"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Wednesday, July 21, 2004 I guess you can say my sabbatical is officially over. I'm back at work today!
Actually, my sabbatical doesn't officially end until July 31 ... but the annual vacation we are taking with Robin's family is not next week as I had thought but the week after (the first week of August), so I am working today through next Wednesday as a tradeoff for that time.
So ... I'm back! And it's GOOD to be back!
I'm over the jetlag adjustments to America ... and frankly, the culture shock in re-entry hasn't been as much shock as it has been an increased awareness of things. I have fallen pretty easily into my old patterns of living, but at least for now (and I hope it continues), I'm aware as I'm doing them of how different they are than how people in Ghana (and in most of the world) live.
I'm much more aware of the life of absolute luxury I live. The 1992 Nissan Maxima that I used to think was just about to fall apart now purrs like a kitten in comparison to the trucks and trotros I rode around Ghana in. I still haven't gone into a Schnucks yet, and I don't know how that will be ... but I'm less shocked seeing the choice when I open my own refrigerator -- but thankfully still remembering what a blessing that choice is.
Overall, I guess I thought I was a glass half-full person, but I'm realizing now how much of a glass half-empty person I was -- and at least right now, I'm not feeling that way. I know it will take work to remember that.
What hits you over the head like an anvil in a Warner Bros. cartoon is how you are just inundated with violence and sexuality in this culture. That is just one of the biggest daily differences between life in Ghana and here. Advertising and media is everywhere here, and the content is all high in sex and violence.
RIght now, one of the bigger problems we have as a church is that we don't have a coherent sexual ethic. It's a big problem because we end up making major decisions without a common, comprehensive and rational foundation. I'm beginning to realize now what a huge task it will be to come up with that ethic in this culture where you pretty much cannot help be bombarded with sexual images wherever you go. It's difficult not to fall into the traps of succumbing to them or reactively wanting to completely isolate yourself and everyone else from them.
Same with violence. It's not just that every time you turn on the news or pick up a paper it's a story about a shooting, stabbing or kidnapping. It's the violence in our language ... how we use the word "kill" ALL THE TIME. How violence is just a part of our thinking and acting here ... and how dehumanizing that is.
I wasn't so conscious that that wasn't the case in Ghana (though I did notice the lack of crime stories on the TV news), but coming back here, it really is like being hit between the eyes (talk about a violent image!).
Looking back, it's ironic that some people were worried about our safety traveling to Ghana. I remember telling them that it was far more dangerous for me to go to North St. Louis than to go to Ghana. Boy, how right I was. In Ghana, my biggest worry was being stranded briefly in a trotro or car that broke down or being involved in some freak accident or getting sick and having to enter Ghana's sketchy health care system (but, of course, if things were really bad, I had my travel insurance). Here is St. Louis, we've got teenagers opening fire on people at garage sales. Yikes!
Gotta go. Can't wait to see all of you who are in town! Leave your comments and email me and let me know what's up!
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."