Sunday, May 29, 2016
I came to Nairobi as a support team member for a small, efficient crew with producer and cinematographer, John Northrup, of Asheville, North Carolina. John sees the world in a way we'd all like to see it. Light and shadow, rules of thirds and broken rules and all of it second nature. The third member of the team is Noah who is primarily here to make sure everything we film has the right sounds. But he... and John are so much more than their tasks. Noah lives in an idillic setting with his wife and children. He's well traveled and intelligent and somewhat of a closet prepper.
We weren't supposed to be in Kenya. At least that's what you'd say if you looked at our original itinerary, and had listened in on our preproduction plans. We thought we'd be heading to another part of the world, to a refugee site with a lot of people that have left their homes due to civil war. Long story, short, the government where these people lived insisted their citizens worship their way or die. Not everyone agrees with that. Eventually, the country split in two, and ever since has had a hard time getting along.
While on the flight into Nairobi two weeks ago, we were told that the plans had changed. Our client had their reasons, as clients tend to do. And so we held here and waited to learn how we would pivot and maintain the objective.
A long time ago, not far from here, Jesus Christ chose to allow others to end him by hammering spikes through his extremities. It's not an unfamiliar story I realize, and some have tried unsuccessfully to prove it a myth. Before he died, he was tortured, whipped until he bled, spat upon, mocked, nailed through his wrists and feet until he bled some more, raised on the crossbeam of wood and left there until he breathed his last, and speared in the side until he bled again one last time. As he hung there, on the cross he said a few words. Two of those words were, "forgive them". And by "them" he meant, those that accused and murdered him. And mysteriously too, he also meant us, as in all of us including myth-sayers.
His were strong words. The point of our being here, is to capture the stories of people who are alive and among us even now; people that have shared in some of Christ's persecution, and lived to tell about it... so far. Some of them will be tortured again... and die, ultimately, because of their refusal to reject Jesus' own death on the cross. There's way more to that story too, but it'll have to wait. Suffice to say they are brave men and women who are also willing to forgive their captors.
The people we have met so far on this project have strong words too. They tell their captors that they love them, and forgive them. Even as they are being beaten and broken, they sing. They teach other prisoners to sing. They counsel their guards.
Don't get me wrong, it's a hard-won thing they do. To the man, they describe the battle they waged with their own bitterness and hate. As they reflected on the events that preceded their arrests, they, every one of them, felt the desire for revenge for the brutal torture and deaths of their friends, and members of their families. And over time, as their hearts transformed to reflect Christ's love for their enemies, the self-consuming feelings of anger left. Gone. Only joy remained! Story after story, it's clear to me. These guys suffer, survive, and thrive. Sometimes only to suffer again.
I have an enviable job. I maintain eye contact and look into the faces of these men throughout the interview. John has lit them perfectly for the lens. Noah stops us from time to time because the audio hears a horn honk or the scraping of a chair in the room above us; because of him, audio is perfect. And I sit, literally not breaking my gaze as I see the face of Christ in their faces. They tell us stories that wrench my gut, and stir my own feelings of revenge and hate. And then they laugh. Something always strikes them as ironic. "They threw us out of prison because too many others found Jesus." Laugh. "They beat us less because our love for them raised guilty feelings." Laugh. "The same guy that asked me advice about his wife during the day, beat me the next night!" Laugh. "Can you believe it? When they persecuted us, more people came to Christ, we grew stronger!" Laugh.
I don't know what has made a larger impression on me these past two weeks. Was it the irony of their laughter and even their gratitude for their suffering? Is it the real-time representation of Christ's own torture that I can hear in their stories? Or perhaps the realization that while I think I would not last five minutes in the foul-smelling cell, with a gun to my head, with bruises and bleeding... that in reality Christ would come to me as He has to these men? Or the ridiculous things I've prayed for, worried about, or worse, complained about.
We pivoted in Nairobi. We brought the stories of persecution and of God's work to us here, rather than going where we'd planned. These are just the tips of the termite mound, so to speak. It's frustrating, sometimes, trying to sort out the changes. We lost some time, something that apparently is of little concern to God. In the end, we gained mobility and privacy and peace for those whose identities we keep confidential for their own protection, and for the protection of those with whom they live. Because, and this blows my mind even still, they survived being persecuted and tortured, and then they stay. Who does that? They know they were preserved for a reason. It was not to flee to the west where the only hangnail-sized persecution we can come up with is a bakery boycott.
Someone recently told one of our new friends that they wished God would bring persecution to the United States... His response was wide-eyed. "No! Do NOT pray for that. We are prepared for persecution. I'm afraid Christians in America couldn't survive it". I can only speak for myself - I can't imagine surviving it. May God be present with His mercy now and forever.
Friday, March 11, 2016
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
That's not how it went down for me this last time.
I happen to know the first thing about html. It's the second through ten-thousanth thing that throws me off a little. I know that you use brackety things... <, and />, to do stuff. That's the first thing. What I don't know is how to keep the website from completely falling apart and throwing pixel-boogers at the screen when I go to render it.
I remember talking to a young web designer many years ago. He was a kid then. He told me, "I can't spell, they told me so in school and so I have a disability..." I remember asking him, "how often do you make spelling errors in your code?" The answer was of course, "never". He was, and still is, brilliant. I rediagnosed him as not having a spelling disability, he just didn't care. I'm the opposite. I hold my own with spelling (though, "rediagnosed" isn't a word). It's language of html that has me over a barrel.
