Friday, April 09, 2010

16 Years ago...

...was the Rwandan holocaust.

In 100 days, 1 million were killed.


The entire population of the Hattiesburg/Pine Belt area times 10. In 100 days.

Basically because of their ethnicity and/or their political leanings.

I was captivated by the tragic stories back then, and I still am, in the deep recesses of my soul. In the places I don't enjoy exploring because I don't like what I find there all too often.

Ever seen the movie Hotel Rwanda?

Now, I know students @ Wm Carey who are from Rwanda. Very pleasant, polite people, who are just a delight to visit with in the office or in the hallway. They laugh easy and often.

I think of Rwanda every morning. You see, we buy coffee beans in the mail from an outfit called "Land of 1000 Hills Coffee" (a.k.a., "Drink Coffee, Do Good"). Click here to go to their website & learn more about them. They grow the coffee there and are very missional in their approach. Quite a number of Rwandan "coffee widows" plant, cultivate, pick, and roast the coffee there. Land of 1000 Hills invests proceeds back into Rwanda. & training...all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Click THIS to see a short clip from a CNN story about the company.

1,000,000 in 100 days.

That's an average of 10,000 per day.

And much of the world went "wow, bummer...oh well, glad it's not here..." and went merrily on our way.

One hesitates to ever quote this guy, but Joseph Stalin famously said something along the lines of "1 death is a tragedy...1 million deaths is merely a statistic"

And it happened just 16 years ago. Not 160 years ago. Not 1600 years ago. 16 YEARS ago.

I have only one grand sweeping conclusion to this, that's really not all that grand & sweeping: if you ever find yourself thinking "people are really pretty good by nature after all"...remember this statistic.

One. Million. People. Murdered. In. 100. Days. SOLELY. Because. Of. Their. Tribal. Heritage.


Paying a dollar or two extra per pound of coffee is an INCREDIBLY small sacrifice. (Besides, the coffee is just *vastly* superior to anything you'll find in the local grocery store). And Starbucks is not in the same universe in terms of coffee quality. But this is not about coffee.

It's about Rwanda. And about people. And about us. You. me.

How's your thought life toward those with whom you disagree religiously? How about those with whom you disagree politically? I listen to the state of American political rhetoric for the last several years, and I sometimes fear for my country. Give some of the links here a click & read or watch.

1,000,000. 100 days. 10,000 a day.

May we always remember. And always love and work so such things never happen again.

Sorrowful, yet hopeful, and always prayerful,

p.s. - wanna see what God can do in hearts? Check THIS out. Only one page long...I challenge you to imagine yourself as one of the real-life characters in this might need a hankie...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

For Mrs. Kemp

There was a line of ladies who tried to teach me to play the piano. By “tried” here I mean “tried with pretty much no success”…Totally not their fault of course; I’d rather have been riding my bike or swimming or shooting hoops or something than practicing piano. Which is but one of several ways I was a fool back then…Hope I’ve changed a bit!

I am very grateful to all of them, even though my piano skills never got above “meager” and time hasn’t helped. I do love a piano being played, and wish I could play. (Which is one of MANY things Mom said that I should’ve listened to…)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking on this because one of those dear ladies recently left us. Her end was hard, and her leaving was merciful. Still, she will be greatly missed by many. Some are former piano students like me…others will remember her teaching elementary school music…others are close friends of hers, like Mom…But mostly, she’ll be missed by her three sons.

One of those sons taught me to play the saxophone when I was in 6th grade. He had more success teaching me a musical instrument than his Mother did, but I still never got near his level of skill.

Another of those sons is my age and we had many an adventure along the way. I remember laughing HARD with him. Mostly we behaved…mostly, I say.

The third is younger than I, and I also remember laughing with him. I hear he still plays music, which somehow is pretty cool just now.

There was another brother the age of my brother who left us some years back.

These guys had an AWESOME mother. She was such a gentle soul with such a delicate touch on the keyboard, but also on life and on people. I’m not aware of a single person that disliked her, which is quite a remarkable feat.

Amazingly talented musically, but never chose to flaunt that talent. She was very well-schooled musically, and I recall her enjoying a wide variety of styles.

She was soft-spoken, which trait will be immediately recalled by all who knew her.

She loved her boys; all four of them.

She loved her friends. She & my Mom, for example, clicked rather quickly and stayed “clicked” until this great lady left us & went to be with her Lord a couple of weeks ago.

She loved her students. Again, soft-spoken, even when it became clear I hadn’t practiced the week’s piano lesson, or when the elementary school class was not focusing.

I’ve not seen her for years, which causes me much regretful sorrow now.

I hope…I really hope…she knew how fond I was—am—of her, despite my not demonstrating that very often nor very well.

As I say, her last days were painful and hard, and the end was merciful. Have I told you lately how much cancer sucks? *sigh*

And thus, my brother & I will be down at Mom’s this weekend, not for Easter, but for a memorial service for a wonderful lady who means a lot to my family. While I *hate* the circumstances, I am very much looking forward to re-connecting with her three sons in person. Mom fed two of them tonight, but I couldn't get here in time to join that meal. The memorial service is Saturday morning, after which there will be another service up in her native Atmore, AL. Since my children will be home, I’m heading back after the service in Ft. Walton Beach.

Rest assured, the ipod will land on some nice classical and jazz piano Saturday on the way back (think Rachmaninoff and Oscar Peterson), as I thank God for the life & influence & legacy of a teacher, a pianist, a mother, an encourager, a prayer warrior, and a friend of mine and of my Mom’s.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Kemp! Your life and your faith mattered, and you added music to this world. What higher obit could one want, after all?

With fond memories,


p.s. – join me in praying for Charles, Tom, & Robert, won’t you? And in praying for Mom and the others who are saying goodbye to a great friend.