BE FREE

Late night thoughts on the LGBTQ+ Community:

My heart goes out to you all who have so bravely stood up to this oppressive society. I hope you find refuge in your friends and family when the system fails you day in and day out.

How can you be free in a world full of oppression? How can we create a world of equality? Can we create that world? Is that a possibility? When can I live in a world where my friends and family members can openly love each other? When will I be able to proudly and I mean completely proudly – not having to worry about others judgments, or about what it will change in their minds when I tell others that my aunt is a lesbian.

Why can’t my friends walk around and be truly who they are because they are ‘different’ according to society. What does different even mean? Who created this concept of different? Why did we decide to exclude and include? Why do we create these social categories that ‘define’ who we are? Why are we not just paying attention to things that do us good and does good for others? Why is it that this corrupt world has taught us that good for us means oppressing others? Why have our families socially constructed us to believe everything they say? Why are we taught in such a standardized way? Why aren’t we taught to think for ourselves?

I bet if we were taught to think by our selves then we wouldn’t have such a massive oppressive issue in our world today. We wouldn’t be dealing with all the -ism’s. I am over feeling like my friends and family can not be who they truly are because of dumb ass people that think they are in some way superior.

Dear everyone,

Just live your life as best you can, but don’t oppress others while you are doing it.

 

 

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Missionary Kid?

Several missionary kids struggle to understand that they are vital to their families mission. Several parents don’t understand that their kids are apart of the mission. My parents knew that my sister – Trinity and I were very much included in the mission field right along side with my parents.

Moving at the age of eleven to different continent was horrifying. By the age of eleven I had made “sturdy friends”, I had a solid church group, I remember feeling really popular at the church and in my element. I had my best friend Sarah who I had known most of my life up to that point. I had a solid church family, in my mind I was planted in Smithville Missouri for the rest of my life. I was living day to day playing games, going to school, watching tv, eating and helping my mom babysit. Then it happened, I had my weekly breakfast date with my dad. It was just like any other date we had. We drove the motorcycle to the McDonalds on the corner of Hills of Shannon (my neighborhood), parked, I got a sausage egg mcmuffen. My dad got his two sausage egg mcmuffens and as we were half way though our meal my dad said “Ashley I have something to tell you, and I need you to be a big girl when I tell you this”

Wait hold up. What does that even mean? Be a big girl? I knew it was serious, but what is serious in an eleven year old’s life? Ill tell you, serious means we can’t have your birthday party on the day of your birthday, your sister fell down and cut up her knees, or thanksgiving dinner will be at your cousins house and not ours.

But no, my dad continued to say “We are moving to Ecuador.”

My dad had brought up Ecuador several times though out my life. Honestly I don’t remember what I thought, but I knew Ecuador was a plane flight away, where people spoke in a foreign language that I couldn’t understand. I had visited on a missions trip (little did I know that I would be moving there). Anyways I cried there in McDonalds on the date with my dad, I cried my eyes out. It was so difficult to know that I would be uprooting and moving to a foreign country where we didn’t know anyone.

The rest of my fifth grade year was a blur, the next thing i remember I was on an airplane, saying goodbye to my crying grandparents (whom I used to see every week). Then we flew to California for a day to say goodbye to my other grandparents. It was two days of traveling and saying goodbye to our family.

Cultural Chameleon

Being an MK has had several challenges, moving to the states was where the first challenge arrived. I was a foreigner but everything about my appearance said that I was one of them. Living life as though you fit in is something that I have never had the pleasure of understanding. When I lived in Ecuador I was a gringa, a foreigner and everyone knew it. I hated not fitting in so I changed almost everything I could to de-Americanize myself and Ecuadorianize myself. There was nothing from the American culture that I wanted to have within me. I quit speaking in English – as much as I could. I tanned, I wore what they wore, I bought what they bought, I became a cultural chameleon.

