Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hands of Compassion Pics

Yes I schooled Shane at Chess!
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Meet Some Ordinary Radicals

One of the highlights of the trip was being able to stay with the McCauley's. Alan, Xana and the kids were great hosts. The live in a community called "Hands of Compassion." They had many stories, and were very encouraging to us. They are currently compiling their stories, so hopefully we will all be able to read them in the near future :)!

About 25 years ago, Alan and Xana went on a tour in the United States, on a quest to see what it means to live in community. They visited many different intentional communities and spent a great deal of time with "Jesus People" in Chicago. Having lived in the thick of Apartheid, they were fed up with the unjust situation they found themselves in, and decide to do something different. When they returned to South Africa, they approached the folks at their church, Rhema ( about starting an intentional community that would include both white and black folk. Though it was illegal, and highly dangerous, the church was supportive and community was birthed. They moved into a house in the countryside with a "mixed" group of people. I wish I could remember all of their stories and had the time to write them here. Today the community is made up of over 100 people! It is truly amazing what they have become. They have folks living with them that are in recovery. We found a pleasant similarity between their approach and our friends approach at New Jerusalem here in Philly ( They also have several homes that have new mothers and their babies, as well as a place for children, many of them orphaned. They also run a health clinic that also services the neighborhood as well. For 10 months of the year they run a program very similar to Mission Year ( called SWAP (Serve With A Purpose). I had a great time talking with them and comparing their experience with the ones folks have doing MY. Oh, I almost forgot that they have a HUGE chess set outside as well.

Hands of Compassion was a beautiful expression of community. What was even more exciting was that they have been going at it for over 20 years! Hands of Compassion did not become what it is today, overnight. They had to take risks, they had to suffer. At the same time they laughed and were filled with joy. What they have become today is a direct result of their doing small things with great love! They did not have a grand vision, then, of what things would look like today. They simply loved God and their neighbor. It is in doing small things with great love that we are compelled to take a step back once in a while and realize some pretty amazing things are going on!
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A New Tribe

In a matter of two weeks we saw the "not-so-great- wall of Berlin," the Holocaust museum, the Apartheid museum, and three different Genocide memorials. Talk about a heavy trip. Though each of these events occurred in three separate countries, I was struck by the similarities among these human tragedies. Celestin, our friend and guide in Rwanda said that one of the underlying causes to the genocide (and I would argue to the Holocaust and Apartheid) was "tribalism." Celestin says that God has given humanity many tribes (cultures). Differing cultures are good and should be celebrated. The problem occurs when a certain tribe begins to exclude others (tribalism). The exclusion takes on many faces and occurs at many different levels. In Germany, tribalism led to some walls. The Berlin wall (shown to the right) stretched right through the middle of the city and was erected to separate people. The Holocaust was the result of faulty thinking that one's "race" was superior to another's. As a result the one group thought it necessary to eliminate the other. The second picture on the right is the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe." About 6 million Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust. More recently they are creating memorial sites for folks who were homosexual and those who were handicapped.

The third picture is from a Genocide site in Rwanda. In this church building, 10, 000 folks huddled together to escape the demonic killings. They all died. These are the clothes they were wearing, scattered throughout the building. A reminder that tribalism is a false ideology that ultimately leads to death.

Finally the last picture was taken at the Apartheid museum and represents the numerous political deaths that occurred during these unsettling years. Throughout this blog we will go into further details of each of these events.

Celestine says that tribalism leads to divisions, and eventually death. In Africa, there is a word that is commonly understood in many of the languages... ubuntu. There really isn't a word in the English that defines the word properly. Essentially ubuntu means that "in order for you to be all that you need to be, I must be all that I need to be. And in order for me to be all that I need to be, you must be all that you need to be." All tribes are connected, we all need each other, we are all beloved sons and daughters of God.

Celestin also noted that when we begin following Jesus, we are called to a higher tribe! In this new tribe there is no room for the "lower tribe." The new tribe includes people from all tribes. Even the language we use becomes different in that there is a new "us" and "them." Desmond Tutu in his book, "No Future Without Forgiveness" writes,"None is an outsider, all are insiders, all belong. There are no aliens, all belong in the one family, God's family, the human family. There is no longer Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free-- instead of separation and division, all distinctions make for a rich diversity to be celebrated for the sake of the unity that underlies them. We are different so that we can know our need of one another, for no one is ultimately self-sufficient" (p.265).

I can't help to notice the tribalism in my own country. The way I hear conservatives talk about liberals, and liberals about conservatives. It is frustrating to see the way many people in the church divide themselves superficially through denominationalism and "bad theology." As followers of Jesus, we must be "the Church." We must realize the calling to this higher tribe and seek unity and a better world.
- chris lahr
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This Sure wasn't a Honeymoon!

Shane Claiborne and Chris Lahr just got back from a whirlwind trip to Germany, South Africa and Rwanda. During the two week journey they had eleven flights, four of them were overnighters. Each day was jammed packed with incredible visits, and often overwhelming information.

The following is a journal of our journey. This blog will be dedicated to the many lessons we learned during these two cram-packed weeks.

For starters, actually as a test to see if I can figure out how to blog, I thought I would post two pics. One was the name of our room at a hostile our first (and only) night in Berlin, Germany. We were stoked when they told us we could have a room with just the two of us (rather than a room of 12 people). I can't say we were as thrilled to find out we were staying in the honeymoon sweet. The good news was that we at least had our own beds!

The Second pic is really the only pic that we had of the two of us. This was taken at the Hotel Des Mille Collines, which has become known as hotel Rwanda. If you have not had the chance to see the movie we highly recommend it. Well there it is. If this post works, you can expect many more photos and stories to come. Peace to you all.
--chris lahr
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