Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Black Jesus!

For Christmas I would like to share some of my recent artwork dealing with Jesus Christ.
Happy birthday Jesus!!!
I pray that you will be with the poor, the lonely, the humble, 
and the weak on this beautiful day.
I also pray that people will be willing to help those in need,
just a Jesus of the oppressed would (and did) do.
Amen!


A Black Jesus
This poster, with an image of a Black Jesus, is designed to represent James Cone's theology in my Make it Plain art exhibition.  James Cone was a theologian who made the idea of a black Jesus famous.  Cone was responding to the images of a white Jesus and a white God that supported the oppression, murder, enslavement, and oppression of blacks. James Cone responded with the idea that Jesus represents the oppressed peoples, and Jesus therefore was seen as black.

Cone combined the ideas of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.  He took Malcolm's ideas of self love and a added them to Kings philosophy of loving others.  Cone  used MLK Jr's Black Christian theology.  James Cone is known as the founder of Black Liberation Theology (which still had some grit if you read his actual sermons).

The church responded to Cone with the idea "God is not black; God is raceless."  Keep in mind before Cone, God was seen as white often with blonde hair and blue eyes....sorry, God is not European (don't worry I know Jesus was not biologically African either).

For Christmas I would like to wish Jesus a happy birthday and thank him for teaching us to love those our society sees as bad, evil, poor and untouchable. 



European Jesus from Sodahead.com

People who have heard of James Cone in response to the anti Obama campaigns, have heard incredibly distorted views of what black Liberation Theology actually is saying.  These same people seem to forget the circumstances that men like James Cone and Malcolm X were responding to and living with on a daily basis.




Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best Church Ever!

Ok so Emmaus Road Community Church in Laramie Wyoming may not be the best church in the world...and maybe I shouldn't encourage a competition between churches...and this project is inspired by the church I grew up in.  Anyways, this post is about how much the community and members at Emmaus Road rock.

Three days ago, on Sunday, I announced that there was a family in town that could really use a little help.  I had a wish list consisting of one item per person and asked if the congregation would help out with the gifts.  I gave a little background such as the family just decided to go without Christmas presents this year and that they went several weeks without toilet paper a while back.  The family is currently living in a 5th wheel as well.   I told the congregation that I would love to do more than just the gifts but it would really depend on how many people could help...It was a small service since all the college kids were away, so I was not expecting a lot... However, we will be doing much more than the three suggested gifts. 

Here is a bit of what the church helped the family with in three days. 

 Stockings
 Each family member will get 1 stocking filled with...
  
Personal Hygiene Items 
Toothpaste
Toothbrush
Flossers
Mouthwash
Razors
Deodorant
Hand sanitizer
Lotion
Soap
And a couple small candies.

A Coffee Gift Basket for Mom
Diane from church knows her coffee (and the mom) and offered to get some gourmet coffees.  She found one decent size bag of coffee, 12 single servings in assorted flavors, and 4 flavored dairy creamers.  Go Diane!
I added a scarf for decoration/warmth, a candle, two mugs and a coffee travel cup to the gift basket.
If you haven't noticed yet, I love gift baskets!

$40 for a Medical Alert Bracelet for the Daughter
The daughter in this family has several serious medical conditions and really needs this bracelet.  When I asked the daughter what her and her parents would want this was all she wanted for herself.  She was much more excited about her parents getting gifts.  We still wanted to get her a gift that was for fun and not a necessity.  So we made...


A girly Gift Basket for the Daughter
This basket includes a candle, nail polish, lotion, body spray, shower gel, a loofah and some festive candies. 
Again with the gift baskets :) 

An Amazon Kindle Card for Dad
The dad in this family loves to read.  He has a Kindle, doesn't have room for books, and doesn't have money to buy more.

A $100 Wall-Mart Gift Card for the Family
One church member donated a $100 gift card, which will be perfect.  

&
A Christmas Tree
The tree was donated from a lady that I work with.  
She works at a greenery and was actually looking for a family to give some leftover trees to.
Although this family does not have much living space, the tree will be perfect outside or inside.

$5 from the Dollar tree worth of decorations.
It was simple but really kept decorating the tree from being a family burden.

