Upon reflection, I wanted to put together a short list of 5 introductions that were meaningful to me in 2009. There were many more people and things that could have been included. By no means is it an exhaustive one. However, these were the five that breeched the surface of my thought and imagination:
Refugees from Burma
So many have fled their country. Who can count them? And what horrors, great and small they have faced. I had the privilege of listening to the accounts of Refugees from Burma on a trip to Malaysia this fall. Harrowing survival stories, tales that brought at once hope and in another stroke despair, some which create the framework for the forthcoming book I’m working on, Disappointed by Hope: Migrants and Refugees in Search of a Better Country. Over food and drink, in the open and in secret, in private homes and in public places I listened to stories translated and through broken or clear English that gave me a sense of what life as a refugee in Malaysia is like.
My friend Adam introduced me to the term, though I’d be listening to the goods for some time. I’m developing a real appetite for post rock. I’m finding that my taste in music continues to mellow, especially as I write things down onto the page. Post rock anthems were a significant part of my soundscape throughout the year.
I’ve yet to read his acclaimed book Slave Hunter (which I look forward to finally getting to), but have followed his tweets in suspense. Cohen is a modern day abolitionist who goes to the front lines of the trade in human lives: brothels and bars where young girls and boys are sold for sex. On a recent trip to SE Asia, Cohen regularly live-updated his followers as he prepped to and went into red light districts posing as a john. I held my breath and prayed with him as he did his important and dangerous work, acquiring critical evidence to secure justice for young lives. I’ve never met him in person, but he’s inspired me greatly.
Two films surprised me this year by reminding me that film still can be intimate. Film can be personal. Stories can be told in the medium that leave a mark. The first whose impact far outweighed the second is Things We Lost in the Fire, directed by Susanne Bier. My cousin Dave recommended it to me and I am grateful. I left the film profoundly affected, astonished at the film’s power to make fresh in my perception the value of a single human life. As a story teller who wants to tell stories that affirm the value of truth and life, I was inspired.
The other film is the one that makes me feel somewhat silly. Michael Jackson’s This is It, directed by Kenny Ortega also really hit my creative G-spot in a way that aroused surprise. I’m not a die hard fan of Jackson, and was reluctant to see the film after the over-the-top and non-stop media circus upon Jackson’s unfortunate death. But the film surprised me because it showed an intimate and dignified snapshot of his performance life. All hints, allegations, and things left unsaid about his personal life aside, the film capably showed an artist completely committed to his form. I was struck, especially, by Ortega’s early emphasis in the film that the musicians, dancers, effects, film – the whole spectacle of the show – was an extension of Jackson himself. Along with everything else, it suggested to me a whole world of creative possibilities.
I’m thankful for friendship. I say with a bit of awe that I am blessed with dear friends, around the world, and that by some mistake or act of grace, God continues to put people in my path for reasons I can and cannot perceive. Some of you know who you are. Wink (and Thank You). I won’t name all the names, but one such person I was meaningfully introduced to this year was Josh Yeoh, a Malaysian with some serious American influences, including a propensity for sarcasm. He’s a musician, a creative, an intercessor, and most importantly, a beatable tennis partner. Josh also heads up the Penang House of Prayer, a strategic prayer centre on the North West corner of Malaysia. His friendship and ministry, along with the fine people who work alongside him, were a blessing to me as I visited my “home” away from “home” for a few months.