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Reflections in the Silver Cup


A guest post by Wayne Dale Matthysse


Wayne and I met in the early seventies at Rehoboth Mission, just outside Gallup. We had a shared history, having both grown up in the Christian Reformed Church. He and my former partner had started a youth center in Gallup, a town that was tremendously lacking in healthy activities for young people at the time. We lost touch when I moved away from Gallup.


Wayne continued to work as his own style of Christian missionary in the Gallup area for a total of twelve years, then as a missionary in Honduras for another twelve. He was drawn back to Southeast Asia after that because he felt an obligation to help heal the wounds left by the Viet Nam War, in which he had served as a medic. He ended up co-founding a children's community, Wat Opot, in the Cambodian countryside, for children whose parents had died of AIDS. In the early days Wat Opot served as an AIDS hospice. Today a percentage of the residents are HIV positive and are thriving on their daily doses of anti-retrovirus drugs.


Thanks to social media, Wayne and I reconnected a few years back, and in 2008, my daughter Cheyenne and I visited him and the children at Wat Opot, also making a journey together to the world famous Angkor Wat. We spent ten days in the children's community. The children were possibly the most vibrant, lively, engaging youngsters I've met. They quickly slipped their way into our hearts, as they have with volunteers from all over the world.


Wayne writes his own thought-provoking blog in which he has shared much of his spiritual journey. I found this entry about an early step he took away especially moving and asked if I could share it as a guest post.


I remember that first time when I bowed to the Buddha, as the children were doing their chants. Such a simple act… and yet perhaps one of the most defiant and difficult things I have ever done in my life. I have certainly not lived the life of a saint and, in fact, have been a rebel from as far back as I can remember. Fired from every job I have ever held, court marshaled in the military, kicked off the mission field not once but twice, and branded a heretic by those who once called me a brother. Rebellion yes… but those acts of defiance were done against men and I had no problem justifying them. To bow to the Buddha however was, for me, an act of defiance against the God I had known and worshiped all my life… an unpardonable sin that I would have to live with for the rest of Eternity, but I was desperate… desperate to know a Truth that needed no apologies and required no Faith.


My body resisted, as I began to go forward as if preparing itself for a bolt of lightning to come through the ceiling of the temple and strike it dead… but nothing happened. I bowed a second and third time, and as I came back to a sitting position, I was overcome by a peacefulness I had never known before. The chains of religion, that had held me in bondage for so long fell away, and its threats of hell and damnation no longer intimidated me. I was free and I felt alive… alive and One with all that was around me.


Today, I am considered by many to be an atheist, because I no longer believe in a Creator God. That, however, does not mean that I do not believe in anything at all… for I still believe in Life and all that I can see, hear, or touch… and I believe that there is much I do not yet understand about Life, and perhaps never will… but my mind is now free to wander and to wonder and to be continuously amazed at how the complexities of Life can so easily be simplified by a single act of Compassion.

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My young neighbor, ready for a nibble of me

I'm happy to be taking to my life in the RAV4 slowly–testing things out one by one. My first trip was to the forest home of some friends who live in the Northern New Mexico Nacimiento Mountains. I already knew I planned to build an over-the-foot shelf for storage when I return to Albuquerque with my reward check (what a Navajo friend calls our Social Security checks) in hand. The need for such a shelf was definitely confirmed on this trip, as it will help so much with organization, which is essential in a small space.


The main thing I was testing was the comfort of my sleeping arrangement. The RAV4's back seats break down in a 60/40 configuration, so my 4-inch memory foam mattress is cut to the size of the 60 side, giving me plenty of width for turning to sleep on either side or my back. When the seats are folded down, they are referred to as "nearly flat." They do, however, slope slightly upward, which I thought would be fine, as such a slope is recommended for addressing reflux, which I do sometimes have. The place where the seat back breaks from the cargo area has a ridge that proved uncomfortable right away. I solved that by placing my self-inflating lumbar pillow at the division spot. In this way, I spent two nights of excellent sleep, but I noticed that gravity pulled me down toward the foot end enough that it created some low back strain.


On my drive across the checkerboard area of Navajo Country, the following occurred to me: I will be getting a 4'x8' sheet of plywood cut at the lumber store for my shelf, and there will be a lot of wood left over. I can make a very low sleeping platform–the head end resting on the top end of the folded down seat, and the foot end on supports that make the platform just level. That will be so much more comfortable, and at my age, comfort becomes ever more important. This will probably make exactly enough space under the platform to store my small aluminum folding table, too. Coming up with solutions like this is exceptionally gratifying. Of course the next step is the execution of it!


I had already done a dry run to test the ease with which I could get up and sit on the honey bucket during the night, and that proved to be easy in real life. I did experiment each night to see whether accesibility was better with the 40 seat up or down. Folded down, it turns out.


Both nights I spent the first few hours listening to the music of rain on metal roof–one of my favorite sounds. I felt snug inside my spacious new home. When I woke at 2:30, the rain had stopped, and the waning half-moon made the droplets on the windows shimmer. The Ponderosa pines were silhouetted tall and dark against the night sky. When I rose it was to the extraordinary smells of the high desert–rain-washed earth, pungent pine, cedar and piñon, sagebrush, and the dusky sweet of yellow asters. The world shone with the brightness of clean, and I was grateful to be alive in it.


The trip across Navajo Country involved a stop in Crownpoint at Basha's Diné Market to use the facilities and buy a few items. I grew up in the Navajo Nation (I'm white, in case you're new to me and my writing), and walking around the supermarket reminded me pleasurably of the old-time trading posts of my childhood. Every contemporary item you'd find in any US Supermarket filled the shelves, and the surprising luxuries of a deli and bakery stood to one side. And then there were the items you'd never find in a store in Albuquerque, NM or Grand Rapids, MI: galvanized buckets and tubs; bridles; saddle blankets; loops of stiff rope; salt lick blocks; Bluebird flour in sacks of all sizes; five-pound bags of dried, whole-kernel blue corn; sacks of blue cornmeal for making mush; speckled enamel kitchenware—coffee pots, basins, plates and bowls; and saddle bags, although these were made of nylon, not canvas. I felt at home and loved exchanging smiles and a bit of chat with other customers and the clerk.


For the next few days I'm staying in my brother's cabin in the Zuni Mountains, adjacent to the Cibola National Forest. My neighbors are thoroughbred horses– brown with white blazes on their foreheads. I am surrounded by pines and meadows filled with yellow asters. Grateful all over again to be alive.


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