Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Growing in Faith and Love

Today was another insanely busy, but wonderful day in the Big Apple. This afternoon we went to the United Nations for a tour. One of our tour guides was from Peru and the other was from Latvia. It was inspiring to see the 8 UN development goals. Some examples of the goals were to end extreme poverty and hunger and to achieve universal primary education. However there were also very shocking things I learned from the tour. I learned that it costs between $1 and $3 to make a landmine but that it costs between $300 and $1000 to disarm a landmine. It was heartbreaking to learn how difficult and expensive it is to clean up the landmine filled areas. It was also shocking to see that these landmines resembled childrens toys, such as a yo-yo. Thus, 1/3 of the people who are affected by landmines are children, innocent victims who shouldn't have to suffer. Many other victims are civilians. It made me sick to my stomach just to think about how easy it would be for a child to pick up a landmine resembling a toy and then have it detonate.

After the tour, we went across the street and met one of Kate's friends, Doug. He told a short bit about his life story which was fascinating. He told about his experiences in Vietnam and about his interfaith work as a self-described "Menonite-plus Christian". He shared that once you get to know people on a personal level, you are no longer concerned about your differences but rather you rejoice in your similarities and love for one another. He passed around his photo album from the Vietnam War. One of the pictures that struck me was a picture of a man who appeared to be in his twenties with his arms tied tightly behind his back with rope. When Hafsa asked Doug what the story was behind the picture, Doug told us that the man was taken innocently by the enemy party and then shot only a few minutes after the picture was taken.

We had interfaith dialogue/debriefing about the day after his talk, since the UN tour and Doug's talk provided a great opportunity for such. During the debriefing session, my group talked mostly about our service work and how when one gives their life for others, their life will be filled with riches. This has been a common theme throughout our trip as all of us whose lives are filled with abundance have been giving to others with seemingly less material goods than us. We've shared many stories from both the Bible and the Qur'an that tell us that it is part of being a member of faith to give to others wholeheartedly. In the Bible, I'm reminded of Luke 6:38 which says to give and then we will get in return. We have all been so loved and blessed by our creator that how could we not pour this love out on others?

I've felt blessed throughout this entire trip. On Tuesday, I, along with 10 or so others woke up around 5 am to go prepare breakfast for those who needed the food. Although it was early, it felt wonderful to be up so early giving my time and work to help the greater good. I was also reminded that when you give, you get more in return. Some of the greatest laughs on this trip have been while working at the service sites.

The service work that we've been doing has provided me with so much hope. I've been reminded over and over again that God provides. My eyes have been opened to the need out there, but I have also seen hope in that there are many places for those who may not have the money for food to be nourished.

I've also really enjoyed getting to grow in my friendships with the people on the trip. It has been so much fun getting to work and play with each other and be laughing constantly. After the UN tour and debriefing today, we all split up into smaller groups. My group which included Luke, Joe, Andrew, and Sara went to see Mary Poppins on Broadway and then got huge bowls of ice cream afterwards. Although I feel like I'm running low on sleep, I'm feeling energized to be here in New York City with a group of people that I can't wait to get to know better and grow in faith with. I'm praying that the rest of our time here in New York City is just as fruitful as the first couple days have been.

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