edavenpo

Your Kingdom Come Your Will Please Be Done

In Uncategorized on September 20, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Today is a day of disappointment; disappointment in our legal system and disappointment in people’s capacity for compassion. Troy Davis is a 42 year old man who was convicted of murdering an off duty police officer in 1989 in Savannah, Georgia. One of the men present at the murder scene went to the police and implicated Troy as the killer, and four days later Troy was arrested. Throughout the trial, nine witnesses testified that Troy was in fact the killer. The murder weapon was never found, and Troy was convicted based solely on eye witness accounts. There was absolutely no physical evidence to link him to the crime. Since the trial date, seven of the nine men who testified again him have come back and recanted their testimonies and stated that there was pressure from the officers to implicate Troy. One witness said he had no idea that he was signing official papers that accused Troy because he was illiterate. Despite the doubt of his guilt, his execution date was set.

Many highly influential people and groups such as Amnesty International, former President Jimmy Carter, Al Sharpton, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, presidential candidate Bob Barr and former FBI Director and judge William S. Sessions have called upon the courts to grant Troy a new trial or evidentiary hearing.

On Friday, September 16, 2011 I drove to downtown Atlanta with Holly and Sage and Zach to join a group of our friends from Jubilee (the farm where Sage lived last year), Martin Luther King III (son of MLK Jr.), Al Sharpton, Troy’s family and 2,000 others to march down the street to the capital. I’ve never been a part of something like that. You see things like that on TV every once in a while or in movies about the 60s or 70s. In the middle of it all, it was easy to think, ‘What am I doing here? This is weird.’ But then, as we were walking, someone started to sing over a megaphone ‘This Little Light of Mine’. In about half of a second, everyone, all 2,000 plus people were singing this simple song that I’ve been singing my whole life. As I stared into the eyes of Troy Davis’ picture on one of the hundreds of signs and sang along with all of these children of God, I knew with all of myself that God’s kingdom has surely come and I was standing in the midst of it, as we do every day. Where two or more are gathered in His name, he must be present, not just among us, but in us.

Healing tears came to my eyes that day because of an overwhelming sense of joy that humanity can come together in the name of compassion in such large numbers. Today my tears are tears of sadness for the life of Troy Davis that is about to be taken from him tomorrow afternoon by lethal injection. How can we as humans, as Christians, as children of God take another human’s life from them? Before we went to the march, we met some friends at the Open Door (a Christian-based homeless ministry) to eat dinner and pray for Troy and his family). Our friend, Emma, had just received a letter from Troy and wanted to read it to the group. Emma is part of a group that visits people on death row to give them hope and someone to talk to. The letter read something like this: ‘My dear friend, Emma. As my time on earth is drawing near to its close, I want to tell you that I am at peace with God to die. But before I go, I need you to promise me this one thing: that you will turn your life completely and wholly over to our God of love. Devote your life to him and everything will not be in vain. Tell everyone at the Open Door thank you from my heart for their support.’ Troy knew that Emma is an atheist and he needed to tell her that before he died.

Today Georgia’s board of pardons rejected Troy’s last chance of clemency leaving his execution still scheduled for tomorrow Wednesday, September 21 at 7:00 pm eastern time.

Tomorrow I’m going to meet at our church (Northlake Church of Christ) with a number of other members to pray for Troy as his life is taken from him and his heart stops beating. We will also be praying Troy’s family who has been so active in trying to shed light on his innocence for these 22 years. However, I don’t want to forget about the family of Mark MacPhail, the officer who was killed all those years ago. They have been actively calling for Troy’s execution and speaking out about his guilt. There is so much pain and anger there, but I can not believe that that pain will be alleviated by another murder. So I want to pray that the family will somehow know forgiveness in their hearts for the man who took Mark’s life. God knows that’s the only way they will ever find the peace of Christ. ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.’ ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’ These are all the words of the man Jesus, whom we follow.

