by Jason and Jessica Wilde
Pop quiz: When Jesus fed the crowd, how many people were there?
Today's reading from Mark about the feeding of the crowd of four thousand (Mark 8:1-9) provided an unexpected opportunity to expand on our prior experiment on accurate reporting and perspective. Now, you may have just said to yourself "I thought it was a crowd of *five* thousand" - and this is the interesting part. In both Mark and Matthew, there are two distinct by very similar events recorded (e.g. compare with Mark 6:34-44), with only differences in the numbers of fishes and loaves, crowd size, and leftovers.
Many theologians will say that there were two distinct events, one with a Jewish crowd, and another with a Gentile crowd. But there is some debate - some say it could be the same event told by people from different backgrounds (Jewish and Gentile). Kind of like different news reporters writing about the same event, but having different details and conclusions.
After explaining to the kids how this could happen due to the verbal and sometimes inaccurate nature of stories being passed down in the early Christian Church, we decided to have our own little experiment on perspective. We found a Picasso drawing ("Bullfight and Pigeons") that the kids had not seen before, and we gave them each one minute to study the piece of art. We then separated them and gave five minutes to draw their own rendition of the Picasso drawing from memory.
To no surprise, the three memory drawings turned out pretty similar in general nature and structure, but each had distinct characteristics which relate very well to each child's style.
Our detail girl, Brecklyn, complained that she didn't get to finish the drawing but the figures that she did complete were very well defined and particularly detailed, even with some shading on the pigeons. This is in contrast to Alex, whose drawing was action packed, but the figures themselves were nearly silhouettes. Grace's drawing was balanced, with accurate renditions of the scene as a whole, but each figure was not as detailed as Brecklyn's.
We discussed with the kids how different people who attend the same event and tell that same story again would naturally tell the same story, but in different styles and with varying details. The Gospel writers had to then take these stories and make sense of them, much like present day news reporters. Sometimes, this results in variances on the events themselves (or even blatant discrepancies which can lead to arguments on how may times Jesus fed a crowd), though most of the time the differences are only in details.
By Jason and Jessica Wilde
As a kid of the early 90's, I spent a lot of time chasing Goombas and Koopas and running from Cheep Cheeps. But by far, my lease favorite enemy were "Boo" Diddlys.
In case you don't know the reference, "Boos" were ghost enemies that were nearly invincible, could pass through walls, and were completely harmless - as long as you looked in their direction. You could stare at them all night long and they'd sleep in the corner of a room and leave you alone. But, as soon as you turn your back, they would silently drift toward you, fangs drawn. Turn around again, and *blink* back asleep they go, as if nothing happened.
It turns out a less menacing, but just as creepy variant of Boos exist in real life, though we didn't discover them until we came home with a cute, loud, Chinese-born disabled boy. These Boos are most noticeable during church, but have been spotted on buses, grocery stores, and generally anywhere a standing crowd forms. We'll be singing, or listening, or just talking to each other, and in the corner of my eye, I'll notice a head fixed on him, like the one sunflower in a field facing a different direction. As soon as I turn to see who's interested in us, *blink*, they turn around and assimilate. I sometimes wonder if we cause neck damage from sudden whiplash.
Now, there's a difference to be noted here. We were all told as kids to not stare, for exactly this reason. It makes people feel uncomfortable when they are being stared at, mindlessly, while you try to figure out...whatever is going on in your mind, and apparently it is something that requires careful and meticulous examination. In China, we also had starers, but they wouldn't stop when you looked at them. It was pretty easy to notice when they became fixed on you, and usually, it gave us a chance to catch their gaze, smile back, and have some sense of a non-verbal conversation.
But this particular species of starer, the "Boo" starer, is so self-conscious that you don't get a chance to even figure out why they were staring, and it feels creepy to know that there are probably twice as many such Boos who we don't see. In some situations, it can make someone nervous to the point of paranoia, especially in a scenario where it is obvious that the internal mind thoughts are probably not hospitable.
Once such case was at the March for Life last weekend in downtown Austin. We thought having him there would be a great witness for adoption - an obvious companion to the pro-life movement. The Boos changed forms in this particular crowd from passive starer to active menacing glares (just like their Boo Diddly counterparts) and even protesting 'turn and walk away in disgust' Boos.
