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Reflections on the Tiananmen tragedy, 30 Years Later

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(I am very happy to host a guest blogger today, Bill Clark, my husband and companion on a journey for nearly 40 years.)

In the Spring of 1989 my wife Julie and I and our 2 small children were living in Northwest China. We lived in a small city, Guldja or Ili, 64 kilometers from the USSR border. I taught English at a regional teacher’s college.  That semester I taught an evening class open to the community which met two nights a week. In May the students were consistently showing up 15-20 minute late for class. When I pressed them on it, they said they were watching the live evening news broadcast from Beijing which, because of the time difference, started at 5:00 pm local time. They explained that at that time every evening the latest news was available from the students camping out in Tien An Men square. Sometimes as a teacher you have to know when to go with the flow. I am glad I went with the flow on that issue.

The entire nation, including our small provincial town, was transfixed by the events happening among the students and young people in Beijing. Beijing’s elite educational institutes collect the best and brightest students from all over the country including from among the several hundred families who lived on our Teacher’s College campus. The demonstrations were personal for our neighbors.  There was a profound hope in the atmosphere of our school that the reforms the students were expressing would be for the good of the nation.

When the violence began on June 4th everyone was at first shocked and then devastated. A death pall fell on our campus. Families wanted news of their loved ones and whether they were safe. Little known to most Westerners, there were similar student demonstrations at regional centers around the country. One family we were close to had a graduate student in Chengdu. The PLA opened fire on those students as well and our friend narrowly escaped with his life. He reported multiple casualties all around him. One grandmother told us she could not eat for days because of the grief she felt for those young people. Many people became deeply depressed.

The official explanation began soon after. Our college’s top communist party member called the foreign teachers into a meeting to give us the official explanation. Rather than being recognized as the patriots, : “the students were out of line and acted up  (xuesheng nau shr) and were justly punished.” One colleague said he literally felt sick as the lies we were told did not square with even the limited information we had access to.

Some foreign teachers broke their contract and left early. We did not want to do that but neither did we want to stay during the summer break. We worked out an arrangement with the school to teach accelerated classes and leave for the USA two weeks early and return in the fall with another year to teach. It was with conflicted emotions that we left as many of our local friends would have liked to have left China then, but that was not an option for them at that time. We returned in the fall of 1989 to a very different China.

Bill Clark

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Locked In and Locked Out

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(This poem is dedicated to those imprisoned in concentration camps and their families in Northwest China.)

 

What else can I do

But continue to speak up and out

For the ones locked in

And the ones locked out

They are separated from family

From community and their beloved land

From health and safety

Their hearts are tormented

And their bodies are broken

They are in anguish and pain

Can you hear them and lend your voice?

 

What else can I do

But pray and cry out

For the ones locked in

And the ones locked out

For the ones I know and do not know

To ask the One whom death could not hold

Who razor wire and prison gates

Cannot keep out

To walk among these people

Locked in and locked out

To call them by name

To comfort

To give courage

To give hope

To heal

To restore

To lift up

To set free

To rise like the sun

And bring a new day

 

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, grief and death, Hope, lament, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why We are going to the Mosque on Good Friday

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It is Holy Week. We remember all that Jesus did for us when he went to the cross, died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day rose again. The very depths and heights of our faith. My husband and my calling to follow Jesus in loving those outside our own faith community compels us to go to our local Mosque this Friday night. Don’t get me wrong, I love Good Friday services. The somber reflections of the ultimate sacrifice Christ paid moves me deeply.

 

This friday is especially important that we go to the Mosque. For many years of our adult lives we  have lived in Central Asia, first in Northwest China, then in Kazakhstan. We lived and worked among many different ethnic groups – Chinese, Russian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, but especially Uyghurs. Our Uyghur friends and neighbors taught us deeply about many things, hospitality, faithful loyalty to family, respect for elders, love of music, dancing and food, to name a few. These very ones who sowed richly into our lives are now struggling for their own lives in their homeland. The government of China is attempting to wipe out their culture and possibly existence by incarcerating over a million people in concentration camps where people are dying daily. They are seperating children from parents and mercilessly controlling every aspect of their lives through extreme measures. We are teaming up with our local Mosque this Good Friday to lend our voices to the voiceless. We are speaking up together to say No to this horrific act of violence.

 

What better way to fight the evil of dehumanization then to join with our Muslim brothers and sisters from around the world. We will not be manipulated into divided camps, but stand together and with one voice cry out to God to deliver the Uyghur people from their oppressors.

Categories: Faith, God, Good Friday, lament, Lent, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mysteries

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The mysteries

Of all we do not know

They are more than

The riches some heap

While others go without

They are more than

The wars against body and soul

The what ifs and the whys

The pit of sorrows we fall into

The crushing weight of grief

 

The mysteries

Of all we do not know

The greatest is love

That holds us when all is gone

That leads us to treasure

At the end of a dark tunnel

It runs through us and to us

Lifting us and helping us

To breathe and to live

And one day hope again

 

© 2019 Julie Clark

 

Categories: grief and death, Hope, Love, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Heart Break in Northwest China, a place I called Home

Here is a link to an article I wrote for Culture Honey.

http://www.culturehoney.com/heart-break-in-northwest-china-a-place-i-called-home/

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What does love look like?