So after a solid week of this and that, including "just plugging in a template and replacing all the content..." a thing I thought would be easy, I have a new website. (www.loudouros.com) It's not perfect, and I can't take any credit for the coolness of it. But it's functional. Someone asked me, could you make this bar a different color? Nope. Or... can you move this text to over there? No, again. Someone else, what about that font? It stays. I can't care anymore. Sure I'm calling warts, beauty-marks, what of it?
Here's the thing though. I've worked with web designers before. They become these nags that call you four times a day and tell you there's not enough pictures (that you don't have) or text (that you haven't written) or social media links (none of which you subscribe to...yet). So, four times a day, you race around your assets looking for stuff you don't yet have. That was why I decided to do it myself. "I'm going to race around looking for assets anyway, I might as well not be nagged..."
There's this thing, nagging actually produces a better product. I've realized that the web person who knows exactly how to
in the first place. And that is why next time I have to do this, I'm just going to hire a nag. I will either pay in lost sleep and geeky YouTube tutorials that might make sense if I played Dungeons and Dragons in college, or...I will pay by slavery to the next lucky web designer with whom I contract to get my back on my site.
On the upside, now if I have to change "its" to "it's", I can do it without the worse of two evils... my nagging the web designer to do it.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
There's something incredibly disorienting about a developing world airport in the dark. It was 8pm when my shuttle approached the Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania. I recalled my arrival only two weeks ago, though the overtime my brain is working processing the billions of unfamiliar sensations makes it seem months ago.
It's a common experience whenever I enter one of these back-water airports. Its chaotic. And confusing. The lights are all centrally located at the terminal and only yards away from the 'curb' it seems the light is sucked out of the air. Due in part to their low wattage. The lights are always placed high and aimed helpfully at the ground there but the angle hits passengers directly in the eyes.
The overall effect is the sea of, in this case, black faces absorbed into a silhouette of shadows all calling out in a language I hardly understand. Hands reach out from every direction and grasp my bags or trolley by the same handle I'm using... Thick accents say, 'my friend, I should help you?' Or karibu bwana, 'welcome, boss' I can't see their faces only their hands and wrists. The lights crunch my pupils, as they attempt to adjust to the sharp contrasting brightness.
Its chaotic ... And wonderful. I remember the first few times I experienced it many years ago. I was grabbing for my wallet and passport ... Afraid of pickpocket's groping, hungry fingers. This morning I laughed at my former self.
I feel now that I'm never far from home. These people are understandably desperate for the tips that come from hoisting bags or offering unofficial cab rides. They have found a niche and know the flight schedules for arrivals and departures of every major carrier.
The KLM aircraft seems freakishly huge on that tarmack. I walked out on the concrete to the monster A330. I felt incredibly small.
Behind me, a cacophony of heat and humidity... And a gaggle of people who all look alike there. That is not a racist comment. They all look like shadowed silhouettes. They look like backlit mountains before the full moon rises behind it. Details are lost and only the occasional hand or voice that penetrates the darkness becomes visible in the blinding light.
I no longer fear those places as I did the first few times. In fact. Its much like a homecoming now. Though there is human greed and corruption. If I mind my head and keep a sharp eye, its more like returning to open arms at the holidays now. Those hands are only a few inches away from broad smiles and quick laughs as I attempt my broken swahili. A few slang words like the one for 'cool' always gets the same response... 'How you know this word?' It gets a laugh and oddly those groping overly helpful hands feel more like a massive welcoming committee to me now. Perhaps the bright backlights are helpful, like a Mardi Gras mask that suppresses inhibitions. Our overly safe theatrically lit western curb sides maybe are less humane. Inhibition reigns and we avert eye contact, let alone breaking the physical space barrier of touching someone else's bags. The audacity of the curb chaos is also the charm in it.
So I'm now here in Amsterdam at the gate. I'm heading home. I know my kids will be there with Melinda. They wont stop at the bag handles though, because like the throng at the curb in Kilamamjaro they are the welcome committee. Personal space is disregarded. And.... They wont stop at the bag handles because they will be wanting to see what bwana has brought for them. Gifts from afar. Chiefly, the difference perhaps is that concept of personal space. 'Karibu' is the swahili word for Welcome. Its used interchangeably between 'you're welcome' and 'welcome' as in 'welcome home'. That's the thing that in the poverty of the place... or at least the 'poorness' of it, poverty being reserved for hopelessly poor... the thing that struck me was the wealth that is in a freely given smile or a hand, a word, a laugh. Along the curbside in the shadows of the waiting throng, personal space is not only over-rated, it's karibu at its finest.
Arrive in fear and you'll miss it as I did many years ago. Tired as you are from your journey, get your smile ready. The shadows are waiting.
Saturday, November 02, 2013
Wow, just looked and the last time I wrote in here was AUGUST. Man, it's been a busy fall so far.
Tomorrow morning I'll be climbing aboard a flight that will, after a few connections, land me in Arusha, Tanzania for the World Vision Triennial Council. I'm one of four producers on a team to provide video and other creative services for the event.
I'll be writing again in here for this trip. It should be kind of interesting and I'm looking forward to meeting people from all around the world. I think it's something like 80 countries represented there.
The project is broad enough in scope that it should provide some interesting fodder for stories. My client is my former employer, Greg Flessing (Fresh Air Media). The other two team members are Greg's son, Aaron and another former Fresh Air associate, Mark Dowlearn. So... here's to some great eavesdropping there near the base of Kilimanjaro. I'll let you know what I see along the way.