Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two local church presentations: "Paul & Co."; "Nacascolo"

The Trinity Presbyterian Church on 16th Street in Arlington VA put on a children’s play Sunday (May 18) about one of the more “controversial” sequences in the Book of Acts. The play, named “Paul & Co.” by Mary Nelson Keithahn and John D. Horman covers some of Paul’s ministry with Timothy and Silas as in the passages from Acts 15:35 to 16:40 (the entire chapter 16). With a cast of about 25 elementary and middle school kids in pastel robes and period-piece costumes, it tries to be humorous, as the three apostles introduce themselves, meet the fortuneteller, and through the more serious passages as Paul winds up in prison. There were areas he could not go to minister and winds up in Macedonia. Later, to get out of trouble, he has to deal with the practical need not to “offend the Romans” too much, which is sung with some humor. The “color purple” as a symbol of extravagant unearned wealth and privilege (disturbing to the political Left) draws some laughs. The idea that one group of people in charge need to be placated socially and psychologically (as well as religiously) drives a lot of social controversy today. It also depicts the notions that many cultures do not allow "different" ideas because they believe they are "protecting" their members from themselves.

Actually, the passages take up some serious stuff that, read in a dramatic but outside of a religious context, invite a Hollywood like approach and almost could lead to an R-rated movie. The passages concerning the slave girl talk about the extreme capitalism and trafficking by the masters, and about the Jews bringing customs illegal for the Romans to observe (the early form of anti-Semitism).

Verse 3 in Chapter 16 reads literally, “Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places.” The religious interpretation was that this was not necessary for “salvation” but to get along with the Jewish people. If one ponders that this kind of intimate concern appeared, one wonders how much forced intimacy ancient societies expected.

A good interpretation is on "Enduring Word" here.

On Wednesday, May 21, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC put on a 40 minute slide show of about 470 slides, “Nacascolo,” about a trip that a group took to rural Nicaragua to help build the Evelyn Shockey Medical Clinic. The slides start with the flight from Reagan airport and actually show two volcanic lakes from the air, one green with sulfur compounds. They land in Managua (site of the 1972 earthquake) and take a bus called “Monster” to the rural town, where they camp in cramped and primitive quarters and work during the day, mixing and pouring concrete and with various other construction labors. The native population cooks for them and takes care of them, and the narration makes a point that the natives were immaculately clean, with all clothing manually washed, ironed and bleached. The houses were primitive with little in the way of contents; one home with solar panels had a black and white TV. Photography must have depended on imported battery power. This would make an effective independent film if video were added, which could happen if there were ever a return trip.

Update: July 6, 2008

Dr. Laura Parajon, a medical missionary working in Nicaragua, gave the sermon today at First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, about Nacascolo. Also, she showed additional slides and video clips about the Nacascolo mission at a Sunday School gathering.

Update: July 13, 2008

Today the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA reported on a youth trip to Belize, which involved (after a tour of some Mayan ruins) volunteer work to improve child care in a village (Doublehead Cabbage). There were no slides or videos, but there was a whimsical "fireman's carry" demonstration. The organ music included two works by Mexican composers: Aspiracion, by Jose Jesus Estrada, and Toccatina, by Ramon Noble. On Monday (July 14) the NBC Today show would present the Blancaneau resort in Belize, owned by Francis Ford Coppola.

Update: April 16, 2009

Last night, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC reported on the opening of the Nacascolo Clinic, after a brief trip by a few members in late March, 2009. The living standards in the area are actually better than other surrounding communities. Curiously, despite the warm climate, the leaves are list in the winter, just as in the American mid south. The clinic will not have electricity yet, and the main treatments are nutrition and deworming (5 cents a treatment), to raise infant survival

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