Thursday, 20 June 2013

Nasruddin: Your way move forward

I am grateful to Seth at CMS for photo-shopping this picture of me, like Mulla Nasruddin riding a donkey backwards. He did it for my leaving card. The problem is that it looks far too authentic! Maybe its the shape of things to come!

I like the picture because of the plodding donkey carrying its heavy load with the speeding car in the background, blurred as it travels into the future (off to the right? or is the future the other way round in the East, to the left? Like the writing? )   Nasruddin has an eye on the future but is inextricably plodding back into the past at a much slower pace, leaving the bright lights of the shops behind.  And of course he doesn't know where he is going. He trusts his donkey to take him home..... 

Your Way Move Forward

I have been asked a number of times where I get my Nusruddin stories from. Well I bought my favourite book ‘Nasreddin Hodja’ in Turkey for about $10. This particular book has wonderful images.  An Amazon search will come up with the goods. click  HERE 


But I have also collected a number of other books In Turkish, Arabic, Urdu, Persian as well as English. I can’t read them all, but I do collect them (I’ve heard there is a video cartoon in Russian which I’m on the lookout for). And he goes under many names including Gohar, Hodja, Joha, Effengi, Mullana &/or Mullah Nusruddin. His stories have been related and embellished for centuries, from North Africa to China, from Siberia to Samarkand, in Caravanserai all along the Silk Route. There is something timeless about them.      

And if you can’t get hold of the book this website - seems to have electronic images of every page. Nasruddin would approve!

So why does he sit on his Donkey backwards?

Well I have heard at least four different explanations: 

One day, Nasruddin Hoca was riding home from the mosque on his donkey, and there was a large crowd behind him. Suddenly, he got off, and got on again backwards, facing the animal’s tail. The people naturally asked him what he was doing. 
He replied: ‘I thought about it, and decided to ride my donkey like this, because I have no time for disrespect. If you move ahead of me, then you will be turning your back on me. That would be terrible disrespect. If I go on ahead, I will be turning my back on you, and that is also quite unacceptable. This way, I can go on ahead of you and you can follow behind, and we can still keep looking at each other!  That is the logical way!’

Being respectful, is one of the essentials of entering another culture. facing people, being careful where we point our feet, not turning our back... Not wanting to be disrespectful in any way.

But there are other explanations …….

One day Nasruddin was riding his donkey backwards.
- Nasruddin  the people said, you are sitting on your donkey  backwards!
- No, he replied. It's not that I am sitting on the donkey backwards, the donkey is facing the wrong way.
I suppose it is easy to blame others and I certainly have a very stubborn streak in me that insists I am right even when the evidence might suggest otherwise .....

Or alternatively another version of the story 

- Nasruddin  the people said, you are sitting on your donkey  backwards!
- No, Nasruddin replied. My friend here wanted to go one way and I wanted to go the other, so we are compromising.
Compromise is after all, quintessentially English? Well maybe Turkish as well. Whatever culture it represents, compromise is necessary when more than one will is involved... 

Or perhaps my favourite response

- No, said Mulla Nasruddin. It's not that I am sitting on the donkey backwards, It's just that I'm more interested in where I am coming from more than where I am going, my friends.

I suppose I have always had an eye for the past, whether dabbling in a little genealogy, or watching a good historical movie (where people dress up in costumes and then kill each other!)

I also believe that 'meaning making' is retrospective. We only really work out what has been happening when we look behind and see the patterns ....  The rest of the time we are in the present, in the moment, trying to work out what is going on. 

The picture of yours truely standing in front of a poster of Ahmad Shah Masoud on at Kabul Airport, which is there to inspire people. ‘Your way move forward’ he suggests. 

The Maoris of New Zealand talk of the past being visible and therefore in front of us, whilst the future is hidden and therefore behind. So we should walk backwards into the future with the past in front of us…………… 

That, as Nasruddin would say, is the logical way!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Addiction: Afghanistan's secret shame

I was sent a link to this 2013 production 'Addiction: Afghanistan's Secret Shame'
by BBC Persian journalist Tahir Qadiry - filmed and directed by Darius Bazargan
It is an excellent 45 min documentary, which looks at the contemporary addiction problem in Afghanistan with over a million heroin addicts (2009 figures). Afghanistan is not just a producer and exporter of drugs, but a major consumer. It's one way to deal with all the trauma of over 3 decades of war and current 40% unemployment.

