Sunday, June 29, 2014

Texas, Part 1

Texas is the biggest state of the union (if you consider only the lower 48); it’s so hot in Texas, why would
you go in the summer?  Texans drawl and wear cowboy hats and boots.  Well, there’s a handful of generalizations and facts!  Texas is big and I am visiting airports – Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas.  I don’t have much time to visit cities and places, but am meeting many friendly, dedicated supporters of my work and the many other projects in the Central African Republic.  Temperatures have been moderate (cool for the summer) although humidity has been high – but it doesn’t matter much since we spend much of the time in (often way too cold) air conditioning.  I rarely hear a “drawl” and have seen only a few cowboy hats and boots.  I have seen MANY pick-up trucks.

I am enjoying my time.  Starting on a personal note, I have been walking – around the Heights in Houston (beginning of walking esplanades pictured), Texas Lutheran University (TLU) in Sequin, and into/around the town of Sequin.  I have to revise my image of a city.  So much of what we hold in mind is unconscious and shaped by our experiences.  Most cities I know are in the East where space is more limited and ground less flat.  A city for me has tall buildings, streets with one line in each direction plus parking or one way streets with one lane (and maybe parking).  As I found in North Dakota, cities here are spread out, buildings are a couple of stories tall, and streets are wide.  It feels less crowded and “un-city-like” to me.  I am revising my views!  (Isn’t that part of what travel is for???)  And, I had believed that cities don’t have cacti! 

I have been welcomed by various Lutheran communities.  (Here’s a picture of TLU’s statue of Martin Luther, the man who has inspired our view of salvation by grace through faith with the Bible as a yardstick.)

First, I was in Houston at Christ the King (addressing a group of adults) and Faith Lutheran (addressing the Bible camp, pre-school students at the Day School, and adults in the evening.  Then, in Sequin (at TX Lutheran University), I attended the Disciple Project, intergenerational leadership training designed and implemented in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod.   In all three places I have presented information about my work and the situation in the CAR and had great conversations with many people.  At the Disciple Project I also learned about LEAD, Living Everyday as Disciples, a year-old program that focus our life and work on Listening Up (to God), Listening In (to ourselves and our church groups) and Listening Out (to communities) as we strive to follow Christ’s example in our lives.  I attending sessions called “Following to Lead.”  About 15 of us learned about Sequin as we learned to listen to others (asking open questions to better get to interviewees to share information from their perspective).  We all designed the beginnings of a project that we will take back
to our community with the intent of listening and then serving some segment of our community. I also got to speak to the children and learned to use Wordle (see photo).
Each day the Bible study included JR telling the gospel story/text.  He is a member of the same organization of Biblical Storytellers whose training I attended in Anglophone Cameroon last year.  Small world!

I also learned some unexpected things (besides revising my view of cities!)  I heard and saw many mockingbirds.  They are the state bird of Texas (and Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, and Mississippi) and are very pretty with the white stripes on their wings and bodies.  They mimic the cries of other birds and are featured in songs and books.  Wikipedia says, “It also features in the title and central metaphor of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. In that novel, mockingbirds are portrayed as innocent and generous, and two of the major characters, Atticus Finch and Miss Maudie, say it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because "they don't do one thing for us but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us".

These birds are protective of their nests which I saw in the form of them chasing squirrels even though they didn’t seem to be close to a tree (and therefore a nest)!  I couldn’t get a picture of these chases, but photographed as squirrel and found a picture of a flying mockingbird online…

I am writing this as I sit in the Dallas airport on my way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana via New Orleans.  (Yes, Dallas is the wrong way to get from San Antonia to New Orleans, but that’s the way flights work sometimes.)  I will get this ready and send it from LA. 

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