Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Blessed are the poor in spirit

I am blogging from a small village in interior Alaska. This is day 5 and we have had such an amazing time in this place. Our team of 8 arrived here on Saturday and have been so deeply touched by this place.
I know that I was created to love these people.
Our main residence here is the rec center. We sleep on pool tables, cots and the floor. We cook with crock pots, electric skillets and do our dishes in the bathroom sink.
I've never felt more at home.
This will be short, but I want to tell you a story about a family we've fallen in love with here.
The mother is Yupik, the father Athabascan. They have 4 kids still living in the village, 3 boys and the darling "baby" girl. The family has been somewhat ostracized (there's intense racism here)--the kids have been called "whalebones" and mistreated at school. So the family has learned to stick together and they are definitely more closely knit that other families here. Mostly, the kids just run wild and do whatever they want (the parents are either gambling or drinking). But these guys are different.
They attend the catholic church here, since this is a catholic village. But the mother told me that they have never invited God to come so it really doesn't mean much to go. The kids are the best behaved of all who are attending our day camp--even DJ,the 15 year old, cheerfully makes his craft with his younger siblings.
While I was serving snack yesterday, a young kid came up and tried to grab a second bag of popcorn, telling me he'd earned the right by picking up trash.
"Are you lying to me?" I asked, looking him in the eye.
DJ startled me by somberly answering for the other boy.
"We all lie," he said in a monotone.
"What?" I replied. "DJ, I know you wouldn't lie to me."
"I lie. We all lie. We all cheat and steal and take drugs and get drunk. There's no other way in this village. There's no hope."
This normally cheerful boy's countenance had changed. I felt like I wasn't even talking with DJ anymore.
"There's always hope," I told him. "That's why we came."
DJ just shook his head and left the rec hall. I didn't see him the rest of the day.
In a conversation with another team member today, DJ explained why he'd told me those things.
"I didn't mean them," he admitted, "but I was angry with these people."
"Who were you mad at? Us?" Kim gently probed.
"No, the people in the village," he said. "And I don't do drugs."
D. looked up from the picture frame he was making for his sister.
"And there's always hope," he said.