Author Archives: backfromtheborderlands

About backfromtheborderlands

These writing pieces and a few photos are from my experiences and messages I have gathered from living in the borderlands.

What ifs

What if we can’t go to church

To understand what the church really is?

What if the virus is showing us

The viruses in our hearts?

What if the worship of mammon*

Was just too much for the earth to bear?

What if our independence

Drives us to community?

What if all the grief and loss

Teaches us to love again?

*Matthew 6:24

© 2020 Julie Clark

Categories: Faith, grief and death, Hope, Lent, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

China Bans Religous Funerals

by Dr. Bill Clark

(My anthropoligist husband wrote this article about what we experienced in China in the late 1980’s when we lost our baby boy in a late miscarriage. Now China is depriving it’s Muslim and Christian citizens of the right of religous funerals . Now throughout the world we are all experiencing a disruptions in our funeral practices not for political or religious reasons but because of Covid19 pandemic.)

A recent article, Christians Not Allowed to Hold Religious Funerals, came out on Jan 23 in the online Bitter Winter e-zine.  https://bitterwinter.org/christians-not-allowed-to-hold-religious-funerals/

It brought up memories of the funeral of our son David in Guldja (Ili), Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in NW China (XUAR) My wife, Julie was 5 months pregnant in early Nov 1988 when she had a late miscarraige. We named the baby boy David. We had become friendly with the Russian family who were the caretakers for the Christian graveyard. (photo) We wanted a graveside religious ceremony for the baby and went to the college’s foreign affairs officer for permission. Mr. Guan, from the Xibo minority group and a Russian speaker, knew of a Russian priest still in the area, and was willing to introduce us. We did not speak Russian. Julie and I had previously bonded/interned with a Chinese Church in Taiwan and wanted a Chinese speaking pastor for the ceremony. We even had an address. After an initial delay Mr Guan agreed to take us to the pastor’s home and called the school’s driver to come pick us up. Pastor Lin, 80 something, was a seminary graduate from Lanzhou, and in very poor health. Brother Wu was visiting Pastor Lin and his family at that exact time and, when he learned about our need, volunteered to perform the ceremonies. He was taking over many of Pastor Lin’s duties as a young lay leader in the unregistered church. We made plans to meet at the graveyard early the next afternoon.

At Ili Teacher’s College we were under strict guidelines to not attend any of the Han Christian services that met periodically in the city. I still remember the earlier stern talk from Mr Guan ( the wai ban) telling me that if  I attended one of the services, the school would shortly thereafter escort me and my family to the border. Instead of going to the border (the USSR was only 64 kilometers away!) we were now headed to the home of a Christian pastor of an unregistered church. 

We were so surprised the next day to find that Brother Wu had brought over a dozen church members to join us. We gathered around the gravesite and they joined in our grief for losing our son. Those tears are beyond price and went a long way in opening pathways of healing for Julie and I.

In light of the recent regulations banning Muslim and Christian funeral ceremonies, I am reflecting on the basic humanity of Mr Guan and the Communist Party officials at our school. They were decent and allowed us to grieve our child in the way that was most meaningful to us. In Uyghur and Kazakh society and now, increasingly, among Chinese Christians throughout China, that decency is being taken away. 

In Xinjiang since the concentration camp era began in earnest in 2017, all aspects of Islamic religious ceremonies, including funerals, have disappeared from public life. (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/08/world/asia/china-uighur-muslim-detention-camp.html)

Julie and I remember the comfort of prayer and ritual around that gravesite on a cold windy November afternoon. That comfort has been taken from Muslim and Christian families in China. It is not right for a government to deprive the comfort and healing of religious rituals in a time of death.  . 

