Friday, July 31, 2009

so long frieda

In the ever continuing examples of closing doors on our assignment in the fair mother city...

The sudden departure of Frieda Sanford.

About two weeks ago, Frieda announced that she and her daughter Jessie are moving several blocks across town by the first of August. Frieda and her long time boyfriend Manuel (owner of the house next to mine) are splitting up.

She and her three kids have lived next door as long as we’ve been here. And of course, we knew her, the kids, her sister, and her late mother from the izzy group food pantry days of yesteryear.

Living next door to Frieda has been fun. It’s also been culturally interesting and educational for me.

Frieda showed me probably the closest depiction on earth of Jesus’ words: sell all you have and give to the poor. Well, she never seemed to hold on to anything for long. Everything was always for sale or given away. Like maybe material possessions mean little to her.

And without Frieda’s knowing, she showed me what Jesus’ words of “I was a stranger, and you invited me in” might have meant. She always had some rag-tag group of come-and-goers sleeping in her house. She even housed an abandoned 17-year old girl for a period of time. That girl recently returned for a visit with her boyfriend. I think she’s now 21.

I am truly going to miss the backyard BBQs, the Christmas gathering with dollar store trinket gifts for all, the robotic small talk gatherings on her front porch, and yes...even the damn garage sales every two weeks.

We got our dog from Frieda’s late mom. The Bossman and I conducted a funeral service for her mother. I feel like an awkward white middle-class member of her family.

Her sons The Bulldog and The Tiger hit their culture’s right of passage by moving off to prison a few months ago. Now Frieda and Manuel’s fragile and shallow shack-up relationship has finally ended.

So long neighbor. Good times were had. You will be missed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

scouting trip: report

Agent Wife, the three offsprings and I recently returned from scouting the landscape of our future assignment from headquarters.

You heard it here on the agent b files: we are moving to Canada. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say in the south.

This news is still pretty hush hush info. Many of our close friends, family, and neighbors don’t know this and won’t be told until probably new years. Our target moving date is summer 2010, and that revolves around my immigration status. I have begun the immigration process last week.

I know: big shocker. The agent family household is moving to Agent Wife’s homeland and the place Agent B talks about all the time. Never saw that coming.

Our recent trip was disguised as one of our vacations to visit family in Saskatchewan. And we did that of course. But we spent a week in the region our upcoming assignment, which is three hours away from Agent Wife’s parents.

In typical Agent B fashion, the real name of the town we’re moving to will be under the pseudonym Dog River. The real name will be disguised due to it’s very small size (pop 2000) and thus lack of anonymity for secret agents.

Dog River, Saskatchewan is a dichotomy of dichotomies, in my view. It is a small lake resort town, mostly filled with wealthy people’s summer lake homes and get-a-way cottages. The average income there is way above the national average.

But Dog River is surrounded by several First Nations (native) reservations, which is the extreme poverty culture of Canada.

The history of Canadians and their native population is similar to that in the US. But it seems more prevalent due to much recent history and lack of other minority issues that the US is plagued with. There is too much history to mention here. I may write more later as I learn more on modern Native culture in the coming weeks and months.

Agent Wife’s cousin Tina and her husband Joe are school teachers in the town. They both are involved with an outreach ministry to the poor that they both have actively volunteered for and sought funding for several years.

And Agent Wife’s other cousin John (Tina’s brother) and his wife Jane live there as well. John works for the city of Dog River and Jane is a government employed nutritionist that works directly with the reservations. They also play management roles with the outreach.

This outreach (which is currently shut down as they lost their rental unit) is practically run by a 60-something year old native woman named Martha. She gave Agent Wife & I a tour of her home reservation that’s named after her late grandfather who was the chief.

I can’t describe it accurately, but the poverty surrounding the native people was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. And I’ve been to some mud-hut regions of Africa in addition to West Texas ghettos.

There is just some bizarre indescribable hopelessness cloaked over the native regions. I received a very small taste of it during our tour when Martha drove us out to a beach off one of the lakes. Out of nowhere, some gangster wanna-be looking kid comes out of the bushes and asks me for a cigarette. I said I had none. Then asked me to sell him beer. Again, I had no beer on me. He just stared aimlessly and said, “are you SERIOUS?”

It wasn’t that I was hit up for smokes or beer. That happens all the time in the fair mother city. It was the location. I mean, we were in the freaking middle of NOWHERE down some dirt road for miles. It was just weird. Hopeless.

Anyway, we saw clearly how our family could fit into this town and environment and how the CEO seems to be slowly orchestrating this for years. We are finally about to leave the desert and go into our new calling.

Meanwhile, as excited as I am to leave the fair mother city, I am going to spend the next year enjoying everything I can here and embrace this nutty conservative religious culture. I guess.

Until then, the agent b files is still up and running as I continue to report of our dealings around Abilene. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

addendum: first baptist

In response to the previous post, former fair mother city resident Agent S emailed this to me:

Thanks for asking tough questions and holding people accountable. And for being my Abilene informant. I get most of my Abilene news from you. Here is what one of my friends had to say about the Sunday after the vandalism.

"At church on Sunday, the focus was on forgiveness and what can we do to help the young man who broke the windows. Phil gave a very moving address to the subject. Several members of our Sunday School class are lawyers and are looking into when the young man will be on trial so we can go show support and compassion to him, as well as see what he might need. I was proud of our church body."

It's always good to report the positive side that won't be in the local paper.

Thanks FBC - Abilene.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

dear first baptist of abilene

Dear First Baptist Church of Abilene,

I am so sorry to hear of the vandalism that happened to your property a few nights ago. Like the six or seven other downtown businesses, you must feel violated and angry. I know I would.

Vandalism is such a self-centered act that should never be condoned by anyone.

Thankfully the vandal came forward and confessed. Maybe he manned up and volunteered this information. Or maybe he was confronted by the law. Who knows.

But please, I beg of you. Use this opportunity to practice Jesus’ teachings of forgiveness. I mean hey, the WHOLE city is watching you via these news reports. What a grand opportunity to show the power of forgiveness to those who don’t follow Jesus.

I know you suffered a LOT of damage - stained glass that’s not easily replaced and so forth. But really, whining to media outlets about $50,000 to $100,000 of damage doesn’t hold water. The WHOLE city of Abilene knows that this amount of money is NOTHING to you.

Nobody is praising this guy’s actions. And I am not arguing to keep him from accountability. The law will take care of that. I mean, a third degree felony and $300,000 bond is nothing to scoff at.

But PLEASE, grab this opportunity to teach the city about forgiveness.

*photo by Victor Cristales of the ARN