God of mercy. I praise you today for loving us so richly. Please send your angles of comfort to Troy today and tomorrow as he so bravely awaits his death. Whether he is innocent or guilty of the crime of which he has been accused, I ask that you would listen to his heart and hear his plea for your love, mercy, and forgiveness. Comfort Troy’s family and Mark’s family, giving them peace and hope for eternal life. Help them to forgive those they would harbor hatred for. I ask that you transform that hatred to love like only you can. I ask these things in the name of Jesus, the man who forgave his murderers before they even finished the task. Amen.

There was national coverage of the march I participated in if anyone is interested in looking at a video of it; and for those of you concerned about my safety, please know that the march was very peaceful, pleasant and not at all out of hand. There was definitely a lot of energy and emotion, but nothing to be concerned over my safety.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8VnClonWYQ

I love you all, and thank you for taking the time to read these posts.

Peace,

Erin

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Overview of my life here

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Greetings. May the peace of Christ be with you.

 

Before I can jump into writing about all of the things that are happening and all of the people I’m knowing and living life with, I suppose I’ll tell you a little about what this place is, who I’m here with, what I’ll be spending my time doing, and where I envision myself in all of it.

 

Clarkston is an extraordinaly small town about a mile east of the perimeter of Atlanta (‘perimeter’ is a native Atlanta term referring to the area circularly encompassed within a 10 mile radius of the center of the city). And about a mile or so east of Clarkston lies the not so famous town of Stone Mountain, which claims its name based on the all-granite mile-high mountain that stands in its center. Holly and I biked there yesterday to see what all of the fuss is about. The bike trail that goes from town to town here is by far the nicest I’ve seen. My opinion of the town Stone Mountain is that it probably used to be really cool in its glory days of the early 1900s, but has since become what seems to be a failed downtown strip of stale smelling antique shops and weirdly unstocked coffee and ice cream parlors. The town in general gave us the creeps, and Holly said she expected people to start foaming at the mouth and mutating into zombies from some bad horror movie. However, from the top of the mountain, supposedly you can see for more than 40 miles. I guess I’ll do that one day.

 

Anyway, back to Clarkston. The town claims approximately 1.1 square mile of land and 7,231 inhabitants, according to the 2000 census. One of the first things you would hear or read about Clarkston is that it is the most diverse square mile in the United States. There are over 70 languages spoken in the high school, there are over 800 worshipers at the local mosque, and over half the population are from outside of the United States. Confused yet? You’re not alone. I keep getting this question from people who have never heard of this town: So will you be living in the refugee camp? Please understand that this town is not a refugee camp, not even simliar. It’s just a town that happens to be a place named ideal for refugee placement by refugee organizations like World Relief, Catholic Charities, etc. It was in the 1990s that these organizations started flooding in displaced persons because they noted that the rental market was open and residents were beginning to move farther out from the Atlanta urban core. Also, Clarkston is the last town on the transit line into the city making it a ‘perfect’ location for commuting refugees to and from their jobs in Atlanta. Most refugees, if they are fortunate enough to have found a job, have a three to four hour commute both ways to a job at one of the large corporate chicken plants in Atlanta (Tyson, Pilgrims Pride, etc.) where they are on their feet for ten or eleven hours.

 

To answer the question about who I am here with, I would just name a few people and who they are to me and what they are trying to be to this town. Holly Mcknight. She was one of my roommates in Nashville during my second year in that house. She graduated from Lipscomb University with a degree in social work then went on to get her masters in social work from the University of Tennessee. We are sharing a room in the apartment where we live with a refugee family of five. The family is from Burma or Myanmar, whichever you know it as. They are Karen (pronounced Kuh Ren, emphasis on the Kuh), which is one of the 142 minority people groups from that country. The Karen people are predominately from a Christian faith.  I will add more on the family later. Holly is searching for a job here having something to do with social work and refugees.