Moving back to the states was tough, as I said before I was a foreigner to my own culture – because I adapted to the Ecuadorian culture. Everything about me screamed american to other americans, most people don’t even see the Mexican in me. My appearance screams GRINGA. It was kinda fun at the beginning to throw everyone off and say that I was from Ecuador, because truthfully I feel significantly more Ecuadorian than I do American. This threw people off, because “You speak so well” – Yes, I speak English fluently. The typical APU freshman I met didn’t understand that although I am American I grew up Ecuadorian. This concept is new and foreign to me just as much as it is to anyone else.

Trying to figure myself out is one of the toughest things, without having a secure answer to the question: Where are you from?

It seems like a basic question, especially to all those that lived in California their whole lives (and practically in the same house their whole life). They could easily say California. But when I have to answer that question my heart says Ecuador is where I am from, but my passport says California.

Well seeing as that was last years sum up let me just tell you how it has been difficult for me this semester, in South Africa.

First of all, being in a foreign country with a bunch of gringas is quite the scene, at times it can be fun, but honestly I understand the locals a lot better than I do the dynamic of being a huge group of girls traveling through a country. At home [Ecuador] I would always make fun of the loud obnoxious americans. Here I have become apart of that group. To be honest at the beginning of the trip I would stand in the back of the group being quiet because all I could think was how annoying these girls were being. Then as I am trying to fit into this new community I have been placed in I realized that over the course of my time here I have become more and more apart of that obnoxious loud group of girls.

When we go out on our different excursions everyone always asks us where we are from, and what we are doing here. That is always a fun talk, everyone says California, a few people from Washington, Arizona you know the west coast. Then its my turn and I struggle every time. I swear I never give the same answer here, ill say Ecuador or California just depending on if I want to talk about it or not. Then when they ask us what we are doing here and we tell them we are studying they ask what we are studying, everyone is either psychology or nursing. Not me! Im global studies! Huh??? Yes, I am the white american from Ecuador that is a global studies major. Can I just explain that nothing about my life lets me give an easy answer.

In a month an a half I will be back at APU, and will be changing all over again. Cheers to change, and all the confusion it brings me

An attempt for Thankfulness

An attempt for Thankfulness

Post Journey to Sankofa, I was asked to write a thank you letter to those that donated to our trip. It ended up being a bit of a rant, some real feelings on being white (and being annoyed that people don’t see me as Mexican until I speak Spanish). Anyway, here was an attempt at thanking the donors. Not edited. Not even read over, but here it is.

 

Dear Donors to Journey to Sankofa,

 

Journey to Sankofa was a life changing experience for me. When I first heard about this trip, I knew it would be extraordinary. I had never heard of a trip like it before. I was so proud of Azusa Pacific University for creating a program that would focus on inequality. Going on this trip as a learner was quite uncomfortable for me. I felt my white privilege was showing at all times, I felt that I did not belong on the trip because I was not a person of color. Despite these feelings, I knew I had to be on the trip, I knew that being uncomfortable was going to be where I learned the most. Being a Global Studies major I had learned the basics of racial issues in the United States, but being able to be immersed in the black culture while on this trip gave me a whole new perspective on my white privilege.

Being a white woman on this trip, I was reflecting on how this trip would not be of interest to several caucasian students on APU’s campus because it would make them uncomfortable, or they think they already know about racial issues because they have a black friend, or they simply do not want to get into the stickiness of racial issues. The truth is, privilege blinds us. Privilege makes it so that we do not need to think about other’s issues because they do not directly affect us. Some caucasians may think that it is not their place to interfere with racial issues because they do not want to take the thunder of the black students. This is flawed thinking, all races need to be working towards racial reconciliation – and if you are not immediately being affected by racism, then you need to go into these conversations as a learner. You need to take directions from someone that is directly affected by it. There is no reason for someone to turn a blind eye to racial issues. There is no reason for someone to further use their privilege to oppress others by putting racial reconciliation in a white name. (edit that)

People of all races need to be aware of other’s history, of their immigration, of their social status. While on an individual level one might not be racist or unjust. But on a systematic level you fall into categories that systematically oppress others. Also, if you fall into an oppressed category, and a privileged category – don’t let that privileged category get to you (don’t use that privilege to oppress others like you have been oppressed). Use that privilege to bring equality to those that are oppressed. Make sure that you are using your power / privilege to create an environment of freedom. An environment where people are able to be their full selves. No matter what categories they fall into.

