Thursday, June 23, 2005

I Drove All Night To Get To You

It was a long and winding road. After rushed goodbyes, I sped out of the Eastern Mennonite University campus at 3:30pm Tuesday the 21st, about fifteen minutes after my last class ended.

... out of the Shenandoah Valley, into the Virginia Appalachians.

A little deer action somewhere in W. Virginia.

Six hours down, six to go. A quick sunset shot at 75mph.

Hey, get the camera out of my face! I'm driving!

Honey, I'm home!


It was like nothing else I have ever experienced. It was a gathering of practical idealists, men and women who every day make tangible the loftiest dreams we hold. Some work in the most horrific places on the planet, where injustice and oppression is merely background noise for worst humans can do to each other. Others work in relative peace, where severe hunger and poverty are the violence makers. There is no question about why it needs to be done, or timing, or whether it makes a difference. It is simply a given that the work must be done. They bring sanity and compassion to a world that has lost its mind and heart.

Below are just a few shots of the greatest heroes I have ever met.

Augustine from Pakistan, with Manohar from Nepal. Manohar (on the right) liked to buy things. Augustine, a community development worker, fed his family on $140.00 a month. Augustine's family cannot afford a chicken to eat but once a month, yet he works tirelessly to make his region more stable. He was here on a scholarship, and wanted to go with me whenever I took others to buy things. He could not afford to buy himself, but he liked the company just the same. So did I.

Jana from Lebanon. Gave the best hugs. A playful, dedicated peacebuilder.

Bill Goldberg on the left, an EMU staffer, Sarah from South Africa via Sierra Leone (working with victims of torture), and Jack from Jordan. Jack may have been everybody's favorite.

Laith, a Muslim from Bagdad, holds Bill Goldberg's son. Laith has been shot, stabbed, and recently in a restaurant that was bombed. Spent three months in the hospital. A professor in a Iraq university. One of my closest friends there, and a man of remarkable courage and resilence.

Gary up front, an American who worked in Bosnia, to his left Mahnaz from Pakistan doing women's right work in Afganistan; Amany, an Egyptian doctor working at the American hospital in Tanta, Egypt; Stan, a therapist who's been all over; Angela, an American who's worked extensively in Liberia and is jealous of me for going there; and Linda and Michele, two Irish ladies who have lost men to the troubles in Belfast. I could write stories about each.

Laith and Kristen. Kristen is from Australia and now works in Colombia. Her smile, which is utterly disarming, leaves one completely unprepared for her indomitable spirit and ferocious tenancity. You want her on your side.

Limakatso (pronounced with a "D" sound, not an "L") from Lesotho. Her peace work has cost her her only son, murdered in the late seventies. A straight talker who cut through the bull every time. I became very fond of her, and I think it is mutual.

Dinis (pronounced Deh-NISH) from Mozambique. A suitemate and a warrior for peace in a war torn land. His organization built the 25' tall "Tree of Life" below out of hundreds of AK-47s and other small arms. Its in a London Museum.

The Tree of Life, Mozambique

Eilda from Palestine. She gave me another view on the Israeli occupation that opened my eyes and has me thinking. A gentle soul with deep passion and a witness to war, trauma, injustice and courage.

Youqim, a Syrian Orthodox monk. We joked every day about who was more humble. I never saw his hair. Seemed like a waste to a bald guy.

Aung from Myanmar at the piano. One of my suitemates, a gentle, wise and joyful man. We became quite close. He taught me how to eat rice with my fingers. The secret is in the thumb. By the way, this is a completely fake shot. He couldn't play a note.

Sami from Northern Iraq, in a classic pose with his ever-present Iraqi cigarette. A kind and good man. We hit it off immediately.

Bob from the US, Sami from Iraq, Youqim from Syria, Aung from Myanmar (He preferred Burma), and Manahar from Nepal. Peacebuilders all. At times I felt unworthy to be in the same classes with them, but they always made me feel good about being there.