 

Sage Woodroof. Most of you have either met her or heard me talk about her. She was one of my roommates in Nashville for the first year I lived there. She graduated from Lipscomb with a degree in theology in 2010. Then she spent the majority of 2011 at a self sustainable, Christian-based farm in Comer, GA called Jubilee. The town is about an hour East of Clarkston. The founding purpose of the farm is to be a transitional place for refugees coming to the United States where they teach English and North American culture so that the move to an actual urban area will be slightly less shocking for a refugee family. Sage, like Holly, is also looking for a job. She has been here for one month, and while she has not found an official paying job, she has been working more than full time hours helping refugees with so many things. One morning she actually had a line of people outside her door at 7:30 in the morning asking her for help with things like reading important mail from the government, or getting food stamps that haven’t come in when they were scheduled, or driving them to appointments, or translating for them to their case worker. Sage lives with a Karen family that she knows from Jubilee in an apartment complex half a mile from us called The Lakes. Although she is not fluent, she speaks the Karen language well enough to communicate almost anything. Holly and I are studying Karen every day so that we can communicate with the family we are living with.

 

Paul Reeser. I know Paul through Sage and other friends in Nashville where he graduated from Lipscomb with a degree in theology in 2010. After graduation he moved back to Atlanta where he grew up to start job hunting and figuring things out that he would like to be a part of. Him and his family have been an active part of Northlake Church of Christ since he was small. Northlake is about a 10 minute bike ride from our apartment, and they are very proactive about being involved in the refugee community here in Clarkston. Paul’s dad, Mr. Ike, is the children’s minister there. Mr. Ike and his wife, Mrs. Gwyn, have been so kind to us. They gave us a key to their house, and said that we are welcome any time for any reason. I feel comfort in knowing I have them here in this new place. Paul works at Dekalb Technical College as an adult ESL teacher for refugees. He also started and is maintaining a beautiful vegetable garden on the church’s property. Paul invited three elderly Butanese men who are currently unemployed to help him in the garden. They work there three times a week for about five hours each time. As payment, they take vegetables home for their families and they receive a paycheck based on how many vegetables they sell at the church on Sundays and Wednesdays and at the local Farmer’s Market. This summer each of those men made over $800. Having grown up here, Paul is already very well connected to this community and is involved in many good things.

 

There are several more young Americans trying to be about the same kinds of things in this town full of suffering and need. Us four, Holly, Sage, Paul, and myself, are hoping and committing to be intentional about our friendships througout the day to day. At least once a week we will come together with the purpose of praying and singing together and sharing about the week. Our main focus, just like all followers of Jesus, is learning daily how to embody love to those to whom love is a stranger.

 

A prayer I try to pray every day is one written by a man who lived in the late 1100s and early 1200s. It is a prayer of peace and humility, and it gives me hope and joy to pray words that God has been hearing for so many years. I hope you’ll pray this prayer with me today.

 

Lord, make us intruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

First Entry….oh dear

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Blogging is a funny thing I think. Were we created to mass communicate so easily? Does the sharing of stories in this fashion cheapen them in some way? I think of how stories used to be shared and passed on around fires and in tents and huts while passing around a communal hot tea or hookah or wine or who knows what else. With much deliberation, I have decided to share some of my experiences in this way. Our family is unique in the way it is so tightly knit and how we are all in the know of each other’s lives. I’m saying it is good. I feel so loved from so far away, and I know that as a gift from God. That’s why I feel compelled to share what’s happening in my life here in this way.

I appreciate the blog entries I’ve read from Lauren and Brandi and Brittnie’s blogs. I’m glad to know both the exciting and the mundane things of your lives. If anybody else has a blog I don’t know about please tell me. Or if anyone wants to e-mail me a story, any story, about their lives, please do so without hesitation. I love reading stories and imagining what you all might be doing in Texarkana or Batesville or Pleasant Plains or Louisville or South Bend or O’Fallon or Hoover or Searcy or wherever.

I will committ to writing in this blog as much as time in the week allots me. I haven’t yet started my job nor do I have any commitments to any organizations yet. We’ll see how much time I have to write when all of that starts. Thank you to whoever takes the time to read this, but please don’t feel pressure to read it. I wont quiz anyone when I see you.

As a minute disclaimer, I feel inclined to add that this blog is just me typing out my thoughts about what I see around me. As you all know so well, I am human, and I am young. I am trying to take life and the call of Jesus seriously without taking myself too seriously. I can predict without doubts, I will fail often at these things. I ask for grace and mercy from those who plan to read what I choose to share.

The peace of Christ be with you.

Erin, Ernie, Ern, etc.