Monday, August 10, 2015

Taking our prayers to Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Rev. Kirsten and her family returned to Tuzla, Bosnia this past week.  They lived in Bosnia between August 2013 and August 2014 and then returned to California.  (For stories from their year abroad see: Spalding/Lough blogs from Bosnia 2013-14).

This is sort of a strange vacation—we are visiting our own lives--reconnecting with people and places, tastes and smells, and even parts of ourselves.  We moved back into our old Tuzla apartment (which has been vacant over the past year since we left) and found my lecture notes on the notepad, our Peet’s coffee in the cupboard.  I have been checking in on projects—the DITA factory (whose workers sparked the economic protests of February 2014) has reopened and this is a spectacular sign of hope, although one with many hurdles ahead.  Our academic friends continue to work on challenging government corruption, speaking out against nationalism and teaching young people the critical perspectives needed to engage in the long term changes that are needed to turn BiH around.  

I brought your wonderful donations and prayers with me and have been talking to everyone we meet about my California community.  I find myself telling stories about how we, Nativity, support one another both within the congregation and in our broader community.    People are interested in who we are.  Most people in Tuzla do not know other Protestants.   We know ourselves as the Body of Christ, God’s hands and hearts in the world, connected by our baptismal covenant.   But here, when I talk about our way of knowing God in the strength of community, the connections between people that matter, I find Bosnians nodding.  This deep connectedness, the sense of mutual support, they know and appreciate.   The Bosnians we know, whether Orthodox or Catholic, Atheist or Muslim, know about loving their neighbors.  They are working against the forces here that would divide them, and this connectedness defines them as Bosnians.

Mirsada Terzić, President of Naš Glas
Today, we gave one significant donation to Naš Glas (Our Voice) This is a mutual support organization that is led by, and supports women who are survivors of sexual violence during the Bosnian war (1992-1995).  The Tuzla group supports 58 women and advocates for the thousands who live in silence—they have support group meetings, do some occupational therapy, advocacy work and are working at a cooperative handcraft business—selling knitted and crocheted fashions.  Our donation turned the electricity and water back on in their offices today.  The city has given them space, but they have not been able to pay the utilities for the past month, so the donation came at a moment when they were truly despairing. 

A second donation to the soup kitchen.  Six chickens will feed several hundred people tomorrow and the rest of this week and they are so appreciative.  Click here to see a short TV spot on the work of Imaret--the Tuzla soup kitchen.

Imaret Tuzla feeds hundreds of people in the City and surrounding areas.

3de--The very best dishwashing detergent ever, anywhere, they tell me!
We gave an I-pad mini to an unemployed lawyer who volunteers all of his time to the DITA workers, helping them through the bankruptcy.  

And then a donation to Aktivisti Za Pujde Tuzla,  an emergency animal rescue organization working to save the thousands of stray animals in the city.   This is a picture of Dr. Jasna, the veterinarian who took care of our cat, Mali Most and who now volunteers with Aktivisti Za Pujde.  They have a facebook page (Click here to see what they post.)

It has been wonderful to see friends, and contribute again by witnessing injustice, building up hope, contributing to healing and feeding and caring for all of God's creation.  We pray today with the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, giving thanks for all that is good, and especially the people who work tirelessly for change.  We lament with all who have suffered the trauma of the war and the economic hardships that have followed for the past 20 years.  And we pray again that the people and animals of Bosnia will live into God's promise for them.

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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