That was three days worth of love and there is still one more day.  We have around $200 left to spend.  I am looking at purchasing  

A Meal or Two or Three
One gal from our church wanted to buy the family a meal. I am not sure what this will be yet.
I would also like the purchase $50 worth of groceries including
A Christmas Dinner
a small ham
instant mashed potatoes
corn and beans 

3 Movie Tickets
When you work as hard as these guys are, and have their entire lives, you need and deserve to have some fun.

University of Wyoming Gear
The dad is a huge Cowboys fan and I was told by my pastor that he would love anything Cowboys.
I am not sure what this will be yet, but probably a sweatshirt, a hat, or gloves.

An Electric Blanket
Living in a 5th wheel in Laramie Wyoming's weather gets cold.
An electric blanket will keep them from midnight runs to get more propane, keep them warn and save money all at the same time.

2 More Gift Cards
One for the daughter and one for the parents.  
This will be the remainder of the money.

And I gave the daughter (who is a close friend) a small painting


Hey God, I would like to close with a short prayer.  
First of all thank you for placing this family in our lives and town.  Thank you for blessing them this Christmas season.  I pray that you would help these gifts make a significant impact and help this family pay off some of their medical bills.  I pray for the mother and daughter's health and the fathers strength.  Please please please lord help this project expand so that we can make some major changes in the community.  This is for me, but I would love to see our church do this for more than one family in the future.
Thank you for softening the hearts of those you have blessed. 
Amen!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Critical Thought Tuesday: Ignorant vrs. Naïve

I would like to address the difference between naïveté and ignorance.  Though they have similar denotation, their connotations are different.  I think there is a difference and this is how I distinguish the two...

Naïve – Is the term I use to describe someone who may have never been exposed to something or never had the opportunity to learn about it. It is not their fault and noone chooses to be naïve

Poster created by Felicia Follum in response to the described situation.  Read more.
For example when I moved to Wyoming and people found out I had a boyfriend about one person a day asked if he was white or black before asking about him or any other question. As I later learned when people don’t know how to place you into a schema, they sometimes ask what may weird or naïve questions (though I was not offended, many people would have been). These questions are so that they can understand something they have not been exposed to.

Ignorant – is a term I use to describe someone who is presented with an idea and chooses to blatantly ignore it. Oftentimes showing contempt or anger. This is typically more of a choice. Once someone is offered the chance to become aware or educated, but they reject it without showing any thought, remorse, or confusion in the response to cognitive dissonance.

The person above would be naïve, just trying to figure something that is new to them out where as the ignorant person may respond with “good, I am glad he is white” and yes this did happen.

Another difference is that between being respectful and blatantly rude, whether it is an un-acceptance to realize that people have different beliefs or using terms that everyone knows are offensive. The distinction become a bit cloudy, for example old people tend to be naïve rather than ignorant.  However, I do think that there is a distinction, that goes beyond someone disagrees so they are ignorant.  It has little to do with opinions, and more to do with how we express, form and process opinions.

I wanted to share how I use these terms and what I mean when I use them.  Are you intentional when you use these words?  How do you distinguish between the two?  Is there a difference at all?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Critical Though Tuesday

The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.
Socrates

Do you agree? Why? Why not?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

15 Thoughts on Syncretism or the Mixing of ContradictoryReligions


15 thoughts in response to my trip to Haiti and the mixing of religions...I am not sure that any of these thoughts are accurate or TRUE but they are fun to think about and challenge my beliefs.

1. According to the pastor we worked with…Almost everyone in Haiti will call themselves Christians. Christian in Haiti has a similar meaning to human. Instead of saying “yes, I am a human being,” like we would in America, many Haitians would say “yes, I am a Christian being.” It has the same meaning. This is why the term Evangelical is important.

2. From what pastor Mark said, most Haitians also believe in Jesus and the Bible, but do not understand the importance of excepting Jesus or believing that he is their one true savior.

3. This seems to be true in America too.  Many people believe that Jesus was a great prophet, but not much more.  My husband and I were talking about the act of accepting Jesus and what "excepting Jesus" actually means just a few days ago.  We seem to agree that it should be a conscious decision, but there are certainly exceptions (especially individuals with developmental disabilities and those in other countries who may not have heard).  It is a tough subject.

