched the face of our Tamil interpreter drop, then the face of our Singhala interpreter do the same. Then came the translation: “Simras’s mother lit herself on fire when she discovered her husband with another woman. She lived for fourteen days in the hospital, then she died. Simras does not know this story.”

At this point our World Vision staffer looked stunned. Mundalama is a new Area Development Project for World Vision, just six months old. They’re just now registering children for sponsorship. And when he’d visited Simras’s house a couple weeks prior, the family had neglected to tell him the circumstances of Simras’s mother’s death. He was just as shocked as we were.

Read the rest at Jesus Creed.

Read all of my posts from Sri Lanka, and consider sponsoring a child as well.

Two Birthdays in One Week

Last night, we celebrated the 8th birthday of my son, Aidan. He’s a great kid, and he was full of smiles and laughs as we shared pizza and cake and he got a remote control car and a DIY Root Beer kit as gifts.

One week ago, yesterday, I celebrated the 8th birthday of Afra, my World Vision sponsor child. When I first met Afra, she was quiet, shy, and didn’t crack a smile. When our group showed up at her house a few hours later with cake, balloons, and gifts, we saw her beautiful smile for the first time. Thanks to Lindsey Minerva, I now have a few photos of that party to share with you. She even rubbed some cake in my face:

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