So anyway, thank you donors for being apart of an institution that is finally working towards creating a space that people can be themselves. Their oppressed and privileged selves. I hope that something comes out of this trip. I hope that people feel called to feel uncomfortable and face the institutionalized racism inside them. I hope that people will start having the uncomfortable conversations. I hope that people will stop being judgmental, and hateful. I hope that people will step out of their privilege and that they will do something about these atrocities. I hope all these things for myself most of all. Also, I hope that one day I will be able to believe in the institution that I fell in love with over four years ago. I only have on more year at this institution to make a difference, and I am hopeful that Social Justice will be the #1 topic on cougar walk before I leave.

 

If you read this – thanks for getting through all my non-drafted thoughts. Also, I appreciate when people tell me what they think after reading, so dm me.

Bungee Jumping!

Today, I woke up with the expectation to go bungee jumping from the highest bungee jumping place in the world! I woke up and was so stoked that I was not nervous about it, I was super confident in the jump and to be honest I had just not thought about it too much because processing means feelings and feelings are something that I want to avoid at all cost especially if I feel like I am going to be scared. I didn’t want anything like fear get to my head and prevent me from having an amazing bungee experience!

We got into the big bus that we have now successfully accommodated to be our temporary beds through out the day. Several naps have been taken on this bus, thus this weird since of comfort comes from sitting in my claimed area on the bus. We had a two hour journey to the bungee site. All of us have been deeply intrigued in our books this entire trip and that had continued on in our two hour adventure to our amazing bungee experience! Some of us fell asleep on the ride and just as I started to wake up I heard Kate on the overhead speaker say “this is the highest suicide cliff here to your left” she giggled and put the mic down. As we were crossing the bridge that we would soon be jumping off of our new PA gets a call from Leizel. We pass a couple of parked cars on the side of the bungee jumping bridge – one I think could be a police car – what…. the over head speaker comes on again. Its the new PA this time talking, she has said that Leizel called her and that there was a suicide jumper at 6:00am.

Everyone was silent, desperately awaiting some more information, our new PA in my mind is already not that likable but the way that she went about this situation really stressed me out. She started talking about how its okay, we are at the site, and if we want we “Can go buy a shirt and say that we were here if you want!” Oh. My. Gosh. This girl better shut her mouth. Seriously, lets think before we talk. In her defense, no one knows how to handle tragic situations like this. I believe that our PA’s tried to stay positive for us and they were trying so hard they seemed that they were actually happy about the fact that this mad committed suicide and no one was able to stop him.

Wait, first of all how can a man come to be in such a position that they believe there is nothing more in life for them but to jump off the highest bridge on this planet? How can You God let this man be in just a rut that he believed he was all alone in this world and had no reasons to live? Where is your hand in this situation? Did you predestine this man to murder himself? What is your plan for this situation? Why was it this timing? Why today, at 6:00am, the only day that APU Fall 2015 Cape Town can go bungee jumping? Why? Why. Why!

Some felt guilty for wanting to still bungee even though this man had just committed suicide. Some felt guilty for not really feeling much about the entire situation. God I’m mad that you could have predestined this man to do this. I am mad that you allowed him to have the free will to commit murder against himself. I am angry that your hand does not seem to be over this situation. Where are you? Would you be there for the people I know if they were at the verge of suicide? Would you stop them? Would you some how divinely intervene to terminate the situation?

So many emotions have now entered my mind and have overcome my entire being, we finally get out of the car at the site and we all head strait to the toilet – as they call it here in South Africa.

Silence.

No one is talking, everyone is processing, some are tearing up, some are simply waiting in line for the toilet. Some people make a few bathroom remarks to lighten the mood like there is pee all over, it kinda smells, all of those general things. I get out of my stall, wash my hands and head over to where you can see the bridge with the intentions of praying over the bridge and going back to the bus. When we get there all of the emotions and questions have started to hit me more and more. Kalyn says we should pray, and asked me to pray, and I couldn’t. God I had no words, I am furious. There is no reason that You couldn’t have stopped it. Why didn’t you stop it? What was the purpose of that? I physically could not pray out loud.