4. It was fascinating to see how a Voodoo temple would be right across the street from a Evangelical Christian church.

5. The Voodoo priest would come hang out at the Church Under The Tree (Evangelical Christian). My pastor and I were there sharing the gospel once when he came by.  The kids giggled because they knew the irony of the situation.

6. Another time when the pastor was sharing the gospel (using the EvangeCube) nearly every child rose their hands saying they believe. I am now wondering if that means they believe the story of Jesus or if they have accepted Jesus or believe that he is their savior or if they simply believe he was a good man.

7. The Europeans forced their religion on the African slaves in America, Brazil, Haiti, and Cuba. In response the Africans often times kept their beliefs and added aspects of Catholicism (or Christianity) to their original beliefs. A common example was the use of the imagery of the saints to represent African gods. According to Haitian pastor Mark, in Haiti Catholicism still has deep voodoo ties.  Voodoo is the mix of Catholicism and African Animism specific to Haiti.

8. The effects of Colonialism on world religion may be another example of the mixing of religion or at the very least a corruption of Christianity.  The gospel of colonialism was not Christ-like at all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Critical Thought Tuesday

If you don't believe in the gods, leave them alone.
Chinese Proverb

What do you think? Do you agree? What perspective/religion are you?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Possession

The first day leaving the village, I saw the voodoo priest standing outside one of the houses. I knew instantly that there was something going on and knew he was the voodoo priest. I could tell when I looked into his eyes.

The voodoo priest had the same look in his eyes that a client I worked with in the past. She would sit up in the middle of night and look around while asleep. It was always scary because sometimes the voices she heard would tell her to attack staff and other times she would be just fine. The staff always wondered if she was possessed but the senior staff decided it was simply schizophrenia (though I still am not sure if some "disorders" have spiritual explanations (or if spiritual matters have clinical explanations).  Either way it was the same look and a look you don't forget.

Possession is a main aspect of Voodoo.  The Voodoo gods or Orishas are asked to possess those who practice the religion.

A voodoo ceremony
This area is very similar to the natural springs we saw.



For more on Voodoo check out my Background on Voodoo and Voodoo Basics posts.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Being Jesus/Love in Haiti

Some of the plans for this trip included working on a Chicken coupe and working at an orphanage. We did not get to spend much time at the orphanage but we were able to spend a significant amount of time with the kids in the village of Thomazeau.

One day I was feeling a bit unproductive because I was with the kids rather than working on the chicken coupe.

Pastor Mark, the Haitian pastor we were working with, thanked me for loving on the kids. He said “you are being Jesus to these kids.” It was a great revelation. These kids have probably never had anyone who just took the time to play with them.  The young girl Evette probably really enjoyed having another young woman around. 

While there, we made bracelets and paper beads.  These projects were both projects that I was able to share with Evette first.  I was able to teach her, then have her help me teach some of the younger kids.  With the beads, she was able to monitor the project and insisted that only the older kids and younger ladies help with the project.  Her brother was extremely happy when I left the beads and supplies with the family.  It was interesting because all I really left was a glue bottle, scissors, a magazine some paper, and the 50 or so beads that they had helped make.  It really was not much, but it meant a lot.

The younger kids loved having their pictures taken. After a photo was taken, they would gather around the camera and fight to see the image.  They would also fight to be in the front of the photographs.  It was quite humorous, but made for some great photographs.

Not only was I able to spend time with the kids, I was able to set up an opportunity (including translator) for Pastor Brad to share the gospel with the kids I was with, as well as bring others (when willing) from our group into conversations with the kids.

Pastor Mark was right.  My job was significant and was an opportunity to "be Jesus to the kids."



Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Prayer for My Art

God,

Please help me to develop my niche in art. 
Help my art to glorify you and to be honest. 
I also want to use my art to help people. 
Whether you want my studio to be in a youth venue or 
youth center or you want me to volunteer at a homeless shelter, 
please help those desires to become my desires. 
Please help me find Christian mentors in the art field 
who can support me and encourage me to develop according to you will. 
Again I pray that your will would become my desire. 
Help me to develop discipline in the studio and 
help my business to glorify you and help those in need. 
Help me to learn what you want me to learn and use the gifts you gave me 
(Thanks again!) 
to glorify you and your kingdom. 
I truly believe that you would not have given me the passions 
(working with those in need and art) 
if you didn’t want me to use them in a specific or a variety of ways. 
Please grant me the wisdom to know what your will is and what your goals for me are. 

