one week on

I continue to pray for the families who lost loved ones last Monday.  It has been exactly one week since I discovered the news on CNN, and my mind and heart have been buzzing with a multitude of thoughts and emotions.  As a Hokie, I was deeply moved by the convocation and the community/team spirit that emerged.  I got chills as I watched and listened, realizing the power of community to heal.

But even in the midst of this amazing display of community, I recognize that there is something much deeper that we need in order to walk through grief.  We need hope.

Among the many things written on the tragedy, I have really appreciated JR Woodward’s thoughts on hope and the in-between-day.

Virginia Tech Tragedy

Last night (Hungarian Time), Laura and I happened to turn the TV on and we were immediately flooded with news of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech.  Thanks to all of you who have sent us a note of concern. 

As we watched the news unfold, we felt shaky realizing that we’ve spent a lot of time in both of those buildings where the shootings took place when we studied and worked at Virginia Tech.  It is incomprehensible for this to happen to such a beautiful and safe community.  But more than this, it is unfathomable for this to happen to those 32 victims (as well as the shooter) and their families.  So Laura and I pray.  We pray that the God who made the universe will be a comforting presence and source of peace for the families and friends in the midst of such pain. 

This morning, as I read many more news articles, I could see the common desire, among writers and interviewees, for this broken world in which we live to be put back together.  The restoration of the world is indeed an essentially human desire.  The Virginia Tech Tragedy, the 1991 war on Vukovar, the First and Second Congo Wars, the full-capacity prisons in the US…  We are made for this restoration, for the act of making things better.  Perhaps this is mostly the dream of our own personal not-so-perfect worlds being restored to something Right and True and Good and even Beautiful.

Save Darfur

Every day, the 2.5 million people chased from their homes in Darfur face the threat of starvation, disease, and rape, while the few lucky enough to remain in their homes risk displacement, torture and murder.

On this site you can see an open letter to George Bush.

suffering and social justice

Witnessing the recent protests, riots, economic troubles, and tremendous political divisions juxtaposed with a deep remembrance and sense of solidarity over the 1956 revolution, I’ve really been impacted by the basic human cries for freedom and justice.  With friends on both sides of the fence here, I’m certainly glad to be an outsider, to claim some level of ignorance, to be allowed a neutral standpoint on these tough issues.  Yet, living in Budapest as “outsiders” we have felt our hearts connecting in progressively deeper ways to the present and historical experiences of our Hungarian friends. 

The truth is that most Hungarians are suffering economically, living paycheck to paycheck, unemployment is rising fast and will continue to rise over the next couple years, and homelessness will become even more prevalent.  In light of all of this, our hearts are aching.  We have a mixture of feelings.  We live in a comfortable flat in northern Budapest where the air is a little cleaner than it is 5 miles to the south.  For this we can occassionally feel guilty.  Guilty because yesterday, while riding the train into the city-center, a homeless man in his 40’s sat down beside me, unshaven, smelling of alcohol and body odor, whereas I was wearing clean clothes, carrying my cool black bag, traveling to my next English lesson.  Is this just?

I’ve been deeply impacted by the remembrance of the 1956 revolution here in Budapest.  It was fifty years ago, yet most Hungarians, young and old, have a tremendous awareness and sense of identity with those freedom fighters who fought and died trying to reclaim their country.  The few weeks of fighting in 1956 were brutal for both Hungarians and Russians, and it is clear that this sort of experience changes a person, a people, and a culture.  Human history is indeed full of atrocity, but from where I stand, the human heart is not made for atrocity or these kinds of injustice.  Within the human heart there remains a hint, or an echo of something good, something that grates against suffering and social injustice, something that cries out for the well-being of others. 

If a 50 year old crushed revolution can have such a deep and lasting impression in the Hungarian soul, what are the effects of the many other injustices occuring around the world today?  Darfur for example (Thanks Tom for the link and helping me think about this).

I’m encouraged though, that one small action can have a meaningful impact, and possibly a ripple effect through a family, a community, or even a culture.  Some of you know of “Nexus” the non-governmental organization we have been developing over the last few months.  You’ll definitely hear more about this as time goes by.  Through Nexus, and with the brain and heart power of a few Hungarian friends, we are beginning to tackle injustice in a couple tangible ways.  I’m looking forward to writing about some hopeful and developing programs at a local orphanage where there are 62 kids, 65% Gypsie, many of whom will not find work and will become homeless when they graduate and leave. 

In spite of the current sharp ideological and political divisions here in Budapest, I sense a common drive for compassion, for social justice and for the common good.  It’s nothing new of course.  I think these are basic human thirsts which call out for a present and continual “revolution” of the heart.