To be fair, we were probably a little more provocative in this crowd as we held signs that not only read the party line "Pro-Adoption", "Pro-Love", "Pro-Life" slogans, but also some scandalous phrases such as "Pro-Prisoner", "Pro-Welfare", "Pro-Social Justice", and the perhaps forbidden "Pro-Environment", "Pro-Migrant", and *gasp* "Pro-Refugee", along with "#WholeLife" in giant bold letters. We weren't protesting anything that this particular march was fighting for. No, in fact we were in full support of the pro-birth cause that everyone obviously had conceived in their minds as the entire focus of this campaign, and we were trying to also show support for all life, as our God and Church asks us to do.
But it became very clear among this particular crowd that we didn't fit the exact mold with the exact same sign and same chant, homogeneous family, and same red caps with white lettering proclaiming how great our country is, and as such, we were the enemy, at least to some.
To others, we were a beacon of hope. We had followed through on our promise to care for and save life. Several took pictures of our family and our signs and stopped to talk with Chi Yu as he told them about his favorite stick in the whole wide world (which he found 5 minutes earlier). Unfortunately, like in most cases, it is the problem child that gets the most attention, and in our minds, we were probably overly careful about who we talked with and where we let our kids walk. In the one instance where Chi ran away and started talking to a family, they quickly retracted as we came to get him. This hurt our hearts, even though Chi still didn't quite get it.
For complete transparency, we have never been physically attacked, but this constant state of being "on guard" can have the same effect of feeling like the world is out to get you. Add to that the current stigma against anyone who didn't scream their first breath within the well defined borders of this country, and I think we have an understandable edginess when walking around with our immigrant son. Sometimes the craziest things cause me to go into "on guard" mode
I have been walking Alex to Kuk Sool Won class several times a week. We were walking up the hill to our house yesterday when a car stopped abruptly beside us. I didn't think anything of it until I heard the growling. Yes, growling...as in full throated, animalistic growling. I looked over just as the man pulled his head back inside the car and the driver sped off. I ran as fast as I could with my babies in tow up the hill and hid out of sight.
A year ago, I would have passed this off as a teenager doing a prank. But, given everything that is happening in our country, and everything we have experienced with Chi, I reacted very differently.
My story is but a prick on the skin compared to what I know many Muslim, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Asian families are living with on a daily basis - hatred and vile words coming from people who refuse to face them in person, and angry expressions of disgust from those who do. Search for the right hashtag on Twitter, and I become ashamed to be living in the same country as the people who spew such hatred against women, children, citizens, priests, or anyone who seems to not agree with the mantra that they believe in. I can't image the self control a person of Islam faith must have to endure such scorn from his fellow man. I probably did overreact and was not likely in any serious danger, but the fact that I reacted in panic due to my fellow American tells me something:
The terrorists are winning.
Our country is severely divided and afraid. While some are afraid of foreigners, others are afraid of the growing hate from and between our fellow Americans. This is the goal of terrorists - to frighten us and divide us. Terrorists are winning, and they are doing so with such stealth and finesse that we don't even know we're being assimilated to prey on anyone who is afraid, such that the terrorized becomes the terrorist.
We must fight hate, but we cannot do so with hate. To beat terrorism you must conquer your fears not by annihilating them, but by replacing them with the only things that can break the spell of terror; things like love, compassion, concern, kindness, and empathy. We must begin to stand with each other, no matter what we look like, come from, act like, or believe in. We must start a dialogue of love for each other...everyone! We must be the good Samaritan. We must be the bridge between each other.
Even though I may be afraid, my trust and faith is in God. He is my strength. He is my shelter in this hate storm. This growl won't stop me. Rocks won't stop me. Hate and fear won't stop me from loving my neighbor and living my life.
Finally, to the Boo Diddlys in our lives: It's OK to smile - this can mean so much more to someone than just being another sunflower in the field.
by Jason and Jessica Wilde
(Republished from Facebook post on Nov. 23, 2016 in Georgetown, Malaysia)
Today on the bus, we met a young family with a 3 year old son who had to come check out our own crew. He and Chi were instant best friends, if only for a 20 minute bus ride. While they were showing each other their shoes, his mother struck up a conversation with us, asking where we are from, why we're here, etc. She then said that they were from Ukraine traveling for 'political' reasons (and not planning to go home). They had already 'visited' Sri Lanka and were headed to Thailand next - but we know they are essentially undeclared refugees traveling through the cheapest places in the world on tourist visas. Here was a family that will probably never be able to work legally unless they go home, and who knows what savings they have.
