6.28.2010

Summer Update.

This is a really long post. Be forewarned.

Hello my dearest friends and family,

Well, this is an update on my summer. Sorry I haven't gotten one out yet, and sorry in advance that I may not get another one out before I leave here. This is a full summer, but also a restful one, a life-changing one, a living-learning one, and a heart and mind-expanding one. I wish you could all be here and meet my friends. By friends, I mean the people in the community I live in (college students here to learn about urban ministry and serving in all different kinds of internships), the people I work alongside (8 other interns and 5 staff members on Dry Bones staff), and the people I have met on the streets (hundreds of street kids...ranging from little kids to 50-year-olds). I love these people and I have fallen in love with Denver because of them. I don't know whether or not I will ultimately end up here, but it certainly has a piece of my heart.

I am not going to plunge into facts about my days. Suffice it to say, I have class on mondays (soul care, social work class, and movie discussion) and fridays (history of denver and urban centers conglomerate/urban theology) and I work all day on Tuesdays-Saturdays with Dry Bones. I build relationships with the street kids(ages 14-25ish) and help host/teach/act as a bridge for the suburban youth groups that come in weekly on what we like to call “vision trips” (some of them think they are coming on missions trips to bring Jesus to the city...they quickly discover that He is already there...and will be there when they leave...and is bigger than they ever imagined). It's really sweet. I LOVE giving what we call “turf tours,” which are tours of the not-so-oft-seen-parts of the city, a tour that talks about what the city values, gives more of the perspective of the street kids, and teaches about many of the struggles faced by those on the street, physically and mentally. I wish I could take you all on one, tomorrow. So that's that. When the youth group leaves we challenge them to get to know their city in this way. On the tour we first pray the simple prayer that the Lord will “open our eyes to see the city as He sees it.” We send them out hoping they will pray the same in their places of occupancy.

Great. Now on to my mental/heart life:

We are taking a class called “City of Joy” on Fridays with an old friend of the family, a brilliant Denver Seminary Professor, and a wonderfully kind man, named Jeff Johnson. One of the most poignant lessons thus far (though most of us confess we love every class and could listen to the man talk for hours and hours) was one he taught in a park by his house. He opened up to Judges 19 with a heavy content warning and, according to my journal from later that day, this is what was taught- “Jeff Johnson taught a beautiful and poignant class yesterday on Judges 19. The passage is about the brutal death of an unnamed woman, a sex slave, at the hands of a Levite (who claimed to love her, and was on a journey to “speak tenderly to her” to convince her to return home with him), resulting in subsequent wars for hundreds of years. This began with a call to action in the form of 12 mutilated pieces of this woman's body going out throughout the land after she had been gang raped by men in the tribe of Benjamin on their way through their land.

Apparently this gross misconduct seemed, to him, to warrant an equally gross action. When the people saw it they said “such a thing has never happened or been seen since the day the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt; consider it, take counsel, and speak.” They did not do the first two. The people simply “spoke.” They declared war on Benjamin, the initial perpetrators of a crime against the woman, and killed all their men. There was not a pause to reflect on the pain and atrocity, just quick action. Suffering met with more suffering. When the Levite was cutting up the woman, it says that he (in Hebrew) chose the body, took it, broke it, and sent it. This language seems to directly parallel Christ's bodily death, as well as communion language. Also, this unnamed woman is from Bethlehem. Typology? Is Christ telling us that he is the suffering, nameless, sex slave, brutally murdered and betrayed by those who claimed to love him?

Jeff says yes. I think I say yes too. This is theology from below. This passage teaches us to pause and reflect, like the Israelites did not, on the atrocities in the world, in fact to identify with them, feel them, not perpetuate them by quick action or demean them by speedily moving past them. Sit in the pain. As Dry Bones philosophy goes, grace, like water, flows down. Grace pools up in the low places, in the bleeding and broken places. We sit there and are overwhelmed by grace flowing down....

Read Psalm 10
Read Matthew 25:45

Jesus gives us permission to put him into the story of Judges 19, into the cry of the Psalmist and into the lives of people in the low places in our daily life.”

Jeff taught us this lesson in a park, a park he later shared was the site of a murder of a 21-year-old woman, unknown by most. We sat uncomfortably in the heaviness of that event for a bit. We silently prayed for the unnamed and the faceless in our own communities, we spoke the names of those in the low places, the people the Jesus taught us to care for. Those people seemed all of a sudden so very sacred, the kind of people that Christ would identify Himself with.

I meet Jesus every day on the streets. The heroin addicts, the prostitutes, the HURTING. There are lots of stories like this in the Bible, but sometimes we don't read it like this. We read it for rules, for laws to govern our lives. We are learning this summer to read the Bible with a divine imagination, and from below. A theology of the suffering, a theology that, for me at least, takes a LOT of imagination since physical struggles are pretty far from the physically blessed life I have had.

These things are, however, transferrable to everyday life. Everyday we are so near to the privately hurting and broken, somedays we are the hurting and the broken. This summer is a summer about learning to sit in those hurting places for a little longer than may feel comfortable so that I can be an agent of grace or experience that grace myself, the grace that pools up in the low places.

May the Lord bless and keep you, make his face shine upon you, lift up his countenance upon you, be gracious to you, and give you peace.

Love you all a ton and a half,
Annie Marie Dimond

P.S. You should really check out this website. My picture is on it...if that helps:
drybonesdenver.org

2 comments:

Ben said...

It sounds like an amazing summer experience. You mentioned the "City of Joy" and it reminded me of a book I read in Sierra Leone by that name (author Dominique LaPierre). It's very good and stretching. I think it would be a good companion to the kind of work you're doing this summer. Look it up if you can!

hmselena said...

Ahhhh, Annie I love to read your stories. What a summer.

I would LOVE to talk with you and hear more...I know you're busy, but maybe we could skype sometime before you leave Denver.

Much love,
Elena