You can watch an interview on Weekend World with Tahir about his programme  And see the full 45 minute documentary here Addiction: Afghanistan's secret shame. It's is well worth it......

The documentary focuses on addicts in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sherif (and Balkh).  And it features the NEJAT centre, which is the organisation I used to work for in Peshawar, as Drug Advisor, back in the 1990s. I am still on their advisory board. They come over well in the documentary and I felt proud to be associated with them.  But I also felt somewhat disillusioned in that in spite of all our efforts the drug problem has been relentlessly increasing.  Nejat may indeed be one of the most established treatment programmes in the country, yet they still couldn't help Jawed the young 18 year old addict from Badakhshan, who is the storyline focus of the documentary.  He is seen leaving, having gone back on drugs, wandering the street of Kabul alone, as the snow falls around him, with the 'Velvet Underground'  Heroin song as background music (lyrics by Micheal O'suilleabhain) :

'I don't know just where I'm going....   but I gonna try for the kingdom if I can' 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Nasruddin: a fool and his money

Nasruddin used to stand in the street on market-days, to be pointed out as an idiot. No matter how often people offered him a large and a small coin, he always chose the smaller piece.
One day a kindly man said to him:
"Nasruddin, you should take the bigger coin. Then you will have more money and people will no longer be able to make a laughing stock of you."
"That may be true", said Nasruddin, "but if I always take the larger, people will stop offering me money to prove that I am more idiotic than they are. Then I would have no money at all."

I've been thinking quite a bit about fundraising recently, and I'm no expert, but I think this story highlights a few helpful points:

1. fundraising is for idiots

there is something about
asking for money that makes you look foolish - idiotic even.   In the bible it talks about how the foolishness of this world confounds the wise (1 Cor 1:25)  Nasruddin is prepared to be the idiot, since he has found a good income stream.  He is not afraid of being a 'laughing stock' and as always there is wisdom in his foolishness .   a little and often is better than a lot occasionally. 
2. small coins are easier to give than bigger coins

'small is beautiful' which seems to be the conclusion of the famous story of the 'widow's mite' (Luke 21:2) or maybe it should be 'widow's might' !  There is power in a good story to inspire others  - we think 'If she can give something like that and be praised, so can I'.   Giving a little - 'a small coin'  is achievable  for everybody    'Big coins' are only for big people. This little parable of the large and the small coins suggests that small repetitive acts can achieve big results  ...

3. It's all about going public. 

visibility, standing on the streets on market day  people wanted to give   to prove he was more foolish than they are ....  he was on to a winner.  
it was counter intuitive   bigger is better  or small is beautiful  
crowd sourcing

4. people give to people

'people offered him'  -  some say it's not about fundraising but friend-raising  -  people give to people.  And as it says in the story they were 'offering him money'   but they had their own needs and needed to keep the bigger coin for themselves .....

don't always listen to the advice of kindly old men.

experience and wisdom of the past is not always the best guide. as has been often quoted  'If you do what you always did you'll get what you always got'. Sometime you just need to try something different.  And Nasruddin discovered a winner.   

Stewardship - 'transforming generosity'

here are 4 of the things I am involved in:
Global Teams -  as
Partnership Facilitator (UK and Europe) I love their strapline 'the heart of Christ in the skin of every culture'

Mahabba - currently in a voluntary capacity helping 
to mobilise ordinary Christians to befriend ordinary Muslims. They have  a very simple  strapline: 'loving all Muslims'

Faith2share   -   a network of mission
organisations, new and old, who support each other and collaborate in global mission - their slogan is 'we believe faith needs to be shared'

AsiaCMS - a new mission agency in Asia (that I helped to set up), part of the CMS family  which is focused on 'advancing God's Mission through training and resourcing leaders'

I have been involved in setting up a small cooperative, so we can work with such groups - Paraklesis is a group of experienced consultants who 'come alongside to help'.

If you would like to, then you can give to any of them via Stewardship - transforming generosity'   Just log on the site and search for any of the above mentioned organisation. (you need a Stewardship  account)  If you would like to give to my personal support and ministry fund click here.  Or you can check on their individual website to find other ways of giving (feel free to mention me!)

