4 Things That Can Get to You in Bangladesh: by, Andrew Shaughnessy

img_01261The people can get to you. The staggeringly warm hospitality, open homes, hot food, generous smiles and generous portions (“No, no. You must take more.”) In all the places I’ve been in the wide world, the Bengali people I’ve encountered (and Indians) have been some of the most generous and hospitable I’ve ever met. A few folks and I met recently at the house of an Indian couple I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a bit over the last month, soaking up their wisdom and eating their food. The spread for dinner was absolutely fantastic: lentil stew, dhal, rice with nuts and garnish, fresh vegetables, roti, chicken, fish, and ice cream for dessert. She had spent literally all day cooking for that evening, and that after a long week of visiting and helping an impoverished young woman through the delivery of her first baby. “Yes, it’s very tiring being a mother to so many people,” she said offhandedly. Would a foreigner, only in the country for a few months, be welcomed so warmly, so genuinely in the U.S. I wonder? In my own church? By my own friends and family? They set the bar high.

The Bangla language can get to you.

“Shorkari chuti” means “government holiday.” “Torkari chuti,” while easy to mix up, means “vegetable holiday.” This, as it turns out, does not make sense, but results in a lot of laughter from the Bengali staff.

The sentence structure is completely different from any kind of Western sentence structure I’ve ever seen. It worse my in English writing may make.

“Shobdo” can mean either “word” or “loud.”

Quite often I am unable to remember the Bangla word for “I forget.”

I counted 42 different words specifying the relatives we, in English, would call “Father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, niece, and nephew.” Where, in English, we might say “that’s my uncle.” In Bangla there are different words specifying your father’s sister’s husband – and then two different versions, depending on whether a Muslim or Hindu is in question.

I expressed my consternation at this arrangement, declaring that in English there are much fewer words, and it’s much less confusing.

“But then,” begins my teacher, looking genuinely concerned. “If I ask you: ‘Who is that?’ and you say ‘My uncle,’ how will I know if it is your father’s brother or your mother’s brother, or your mother’s sister’s husband?”

I open my mouth, and then shut it again.

The newspapers can get to you. Mixed in with the cricket scores and a beautiful arts page are typeface and ink reminders of just how cheap life comes here, suffering and injustice delivered to your front door for your convenience seven days a week in two languages.

The gritty stories spare no expense on vivid detail. A murder victim found by the railroad tracks, throat cut with a wire. Assistant sub-secretaries of some committee of some political party bound and beaten at a university riot.

Every week it seems I read another story about another rape that ends the same way – the perpetrator gets off with a fine, while the victim, often a young girl, is either forced out her village because of the shame or forced to marry her rapist. She is “tainted” now. “The victim was found hanging by the neck from a scarf, having committed suicide,” the stories end.

But while it’s all raw and real, it’s not just tales of carnage, corruption, and injustice. There’s also the highlights of the people feeding the poor, profiles of local artists capturing beauty in the streets and the beautiful faces of a beautiful people, rags to riches stories and poetry reviews and calls for reasonable dialogue.

That’s when the beauty can get to you. The wonder. Unexpected. Takes you by surprise.

I was at the gym lifting weights, a daily ritual that keeps me sane and sleeping well with the physical challenge and exhaustion, when outside the rain came pouring down like a sudden flood into an ash bin.

After the storm I walk back as the sun is setting, and the light is seems trapped, pressed down under the swollen honey clouds. Rays ricochet between the skyscrapers and the puddles ‘til it seems the very atmosphere is glowing. A creaking rickshaw wheel dashes the light from a puddle in front of me, and then I wait and watch as the water settles and the picture reforms: a clear, still, honey-gold reflection of the trees overhanging the road. For a few moments, before the all that glow escapes out of the gray, there’s poetry on this road, in this city – and its very elusiveness, its very transience, makes it worth the chase.


