TO THE EAST COAST AND THE FAR EAST
(Indiana -> Cherokee, NC -> Boston -> Bangkok, Thailand -> Singapore -> Boston -> