Friday, October 29, 2010

My Letter to FMCSF

Dear Friends from First Mennonite Church of San Francisco,

I don’t know if any of you read this stupid blog, but if you do I want to let you know that I often find myself thinking about you. And while the fact that church services here last for four hours, in two languages I don’t understand, in 110-degree weather may explain part of it; mostly, I think of you because of the blessing you are. Literally, since I’ve been in Mozambique not a week has gone by where I haven't received a letter of encouragement from one of you. I wanted to take some time to return in small part what you have given me – to encourage you, because I know that there are difficult times ahead. Times which will be important for the future of our strange little church held in a Jewish synagogue in the Mission.

There are many things about Mozambique that remind me of you. Sometimes I will be traveling on a highway through the desert and pass a lonely man dancing on the roadside. I think that sometimes you are that man. Or maybe since you are Mennonites, you are rather that lonely man singing. Recently as in many times in the past, it seems you are alone again because of your commitment to certain beliefs about types of love permissible in the house of God. And it is difficult. It is difficult to be the face of a cause you believe is right. And it is difficult to be the prophets of a new creation. But I've seen you singing in the desert and it haunts me still.

Do you remember that Sunday this past year when Russ gave his testimonial? After he spoke, I had the chance to ask him what was his vision of the perfect church community. He answered, “it’s this one.” Recently, I've come to agree with him on this completely. Though to be honest, it took me a while to realize it. I struggled with your theology, because it is perhaps as diverse as the people who attend. I found that you, much like myself, are still undergoing a process of figuring out who you are and what you want to be. And there are difficult and painful conversations left to be had. Because It always hurts to grow. It took me a long time to glimpse the true center of your theology. Which I now believe to be the inclusion of all people into the body of Christ.

I don't often write letters to churches; And I know this is a poor epistle because I am an even poorer Paul. Instead, I feel like Balaam finding myself unable to do anything but bless what God has already blessed. And yes, I believe God has already blessed you – how could He have not? You have someone in Mozambique praying for you. Never stop singing.

Your brother,
Stephen Esaki

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Life (Now with 50% Less Fun!)

Back when I was packing, I made it a point to bring along two things with me. One was a hackey sack and two was a guitar tuner. My old buddy Jessica made me the hackey sack six years ago for christmas. And I stole the guitar tuner from my brother Ryan about the same time. The tuner has been by my side ever since. I've been keeping both in the top drawer of my dresser. I was sure that I'd use them both plenty this year because I have a guitar, a tin ear, and a lot of free time.

I've been getting rats in my room recently. I hear them at night clawing and eating stuff. I didn't really think much of it, since my host fam seems to be pretty cool about seeing one run across the living room floor once in a while. Anyway, I heard them in my dresser last night. Being innately suspicious of rats, I checked my drawer last night. They tore up my hackey sack to eat the dried corn kernels used as the stuffing. And while they were feasting away, (I guess)they kicked the on-switch to my guitar tuner, killing the 9-volt battery which they don't sell here. In one night my life just got a whole lot less fun. Annoying!

Your brother,

P.S. In other (arguably more important) news, Jon's motorcycle was stolen the other night from in front of his house. Perhaps I should've written about that instead...

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Lie

To the average Mozambican, the country we call home is heaven. For many of the people I have met, if given a single wish, they would use it on getting to the United States. And borrowing the language of MLK, they tell me that they too 'have a dream' to one day visit the States. Usually I smile and say that one day they will get there, though probably I'm lying. It's hard for me to hear them talk about my home because sometimes they are wrong about America, but it isn't any easier to hear when they are right.

During my first week in the country I was walking through downtown Maputo when I heard a public demonstration coming down the street in my direction. People were shouting and waving the American flag. Not speaking the language, I assumed it was anti-American propaganda. Instead I found out that they stage this march every Wednesday to celebrate America and to ask American leaders for help. Well, I guess it isn't so much American leaders they are asking, as it is specifically Obama who in their mind is essentially African. And therefore who in their mind is the solution to poverty in Africa, an impossible role for any one person.

The other week, my Mozambican boss asked Jon and I why all Americans are skinny. We spent the whole car ride convincing him that it wasn't true. Telling him about the social-economics of nutrition and obesity in America. Really though, we need only look in the mirror to find out how he drew his conclusion. We are both skinny as rails. Indeed, we are part of the lie.

When my Mozambican friends talk about money in America they often painfully correct and painfully wrong. They still call it the land of opportunity. It is where you can earn your own money and find work that pays fairly. And I agree with them, but then I stop to think of how we treat immigrants in our country. I think about Arizona's SB 1070. And I remember living in San Diego and driving by groups of bored, rich conservatives protesting outside the Home Depot where Mexican day laborers awaited work. And how the rest of us normally treat non-english speakers. America is a land of opportunity it is true, but I can't honestly tell you that it's a land of opportunity for you.

Of course I never say most of what I want to say. I end up saying America has problems of its own. But mostly, I lie. I lie more often than I ever cared to in my life, because I don't know if it's too mean to do otherwise. When I try to speak truth, I say that God is in Mozambique, too.

Your brother,