You're my witness

I was born to rock the boat
some may sink but we will float
grab your coat,
let's get out of here

Your're my witness
I'm your mutineer


Peggy Senger Parsons and Derek Lamson will be traveling from
Seattle to Bujumbura, Burundi December 27-29 via London,
Brussels, Paris, Addis Ababa, and Kigali.
It it likely to be Tuesday the 2nd before we can get to an internet
connection and send word to loved ones or post here. After that
updates at this site should be fairly regular.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!


Blogosphere Strength and Goodness


Thanks to generous Friends in Salem
and around the globe
I will be taking just under $5000.00
to Central Africa to do good!

At least half of that came from people who
I would not have known except through their blogs!

You are true heros.

To quote "Good King Wenceslas"

"Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing."



Put Down The Ducky!

Today's UPI column - there will be none next week - then I will be writing from Africa

So There I was...

Getting on a plane. Returning home, but leaving a huge chunk of my heart behind. I had just dropped my firstborn child off at college, half-way across the country, and every bit of 18 years of mommy conditioning told me I was being bad – very bad.

You do not dump your children off among strangers, hoping that they will figure out how to live in a foreign environment. You do not abdicate your responsibility for keeping the worst of the world at bay while they learn and grow. You do not suddenly cease your constant, if often unwelcome, teaching commentary on their life.

You do not just walk away. You just don’t.

Except that we all do – eventually. At least every successful parent, does, eventually, just walk away.

It didn’t really help that this was an extremely competent child, and that my mothering had mostly been consultive for the last year or two. The problem with competent children is that they often think that they can do all sorts of grown-up things – whether they can or not.

And it really didn’t help that when I got home the family dog ‘yelled’ at me for weeks. He would go into her room, bark, and then come in to me and bark at me.

“Stupid woman! You’ve lost your puppy!”
“I know, Alex, I know.”

When his Lassie imitation failed he fell into a depression that lasted until Christmas.

The girl, of course was all right. I, however, was just starting my work in the Spiritual Discipline of Release. Some of the spiritual disciplines are optional; elective courses for the spiritually motivated and inquisitive, others are mandatory. Release is one of the mandatory ones, a core requisite. You can do it badly or you can master it, but you are going to take this class.

If you are lucky enough to live so long, you will release your parents, your children and your lovers, you will eventually release your strength, and whatever mental superiority you ever had. The more you are blessed, the more you will release, until the day comes when you release your very life. It may be ripped from your clinging grasp, or it may float away like the fall leaves, but you will let go of it. Fortunately Life, in its kindness, offers you many opportunities for practice before that day.

I have learned a few things that help. I have learned to breathe and relax my body on command, especially under stress. I have learned to pray. I have learned to trust God to be God and to run the universe, with or without me. I have learned how to discern if something is my problem or somebody else’s problem, and I don’t usually try and fix other people’s problems. I have learned that control is an illusion, and that when I cease trying to control, my influence actually increases. I have learned to trust people, most of the time they do an adequate job with decent intent.
All of these things help me let go.

Which is good because I am about to take a mid-term exam. I am about to walk away from my life for a couple of months.

This is a thing that competent, professional, middle-class American women rarely do. Like most of my age mates I spin plates, and spin with the best of them, I do. I lose a saucer every now and then, but no major losses. I have hearth and home, two part-time professions, and a handful of odd gigs on the side. Plus a dangerous hobby or two. And being me, I take a leadership role in every part of my life. Much easier to lead than to follow, less frustration, usually turns out pretty well, my kudos cabinet is well stocked.

But there are some things that are so focus-consuming that you have to lay everything else down to have a chance of doing them right. I am about to go to an unstable, dangerous, alien part of the world, to do complicated assessment and training. It is a one plate, one pole spin.

So I have to let go of everything else for a bit. My counseling clients will have to take care of themselves, or find other help. My fledgling church is going to fly without me. My husband will run the house without my help. My second daughter will pack away the 120-year-old Christmas ornaments that I never let anyone else touch. The motorcycles will sit cold with batteries draining and oil sludging. The plants in my late father’s greenhouse will pray for mild weather. And the 101 unforeseen mini-crises that are bound to occur during my absence will be handled or not by someone who is not me.

That same first daughter that I abandoned to her college life had a favorite Sesame Street bit when she was tiny. It was a musical number where Ernie wanted to play the saxophone but was having problems because it took two hands to play and one of his hands was occupied by holding his beloved rubber ducky. A conundrum. A series of famous cameo singers sang this advice to the orange everytoddler. “You gotta put down the ducky, yes, put down the ducky, you gotta put down the ducky if you wanna play the saxophone.”

So watch me, I’m gonna take a deep breath, say a prayer, renounce control, and put down my beloved ducky of a life, and blow.



My Friend David Niyonzima

The day that I came to understand that my friend was truly a Quaker.

Fall 2003

The roads of Burundi are like fast moving streams and rivers. But the current is full to choking with people. People on foot, on bicycle, people in vehicles some with steering wheels on the right some on the left, people on bicycles hitching to the backs of lorries - children, lots of children. Animals too; goats, chickens, goats and chickens on bicycles, long horn cattle.