Brooke kindly took over and literally took the words out of my mouth. Lord You had Your hand over this situation, I do not know why, but I am glad that I was able to experience Your will in a way that was so unexpected even unwanted. God you have been doing some unexpected things in my life. There have been several things that I have been struggling with such as predestination and free will. You know this. It has lately been consuming me, everything that I see is predestination. Everywhere I look someone is using their free will in a good or bad way. Im trying to think of the moral of the story, and I can’t. But God, you can work through all situations, tough and not. If there is anything I have learned lately is that you pick broken people to do your work, and we are all broken.

What’s Next?

My time here in South Africa has been an amazing experience. There have been some pretty incredible days full of uncontrollable laughter that literally consumes your entire air supply. Times where we have run around like children screaming, jumping, shouting, running from play place to play place. There have been days where we will go out to dinner and simply enjoy each other’s company. All of my experiences here have been one and only experiences that no one else will experience. My experiences here in South Africa have been amazing (not to sound cliche) but they have been life changing.

John Wallace (the director of APU) came to Cape Town the other day and spoke at our chapel and said that we should really be thinking about what our five minute answers to the “How was Africa?” question should be. He said that we should really think about how important those five minutes are, both for me and for the person asking. My answer to this question will probably be “How was your semester?” – Sorry don’t get angry, but you can not possibly think that I can summarize the last 100 days of my life to you. So I’m going to make you summarize them too. Okay now that my sassiness is out of the way. John Wallace also told us to think about what Questions God has placed on my heart. There were several questions that came to mind but the two that really stuck to me is: Why am I here? and What’s Next?

What does God have planned out next for me? I have had these amazing experiences with all of these people, the 20 girls I have spent every second with and with the wonderful Ocean View community (my service site). There have been so many different times where I have questioned God, specifically with His plan for me here in South Africa. There have been times where I can say I have been at a total loss with the answer to that question. I have concluded that it is simply an experience that God wants me to have – wants everyone to have. An experience where one is completely out of their comfort zone. There was no doubt in my mind that God wants me to experience something here. One of my newly made friends here has told me several times that there are times where you don’t know why you did something until afterwards.

This is a new concept being placed on my heart. Not knowing why until the moment has passed. There are several occasions where I have no idea why something is occurring in my life. Story time! I remember as a child I went out to go and help my dad get something out of the garage. He had just gotten back from work and had several things on his motorcycle that he needed help with. I went out on a mission to get the coffee mug off of the motorcycle. When I realized that my dad had not gotten his backpack off of the motorcycle yet. I distinctly remember my dad’s words saying “Ashley do not get my backpack I will get it when I come back, just bring my coffee mug inside”. But I was a strong independent woman at the age of nine, and I was defiantly strong enough to get my daddy’s coffee mug and his backpack. BIG MISTAKE.

The way my dad’s backpack was placed I had to put my arms through the straps and then pull forward – I am not sure what my dad was carrying in his backpack that day, but I can assure you it felt like a small elephant and some of his friends. I had my arms through the straps and then it happened. I leaned back. The backpack filled with the elephant and his friends had brought me back into the sizzling pipe and the rest of the story I do not remember, other than my dad running into the garage to come rescue me, rushing to the bathroom and running freezing water over my legs, calling the nurse from across the road to come and tell my parents what to do next. At that moment I had no idea why I had to go through this experience. Fun fact my calfs are still scared to this day – a constant reminder to obey.

In the moment I had no idea why I needed to experience the sizzling motorcycle pipes burning through my calfs. But I can tell you one thing, when it came to my dad’s advice – I started listening a little bit more. My dad now uses this story as a, “obey your father and mother” and an “obey your Father in Heaven” sermon and then I get people starting at my calfs for the next few days – but that is besides the point. The point is, we don’t know why we have to go through the things we go through until afterwards. My struggle to understand why I am here, studying in South Africa this semester taught me so much. I have learned a lot of me and who I am in Christ, who I am as a daughter, friend, family member and an individual. Although I still question why I am here I know that later on God will show me why I went through the things I have gone through here.

