Sunday, October 19, 2014

Where Technology is Lacking

Recently I read a post on a friend's Facebook page:

My Childhood Was Like This:
I didn't have Blackberry, Wii, Playstation, or XBox.
I played hide-and-go seek, and football in the street.
The time for me to go back home was the hour it got dark,
And my mom didn't call my cellphone, but yelled: "Inside!"

Who do you think wrote this?

The answer is actually a friend of mine from rural Ecuador, but in many aspects my childhood was similar. Although when I was in middle school, we got a GameCube, growing up my brother and sister and I always played outside. We jumped on the trampoline, ran around the house shooting super-soakers at each other, and went on adventures in the woods.

I find it sad to see so many young kids these days standing in line with their parents, playing games on their iPad or phone, instead of inventing or imagining. Whatever happened to laundry basket "time machines", pirate battles in the barn, or picking raspberries in the backyard? The following video, titled "Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?" challenges the way we think about technology in today's society. Take a look:

I remember when I returned to the U.S. in January, being shocked to see iPads at the airport fast food restaurants to order food. I stood there for about 5 minutes, waiting to be helped, when a woman told me to type in my order on the screen. I followed her instructions to get my egg roll, while silently wondering if in 20 years the world would be run by robots.

Now there is nothing innately wrong with advancing technology. In fact, it helps our day-to-day tasks go much smoother and faster than 50 years ago. Examples: microwaves, Excel, graphing calculators, email. However, as Prince Ea articulates in the video above, we as a society are becoming more and more disconnected from real relationships. Instead of going to get coffee with a friend, we opt for Skype dates. Kids are staying inside playing video games rather than physically exert themselves playing basketball or tag.

While I admit that connecting with friends in the U.S. through Facebook was great while I lived abroad, and still allows me to communicate with people I know all over the world, chat windows and videos take away from the sense of community that comes with personal face-to-face interaction. God created us to be in relationship with one another: to help one another, to share with one another, to love one another.

So, I'm not necessarily propagating that everyone shut down their social media accounts. But what I am proposing is that each day, even for an hour, we take the time to unplug and have genuine conversations with real people. Without checking our phones every two minutes. Because who is more important than the person you're with at that moment?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Beauty of Change

As the season of fall begins to take shape in Alabama, I feel an indescribable joy fluttering inside myself. That simple contentment that comes from looking outside the window to see red, yellow, and brown leaves fluttering in the wind and to cozy up in my living room chair with a warm cup of pumpkin chai. I've been away from the U.S. so long I have almost forgotten the beauty of the changing seasons.

fall foliage contrast color

In Ecuador, there were two seasons: rainy and dry. You can probably guess what defined the two periods. During rainy season the days were wet and mucky, and it drizzled at least once a day. In the dry season, high winds swept through my little town, picking up dust and blasting cold into my apartment. There were many wonderful things about the climate in Ecuador, but I missed those special moments, like trees shedding their leaves or the first flowers peeking out from under the frost in spring.

 fall autumn leaves

A friend and mentor once told me: live your life in seasons. Don't worry so much about the distant future or try to plan your whole life out, but take it one season at a time. One season at a time. The metaphor stuck with me, and ever since that conversation in my last year of college, I have thought of my life in that way. I haven't chosen one career or scored the job that makes big bucks. But I have chosen a path for this season of my life. I chose to be a missionary, because that is what God called me to for now. I might not do it forever, in fact I really don't know what I'll be doing at this time next year, but God has a plan.

So while the cool winds blow through, and the temperature drops, I encourage you to embrace the change. Instead of complaining about the colder weather, see the beauty in it. As a wise man says in Ecclesiastes 3, "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven." 

Be blessed in this lovely fall season.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Reblogged: Advocating for Alabamians

The following post is a blog I wrote for ARM's website a few days ago, sharing about my participation in the annual Alabama Arise meeting a week ago. 

Did you know?
  • Alabama is one of only 4 states with no state-level minimum wage?
Did you know?
  • Payday lenders in Alabama can charge up to 456% interest on loans?
Did you know?
  • Annual electricity costs in Alabama were the 2nd highest in the nation in 2011?
Did you know?
  • Alabama currently has a shortage of about 90,000 housing units?
At the Arise Citizens’ Policy Project meeting last Saturday in Montgomery, we voted to make “Dedicated Revenue for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund” a priority in legislation for 2015. Lobbyists will try to get a bill passed that will provide $20 million per year to create and rehabilitate homes for those in need. We also voted to support a bill that would cap payday loans at 36% statewide. These, among many other concerns, are issues that Alabama Arise addresses in their work with legislators, in order to improve the lives of low-income Alabamians.

Arise Citizens’ Policy Project is a coalition of non-profit organizations, churches, and individuals in Alabama that advocates for the poor by promoting legislation that benefits low-income families and individuals statewide. The issues that ACPP focuses on include improving public housing, reducing loan interest fees, raising the minimum wage, reducing utility costs, and prison reform. ACPP uses lobbyists to educate Senators and Representatives on these important issues that affect Alabamians. ACPP is a sister organization to Arise Alabama, an advocacy organization with the same goals and members.

Alabama Rural Ministry is proud to call itself a member of Alabama Arise. Much of our work with families living in rural areas addresses these same issues of poverty: lack of ideal housing and economic resources. It is our hope that through our work of repairing homes, building relationships, and providing children with safe and enriching educational opportunities, we can take an active role in combating poverty in Alabama.

It was such a privilege to attend the ACCP meeting and to witness the dedication of this organization to champion basic human rights for all Alabamians. I am inspired to do more in my community and my work here, so that together we might achieve this goal.