Amen!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thomazeau, Haiti

The little village of Thomazea is located outside (North-East) of Croix-des-Bouquets. It consists of about 100 houses. Though I am not sure about the number of people living in the majority of the houses, some of them have ten to fifteen people.

We were working in this village to help build chicken coupes. The community was great; they did a great job when it came to working.

The kids were also a ton of fun to be around.

Here are some photos of the village and villagers. 

Just hanging out.
Big brother

The men were incredibly hard workers and the women took care of the families (Also not an easy task).  Some of the ladies from our group were frustrated when jobs on the chicken coupe were taken from them by the Haitian men.  Though I completely agree, it was frustrating; I think we were there for something bigger that simply building a chicken coupe.  We were there to equip a community to sustain itself.  We were there to be Jesus to the kids who have never had anyone out side of the community spend time with them.  We were there to learn about a culture.  We were there to teach and love on people.  I think these greater things can only be accomplished to their fullest extent when we let go of our selfishness and go with the flow.

This guy was great.  He was one of the hard workers.

This was just after we picked up her son to help with the chicken coupe.
Some of the kids.

Travel

Hey God! 
Thank you for the privileges that allow me to the opportunity to work on a missions trip like this.
I pray that you would send me back at some point.
I pray that you would help us to accomplish the tasks you have in mind.  
I pray that we would listen to you even when it is difficult.  
I pray that the impacts from this trip will last many more years, 
and touch many more lives, than we can ever imagine.
Amen!





You can see several more photos of the village "In the Country" section of my "Life in Haiti" post.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Language Barrier does not Equal a Communication Barrier Part 2

Human similarities

This list is composed of ways that we can communicate when overseas or in foreign countries, where we do not know the language.  This list can serve as a reminder of some basic human traits when working with kids or adults.

1. Everyone wants/needs attention and love. 
2. Everyone needs physical contact  Remember to keep it culturally appropriate, but many younger children and elderly adults love hugs.  Those in the middle do too but it seems that handshakes tend be work better for those in the middle.
3. We all eat (even if living in poverty)  I was a little worried about the cooking magazine that I had brought but the kids loved going through and teaching me the Creole terms for various foods.  Food is universal enough that this worked well.
4. We all enjoy sharing life.  People don't like to be alone and most seem to enjoy having a new friend and meeting new people.
5. Most people want to help others but many have a hard time accepting help. This is significant because it may be difficult to accept hospitality from someone who has little, but refusing their gifts denies them the opportunity to bless you.
6. Images – magazines, maps or family photographs can build relationships without words and can even help you learn words of another language.
7. Sounds – screaming, laughing, and crying are not cultural.
8. Expressions such as using signs or facial expressions seem to have similar meanings (though they can be misinterpreted)
9. Most people like to learn
10. Joy and the beauty of life. Holding a Haitian baby is very similar to holding an American baby
11. Kids love art. Kids are creative.  Artwork inspired by Haiti (I will also post about the art lessons I led in Haiti)
12. Men like to build things
13. Women like to look pretty

I know that there are many more…can you add to this list?  Are there any traits that you have noticed that seem to be universal?

I am Thankful for My Water...

There are many things that I am thankful for.  As I was sitting, I was thinking that I was glad I could just walk into the kitchen and fill up my water bottle from the sink.

I was originally thinking that it was nice to not need a water filter simply to enjoy the taste.  Because in the Connor, I do need the water to be filtered.  See the Connor has some problems, like corroding pipes, rotting walls, and windows that don't open.  If you don't use the shower for a while (like Christmas vacation) you have to run the hot and cold water for several hours to get it clear.  It is completely safe, just has metal in it.  Anyways, if you look at some of these pictures of the building you might understand (why we live there and the beauty that is in the old buildings of Laramie).  We also have circular archways, which make it all worthwhile.

