Category Archives: Uncategorized

Trans God

Before going one step further, I have to offer this disclaimer. I’m about to express an opinion, and all of the imperfections and audacities that come with opinion expression are probably nestled in the following monologue. But I’m proceeding anyway because I feel very much obliged to try and add a different narrative to our public discussion of God and society, and particularly the vulnerable relationship between Christians and the LGBTQ+ community. 

There is little else that sets my rage ablaze quite like the perversion of my faith espoused by my brothers and sisters on the far right. It is nothing short of sheer willpower that keeps me holding onto the hope that some, at least, believe they are attempting to hold fast to some kind of moral compass. Not that the left isn’t equally capable of mucking up the message, but the microphone seems to be on the former’s stage at this juncture in our political discourse.

So in answer to the outrageously hurtful and divisive rhetoric and policies, of which anti-trans bathroom policies are just the latest, I’m going to say something that I believe such subscribers will find equally outrageous. To me, however, it makes perfect logical sense.

Individuals that are living at various stages of transition from one gender to the other, have a far more intimate glimpse into the nature of our Creator than do many Christians whose birth genders coincide with their gender identities.

To illustrate my point, I’m going to employ pure logic, however flawed. I believe in transparency of methodology. I know this will perturb my neighbors who rely more heavily on scripture citations, which, if used correctly, is perfectly valid. But so is logic. The philosopher Hypatia was able to discern the shape of the earth’s orbit around the sun using nothing but the power of observation and logic more than a thousand years ago. So I believe logic is legitimate.

Men and women, as it is often cited from the Bible, were created in God’s image. So let’s start there. This must necessarily mean that God’s image is inclusive of both genders and everything in between. This means that men, or women, will always be limited in their ability to extrapolate the nature of God from their individual gender-oriented experiences. As a woman who was born a woman, I can’t intimately know what it means to live out God’s design for men. I would imagine the limitations are similar for those male-born men. Sure I can try to relate through dialogue and efforts to maintain an open mind, but it will never stack up to what I know of my own experience — an example of one of the many limits of the human condition.

But if, in an individual’s life, they’ve experienced life as both a man and a woman, they’ve been given a wonderful gift of perspective that is far more expansive than those who’ve only experienced life as a man or as a woman, particularly in light of the way our society tortures the respective genders with oppressive stereotypes and so-called gender-norms.

I am in no way trying to gloss over the horrible struggles that this sadly ostracized community experiences, or put an out-of-touch bow on its plights. I’m simply devoting this small excerpt of my thoughts to the strengths of this community, as opposed to its vulnerabilities, as I see them.

So if your life includes experiences as both man and woman, and God’s nature is, at the very least, encompassing of men and women, you’re further along in understanding our Creator than I am, no matter how many Bible verses or theologians I can quote. Our God is a God of the heart. That means everything.

Why am I stressing this? What are the implications of this? I’m sure there are some implications I haven’t even appreciated, but here’s what I have come to appreciate. The Christian community, however that’s interpreted, should regard the perspectives of transgendered individuals as precious gifts — windows into the mysterious and immense nature of God that can only deepen our understanding and intimacy with God.

Can you imagine how different things might feel in our public discourse if this is how we regarded one another? When someone, or a certain demographic, differs from the arbitrary “norms” we’ve assigned, it’s actually appreciated and valued for widening our perspectives and not scorned or stigmatized?

I recently read an article that interviewed a dozen or so men who had transitioned into manhood from womanhood about their experiences on either side of the gender spectrum. The thesis of the article was to show how sexism was alive and well, as told through the voices of people who had experienced first hand how biases and prejudices had changed as society went from viewing them as women to viewing them as men. The vantage point here is so valuable, precisely because it’s beyond the vantage points of those who’ve only experienced life as one or the other.

What a beautiful exercise this article employed. What? There’s something we can actually learn about ourselves and our humanity (or lack of it) from the unique and valuable experience of those whose backgrounds differ from ours? Shocking concept I know. The authors didn’t exotify or otherize their subjects, but rather treated them as the keepers of insight that only they can render — teachers if you will.

I say to those who think they know what God’s design is — when it comes to gender, sexuality or anything else — you are putting God into a box. You are limiting God to an idea that your feeble human imagination came up with.

We can experience elements of God and Christ and always commit ourselves to discovering more through study and relationship, as indeed we must, but that must be predicated on the humility that comes with the acknowledgement that God can mean, and encompass, realities that we might never grasp in our short time here on earth. Indeed, I believe we’re all required to rest in the mystery of all that we can’t understand.