Locust Effect: by, International Justice Mission (3-minute VIDEO)

Re: Richard Sherman and How We Talk About Others: by, Grant Walsh

imagesAs a sports fan, I loved the 49ers/Seahawks game. Two teams who have become the biggest of rivals over the past few years who play with unencumbered fierceness and passion. Two teams so equally matched and competitive. Also two teams with unique and flamboyant personalities. So, full disclosure… when Richard Sherman got on TV after the game and went on a little tirade, it actually made me laugh. I thought it was funny. It just didn’t bother me all that much. Apparently, many disagreed and took their opinions to social media. I wasn’t too surprised by this, but what people said about Sherman did surprise me a little.

I witnessed people I respect and many sports fans resort to character slurs and condemnations. I heard personal attacks on Sherman. I was a bit taken back.

But I paused and thought: maybe it’s just me. Maybe I am the crazy one for not attacking Sherman for his display. I let what I saw and heard simmer for a while before engaging the issue. I wanted to see where people’s heads were at first. After all, I have a pretty checkered history of liking sports’ “bad” boys myself and acknowledge I might be biased. And I am also a 20-year sports fan and have seen SO much undesirable behavior and words from athletes that I was thinking maybe I have simply built up a tolerance to it all. I mean my favorite sports player in the 90’s (along with millions of other Americans), Michael Jordan, is considered the worst trash talker in the history of the NBA by his peers. From reports from people who played against him, he literally talked trash all the time. All. The. Time.  But trash talking didn’t start or end with MJ – we all know that Bo Jackson knows everything from baseball to football and everything in between. Usain Bolt is fast and is proud of it. Reggie Miller knows when you are choking and makes sure you know it too. Jim McMahon is wonderful, just ask him. Muhammad Ali didn’t think too highly of his opponents  – to name a few high-profile examples. I have seen self-glorifying sports ads on TV countless times and have watched taunting take all forms possible on and off the field. So what was different this time to invoke so many responses? That is what I am trying to figure out. Here was my thought process….

During the Panthers/49ers game, Anquan Boldin couldn’t stop talking trash and glorifying his play. He did this continually throughout the game, barking and yelping after every big catch – so much so that it led commentator Troy Aikman to specifically point it out on air. Aikman went on to acknowledge, on national TV in front of everyone, that every 49ers game he did this season included Boldin acting this way and that something needs to change. Yet I did not see even ONE person blast Anquan Boldin’s character on social media. Not one.

Likewise, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (who is also a devout and authentic follower of Jesus), is known for his own form of self-glorification when he kisses his bicep after every TD run. But he took it one step further in the same 49ers/Panthers game. After scoring a huge TV, Kaepernick decided to perform Cam Newton’s (the opposing QB’s) TD celebration (the Superman) before proceeding to do his normal TD celebration of the bicep kiss (clearly showing up and taunting the opposing QB).  Guess how many people took Kaepernick to task on social media? You guessed it. Zero.

In fact, San Francisco led the league in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in 2013. So there is that.

Some might contend, as I overheard, that what Sherman did and does do is much different than everyone else. But is it really? Is there really much difference between a guy who makes a Super Bowl saving play who then gets on the mic and says “he is the best” and a guy who uses his opponents TD celebration and  then kisses his biceps after a TD? Or a guy who needs to dance, scream, and shout at opposing players every time he gets a first down? Or a coach who hates another coach so much he wont shake his hand after a game?  I personally don’t think so.

But let’s continue to be clear here. I am only bringing up two recent displays of self-glorification and/or taunting in sports. There are literally countless others. Thousands of examples. Tens of thousands. Even from some of my favorite players. Baseball players watching their HR’s, defensive backs dancing their way to the end zone after a pick, defensive lineman sacking a QB and dancing around like a kid, hockey players resorting to brawling, basketball players adding some shirt snaps after making a 3-pointer or a sick dunk, a coach unwilling to shake the hand of an opposing coach after a loss… but why stick to just players and coaches? How about fans that applaud and cheer when an opposing player lies in agony on the turf, or when they boo when an opposing player is slow to get off the field after an injury, or fans who assassinate the character of players they don’t even know – in public. Unsportsmanlike conduct is all around us.

But, what is the proper response – especially for Christians? This is what I think.