 

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After the Royal Wedding this last weekend, I want to reblog these poems.  I was very inspired by Bishop Michael Curry who encouraged us to think and imagine a world where love is the way. There is power in love to transform us and our world. Thinking and imagining what that world would look like will help to point us in that direction! It will help get our feet moving to do the good that we can do one step at a time.  Let’s get moving!

When the seams of life unravel

When fog blurs vision

The way forward is obscured

When positions are hardened

Anger flares

Resolution and reconciliation

Seem millions of miles away

Remember

The greatest of all is love

It is the pulse that runs the universe

Slow down and listen

Feel it running through

Your veins

Ask the question –

What does love look like?

Give imagination free rein

Wait for your thoughts to form

Then get ready

Bring a friend, sister or brother

Go do that good

You are inspired to do.

© 2017 Julie Clark

 

Be Your Best

Be your best

Come alive

Breathe in life

Inspire me

With your love

With your courage

Be your best

Find a way

Show the way

I will follow

Be my best

Together we

Sow the seeds

Of love and courage

© 2017 Julie Clark

Categories: Hope, Love, Paths, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Ancient Words, Ancient Prayer

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“May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:22

 

Ancient words, comforting words

Still bringing life

Over the long passages of time

Joining in the cry of the faithful

Or the desperate

Or both

Please be mindful of me

On this treacherous pilgrimage

On planet earth

My mind

Incapable of knowing

All the sinkholes

And swirling vortexes

Threatening to take me

Down and away

I will leave those to you

And keep my eyes focussed

On this path

One step at a time

You are my good shepherd

After all

 

© 2018 Julie Clark

Categories: Faith, God, Hope, Life, Love, Paths, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Waiting for Easter

I am posting this poem again from a few years ago.  A reminder that no matter how dark it is or how much faith I have or don’t have, light will break through and love will win. 

All we have are words

And the grief that overwhelms us

Hope is gone

We saw with our own eyes

Our grief tells us

He is dead

Yet

We have words

We will wait

With our grief by the tomb

© Julie Clark

Categories: Faith, God, grief and death, Holy Saturday, Hope, Lent, Life, Love, pain, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Other Miracles

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Maybe not everyone

Finds the miracle they are looking for

You are still limping in pain

and I am gasping for air

Maybe there are other miracles we are finding

Still being loved by family

With all our brokenness and faults

These babies born to our children

Smiling and clinging onto our fingers

With the message:

“I need you to be strong and light the way”

The friendships that have endured

Despite separations and years of silence

Still hearing the Voice of the Beloved asking:

Do you trust me?

 

Categories: Faith, Hope, Lent, Love, pain, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

In Honor of Black History Month – A Poem and a Lament of White Privilege

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I have decided to take the risk of offending you

  To gently ask that you join me too

  To wake up and make a move

  Towards what we know is true

I have decided to open my eyes wide

  To notice the turning of the tide

  To pay attention to those in pain

  And stand with them side by side

I have decided to open my ears

  To no longer be controlled by my fears

  To grow and to learn something new

  Though I am late and full of years

 

I have decided to take the risk of offending you

  To gently ask that you join me too

  To wake up and make a move

  Towards what we know is true

There is work to do and it’s not too late

  We are needed to advocate

  (Though we are white and somewhat fragile)

  To move a mountain of ignorance and hate

Our first work is to lament

  Centuries of damage, discord and blood spent

  There is far too much history

  To rush in like a savior sent

 

Oh God have mercy on us and hear our prayers

 

We have enjoyed our privilege and not listened to the cries of the oppressed

Instead we listened to voices minimizing or denying this oppression

 

We have turned our backs on their suffering, segregating ourselves

In neighborhoods and schools

 

For this we ask forgiveness

 

We have not full acknowledged our history

Of white supremacy, injustice, violence, genocide and slavery

 

We have hid behind our shame and fear instead

 

We have not listened to voices of our brothers and sisters of color

Asking us to take another look at our history.

 

For this we ask forgiveness

 

Help us to grieve and to mourn the past and the present racial injustice

Help us to open our ears, our eyes, and especially our hearts

Soften our hearts where they have grown indifferent and cold

 

O God have mercy on us and forgive us

 

Help us turn from the injustice

That is still systemic in our nation

Help us to understand what needs to be done

To undo and untangle racial injustice from our systems of

Justice, Education, Housing, Medicine, and Employment

 

For this we ask for your help and strength

O God have mercy on us and hear our prayers

Amen

 

   

  

 

Categories: Black History Month, God, lament, Lent, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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