War, political conflict, and forced migration are intrinsic evils that cause families to live a desperate and indignant life. When we talk about refugees, most people think of a bunch of Syrian men and women living in poverty in a tent city. But in reality, the refugees who are just now being resettled, like this father, are working families from conflicts that began over a decade ago, and have been patiently waiting for up to 7 years, and during this time they were limited by refugee laws to living in a refugee area like the tent cities that have become too familiar in Europe. Poverty actually cannot be a reason to declare refugee status. When refugees do get the approval to resettle, they do not have a choice of where or when, or whom with, meaning in many cases that families must be separated if they want to leave at all. In some cases, a wife or daughter will turn down an invitation if her husband or father do not receive one, which basically puts them back at the beginning of the process, or they have to go and become single parent families in a completely foreign country where they will be looked upon as a potential terrorist, separated from their families potentially forever.
And then there are families like the one we met today, who have seen what happens to declared refugees and know the hardships, and so they are undeclared refugees - basically vagabonds on permanent tourist status in any number of countries, and are what most people would call a 'drain on society' because they don't (can't) work or contribute. The Catholic Church considers this a loss of dignity of life due to inability to work and earn fair wages, and furthermore this little boy may be denied access to education and health care since they can't stay in a country permanently on a tourist visa.
It's so easy for us to say that 'they' should just stay put, until their lives are in danger, or they are stuck behind a wall, and then it's 'they shoulda left already'. Or that they should be 'put on hold' until we can verify that they are safe, which of course means that families live several years with limited access to healthcare and education, and then when they are resettled, they are labeled as uneducated and a tax on our healthcare system. (I'm not even sure what "extreme vetting" means in a process like this that can already take half a decade.) But Pope Francis reminds us that "authentic hospitality is a profound gospel value that nurtures love and is our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism." Also, “We live at a time in which polarization and exclusion are burgeoning and considered the only way to resolve conflicts.” “We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy.” The Pope also warns that this “virus of polarization and animosity” can infect our way of thinking, feeling and acting.
If you are a Christian and are not doing anything to help the stranger, I ask you to please pray not just for those who are refugees, but for anyone who does not have a home, and for direction from God that He might guide you to help where it may be most needed.
Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more. (Pope Francis)
by: Jason and Jessica Wilde
(originally published as a Facebook Note on February 1, 2016)
Our family travels a lot. In our four years of traveling the world with our 3 children, we have seen over 20 countries and 5 continents. Originally, traveling was our hobby - it was for our enjoyment, and eventually it turned into a large part of our home school curriculum. Little did we know that God was using our hobby to show us the needs of the world and how we could help.
How Traveling Changed Us
One of our favorite trips was in Thailand, the land of smiles. The kids ate Pad Thai every day, rode on elephants, and were blessed by a Buddhist monk. But, the poverty was unmistakable.
In the floating market, we saw a five year old boy working barefoot on a longtail boat hauling tourists around. He knew how to tie all the knots. When our boat came to a lock, he hopped between all of the boats tying them together. Later on, the passengers in his boat bought this little boy a Coca-Cola as a tip. I’ll never forget the contentment on his face as he sat on the bow of the boat savoring his soda. Now when we listen to our kid’s favorite Veggietales song in the car, we think of that little boy in Thailand working barefoot and tying knots.
I got shoes, you got shoes, all God's children got shoes. When I get to Heaven gonna put on my shoes I'm gonna walk all over God's Heaven. (Veggietales, I Got Shoes)
We have experienced many heart wrenching moments in our travels. We’ve been lost in the hutongs in Beijing looking for our hotel and passed by crumbling rooms that families still call home. In Rio de Janiero, we missed our exit and drove through a barrio guarded by men carrying machine guns while the kids played in the streets. But, it was in India when some kids threw rocks at us that we had a revelation.
Afterward, we sat and prayed inside the beautiful Santhome Basilica. We realized that we couldn’t just sit back and tour the world for fun anymore. We had to find a way to make a difference in the world and in the lives of the people we met.
A successful life and a happy life is one as measured by how much you have accomplished for others and not one as measured by how much you’ve done for yourself. Ed Young, The House that Baba Built)
On a Mission
Two passionate parents and their four children are excited to bring His Word to everyone in need while living a life of Gospel poverty as missionaries. They invite you to join them on a journey to encounter our global neighbors that Jesus commands us to love through works of charity and service.