Anyways, I began to think a little broader and thought back to my recent Haiti trip.  I am extremely thankful that I don't have to pump my water, or bathe on the road or carry my water several miles.  I am thankful that I can turn on the faucet and even if the water taste funny, I can drink it.

I decided to write a post about the many things that I am thankful for.  Here are the first 13 that I rambled off in about 1 minute....what are your top 5?

 I am thankful that I can turn on a faucet and drink the water without getting sick
I am thankful for my friends and family
I am thankful for my husband
I am thankful for my education
I am thankful that I have the option to be a stay at home mom, artist, or work in a corporate position
I am thankful that I have a job
I am thankful for my computer
I am thankful for my artistic ability
I am thankful for music
I am thankful for flowers
I am thankful that I can spend time with those I love
I am thankful that I have had the experiences (both good and bad) that I have had
I am thankful that I have had positive role models throughout my life.


I created this YouTube video in response to this blog post and a video produced by Water.org featuring Matt Damon.





In conclusion,

Thank you God for all the wonderful blessings in my life.  
Thank you for both the big and the small.  
Thank you for everything that I take for-granted
and help me to see what is truly important in life.

Amen!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Self-Punishment

Critical Thought Tuesday

“Hatred is self-punishment. Hatred it the coward's revenge for being intimidated.”

~Hosea Ballou

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Haiti Journal: A Language Barrier, Not A Communication Barrier Part 1

Today for my Critical Thought Tuesday post, I would like to ask the question "can you communicate without language?"  My answer is "yes," but can you argue against my answer or add on to it?

Language
One of the most significant things that I learned on this trip is that communication is not only verbal. You can communicate through facial expressions and body language. I would also recommend using sign language (ASL or even made up signs) as much as possible. Some of the other communications skills that I utilized included smiling, singing, modeling a behavior, using images, and doing crafts (or other projects when working with adultus). Being able to keep in mind that some similarities transcend culture is also huge.

Sign Language
Though I do know sign language (a mix between PSE and ASL), I do believe that anyone can use sign language skills in a foreign country. Learning some signs and the concepts behind them translates from English to Creole (and I would argue from any language to any other). Using signs allowed me to learn Creole words such as water, airplane, cow, chicken, walk, love, me, you, and marriage. I was also able to talk to a deaf woman at the airport who had just been working in a deaf orphanage in Haiti. It seemed like ASL and Creole sign language were pretty similar (because in ASL you don’t fingerspell anything but proper nouns, although I am not sure how initialized signs and varying alphabets work). ASL also helps you to understand the use of universal facial expression.

Facial Expression
In the airport on the way back we spoke with a man named Juan. He was from Haiti but has lived in the stated for about 13 years. He gave us a mini Creole lesson and explained how facial expressions are extremely important to Creole. I asked how you say “what?” in Creole, though I don’t remember the word, I will not forget the facial expression that goes with it. I now know I was asked “what” by one of the girls many many times because of the face she used. He also explained the importance of smiling. It not only tells others that you are nice, fun, happy, safe, but also that you might think that they are safe, cute, fun, or that you want to be friends.

Modeling
Modeling was extremely important. We taught the kids “hook tag” by showing them how to play. I first explained the game to three other people who spoke English and we showed the kids what to do. The kids understood and were then able to translate what they saw into words for the younger kids. Modeling worked when I was teaching all the kids to make bracelets from embroidery floss or some of the older children the process of making paper beads.
The kids loved to work on crafts but the adults were great at taking over when we were modeling a way to build some part of the chicken coup.

Similarities
In addition to sign language and facial expression, there are many aspects of life that transcend culture, especially when working with children. One way to relate to people is sharing photographs of friends, family, or even a food/cooking magazine. I will list some in a future post. For now, what are some aspects of life that transcend culture?

My artwork inspired by Haiti
Art is certainly a universal form of communication.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Next Haiti Trip...