One thing I am learning, or at least I think I’m learning: We all are a part of God’s beautifully complex ecosystem — all genders, sexualities, religions we just don’t know how we all fit together yet. We probably never will know in our lifetimes. But that’s part of trusting in God’s immense capacity and unfathomable love isn’t it? There is a design, a wonderful purpose at work, we just can’t comprehend it as limited beings. At this point in my journey, I’m writing this believing that the example of Jesus in the New Testament affirms this approach to traditionally marginalized populations. I would not be venturing these words otherwise. 

So to my trans bothers and sisters, I say that I can’t possibly relate to your journey, but I want to be able to, because the more I can learn and understand about your lives, the more steps forward I can take on my own path toward living in closeness with God. That might sound self-interested, but I believe it is only in the company of God that I’ll ever be able to better love my fellow man. Thank you for your courage and very existence. I pray for the day to come when the Christian population in the US can be an equal blessing and gift to you as you are to us, as opposed to the current standard of serving as the source of immense pain and exclusion. And I know I’m one of many who feel the same, for whatever that’s worth.

I also know a small blog post like this can hardly dent centuries of shaming, abusive behavior at the hands of so-called Christians. But I just couldn’t sit silently by any longer. I hope that with enough like voices joined together, this message will win. It’s hard to see how that could happen at this point in our history, but that won’t stop us from trying, not now, not ever.


The myths of prostitution and pornography

Recently in the news, former adult film actor Harry Reems, who co-stared in the, erm, seminal? porno classic “Deep Throat.” The AP article notes how Reems, a military veteran, hated his adult film career and simply couldn’t make money doing anything else. His life ended in much more wholesome circumstances than those surrounding his film career launch, as a happily married real estate agent in Utah.

This news, somber though it is, provides a nice springboard for a healthy and long-overdue discussion of forced, either directly or indirectly, sexual activity.

I recently encountered some very sleezy content in a professional capacity, only the fewest of the few of you may know what I’m talking about, and it spurred me to initiate some sort of dialogue with my few blog visitors (few but treasured).

I’d like to propose a theory: “Voluntary” prostitution is a myth. Now I know that is perhaps a controversial stance to take, but it’s not unprecedented. I’ve always had a gnawing feeling in my gut that while the Hollywood-friendly arch type of the high-dollar empowered escort may exist, it’s more than not, an utter mythical creature that has no bearing on prostitution today. My gut tells me that prostitutes in all corners of the world are resorting to the money out of a desperate lack of alternatives, or as I suspect, out of direct or indirect threat to their well being or the well being of their family. Why do I have this feeling? Because I’m a woman who need not stretch my imagination to understand that ’empowerment’ is the last characteristic that would accompany a transaction of flesh. So, in the heat of the moment, I did what any of us would do; trolled the internet for affirmation of my gut. E voila! (yes I know the Internet can affirm most anything). But I found this nice and neat little presentation from a Danish NGO that offers social services to women prostitutes.

Now the fact that these points came from the Danes is just icing on the cake, since when it comes to the counter-argument for outlawing prostitution, Denmark and the Netherlands are the go-to examples. Ha! Even the region’s own people know this is bullshit! Pardon my feeling victorious. So the presentation is called “10 Myths of Prostitution.” I could easily and happily relay all 10 debunked myths from KFUKs Sociale Aberjde, the NGO, but in the interest of keeping you captivated, I’ll just relay my favorite.

Myth 2
“Prostitution is a woman’s free choice”

To which they say:

“If prostitution is a woman’s free choice,
then why is it only women with little or no
education, women who have been marginalised
from a young age and single mothers
on welfare who choose a life in prostitution?
Neither social workers, economists, doctors
nor journalists seem to be tempted by the
”easy” money. The so-called free choice only
applies to those who can see no other options.

In June 2004, Pro-Tema, under the Danish
Centre for Research on Social Vulnerability,
published a large-scale survey based on
interviews with Danish women in prostitution
in massage parlours. The survey drew a
general picture showing that their financial
situation is a major reason why women prostitute
themselves. The reasons mentioned by
the women included having debts to repay or
wanting their children to have more material

So as you see, even in a place where the prostitutes are supposedly of the most protected and regulated in the world, the individuals are RESORTING to prostitution, not choosing it off a platter of career tracks. So even when it’s quote “voluntary,” it’s kind of not.