Sometimes we have to go through complete and utter confusion during the moments of our experiences but I now rest in the fact that afterwards God will bring light to the past experience and even brings something new up and shows me why I got to experience getting layers of skin sizzles off of my calfs, and studying abroad in South Africa. Bringing all of this back, to my second question – What’s next? I have no clue! I do know that God will use this experience to mold who I am and who He wants me to be. I take pride in not knowing what is next, because that gives God more room to work. I pray that God would speak to you about past experiences you have had – good or bad. That He would speak light into those experiences and that He would show you His path and let those experiences be a light to others. God uses your experiences to bring others to Him.

Soteria

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“I’d like to pray for the child’s family that was shot the other day – he died this morning”

“I’d like to lift up my friend, he is going through stage four cancer – could you possibly head over and visit him?”

“I would like prayer for my kidneys, I know I have a problem, but don’t have the money to go and visit the doctor – I also don’t have time with the amount of time I am spending at school”

“Could we pray for Johan who is going to speak in Fish Hoek about trying to solve the gang problems”

“There are several community riots, that are directly related to the deaths of the two innocent people that were killed last week”

“Oh ladies is there anything else you would like us to pray for?”

Umm. No! My head is spinning with all the pain that has now surrounded me. All of my issues seem so miniature compared to yours.

There have been several deaths that we have heard about in just the past week. We have learned about countless cases of abuse – physically, mentally, sexually and emotionally. There are several people dealing with the past pain of being raped. The high school girls are struggling to figure out if their boy freinds forcing them to have sex with them is normal. These girls are later asking how to get abortions, if sex is suppose to hurt, if these weird bumps are normal.

My head is still spinning – then we are put into our first classroom with the preschoolers. Note I still can’t get over the fact that all of this pain is surrounding this community – much less surrounding the children. Jo and I start our first “exercise class”. We start with having the kids stand up and sit down without putting their hands on the ground,

“KIDS STOP IT”, BE QUIET!, MOVE OVER THERE!, DON’T BE SO LOUD!”

umm, okay lets continue… With arm stretches! Now lets wave our arms in circles! “Big circles, little circles, medium circles” Gosh my arms are starting to hurt at this point

“STOP HITTING EACHOTHER!, IF YOU KEEP BEING NAUGHTY I WILL SEND EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU INTO THE PRINCIPLES OFFICE”

“Okay next guys lets do the crab walk! Then we all start walking around on our hands and feet with our bellies to the air and we all start laughing, it is fun. Jo just watches how silly we are all being. But its not the normal fun – its almost forced fun. 

We played some other games with the kids, but they were not very entertained, most of the day consisted of Jo and I trying to be fun and make exercise enjoyable but then other teachers would come in and tell us that the kids are walking all over us. That they are taking advantage of us, that we have to tell the kids to stop.

I don’t know when its okay for me to step in. I don’t know the boundaries, I don’t know how the kids normally act. This is all new, how I saw them today is my reality, if we need to treat them differently then tell me how they are suppose to act.

Recess time: Kids seriously gone wild. First, just take your self back to when you were in elementary, when you would have recess time. Remember when you would wrestle around with other kids? Or take them to “prison” or play tag. These little six years were throwing punches that I have never seen before. They were cursing at each other, starting up unnecessary fights – and I mean real fights with real punches and kids falling to the floor in pain. Boys crying on the dirt ground while the conqueror sticks his tongue out with a smirk on his face and gives the little boy crying on the floor the middle finger.

The amount of anger flowing through these kids that is so easily rustled out of them, is quite frankly scary. These kids go from crying, whining, to throwing punches. The kids grab each other inappropriately – grabbed my booty inappropriately. Push each other off the slide – honestly I could go on and on about how it was a slightly frightening experience today, but I am just praying that God would use my team as a light. That the kids would get attached to Jesus, that the kids would have a safe place to talk, play and enjoy their schooling. Jesus just use my group and I to show your unfailing love for them.

This is Soteria – where I will be working twice a week for the next nine weeks.

Honestly feeling a little overwhelmed, but am so excited to work with these lovely teachers and wonderful little crazy children!