Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NObola in Rwanda


Africa is not a country. It is 56 countries,... an enormous continent, larger than U.S. + Europe + China + India combined. Americans are much closer to Ebola than are Rwandans. There is NObola in (or near) Rwanda. Never has been. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hysteria and xenophobia gone wild

This is profoundly embarrassing:

The Most Ignorant American Ebola Panic of the Moment


This woman at the airport last week wearing a DIY Hazmat suit (with her wrists still exposed) is not even the worst of it.
As the spread of Ebola within the United States continues to not happen — we repeat: Only one person has died and two nurses who were in direct contact with him are currently being treated — the string of uninformed overreactions grows longer by the day, and shows once again that Americans have no idea how African geography works, let alone how a non-airborne virus is transmitted.

1. East Africa vs. West Africa
A school in New Jersey expecting two new students from Rwanda — more than 2,500 miles from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa — opted to side with hysterical parents over common sense and decency:
Warranted or not, the Ebola scare has hit Howard Yocum Elementary School in Maple Shade, New Jersey. The school has been notifying parents that two students from an east African nation have enrolled. They were supposed to begin classes on Monday; however, after backlash from parents, those kids are now being kept out of school.
Although "the school was going to take precautions, by taking the African students' temperature three times a day for the next 21 days," that wasn't enough for the people who have absolutely no idea how this disease works:
Just two days after the letter went to teachers, the Maple Shade School District changed course and went public with a note on the district website [...]
“The Maple Shade School District takes the health of all students and staff very seriously. As many of you are aware, we have students who have spent time in the eastern portion of Africa that were scheduled to start in our schools on Monday. This area of Africa has been unaffected by the Ebola virus. Despite the fact that the students are symptom-free and not from an affected area, the parents have elected to keep their children home past the 21 day waiting period. The family is looking forward to joining the Maple Shade Schools the following week.”
"Anybody from that area should just stay there until all this stuff is resolved. There's nobody affected here let's just keep it that way,” said one parent, to whom "that area" means the space from Philadelphia to Seattle.

2. The Woman Who Went to Dallas
Schools in Ohio and Texas had similar overreactions last week, after it was reported that one of the nurses who contracted the disease from Thomas Eric Duncan flew between the cities before she showed symptoms (and was therefore not contagious). Someone in Maine, it turns out, also traveled to Dallas, although there's absolutely no indication that person was anywhere near the nurse or her body fluids:
A teacher at Strong Elementary School was placed on a 21-day paid leave of absence after parents told the school board they were concerned that she might have been exposed to Ebola during a trip to Dallas for an educational conference. [...]
“At this time, we have no information to suggest that this staff member has been in contact with anyone who has been exposed to Ebola,” the district wrote in a statement published on its website. “However, the district and the staff member understand the parents’ concerns. Therefore, after several discussions with the staff member, out of an abundance of caution, this staff member has been placed on a paid leave of absence for up to 21 days.”

An enormous crowd of parents pulled their children out of school Wednesday after learning that the Hazlehurst Middle School principal returned to work after a trip to southern Africa.
Principal Lee Wannik traveled to Zambia for his brother’s funeral, which is far from the Ebola hot spot countries on the other side of Africa.

4. The Self-Sequester
The New York Times today details the "murky soup of understandable concern, wild misinformation, political opportunism and garden-variety panic," including the decision to just not leave the house until the disease is contained:
Carolyn Smith of Louisville, Ky., last week took a rare break from sequestering herself at home to take her fiancĂ© to a doctor’s appointment. She said she was reluctant to leave her house after hearing that a nurse from the Dallas hospital had flown to Cleveland, over 300 miles from her home. “We’re not really going anywhere if we can help it,” Ms. Smith, 50, said.
With panic standards like those, it could be a while.

5. Higher Learning
And it's not just the unenlightened: Syracuse University, a supposed place of knowledge, uninvited photojournalist Michel du Cille, who had been covering Ebola in Liberia, despite the fact that he had not shown any symptoms after the recommended 21-day monitoring period:
The school’s dean, Lorraine Branham, said a student who was researching du Cille prior to the workshop found out he had recently returned from Liberia and expressed concern. Provost Eric Spina spoke with health officials and made the call.
“It’s a disappointment to me,” du Cille said. “I’m pissed off and embarrassed and completely weirded out that a journalism institution that should be seeking out facts and details is basically pandering to hysteria.”