You’ll note that even the late Mr. Reems was ‘resorting’ to pornography. And if there is nothing else i leave you with, please take away this fact: Given options, NO ONE WOULD CHOOSE THIS as a means for making money, so believe it when I say we don’t need to worry about ‘protecting a woman’s right’ to whore herself. Besides, as the KFUK rightly notes, if prostitution were fully legitimized, then it would be eligible for work placement for the unemployed right? And if someone goes on leave then you could hire a temp right? And could students also apply for internships with brothels? And what about protection against a hostile work environment? Can “sex workers” sue for sexual harassment? All of a sudden this whole ‘legalize and regulate prostitution’ argument sounds just plain stupid. If all of a sudden pimps and proprietors couldn’t resort to various brutal and coercive means to keep their “products” in line, no one would willingly continue on as a prostitute. It’s not just because of the risks like violence (by the way prostitutes are 5 times more likely to get raped than non prostitutes) and disease, it’s also because it perpetuates a mindset of having zero value as a human being. An eternity of therapy may never ease the psychological damage of persistent and routine degradation and the likely accompanying physical pain from rough ‘clients.’

Those close to Reems were quoted in the AP article as saying that the porn industry ‘nearly destroyed him.’ This is particularly telling coming from a man since porn has been said to disproportionately harm women.

Now that I’ve posed some questions on the idea of ‘voluntary’ deals in flesh, let’s discuss the more obvious detraction from this absurd argument for safeguarding prostitution. Buying the services of prostitutes maintains a steady demand for contracted sex, which is then satisfied by the even more abhorrent trafficking in persons for the purposes of sexual slavery.

Every time someone buys a person for sex, they are contributing to a culture that makes sexual slavery and systematic rape possible. It’s simple supply and demand. If you’ve partaken of prostitutes before, you are dynamically linked to the 11-year-old girl (or boy) from a developing country that’s kidnapped, smuggled to another place, and routinely raped in a dirty backroom until any semblance of her or his humanity has been shredded, let alone their physical health. Congrats.

Now that I’ve shamed much of the world, if you have an alternative view point, by all means have a go here in the comments.


“Half the Sky” – A Counter Argument

I recently finished reading Nicholas Kristof’s and Sheryl WuDunn’s “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” a probe into the gender-based atrocities that take place worldwide, and the aide efforts that best address them.

In principle, I have to appreciate this book.  Highly credentialed journalists are tackling the cold hard truth of the consequences for viewing women as second and/or third class citizens in a given community, region or nation.

Of course I recommend this book to those who have a bleeding heart for human rights challenges across the globe, as I do. The stories from the women themselves are wrenching and provocative. But alas, as this post is titled, I come to offer a constructive critique of some of this book’s more (at least in my view) misguided elements.

First the title. The title is an abbreviation of a slogan born in the Communist Revolution in the 1950s in China, “Women hold up half the sky.” This is not a proverb, or some lofty notion put to paper by the enlightened scribes of China’s imperial past. As such, this credo, as have all such slogans to come from China’s propaganda department, had a very specific and calculated purpose.  Mao needed women in the work force in order to advance his agenda of matching the West in terms of industrial output. Having more political support and a doubled army of revolutionary zealots were added bonuses. Legislatively speaking, Mao enacted the Marriage Law, which did away with arranged marriages and the power of divorce lying exclusively with the husband. An amazing moment indeed, not to be mitigated by speculation on his motivations. Elevating women may have well been a cause near and dear to Mao’s heart, as it certainly fit with the rest of his ‘equality for all’ narrative, but we’ll never know for sure. At the very least, to insinuate that Maoism is synonymous with feminism is at best ignorant and at worst deceptive to readers unfamiliar with the history of women under China’s Communist Party. As with all notions to come publicly from the Party, there are calculations within calculations within calculations, and that fact should always be kept in mind.

After the title comes the bloated section of the book positing China as some great non-Western model for nationalizing the advancement of women. So there was a rosy-the-riveter-like time under Deng Xiaoping that got girls into factories, giving them an independent income. And? Does this change the abominable practice of female infanticide? Or forced abortions? Or local officials shamefully complicit in the widespread trafficking of girl sex slaves into China’s brothels? No it does not.