This mass of life flows in a form that could only be described by Chaos theory. There are no lanes for vehicles or pedestrians, they eddy and flow as they will. There is a declared propoer side of the road - but it is ignored. You cannot tell who is going which way. If you are in a car, you proceed at a slow but steady pace, honking your horn at regular intervals - it is their job to get out of your way. If you notice a lack of Angels in America it is because they are snatching babies off the roads of Burundi.
I have seen toddlers within inches of our tires.

We were driving up to Muramvya, David at the wheel, me sandwiched in the middle of the front seat, slowing through the clotted streams of a small town. I noticed a sea change. Without any indication of why, I became aware that the masses of people and livestock were all flowing one way - in unison - towards our rear. This seemed off, I had never seen Burundians move in unison before. David did not seem to be observing this.

"David" I said, "The people all seem to be moving in the same direction."
"Yes, they do."
"They seem to be going the opposite way that we are."
"This is true, Peggy"
"Why do you think they are doing this?"
"Well, I suppose that there is a bit of activity on the road ahead,
and they are moving to avoid it." (statement of fact - calm as you please)

'Activity' is a Burundian euphemism for a shooting war.
They use the word 'situation' for genocide.

(me, matching calm tone, but not possessing what I profess)
"David, if there is activity on the road ahead,
and these good people are smart enough to avoid it,
why are we moving towards it?"

(as if speaking to beloved, small child)
"Because, Peggy, our work is where the activity is."

And in that moment
I realized that I was riding with a true descendent of the valiant ones.
Mary Fischer on her way to the sultan,
Elizabeth Fry entering the prison,
Woolman going to the slaveowners.
Too many too tell of.

But it is no different today.
Our work is still where the activity is happening.

David Niyonzima, is a second generation Quaker, a former leader of Burundi Yearly Meeting, present pastor of Kamenge Friends Church, and director of Trauma Healing Services of Burundi, THARS.

Sweet Home Chicago

The last time I went to Africa
the Cubbies almost made it into the World Series.
Sombody told me that the Bears are looking good.
I will get off the continent
maybe it will help



The Crooked shall be made straight

Todays UPI column

The voice of him who crieth in the wilderness, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every Valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” (Isaiah 40:23-40)

So there I was…

…on a road between Highway 101 and Highway 1 in far northern California.

A rainforest roller coaster of a road. Biker bliss.

I am not going to name the road because too many of you and your Winnebagos already know where it is. But it goes from the redwoods to the ocean, and it just might be the crookedest road in America – it is certainly my favorite motorcycle road.
When they made this road through the prehistoric ferniness they banked those kinks and turns so precisely that a bike can whiz through there at speeds that cars can only dream of. Motorcycles chuckle at the suggested speed limits for those turns.

“Poors cagers – better slow down – Bye-Bye!”

Because of the superb banking, centripetal forces glue the blessedly two-wheeled to the curves, allowing you to lean at angles that just shouldn’t work. What appears to you citizens as a slow two-lane road is really at least a four lane white-water rapid to us, and we use all those lanes. If you can see through the next curve, the whole curve is yours to slice.
We do make the crooked straight.

And we do like the rough places to be plain. Gravel is not your friend on that road. You are balancing on about four square inches of rubber, two up front and two behind. You need all the contact you can get.

I cannot ride that road without singing Handel’s Messiah in the fabulous acoustics of my full-face helmet. Specifically the part where the prophet and lyricist Isaiah shouts out
“Prepare a highway for our God.” (see above)

Now it might seem at first listen that he is talking about the interstate through Nevada – flat, straight, smooth. But that is because you don’t understand. God is the ultimate crotch rocket and humanity is stuck in the Winnebago. God is infinitely nimble, infinitely powerful, God has more lanes than you, God plays by completely different rules. And God will pass your ‘bago on the right or the left like it was a concrete statue.
And doesn’t that just frost your cake?
God so often behaves like a hooligan.
Your messiest, most dangerous, serious switchback is God’s pipeline
– arrow straight, smooth and a kick in the pants.

And thus ends the metaphor, because God does not wipe out.

The important thing to do to prepare the road for God, is to get out of God’s way, and then pay attention.
Here is the message of Isaiah,
of angels hanging over the heads of shepherds,
of John the Baptist: Something big is about to come this way! Clear the runway, turn on the lights, God is about to land a 747 on your back forty in the middle of a hurricane!
You are so going to wet your britches, but seriously, Fear Not!

This is what Christmas is all about.

I respectfully suggest that the next Ducati be named the Emmanuel


Central Africa Quiz #3

Peggy is preparing to head to Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC
right after Christmas for two months.
If you want to know more about her work there look
Here and Here

In the meantime, a harder question this time.
In Central Africa checkpoints are a major industry.
You can get stopped almost anytime, and anywhere.
The checkpoints are USUALLy run by government soldiers,
but not always, and you cant tell them from the rebel groups
or general bandits, because they all wear mix and match uniforms
from First World Surplus... Also being drunk on duty is not against
the rules of regular soldiery and "resupplying" by "general Aquisition"
is allowed.

So... These three fellows stop you somewhere near the border
between Rwanda and the Congo. Are you worried? Why or why not?


Central Africa Quiz #2

What is wrong with this picture?


Central Africa Quiz #1

What are you looking at?
(post guesses in comments)