In a note on Facebook, du Cille explained: "What a missed opportunity to teach future media professionals how to seek out accurate hard facts; backed up with full details about the Ebola crisis. I guess it is easier to pull the hysteria and xenophobia cards." It always is.

[And I will add one more thought: Yes, people are dying, and we must decide "How shall we respond?" Shall we run to their aid? Or, shall we abandon them and flee in ignorant fear?]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program goes INTERNATIONAL

The Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program has opened new "on ramps" onto the Bridge!


We have been often urged to build a Bridge2Malawi or a Bridge2Burundi or a Bridge2SouthSudan or a Bridge2Ethiopa. But we have very clear and easily articulated reasons for being such Rwandaphiles. Moreover, we must recognize our limited "bandwidth," limited resources, and the limits to which we can stretch our talented team. But we do have an exciting development to report to those who have not yet heard: B2R has indeed gone international, and here's how it unfolded:


A phriend in Phoenix was pierced when he watched a documentary about "the Lost Boys of South Sudan." He felt compelled to act, and urged us to collaborate with him to build a Bridge2SouthSudan. "Sorry, but no can do." He insisted that he must do something, and he then asked if we could select and absorb some extraordinarily gifted South Sudanese students into our Kigali-based program. To our own surprise, his persistence caused us to widen our Rwanda-focused tunnel vision, and this friend generously funded our recruitment and training of five gifted students from South Sudan, two from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and two from Burundi. Thus, among the objectives of the B2R Scholars Program is now cultivating peace, security, and stability in this very unstable post-conflict region. Although it is a long-term play, we are contributing to the dissolution of barriers and enmities,... and raising up a cohort of servant leaders in East Africa.

Is anyone in Rwanda concerned or jealous? Not at all. They are very supportive and proud of the role Rwanda plays as a model, host, and leader within East Africa. 





Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rwanda: Ahead of the Curve

In recent weeks I have received numerous communications from scheduled visitors asking whether they should cancel their trip to Rwanda in light of the Ebola epidemic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus_disease    
It is for me to explain that they are much closer to the Ebola epidemic in the U.S. than they will be in Rwanda. Perhaps Americans should flee to Rwanda for safety. Click on: http://tomallen3.blogspot.com/search?q=the+size+of+Africa

For those who have an interest in healthcare delivery, I "re-post" an insightful (slightly edited) piece by Erin Hohlfelder, Global Health Policy Director, of ONE Campaign, entitled...


"AHEAD of the CURVE – 4 reasons why Rwanda is prepared to handle the Ebola crisis better than West African countries"
....
… [Although] I have been stunned at the severity of this Ebola crisis, I can’t say that I was surprised to see that Ebola was taking hold and spreading in a place like Liberia devastating its healthcare facilities.

Contrast that with my experiences… in Rwanda, [where I was] primarily interested in learning more about how its health care system continues to evolve and improve.

It was my third trip to [Rwanda], having visited previously in 2007 and 2011, giving me the chance to compare its progress against itself and against its peers. As I was packing for the trip, I was asked repeatedly by well-intentioned friends and family, “Aren’t you worried about getting Ebola?”

Given what I knew about how the disease spread, and with only one case to date approaching Rwanda’s borders in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, I was able to answer them with a fairly confident “no.”

But after two weeks in the country, I realized I had so many more reasons to say “no.” Of course, I’m still not bold enough today to predict that Ebola will never arrive in Rwanda, given the urgency of the crisis and models of exponential spread that merit real concern. But I had a greater understanding of why Rwanda was not Liberia, and why the health system there was better able to weather new (and old) threats.

Here are four key reasons why:

1. Health care workers

One of the clearest lessons of the West African Ebola epidemic so far has been how dangerous it is to have weak health systems and insufficient human resources for health.

In Rwanda, they not only have recruited, trained, and retained a vast army of volunteer health care workers (HCWs) — three for every single village across the country — but they have also built up a referral process around them.

These HCWs are the lynchpins of the system, ensuring that Rwandans with common and more easily treatable illnesses (such as fever, diarrhea, and malaria) can receive care at the local level without overburdening higher levels of the health system.

That, in turn, frees up nurses and doctors to work in health centers, clinics, and hospitals and to have the time and space to treat more severe or specialized cases. We visited each level of the system in our time on the ground, and it was clear at each stop that health staff knew their roles, knew when to refer patients, and had the tools available to deliver effective care.

2. Political prioritization

We heard frequently in our site visits that health care for Rwandans was a top political priority, from President Kagame on down through the government’s chain of command. This was not news to me, as I had heard Rwanda’s dynamic Minister of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, speak at many international meetings over the years and even engage citizens in a Q&A via #MinisterMondays on Twitter.

