April 18, 2012

inspired by Machine Gun Preacher

while sitting in the back of a KLM airplane on our way back to ghana after a week-long holiday with our children in France and Italy, my husband and i searched the list of movies to watch to pass the time.  we wanted to watch one that we wouldn't mind seeing on a tiny screen while having to press the earphones against our ears to offset the sound of the plane's engines.  we quickly agreed on Machine Gun Preacher.  we soon found ourselves wrapped up in the atrocities of the Ugandan/South Sudan war, our thoughts no longer lingering on the wonderful, joyful moments spent on holiday with our children..

this film is very raw and gripping.  it stirs up anger and disgust as well as incredible inspiration to see how this one man, Sam Childers, lived his life in a most sinful way and then dedicated himself to maintaining an orphanage in that region of conflict.  he is not an example to me or any kind of hero, yet his determination to put the lives of those children first is what i appreciate.  the film depicts his weaknesses and flaws, as well as how challenging it was for his family while he followed his passion to build the orphanage at by any means necessary (now i'm thinking of Malcolm X :)).

this film strengthened our resolve to extend our life of Baha'i service -- which is based on the spiritual upliftment of the human family through the principles revealed by Baha'u'llah -- to encompass building a long-lasting, sustainable 'structure' -- a physical institution of one form or another that represents and contributes to the spiritual foundation of any community..

for years we have longed to build something:  a school, a sports center, a community center, a community garden, and an orphanage.  these are basic 'structures' -- but we feel they will only be dynamic and sustainable if they are infused with and based on the spiritual principles of equity, freedom of all forms of prejudice, and a high moral standard of conduct.  for us, these 'structures' must serve a greater purpose, providing a foundation for a spiritual civilization.

as Baha'is, we are striving to live a life of nobility, justice and universal brotherhood -- principles which transcend all current standards of charity and service.  we want to build something that exemplifies a standard of excellence for others to follow, something which enables everyone in a community to feel touched by the highest ideals of nobility, honor, dignity, purity and holiness.  it would welcome all and serve as a refuge, an opportunity, and a place which offers possibilities for a glorious future of high-minded, service-oriented, spiritually enlightened, and excellence-seeking souls..

i have always struggled to undertake anything big or visionary.  i have allowed all of the possible obstacles -- money, inexperience, lack of education, location, my age -- to prevent me from taking steps toward accomplishing significant goals (like a Master's degree).  but at a deeper level i realize it's because i haven't had the confidence to believe in myself.  this is still a struggle for me in many ways.  but despite all of my excuses, inabilities and lack of confidence, this film actually encouraged me to feel able to accomplish this goal of finally establishing a 'structure'.  i think what makes this feeling possible is that my husband has the same exact goal.  he and i working together gives me a sense of confidence about being able to accomplish something big (though these years of raising children is pretty awesome in and of itself!)..

whether the film is accurate or exaggerated, the character in the film inspired us.. he is far from perfect yet he chose to sacrifice his life for others -- he continued following his heart because it was the right thing to do.  he wasn't defeated by his own faults and weaknesses.  he wasn't discouraged by others' lack of support.  he had no thought of himself in those moments of making decisions to fight for the human rights of these children of war..

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