...Or any Mission Trip

Things to remember for my next trip to Haiti

Things that worked well
1. Water – self filtering water bottle, tablets, and my camel back
2. String – no more than two colors per bundle
3. Little toys such as pogs (40 min), pre-cut string for friendship bracelets (40 min.)
4. A cooking magazine or a picture book
5. Excedrin Migraine
6. Pepto-Bismol tablets

New Ideas
1. Take nail polish to share with the girls. A huge need for the girls is quality time with other women. (could not be in a carry on)
2. Extra pens and pencils
3. An extra notebook to write kids names on and leave with the kids
4. Maybe some connect-the-dots or coloring books with crayons.
5. Low SPF sunscreen
6. A large warm scarf for the airport (I was thankful I had my lightweight large scarf but a warmer one would be better)
7. AirBorne and take daily or every other day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Haiti Journal: There is always Beauty in the Broken



Here are some images of Haiti that show the beautiful side.

Canal in Thoumazeau. Digging this out is a future project.
Sunset from our hotel roof.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Life in Haiti: Housing, Food, Electricity

What is Life in Haiti Like?

One of my friends who I worked with a few summers ago asked me about things in Haiti. Some of the specifics that he wanted to know about included housing, food, electricity, water, and gas services. He basically wanted a better understanding of what it is really like in Haiti…
In the city
These first two images of a mountain side in Port-au-Prince really helped me to understand the amount of lives that were lost.  These houses were not earthquake proof to begin with and are crammed together so tightly that it is little surprise that so many tent cities appeared, where parks had once been, the night of the quakes.
 
One of the smallest tent cities.
We spent one afternoon driving around Port-au-Prince to see the destruction from the earthquake. The few traffic lights were ran by solar power. There were restaurants and business that had facilities (not sure if it was gas or solar, my guess is both).  There were power lines in the city (of 2 million people). With the exception of businesses, most of what we saw in Port-au-Prince was pretty sad. This was the part of the week that was the most shocking to me. Driving through Port-au-Prince was the one thing to me that set Haiti apart from other poverty stricken areas.


A house in a tent city.
Not much seems to have changed. The tent cities from the night of the quakes are still full and appear to be some of the best homes in the area.  The tent cities that have the red and blue tops were set up by foreign aide (I think this one was the Red Cross, though I am not sure) The government is still keeping foreign aide (supplies and money) for themselves and many people are living in rubble and trash. I saw several people just going to the bathroom up against walls along the street. I would assume that there are some bathrooms and I just never had an opportunity to see them.




Images of city life
The ladders lead to ledges where people live/sleep
 An image of a tent city in one of the parks.

Trash is swept into piles and burned.  Families can pay to have trash picked up, but it is not a priority for many.


We were driving though the town and had to go to the bathroom. The restroom I used was in a house that was being used a store as well. It was pretty “normal.”

Our hotel in the city of Croix-des-Bouquets had electricity  (I didn't get any great photographs of our hotel). There were several large solar panels on the roof. We were pretty spoiled at Vila Mimica. We could even purchase AC for $30 a night.

Commute
Most of what we saw was driving from the town of Croix-des-Bouquets and going east to the village of Thomazeau. This drive was pretty rural. There were water pumps every three to six houses. I did not notice power lines. The majority of the houses were concrete and/or brick (picture) with a tarp for at least one wall.  Some roads were great some were not so great.  Once we got closer to the village the roads turned to dirt.
The road to Thomazazeau
See some of my artwork in response to this trip on my art blog, Felicia Follum Art + Design.
In the Country
I didn’t see many power lines in this area (though I think that most of the electricity is solar powered). There were about 100 families in the community and a few other buildings, mostly churches and temples. Thomazeau’s community center, currently the school, is solar powered. I did not see any other power lines, though I was not looking. The new school building does not have electricity yet but it does have a bathroom. I believe the water was controlled by gravity. The bathroom we used was a toilet placed over a hole in the ground. To flush you would carry a bucket of water from the pump and pour it in the bowl.

I am not sure if there were public bathrooms or where they were. The houses were small and I find it hard to believe there were working toilets in, though it is possible. This community bathed in the creek/spring water and drank from water pumps. The family that I was the closest to had a small fire one night to cook. Though I could not tell what they were burning.

The community center is cut off and the building farthest to the left.  The new school building is behind that with the blue roof. The rest are houses.

Kids swimming and bathing.  You would often see adults in these rivers soaped up and bathing as well.

Houses and animals.

Houses.  The blue structure may be a tomb.

The kids wanted me to take the picture of the water pump.