She was always the first to unabashedly point out how Rwandans knew what was best for Rwandans’ health and how focused she was on achieving outcomes for her people.

Critically, this was not just political grandstanding — it had translated into real dollars (or Rwandan francs, to be specific) and real outcomes for health in the country. Rwanda is one of just six African countries to have met its 2001 Abuja commitment to spend at least 15% of its budget on health; in fact, Rwanda regularly exceeds this target, averaging 22% each year since 2006. And unlike many of its peers, Rwanda is on track to achieve many of the Millennium Development Goals, including MDGs 4 and 6, focused on child health and HIV/AIDS, respectively.

3. Money

In addition to a growing pot of domestic resources for health, Rwanda has been the definition of a health “donor darling” over the last decade, receiving what some might argue disproportionately high levels of foreign assistance from key donors and programs relative to its size and disease burden. At nearly every health facility across the country, you see staff supported by and commodities purchased by donors including the Global Fund, PEPFAR, PMI, GAVI and various other bilateral initiatives.

By some estimates, external resources make up anywhere from one-third to nearly half of Rwanda’s health budget. But these resources appear to have had an additive effect on overall health spending and programming. By allowing donor resources to support key programs to fight diseases like AIDS and malaria, the Rwandan government has been able to spend its own health resources on broader systems strengthening, preventative health campaigns, and innovations that put it ahead of the curve.

Anecdotally, one Rwandan hospital we visited had one of the more sophisticated neonatal units I had ever seen in the region; fingerprint scanning technology for staff to enter specific buildings; and a full range of vaccines, including more expensive options such as HPV, for all its children.

4. Trust

Despite concerns about the Rwandan government’s political proclivities (I’ll leave that discussion to others for the time being), but when it comes to health, it is hard to argue that the government is not delivering results for its people.

In turn, the overwhelming majority of citizens with whom we met expressed that they trusted their government to provide health care and felt like they were seeing improvements in their day-to-day lives.

Contrast that with the situation across West Africa at the moment, where trust between the governments’ officials and their people has faltered.

We’ve seen citizens turned away from overly full health facilities, myths about Ebola continue to flourish despite formal information channels, a mistrust of health care workers, and even violence towards those who aim to provide care.

At the end of the day, if citizens don’t trust that showing up to a health facility will lead to care and improved health, they are more likely to stay home and perpetuate the spread, rather than containment, of diseases.

Of course, none of this is to say that Rwanda’s system is perfect or that the Liberian health care experience should or even could look like Rwanda’s.

And indeed, ten years of Liberian civil war a decade ago took a dramatically different physical, economic, psychological, and political toll on the country than did the (equally horrific, but very different) Rwandan genocide 20 years ago, which also has implications for how the country rebuilt and how citizens respond.

But surely, if we hope to rebuild Liberia and other affected West African countries when the Ebola crisis is eventually contained — an effort that will likely take years, not months — we can benefit from borrowing some of the lessons highlighted in the Rwandan experience.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rockin' Ramones: Hey! Ho! Let's go!

Tommy Ramone, the last surviving member of the Ramones, joined his bandmates this month, but the Ramones rock on in Rwanda:


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dez is back,... with great stories to tell about Marvin Lewis and fast livin'

Last night I ate at Meze Fresh and hung out with my longtime friend, Desire, who I've known since he was a gifted student at Sonrise. But this was an "especially special" time together as I listened to Desire report stories to me with a smile so enormous that I feared his face was going to break. Because Marvin and Peggy Lewis decided to make an investment years ago (in truth, Marvin's Mom dictated the initial move), Desire has walked quite a journey from no shoes, no plumbing, no electricity, to a good education, and then on to jetting around the U.S. in a private jet and hanging with Marvin, Peggy, and Kelly Ripa. Until recently Desire did not know the identity of his anonymous sponsor, and when he was told, his only possible response was "Okay, I am certainly very grateful, but who is Marvin Lewis?" It is really good to have Desire back home again,... and on top of the world.

Here is a re-post I have lifted from the Cincinnati Bengals. [BTW: References to the owner of the restaurant, Meze Fresh, and "my friend" and "my boss" are to the great, inimitable Griffin Richards.]