But what I find the most troubling, even beyond the horrible acts of brutality, is the clear, top-down (and I mean very tippy top) culture of patriarchy coming from the newest of China’s leadership. The New York Times, ironically since it was the platform for much of Kristof’s book publicity, wrote a thought-provoking article on the public banishment of Xi Jinping’s wife and beloved folk-singer. Peng Liyuan. Her name has been blocked from SinaWeibo, China’s Twitter, and her public appearances are now almost always in the posterior of her husband, trading in her recognizable diva wardrobe for demure suits.

My own experience concurs. In 2008 a group of upwardly mobile young professional men in Beijing told me that women shouldn’t be leaders because they don’t make decisions as well as men do. Ah yes, I forgot that Mao’s decision to proceed with the Great Leap Forward was a raging success. Oh wait, it caused the starvation of tens of millions of people. And more recently, the reverse-reform policies of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao that have advanced state-owned-enterprises at the expense of private sector businesses may send China’s entire banking framework into an abyss of insolvency and debt. These young men weren’t taking an objective look at history’s factoids, they were responding to my question from their guts, and their guts were frothing with attitudes cultured from a steady-diet of messages saying women just aren’t as good as men, period.

How can I say that sexism in professional and political conclaves is more troubling than the dumping of female babies into public shit-holes (see story here)? The answer is they are inextricably connected. Dehumanizing a baby girl is made possible by attitudes that stem from the top, attitudes represented by hiding a celebrated icon of China’s folk music behind her husband for no better reason than that her success should never draw from his image of power. Attitudes matter, especially as you get farther and farther away from the capital.

What Kristoff and WuDunn failed to qualify in their book, is that laws and mandates in China are of little consequence out in the provinces. Incentives are all that matter, and incentives to safeguard the potential of a girl child are simply not landing with necessary scale. It’s not unlike Beijing’s ambitious carbon-reduction targets, promptly ignored by local governments who see their riches tied to rapid city development using the cheapest fuel available.

In Mao’s case. as earnest as his campaign for women may have been, edicts must be followed by local buy-in, which is something Kristof and WuDunn state over and over again in their book quite effectively in the context of many other countries beside China. And local buy-in just ain’t happening. In June of last year there was a well-publicized story of local officials in China’s Shaanxi Province kidnapping and forcing an abortion on a woman seven months into her pregnancy after she neglected to pay the fine for having a second child , even though such brutish tactics are supposedly ‘illegal’.

Kristof and WuDunn also write that generally speaking,  prostitutes in China are willing and voluntary. Those of you who know me well know I rarely buy into any form of prostitution as 100% voluntary, but to make that unqualified claim in this case is just wrong. One of the cables that came to light in 2010’s wikileaks saga stressed the particularly serious situation in China’s Yunnan Province, which is both a source of trafficked individuals, and a destination for trafficking given its borders with Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

I’m happy to give credit where credit is due to China’s non-profit sector and to some of the legal benchmarks that have given precedent for women assuming control over their lives, but it would be a disservice to the Chinese people who want China to assume a more admired role in the human rights community to simply go mute on the challenges that still exist, both on the ground and in the lofty chambers of central leadership.

So by all means, read the book and be moved, but mind the gaps.

My Favorite Part

On Wednesday afternoon, members of our group made the game-changing discovery that the radio station on the Seven Day Adventist campus had Internet access. Some of our team attached themselves to a computer and did not budge for hours, trying to communicate with colleagues, family members, the State Department, any and all avenues for a potential evacuation and then some. I, not being directly connected to anyone of influence, decided to make use of my new found free time.

In my exploration around the rest of the campus, I befriended the man who seemed to be in charge of the station, Enock Nere. His English was well understood and his patience with the desperation in our group was limitless. We walked together over to a spot shaded by some modest flora and fauna and with his help I was able to strike up a conversation with a family of four children and their mother. Another child joined the group, one who had been to the U.S. and could speak some English and French and was very proud of his education, as he should have been.

Haitian family waiting for relief near the radio station

The children of the family were all young, no one above nine years old. I found the easiest way to grease the wheels with children in that circumstance was to take their picture, and then show them the picture on my digital screen. The difference in their faces before and after seeing themselves on camera was priceless. They seemed delighted to be able to see their images captured in time. I began to wonder how much I took for granted the ability to see my own reflection.

I passed the time talking to Enock and the family, still using some pitiful excuse for French to communicate. The mother was young, between 22 and 25 years old, not an abnormal age for mature motherhood in Port au Prince. Enock wanted to know what I thought of his country. Besides the obvious feelings of regret for the tragic circumstances, the truth was I thought Haiti was a beautiful country. Lush and green, what you might expect of any tropical haven. He seemed pleased with this response, which pleased me a great deal.