Categories: borderlands, Faith, grief and death | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Blooms and Thorns

Blooms and thorns

Outside my window

Growing on the same branch

Wheat and weeds

Outside my door

Seeds blowing on the same wind

Which will I choose to focus my attention

Who do I want to be

Do I want to be kind and loving

Or indifferent and uncaring

All this growing together

In our hearts

In our world

Intertwined

The world turns

Seasons change

What will we see

In the next season

After this pandemic

It seems we get a restart

Will we be a better world

Will we be better people

Or doom ourselves

Once again

I have read

Love triumphs evil

Light pushes out the darkness

Good wins over injustice

Shall we join

This hard work

Turn the soil and plant

The good seeds

Turn our weapons

Into plows

Our despair

Into faith and good deeds

Julie Clark

Categories: Faith, Lent, Love, Paths, Poetry, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Waiting

When you are waiting

For winter to end

When the darkness

Clings closely to the day

Walk in the gardens available

Look for life signs 

Budding on the tulip trees

See Mother Earth wrap her baby blankets

Around pruned rose bushes 

See the robins congregate

In clusters in the leafless oaks

Perhaps planning 

Spring nesting

Encouraging one another

Keep on keeping on

We need our flocks

This time of year

Find our cozy blankets

Snuggle in and make some plans

Visit the green house and get inspired

With bursts of color

Daffodils and crocus 

Even a banana tree

Find warmth to

Free joy in your heart

© 2020 Julie Clark

Categories: beauty, Birds, growth, Hope, Life, Photography, Poetry, Seasons, Trees | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dawn

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

The dawn seeping light into the day

Slowly, slowly, beginning it all again

Fresh hints of

New life

New hope

New start

Everyday

It’s never too late

To begin again

The old way is blocked

Go around

Light shines on a new path

A new idea

Change

Comes with the dawn.

© 2020 Julie Clark

Categories: Hope, Life, Paths, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coastal Rain

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

A soft constant dripping

Soaks roots

Fills streams

Covers the land in green

Higher elevations

Blanketed in white

It could go on and on

For days

For weeks

Seemingly months

Until Spring

Through Spring

And early summer

Slowly warmth seeps

Back into the days

The light changes

Trees blossom

Flowers bloom

The clouds part

Sky is blue

Sun is out

© 2020 Julie Clark

Categories: beauty, mountains, Poetry, Seasons, Trees | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

New Rhythm

When you need a new rhythm

Old one not working

Wearing you out

Step off, step out and away

Find a quiet place

A lonely place

To think

To listen

Make the changes

To save yourself

© 2020 Julie Clark

Categories: growth, Hope, Life, Paths, Poetry | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A Blessing for those Waiting for Justice and Deliverance

A Blessing for those Waiting for Justice and Deliverance

(for those imprisoned in NW China)

In this waiting

Which feels so long, too long

When despair nags at our heels

Bless us with hope, 

Bless us with prayers to pray

With names of precious people we know

And do not know

Names and faces of captives and prisoners

We can hold before you

And honor them and honor you, their creator

Bless the space, the time

Between now and their deliverance

May they know your presence,

Your love, your goodness

May they know you hear

The cry of the afflicted

Even if the cry comes 

Silently from their hearts

Bless them with 

Lifting the heavy burden

With healing their 

Broken bodies

Their broken hearts

Lift their heads

Lift their hearts

To hope, to wait, to know

You are coming

and have not

forgotten them

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, Hope, lament, pain, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do the Hard Work

Do the hard work

Take the time to listen

To another

With a different voice

A different belief

A different color of skin

A different culture

A different story

Take the time to learn

Find your new teachers

You won’t be disappointed

You will be enlarged

You will expand

You will grow

You will receive

A true gift

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: borderlands, growth, Hospitality, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Lectio Divina Poem

Photo by Couleur on Pexels.com

Lectio Divina Poem on

Mark 7:24….

Jesus on the move

One place to another

Sent to the lost children 

Of Israel, yet…

Why is he here

Where the Gentiles live?

Like a magnet pulls

He draws the hungry,

The thirsty, the sick

The poor, the desperate

The greater the need

The louder they call

His meal disrupted

A noisy, needy

Foreign woman

With a child

He heard her cry

And turned his attention

Questions and answers

“Even the dogs eat 

The children’s scraps”

For this answer

She is rewarded

Her child is healed

Her faith commended

Do we see these

Women? mothers?

These men, fathers?

They will do anything

To save their child

Do we hear them?

Or do we turn away

From the disruption

And finish our hearty meals?

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: Autumn Poems, borderlands, children, Dogs, Faith, God, lament, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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