Lessons from Dez, by Geoff Hobson

Spring is revival. Whether it is a quarterback launching one deep, or a father playing catch with a son, or using a machete to cut the relentless backyard grass, everyone is on the comeback trail in the spring. It just so happens that this spring Peggy and Marvin Lewis ran square into the circle of life.



Dez (right) and Marcus Lewis hanging out at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Spring is revival. Whether it is a quarterback launching one deep, or a father playing catch with a son, or using a machete to cut the relentless backyard grass, everyone is on the comeback trail in the spring.

It just so happens that this spring Peggy and Marvin Lewis ran square into the circle of life. A month after they said good-bye to Lewis’ father in the tiny brick church on Main Street in McDonald, Pa., on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, they watched the child they sponsored all those years stand up in front of the congregation just a few Sundays shy of Father’s Day.

“You don’t realize what you’ve done by helping us when the world was forgetting us,” Dez told them. “We are going to be the light that goes on.”

Dez, now 22, is short for Desire and he was one of those millions of faceless little victims of the atrocities that were the 1990s in the east African country of Rwanda. He was three years old when genocide wiped out 20 percent of the population during a chilling 100 days in 1994 and four when his father, like everyone else on his side of the family, died. Or disappeared. They really don’t know.

When he was 10 and had yet to set foot in a pair of shoes, McDonald’s First Baptist Church turned to their members to help Rwanda’s children that were starving to death and that’s when Marvin Lewis’ parents approached their son and wife Peggy about helping when he was still an NFL assistant. They agreed to sponsor a boy and two girls and a dozen years later the boy flew 25 hours to say thank you in an unforgettable 30-day visit.

“They came through the village looking for people that were starving,’” Dez says. “I was lucky to be picked…I call Peggy ‘Mum,’ and Marvin, ‘Dad.”

The money sent Dez to school from fourth to 12th grades. It’s where he got his first pair of shoes. Seeing lights for the first time scared him. When they showed him where he would sleep, he didn’t know what a bed looked like, never mind not knowing he could get under the covers.

He didn’t know one of his sponsors was the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals until he was 19 and got a laptop when he went to college. But then, he didn’t know anything about American football or Cincinnati for that matter. His boss at the Mexican restaurant where he works near the American embassy told him, “Can’t be that Marvin Lewis,’ and Dez was able to verify it all on the internet.
“They had to explain it to me like it was soccer. Like it was Alex Ferguson,” Dez says of the former long-time Manchester United manager.

In order for Dez to get his visa, his boss had to convince the authorities the kid’s sponsor was really that Marvin Lewis because they didn’t believe him.

“My friend who runs the restaurant told me what a great man Marvin is,” Dez says. “Everyone has value. They said he couldn’t give me value, but he gives me value.”

Now Mum and Dad are continuing their sponsorship and sending him to college in Kiagli, where he is majoring in computer science but has a hankering for the restaurant business. When Dez got off the plane last month in Cincinnati, he was shy and unsure had to ask a stranger to call Peggy’s cell phone to find him. When he left on Wednesday after spending a month teaching lessons without even knowing it, Peggy was a three-car wreck by Thursday afternoon because she had yet to hear he was back in Rwanda.

“He’s just such a great kid with one big heart,” Peggy Lewis says. “It’s amazing how fast you can fall in love with somebody. I was telling a friend, “I feel like he’s mine.’ Another person to worry about. It’s been very emotional. No words can describe it. A lot of laughs. A lot of tears.”

There were a lot of firsts these past 30 days, she says. His first swim in a pool. His first milkshake. His first bacon. Before he was sponsored he remembers eating few meals. When he did, it was potatoes or beans, and his mother often didn’t eat so her kids could. Which is maybe why he’s fascinated by the huge supermarkets.

“It’s so fast in America. There is always something to do,” Dez says. “You go to a restaurant and the service is so fast.”

Dez checked out his team, too, during the trip. He was a semi-staple at Paul Brown Stadium in the last month with a smile that can light up a fourth quarter. At the end, the guy who arrived shy would greet just about anybody with “Hi, I’m Dez,” and in a quiet moment he’d say, “I like to meet new friends.”

He got to meet most of the players, including his favorite, A.J. Green.

“I like the way he’s so fast,” he says.

There was a startling moment, too, when Dez revealed to the family he’d been shot when he was little. He doesn’t know who or why.

When he was in school, the sponsors and child could write letters back and forth Dez’s missives to primarily Peggy were the typically sweet musings of a little boy. There would be drawings and talk about God, a sign of the faith-based education.

Dez seemed to be everywhere this month, including backstage with Peggy Lewis at Live! with Kelly and Michael during his trip to New York City.