Finally if none of that works for you, we can meet on a street corner somewhere and go through the 'Nasruddin routine'   ........  I'll take the small coin and you keep the bigger one - I promise!  And, by the way, I've no problems with being a laughing stock...... 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Woking Street Angels: All's well that Ends well

We have a fascinating time each time we are out with Woking Street Angels.  This report I did gives you a flavour of the evening (from 10pm til 4am) and what we get up to.  NB names have been changed to protect individuals) and the pictures are 'lifted' from the the WSA website. 

Saturday night was a routinely active night, with nothing exceptional. Bed Bar had a full house as usual. There were a couple of fights outside Yates and BED.......which the police responded to.

We were 3 teams (7 in total). We devised a new rota at request of team members, to enable us all to be out for the last hour. We changed the rest times to one of half hour and one of an hour (normally we do 2 hours on and one hour off) 

A number of incidents:

·    Grace was distressed and feeling unwell and cold. She was with a girl friend who was really helpful (and not drunk). We used a fleece blanket to get her warm, gave her flipflops and water. One of the female angels escorted her to loo at Woking Hotel, who were really helpful... (‘Spoons would let her in). She phoned her boyfriend who came to pick her up in his car from Twickenham. We gave her a space blanket to keep warm for the journey home.

·    Spoke to young couple outside Yates who seemed genuinely interested in becoming street Angels. 

·    The Town Marshalls also explained what they do, whihc is basically keeping an eye on licensing arrangements - taxis and bars.  

·    I had spoken to someone from church who pre-warned us about a homeless man called Alan (Greenish army jacket, close cropped grey hair, with an army camouflaged rucksack) who she met at LarkinthePark @ GoldsworthPark. He is epileptic and has to take medicine and thinks YorkRoad can't look after the medicine. Team 1 met him and John reported they put him on a train to Guildford cos he wanted to go for the soup kitchen there to take his medicine with food.  The Railway staff really helpful and let him on train free.

·    Raymond just out from a Drug Rehab and wants to volunteer as a WSA..... 

·    Team 2 helped a guy retrieve his jacket from Yates.
At end of shift there was a girl under canopy on her own who said she was going to walk home. Carol (team 3)  felt she was very vulnerable (young, pretty, tipsey, alone) so we negotiated a taxi for her, using some of the money from WSA kitty... 

Positives: Lots of friendly banter with doormen, taxidrivers, Fastfood staff and Town Marshalls

I had a very helpful conversation with the Pakistani taxi Driver, Mohammad, who had helped with difficult incident on Sat 9th Feb (which was used as a case discussion in Team Leaders meeting on 26Mar)  He explained how on the way home the man had wanted a wee and had fallen in the bushes. It was very hard to get him back in the cab and back home.  The taxi driver explained how he knew the couple, who were ‘travellers’ and were very ‘difficult’ …  He had tried to ring me but had written down the number wrong.

I also met Mickey (who was out celebrating his 31st b/day) who had been assaulted last time I was on duty near to the Galaxy cabs stand. (May18)  A Paramedic had been called by a passing bouncer and was on the scene quickly. He had been excellent. And Mickey had later gone to hospital for check up with potential concussion, but was OK. He said it happens to him often, although he does not go looking for trouble. There was one  bad assault in S’ampton – when some youths bad-mouthed his girlfriend and he stood up to them and ended up with kicks in the head and needing a pin in a broken elbow. He was a sensitive chat and talked openly about his own depression and how he helps with IT at a club for mentally ill. It was the most significant conversation of the evening for me.

I felt these 2 stories had a sense of (partial) completion, which you don’t often get......

Almost a case of all's well that ends well 

You can watch more about Woking Street Angels in this video

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A Celtic Blessing

This blessing was sent to me in an email some time back by a friend.  It is by John O'Donohue (1956-2008) see link here . It's a good prayer to pray for colleagues.  So I think of all those I have had the privilege of working closely with over the years, especially those who have been in 'my team' (you know who you are!)

I particularly like the idea of being 'present in what you do'  rather than being  'lost in bland absences'.

May the light of your soul guide you

May the light of your soul bless the work that you do

with the secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light

and renewal to those who work with you

and to those who see and receive your work.

May your work never weary you.

May it release within you wellsprings of

refreshment, inspiration and excitement.

May you be present in what you do.

May you never become lost in bland absences.

May the day never burden.

May dawn find you awake and alert, 

 approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises.

May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.

May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.

celtic loveknot