Don’t attack the person.  When did it become ok to blast people’s character, their identity, on social media? What happened to “hate the sin, love the sinner”? Instead of remarking about how Sherman messed up, I heard strong and condemning adjectives describing who he is as a person. I am so thankful that every time I mess up (which is of course routinely) that I am not defined by those actions and then talked about on Twitter. If we consistently talked about others the way some folks talked about Sherman, we would have a non-stop cycle of judgment.  You are bigger than your mistakes, even character flaws (real or perceived) – Gospel 101.

Go with grace. Grace is hard, isn’t it? It is for me. I would much rather draw (subjective) lines in the sand, point out flaws of others instead of my own, and to draw character conclusions about people if I think they deserve it. However, grace does not do that. One of the biggest lessons I have been learning over the past several years (particularly by living overseas and in other cultures) is that none of us is any better than anyone else. We are all the same. Different vices? Sure. Different struggles? You bet. Different sin issues on display? Of course. But the human condition is the same for all of us – we all war against ourselves and the flesh. So what gives me moral high ground to attack someone else’s character while forgetting my own lack of character? The answer is there is none. We leave Sherman alone (in terms of judging his character) because we need grace just as much as he does. Believe me, I am still learning this truth too.

One of my friends posted a response by Tony Dungy regarding Sherman. To me, it was a much better example of grace and addressing the behavior instead of attacking character. Dungy never called Sherman names or made broad generalizations about who he is. He only said he wouldn’t himself do something like that and addressed his actions – not his identity. He even spoke with a posture of kindness and gentleness.

Sherman’s teammate and follower of Jesus, Russell Wilson, took a similar road as Dungy and instead of focusing on how Sherman messed up and attack his character – talked about positives and moving forward and that Sherman simply “made a mistake.”

Here is to grace. May we know and embrace more – myself included!

2013 Year in Review – Bible Verses and Passages: by, Grant Walsh

imagesContinuing my 2013 Year in Review series, I want to share some of the Bible verses and passages that defined my year. I spent most of my time (as did our little house church gathering) in the gospel according to Luke – therefore a few come right from there. Like many of you readers, my year ran the gamete in terms of highs and lows and success and struggle – I am so thankful we have a God who loves us through it all. Without further ado…

 2 Corinthians 12:9

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This made my list last year and it stays on this year, because, well, I live in Kolkata! Wow. I have never been so sick and weak in my life. If it is not food poisoning it is cultural stress. If it is not the pollution it is trying to figure out how to start a business in India. Ever since we landed in Asia 22 months ago, this verse has become SO real in every facet and area of my life. Thankful for your grace, Father, that carries me through daily.

Luke 1:46-55 

The Song of Mary.

Our little house church gathering has spent a good amount of time in the early Luke passages. The Song of Mary has long been one of my favorites for many reasons. Here a unwed, pregnant teenager is speaking BOLD about the powerful and rich being brought down from their thrones and the lowly and hungry lifted up… about the new King and the new Kingdom. Mary was a prophet, indeed.

Luke 2:14

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

A multitude of heavenly host and the angel were praising God with this statement at the coming Christ. Amen!

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

I am thankful for this verse on many levels: the first being, patience… I love that we dont understand God’s timing and have all sorts of views on how we think things should be done, but God promises to fulfill His promise – and it probably won’t be how we expect. That is good news for me. The next part is good news for all of us! He wants ALL to come to repentance. Yes!!

I John 3:18

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

Man I love John… a. lot. I can sit with his books everyday! Why? Because he gets it… because he can’t stop talking about love and what that looks like. Go ahead – read his letters. When you do, you will get a clear picture of what he means when he says we need to “love in deed”. Think – the lost, widow, orphan, and alien.

Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

This passage will be the inspiration for my next tattoo – stay tuned!! Oh snap! You know how John couldn’t stop talking about love? Well, that is because he got it from Jesus! Love is the new Torah – the New Law. The whole Old Testament is fulfilled by love. Which is another way of saying, the whole Old Testament is fulfilled by Jesus. God is love. And we can only love God insomuch as we love our neighbor – the two are inseparable!