Then when Dez got the computer a few years ago, the exchange of e-mails became fast and furious and everyone in the family got more involved. Their kids connected with him on Facebook and Peggy found herself receiving and sending e-mails about three times a week. When he figured out who Marvin was, he asked for a Bengals shirt and Peggy sent come gear.

The only chance he gets to see the games is when he’s working in the restaurant.

“When he’s wearing a shirt or his hat, people always stop him on the street,’ Peggy says. “He says, ‘I’m pretty popular when I wear my Bengals’ (gear). People stop and talk to me.’”

For Marvin Lewis, who coaches guys his age, he can only shake his head. What were you doing at 18? When he was 18, Dez was finally able to get electricity to his mother’s house.

“He’s amazing,” Marvin Lewis says. “The guy who runs the restaurant says he has no problem leaving him in charge. He’s such a good worker I guess. And he wants to help his country.

“His country, his family, his friends, that’s all he’s concerned about. How he makes his country better and provides for his family.”

The 30 days seemed like three. Dez visited Lewis’ daughter and husband in Arizona, where he also met members of Peggy’s family. Back in Cincinnati the Lewis’ son, Marcus, who is about the same age, bonded with him immediately.

“The brother he never had,” Peggy says.

On their trip to New York City that included a stop at the Empire State Building, Dez’s eyes were wider than the slim-and-trim Rex Ryan and he kept using the word “magic.” Especially after his favorite part of the visit, a ticket to “The Lion King,” on Broadway.

You get used to this, but that very big heart is still in Rwanda.

“I have responsibilities. I have my family and I’ve got to take care of mom,’ he says. “I want to further my studies and pursue my master’s so I can get a very good job and work in my country. If you help your family, it’s helping your country.”

A little removed from the plush world of the NFL and Marvin Lewis savors it.

“It gives you an appreciation or things everybody here takes for granted,’ he says. “The shoes on your feet. It’s a big deal.”

Just like they take Dez for granted back home when he wears his Bengals stuff and when he tells him he knows the coach they tell him that’s not possible and he’s lying.

“Marvin Lewis is a great man. He gives me value,” says Dez, which is his gift.

Everyone has value.

Even after 30 days, Peggy Lewis is still fighting the emotions. She and her husband oversee one of the most effective and important charitable foundations in the history of Cincinnati, but how do you ever really know its working?
“You start anything like that and you don t know where it’s going to go. You give money to many different things and you hope you’re just making a difference,” Peggy Lewis says. “Boy, this one, seeing him face-to-face…and having someone sit across from you and say, ‘You saved my life, you made a difference in my life,’ it gets you.”

Summer is starting to catch up to spring.

“It was a great 30 days for us to meet him. Now that he’s gone, we miss him,” says Marvin Lewis, sounding like a dad here in the circle.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cow Park

In America, from New York to Los Angeles and many places in between, there are Dog Parks, where people with their pooches congregate for "business" and play.


As suggested in some previous posts, Rwanda does things BIG and is often "one up" on America. For example, Rwanda leapfrogged over the dog park thing, and has established Cow Parks, where cowboys and their bovines congregate. But this really is for business, and where the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) sends a veterinarian to very efficiently deliver important services for free or on a very affordable basis: vaccinations, artificial insemination, castration, etc.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What the world needs now

"Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

Anne Casper is a high-ranking diplomat, who serves very professionally and effectively at the U.S. Department of State, but also serves well in the world, as she dives into people and local culture with total abandon. Anne is very much alive, making the world a better place.
Blayne Sharpe does what makes him come alive as the Director of the Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program, and as a result, is making the world a better place.
Dale Dawson, Founder and CEO of B2R, lives and breaths and teaches this principle. But it is noteworthy that I did not receive this quote from him, nor from a super successful, wealthy person in New York or Chicago or Denver or Seattle. I found it on the wall of Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, founded by Anne Heyman to serve orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda. This is not a Harvard Business School management principle (although it should be), but rather a principle of humanity.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Simply Rwandaful!

Although I have shamelessly "borrowed" this footage, every image, every place, (almost) every face, is familiar and part of living and traveling in Rwanda. Treat yourself and step into our world.

CLICK HERE on >  Simply Rwandaful! 


Friday, May 9, 2014

A psychological analysis of Frasier Crane

His fauxhawk suggests that he was not breastfed and therefore craves motherlove or, in the alternative, attention from anyone.