This was always the part of journalism that I enjoyed the most. Just to talk without deadlines or angles and simply be interested in the circumstances and backgrounds of someone else. Sometimes a story worth writing surfaces, sometimes new friends are made, but every time something is learned. It’s always a win win in those situations, a major part of its appeal I imagine.

Time passed and we were called back to the Villa for dinner. When I thought the day couldn’t get any fuller, we received a new guest in our bunk, just the guest we’d been praying for.

Doctors Without Borders: to report or not to report

Wednesday morning was a world away from Tuesday night. We woke early, breakfast was served at 7:30. Yes, there was a dining hall in our wall-protected compound, and a fully staffed kitchen. We ate eggs, tomatoes, toast, sausage and fresh squeezed orange juice. Was this real?

sharing bright attitudes over breakfast at Adentist compound.

The other missionaries staying at the Villa were from various denominations and churches, but the most significant presence was the Wesleyan Church. Most had been there long before the earthquake.

Of the 40 or so people staying at the Villa, we organized ourselves into our respective groups in order to plan our relief strategy for the day.

Naturally the tug in my stomach from the hospital had not diminished, if anything my need to go back was morphing into something a little wild.

Surpris told us that our job for the day was to go by truck to the Doctors Without Borders office in downtown Port Au Prince, pick up some medical supplies, and drive them back to Diquini Hospital.

After breakfast, we rallied, doused ourselves with one last round of bug spray, and walked over to the hospital.

It was calmer than the night before, it was easier to make out individuals and their injuries in the hot, bright daylight. It was also easier to take a visual tally of the casualties.

Dead bodies were placed on the grass on either side and on the median of the hospital driveway, shreds of sheets placed over their faces and torsos, but you could always see most of the lifeless limbs stretching out from underneath the rags. Dignity in death, in the sense that Americans interpret it, did not exist in this place. Here, the dignity was solely spiritual.

We piled into a black pickup, some of us in the cab, most of us in the bed. On the jerky ride to the Doctors Without Borders office my mother asked “Why didn’t you take any pictures at the hospital?”

I opened my mouth to respond with something overly defensive, but no words came out. The truth was I didn’t really know why, I just felt guilty. I was still reeling from the night before. In a move to alleviate the remorse for not having taken pictures of the dead, I started to photograph more of the damage we saw on the drive.

post quake damage in the daylight

I also began to mentally coach myself, “Alright Suzanne, this is why you’re here, you’re a story teller, get it together.” I started visualizing myself taking pictures of gruesome things, not unlike an athlete that visualizes scoring the winning goal before the game starts. I so wanted to prove myself to be a journalist.

After arriving at the Doctors Without Borders office downtown, we waited while our escort went in to check things out. The streets were bustling yet bleak at the same time. Many injured had nowhere to go, and so sat on the street side, letting their newly severed limbs bake in the impossibly hot sun. I knew then the smell of freshly opened flesh would soon turn into something much more putrid.

We found out that a gas station had exploded the night before near the office, so burn victims were prevalent inside the office’s makeshift mash unit. One thing to hear it, another to see it, smell it, feel it.

We were driven around back, from where we would walk onto the premise, and carry out boxes of supplies to load in the truck.

Doctors Without Border makeshift burn treatment tent. Located in downtown PAP near a recently exploded gas station.

After passing a large beige tent with Medicines senz Frontiers written on the side, the first thing I saw was the worst. A dead women splayed over the concrete with a leg that had been ripped off, blood and fat spilling out everywhere beneath her. She had a cardboard slat lain over her, it was the only privacy anyone could afford her. While involuntarily stopping my breath, I then passed the entrance to the tent that housed the burn victims. Young people almost or completely naked with third-degree burns from toe to crown were lying in the dirt, howling in pain. Their smell was distinct from the other injuries we had encountered thus far. So many smells all threatening to nauseate. Oddly enough my stomach was my only steady feature.

I focused on the task, looking only at the doctors who were passing out medical supplies. I grabbed enough boxes to partially block my vision, a defense mechanism I guess. I did see one of my companions take out her camera just in time to have the French doctors yell at her “No pictures! No pictures!” It was the strongest protest I had heard yet. On one level I was glad it wasn’t me getting yelled at, but on the other hand shouldn’t it have been me getting yelled at?

