“In saying that Christianity is the religion of the broken heart, we do not mean that Christianity ends with the broken heart; we do not mean that the characteristic Christian attitude is a continual beating on the breast or a continual crying of “Woe is me.” Nothing could be further from the fact. On the contrary, Christianity means that sin is faced once for all, and then is cast, by the grace of God, forever into the depths of the sea.” — J. Gresham Machen
A Note From International Arts Movement
I recently spent a weekend at a conference for professional involved in the Christian higher education space. As a graduate of such an institution, it offered a tremendous opportunity to reflect on my four years of college and the people that molded and shaped me into the person I am today. More broadly, it created space to think about mentorship as a whole. For most of my twenties, I have spent an inordinately large amount of time near or with people who some might call “influential.” Let me pause here and say that I don’t share this fact to garner accolades or make myself sound more impressive. I merely share it because I think it is helpful for creating some context for my reflection today.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet and befriend certain people whose lives have taken on incredible journeys and trajectories, many of which I have admired and followed from afar. For me to stand near them while they make decisions, think through implications, and plod forward is a tremendous privilege that I do not take for granted. I’ve learned so much from those who have graciously invited me into the room and offered me a seat at the proverbial table. I’m never the smartest person there, and, more likely than not, am often the least qualified. And yet, these people treat me as though I have a place and I below.
Giving someone permission to take up space, to ask questions, and to participate in the larger conversation is something I have pondered for quite some time. I was lucky enough to have several experiences in my early education that gave me a taste of what it felt like to be seen: to have someone believe in an idea and propel it forward, offering me the tools and resources (and encouraging words) I needed to succeed. There’s much to be said about these people — my seventh grade english teacher, my eighth grade history teacher, a high school mentor — and I simply don’t have the space today to write about them all.
What I do want to say is this — it is a profound thing to find oneself in a room filled with power, and to experience and overflow of generosity and abundance. I’ve been the recipient of this many times. People willing to have conversations with me, to meet me and answer questions, to point me in the right direction, to give me a lift when it counted most. I’m reminded of the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”… I think that is true for impact as well. It takes the eye of a certain person to recognize the latent possibility in those who are in a phase of life where they might not have had an opportunity to capitalize on it yet. I owe so many aspects of my life and vocation to people who saw a spark of something in me, and offered me a chance to fan it into something larger, to discover who I am as a person. In doing so, they’ve inspired me to offer the same chance to others — to create a foundation and a platform for people to become the fullest version of the people they are meant to be.
A Note From Makoto Fujimura, Founder of IAM Culture Care
As I write this (February 9, 2022), we wait word from the Indian government whether they would lift the quarantine rules. Embers International have been planning a trip there, a trip that my bride Haejin and I had planned to take two years ago when we just met, and postponed it twice. As I learned more about her, as an attorney, her passion to end human trafficking in our generation became a way for me to merge my pursuit of beauty with justice. We have been praying to be able to travel, and even though we are not quite yet sure if we can, we are planning as if we can.
Such is the state of our lives today, planning and cancelling, waiting and hoping; any plans get set back, we now shrug and assume there will be a day that would make our plans come to be. Or we may be utterly exhausted from these setbacks, and some cannot think to be outside, let alone travel. As we move forward in our “new normal”, things will continue to be tentative, and frustrating; but that should not stop us from planning…and dreaming.
In our journey together, Haejin and I have been focused on presenting on Beauty and Justice themes. We have decided to not travel apart. We have discovered that she, in seeking justice, longs for beauty: and I, in seeking to create beauty, has always been advocating for human flourishing through IAMCultureCare. A lawyer seeks justice, but finds that without the goal of victims seeing her/himself as beautiful, even winning a case does not satisfy justice. An artist seeks to create beauty, I find that without fulness of human restoration and freedom, that “beauty” created will be at best superficial, and will have a hollow sound.
I am also happy to note, in such times as this, Embers is expanding! They are hiring a COO, a Program Director, and a Program and Development Associate. Their work to provide intergenerational education in some of the darkest areas of the world is providing fruit, and it is an exciting time. We are also gaining a much needed help in hiring my Fellow Carly Lopez as our executive help, and you will be hearing from her in the coming months. So, if you know anyone who might fit the job description (link is below) to expand our team, we’d be excited to hear from you. You can learn more about the different opportunities here. Please send a note to [email protected]embersinternational.org.
Update (February 11, 2022): Mako and I (Haejin) are going to India next week to serve with Embers International to protect, restore, and empower the children born into brothels and their mothers still trapped in generational exploitation. Please pray with us!
Guest Writer: Ally Lima
Ally Lima is a junior at Bucknell University, where she is studying English. She is also a Fujimura Fellow (in training!). Her reflections on justice, art, and culture will appear in the newsletter on a regular basis.
Perhaps there is no clearer way to discover your own perception of culture care than to completely immerse yourself in another culture. When I boarded my flight for Italy for the semester, I did not know what to expect of my impending five-month journey. The reality of living with Italian roommates and taking classes in a foreign language was not one that I could completely prepare for. As I now enter my second month here, I have found that the exploration of culture care oftentimes is not simple and can come hand-in-hand with feelings of discomfort. Above all else, the clarity that I have gotten from my time thus far is that many times we do not realize the comfort that we live in until we are no longer living in it: the comfort of asking a stranger a question without the worry of how you pronounced your words, the comfort of coming home to familiar faces every night, or even simply the comfort of a monotonous school week. Culture care for me as I continue my immersion means leaning into the discomfort and acknowledging the privilege of having the opportunity to explore the meaning of culture care in such a hands-on way. The discomfort only reveals how complex culture itself truly is and how uniquely it distinguishes all of us. As I grow more accustomed to Italian life, I am able to more fully appreciate the culture that I am surrounded by every day, while also gaining a new appreciation for the culture that I once took for granted back in America.
- “This is about acknowledging what it means to live as a Christian in a context in which you have the privilege of martyrdom.” — David Brooks in the New York Times.
- Reflect on the wonders of the cross with Christianity Today’s Lenten Devotional, featuring contributions from Mako and others!
- Why CODA deserves all the accolades.
- Pastor Russ Ramsey’s latest book is book is part art history, part biblical study, part philosophy, and part analysis of the human experience.
- Take a look at the new Culture Care Creative website, which was recently re-launched.
- On the National Endowment for the Arts podcast, National Black Theatre’s CEO, Sade Lythcott, talks about the theater’s particular alchemy of Black liberation, art, and placemaking.
Header Image: Paul Signac, The House of Van Gogh, 1932, Watercolor, private collection.