Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Soul Soaring In Jakarta

Wow, so if you’ve managed to read the last two posts, you’ll see that I have been doing a lot of thinking and journaling, and blogging, indeed. I have so much more to say. But I promise, this is the last of it for today. And it’s for a really good cause.

In the meantime, back to my review of Velvet Elvis. There’s been so much that I’ve got out of this book, (that I mentioned in the two posts “below” this one), such as the crying out for redemption of creation, how what makes our souls soar brings God glory and us joy, etc. And yet Bell has also managed to flesh out new and inspiring ways how the concept of living for Christ isn’t the same as being a Christian. Being a Christian isn’t an adjective. Christian is a noun. Just like Spaniard (what Russell Crowe was in Gladiator), or Princess (as in Fiona?) or Alcoholic (er? Random).

Just like shopping at Northwestern Bookstore does not make someone a Christian, being a Christian doesn’t mean someone has joy or is really living for Christ. And it definitely doesn’t mean that they have good theology or their heads on straight. This, of course, was nothing new. After years spent trying to heal the wounds of a church that left me in the dust when I needed them most, I could most reassuringly tell anyone that being a Christian, being a “good Christian”, being a pastor, or a pastor’s wife, or being in ministry means nothing if we’re not bearing each other’s burdens, loving our neighbor in tangible and selfless ways, and reflecting Jesus in more than just his holiness and righteousness but in His compassion, His mercy and His heart for the “least of these”.

Which is kind of the whole reason for this post in the first place. Yesterday, in my email inbox was an invitation to an upcoming concert called “Street Music for Street Kids”, on August 20 from 6 to 8 pm at Peavey Plaza in Downtown Minneapolis.

Twelve different, award winning bands will be playing, and modeling their show on the situation of street kids in Jakarta, who support their families by begging with music. The bands will perform acapella and unplugged. 100% of the money donated will go to support the Nurani Insani School in Jakarta, which was started to educate street children and break the cycle of poverty there.

For those of unfamiliar with the situation in Jakarta, which I was until very recently, there is a recent population influx that has made Jakarta (in Indonesia) home to nearly 9 million inhabitants. The mass flooding of this port hub has pushed the cities poor, including an unparalleled population of childen, into massive slums, living in shanties that stretch along train tracks, or polluted rivers, that often serve as both a water source, a toilet and a garbage dump.
Every night, during the rush hour commute home, tens of thousands of these street children pour into Jakarta’s congested streets to beg for money to support themselves and often times, their families. Because people are more likely to give money to a child begging rather than an adult, these street kids are often the sole breadwinners in their family.

One of the ways these kids beg for money is by performing music in the streets, with guitars, trinkets, songs and open hands. Thus, the “Street Music for Street Kids” themed concert. Fearless, these kids will run in front of cars and jump around buses to approach a stranger for money as well. The dangers of begging encompass the physical risks of playing Frogger on five lanes of highway, the psychological trauma as the children grow older and find themselves unable to bring in further income, eventually being forced to rely on their own children for money, thereby continuing the vicious cycle of poverty, the criminal penalties they face as some regions prohibit begging (because it’s a nuisance to the commuters), or of the ease into which these children can be kidnapped and sold into child trafficking rings for sex or slavery.

The Nurani Insani School was started by a graduate of the University of Jakrata as he saw the overwhelming need to change the life situation of the street kids of Jakarta. His mission of giving them a chance to escape the streets and their situations through education that empowers them to work for their living has bettered the lives of both the children trapped in this vicious cycle and the country itself. The school works to address both the educational and physical/material needs of the children, giving them uniforms, school supplies, meals and regular doctor visits. Currently 12 students even reside at the school, providing for them a home away from the polluted and disease infested street slums. In the words of one of the school staff members “The school is more than an institution for learning, it has become a sanctuary.”

One hundred percent of the money donated at the free concert Thursday night will be given to the Nurani Insani School and what’s more, Wookiefoot has agreed to match all donations up to $2,000. There is going to be a sweet afterparty at Hell’s Kitchen, on 9th Street, and donations will be accepted there as well.

The concert is organized by NEED Communications, who also publish the magazine of the same name (NEED). Their motto, as stated on their website, is “We are not out to save the world but to tell the stories of those who are”. Their mission is to tell stories of organizations and individuals who are making a difference in society. After covering a story about the Nurani Insani School, the journalists at NEED decided to hold a fundraiser to raise public awareness and funds for the school and the Jakartan street kids.

“Street Music for Street Kids” is the first in NEED’s “Your Powers for Good” event series. This is going to be an exceptional time to come out and support the “least of these” in a country many of us would never visit, and for kids most of us would never meet. And as Bell pointed out in the chapter called “Two Realms” (as in heaven on earth, or hell on earth), “For Jesus, this new kind of life in Him is not about escaping this world but about making it a better place, here and now. The goal for Jesus isn’t to get into heaven. The goal is to get heaven here.” And later “Jesus wants his followers to bring heaven, not hell, to earth….. The goal isn’t escaping this world, but making this world the kind of place God can come to. And God is remaking us into the kind of people who can do this kind of work.”

So, though NEED isn’t affiliated with any sort of Christian organization, or Christian church, or even Christianity itself, what could be more Christlike than using your musical talents to help kids have a better life? Does something need to be labeled as Christian for it to be good? Do we need something to be Jesus-stamped/Father-approved for it to have a meaningful impact on our lives or the lives of others or to be Christ like? After reading Bell’s book, I’m asking myself these question more and more often. And the answer I keep coming back to is another question “What makes my soul soar?”

Because soul soaring, I believe, is God’s way of speaking to our heart that what makes it happen, whether that’s the sun setting purple on the Rockies, or the smell of a newborn babies head, or the thump in your chest to the bass of worship when it rocks, is bringing Him glory through bringing us joy. It’s the spiritual equivalent of the electric stimulus us lab rats get when we go through the food door in our mundane little life maze.

So this Thursday I’m going to be in Downtown, listening to a bunch of bands I don’t know, hoping that the music is good and willing to participate even if it isn’t. If the music is any good, or if friends I love come out to hang out with me, or if a picture of a Jakartan street kid moves my heart, then maybe my soul will soar. And in that, all is well and worth it.

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