Looking for love in all the wrong places, Frasier is somewhat myopic and often becomes disoriented and easily lost. "Has anyone seen an Ark around here?"


He definitely has criminal tendencies, and has been captured on Security Cameras committing a burglary.




... but the CSI Unit discovered that the foolish burglar left unmistakable DNA evidence on his victim's floor.

As punishment for his crime, the authorities will soon remove Frasier Crane from he who loves and cares for him, and incarcerate him in Akagera National Park, where crocodiles will be quite interested in him. Fly, Frasier, fly! ... ♪♫ ♪ into the light of the dark black night ♪♫ ♪!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happiness happens!

“... It is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to 'be happy.' But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to 'be happy.' Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically. As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy...". 
Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

We mustn't search for "happiness," but rather for "meaning." Only when we find meaning, will we be truly happy. But, to draw from a country western song, many may be "searching for meaning in all the wrong places," and they despair when they come up empty, "discovering" only meaninglessness and nothingness. I understand their disappointment and despair, but I reject that the failure to find meaning establishes that there is none to be found.

By traditional Western measurements, Emmanuel has not enjoyed a "happy" life, but rather a life of loss and great pain. (See earlier post.) "Pursuit of happiness" never occurred to him. However, he has found meaning and purpose in encouraging and serving others, and in that, he has found great happiness and joy



Thursday, May 1, 2014

Homeless Jesus

I thank Judy Capozzola for sharing with me this NPR post, which I have edited down a bit and now re-post, followed by a few of my own observations and experiences:

A new religious statue in Davidson, N.C., is unlike anything you might see in church. The statue depicts Jesus as a vagrant sleeping on a park bench. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church installed the homeless Jesus statue on its property in the middle of an upscale neighborhood filled with well-kept town homes. Jesus is huddled under a blanket with his face and hands obscured; only the crucifixion wounds on his uncovered feet give him away.

The reaction was immediate. Some loved it; some didn’t. “One woman from the neighborhood actually called police the first time she drove by,” says David Boraks, editor of DavidsonNews.net. “She thought it was an actual homeless person.” That’s right. Somebody called the cops on Jesus.

“Another neighbor, who lives a couple of doors down from the church, wrote us a letter to the editor saying it creeps him out,” Boraks added.

Some neighbors feel that it’s an insulting depiction of the son of God, and that what appears to be a hobo curled up on a bench demeans the neighborhood.

The bronze statue was purchased for $22,000 as a memorial for a parishioner, Kate McIntyre, who loved public art. The rector of this liberal, inclusive church is the Rev. David Buck, a 65-year-old Baptist-turned-Episcopalian who seems not at all averse to the controversy, the double takes and the discussion the statue has provoked. “It gives authenticity to our church,” he says. “This is a relatively affluent church and we need to be reminded ourselves that our faith expresses itself in active concern for the marginalized of society.”

The sculpture is intended as a visual translation of the passage in the Book of Matthew, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “As you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.” Moreover, Buck says, it’s a good Bible lesson for those used to seeing Jesus depicted in traditional religious art as the Christ of glory, enthroned in finery. “We believe that that’s the kind of life Jesus had,” Buck says. “He was, in essence, a homeless person.”
....
The most high-profile installation of the bronze Jesus on a park bench will be on the Via della Conciliazione, the avenue leading to St. Peter’s Basilica — if the city of Rome approves it. Schmalz traveled to the Vatican last November to present a miniature to the pope himself. “He walked over to the sculpture, and it was just chilling because he touched the knee of the Jesus the Homeless sculpture, and closed his eyes and prayed,” Schmalz says. “It was like, that’s what he’s doing throughout the whole world: Pope Francis is reaching out to the marginalized.”

Back at St. Alban’s in Davidson, the rector reports that the Jesus the Homeless statue has earned more followers than detractors. It is now common, he says, to see people come, sit on the bench, rest their hand on the bronze feet and pray. 
Rev. David Buck sits next to the Jesus the Homeless statue installed in front of his church















Forgive me. Change of mind. Change of heart. Why would I offer "a few of my own observations and experiences" if Scripture makes all the necessary points so much more effectively? I will just point out the undeniable fact: Jesus was homeless and poor, very poor. 

A teacher of the law came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but I have no place to lay my head.” Matthew 8:19-20 

... though Jesus was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:34-40

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:1-3

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. James 2:14-18

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Atkins or Pritikin?

I eat only salad (without dressing!)
...and I just can't seem to lose weight! 
I guess I must have Big Boy genes.