Home in the Margins
September 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
June 24, 2014
The trek revolves around the idea of incarnational ministry- as God took on flesh and gave up His place of privilege and power to reconcile us to God through Jesus’ birth, we were to give up the privilege of being American (give up our resources, our network and friends, and choices) and step into the harsh realities of poverty to build relationships with the poor from a place of servitude.
I will be spending my summer at a ministry site named the Ruth Center. The Ruth center ‘s goal is to work alongside slum communities in Bangkok to improve the quality of life for the elderly abandoned in society. The center also restores hope for the abandoned elderly by enabling them to find community amongst each other, and giving them a space to worship. There are about 14,000 elderly in the Prawet district alone without family or basic resources. Most of them have severe diabetes and as a result suffer from blindness or are losing their limbs. And of the 14,000 less than 200 are receiving a $13 monthly pension from the government. So I will be living with a host grandmother this summer, and serving/loving her.
Yaay Noi is open, loving and very trusting. Up until this point I have been so consumed with my part in this trip that actually meeting her shook me back into the reality that this is HER home, and she is making space for a complete stranger in HER life. We call her a diva because she is extremely girly and sports an enormous pair of sunglasses that cover half her face. She prefers to match her headbands to her shirts, and it is pertinent that we wear powder and lipstick around her. She also is a prankster, and loves to crack jokes at any point in silence. She doesn’t know very much English, but she knows basic commands because we are not the first set of foreigners to live with her.
Yaay Noi’s home is a two room shack with a makeshift “patio”. The walls seem like panels of a cardboard box, but made with slightly sturdier material. The roof is comprised of various pieces of tin that fit together like a mosaic, and the floors are made of uneven planks. This whole structure rests on top of stilts that keep the house above the trash and sewage water below. And yet, this is home. Not in any sense of the way that I define the word, but currently it is the only thing in her life showing her any form of allegiance.
This may be the first day at my actual site, but poverty already looks like a different picture than is painted in America. My Thai grandmother has possessions, she just doesn’t own property. She doesn’t go hungry, her meals just aren’t extravagant and excessive. She lives a life of simplicity, not of luxury. And now I have to wonder, if the picture of poverty painted in America is one that just keeps us from asking about deeper issues we just don’t want to deal with. How this frame begs different questions of class structures, racial oppression, and skewed politics. Already, poverty looks a lot more systemic than I thought it would.