We hurriedly packed up the supplies and hopped on top of them in the back of the truck for the return drive. My mother and I started talking about my dilemma. Of course a journalist is always a journalist, much like a doctor is always a doctor, even if their momentary presence isn’t of a professional nature. But the truth was I wasn’t here for a publication. I wasn’t getting paid to bring the story home. I didn’t have the huge Nikon camera around my neck, or the conspicuous press badge that would tell onlookers that I was just doing my job. I had my little Canon point and shoot, enough to make me look like a tourist merely interested in capturing a people at their weakest and most gruesome moments. I was horribly self-conscious when taking pictures. Self-conscious; why was I being so “self” centered? My ego was irrelevant right? If I came under threats and anger because I was trying to tell a story that could lead to assistance then so be it. When I realized this, I knew my focus was beginning to return.

We arrived at the hospital, delivered the supplies and set to work. A woman had just passed away moments before our arrival and was lying on the front porch of the hospital, here eyes affixed in death on the sky above her. There was a sheet tangled in her legs. I took a breath in, slid the sheet over her face, and took out my camera. I didn’t photograph her. Covering her seemed respectful, but I also took it in as a personal ritual, going from dismayed volunteer to green storyteller. I took pictures of the bodies I’d seen earlier. I photographed the view from the steps of the hospital, trying to capture the crudeness of the care these people were receiving for lack of supplies. It was hard with my digital camera, and I was still working out my nerves of being perceived as insensitive. But no one approached me or grimaced at me. I simply became a part of the environment, barely even noticed. As I worked out my anxiety with each photo, my respect for the photographers that heed no limits in their story-capturing grew exponentially.

The deceased were lain on the side and on the median of the Diquini Hosptial driveway

20 Seconds in Haiti

All it took was 20 seconds. What felt like a surreal simulation ride within our vehicle had wrought the most devastation on Haiti’s capital the Haitians had ever experienced. Within 20 seconds, the faith driven people of Port Au Prince were collapsing and praising, enraptured by the evidence of God’s presence. A mere 20 seconds, and hundreds of thousands of families were ripped apart, as were the bodies of hundreds of thousands of casualties.

On Tuesday January 12, at approximately 4:55 pm, an earthquake registering 7.3 on the Richter scale, originating in the legislative heart of Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince, decimated the city of roughly 2 million inhabitants.

Within 15 minutes of our leaving the Port au Prince airport, 5 members of the Houston Rotary club and myself experienced the first earthquake of our lives in an open field, safely detached from the precarious buildings of the city’s center. Had we left the airport 20 minutes earlier or later, our positioning would not have been so fortunate.

Due to our insulated experience of the actual earthquake, we were blissfully ignorant of the ensuing carnage. There was nervous laughter, the acknowledgment of the bizarre coincidence, but nothing close to a registration of what had just happened to Haiti.

shots of the damage in Port au Prince from within our vehicle

The disaster would be made known to us in successive scenes, each one more devastating than the last as we made our way to the Diquini Hospital. A hospital whose needs we had intended to “assess” in our planning of this trip so many weeks prior. And such an assessment we would have.

Looking out to the streets in a state of shell shock, we came across the collapsed Legislative Palace. Seeing this symbol of governance leveled to the ground yanked us into the realization that this was so much bigger than our imaginations had allowed.

collapsed buildings surrounding the Legislative Palace

We then knew the realization of death was soon to follow. Vicki spoke to the air; “We may be working triage at the hospital tonight, instead of just checking in.”  I knew she was right.

The roads were impossible. Our driver, Mitchell, who had a family of his own, abandoned the main boulevard to try his hand at the winding neighborhood roads. The layout of the city wasn’t unlike the picturesque cliff-side towns you imagine in Mykonos or Santorini. But this city was distorted, distorted by disaster, and nightfall, and a people without in every way outside of their devotion to God. They had nothing, but they knew God was with them in their nothingness, and so nothingness became worship. Panic became psalms and proverbs. Anguish became amen.

After 5 hours in our little van, atop backpacks and luggage and leg cramps, our tedious crawl through the crushed neighborhoods came to an end at Diquini hospital. We were involuntarily relieved to step out of the cramped vehicle onto the hospital driveway. We hadn’t realized how contorted our limbs had been until we stood. Relief was short lived. We knew what we were walking into, but we were nowhere near prepared for it.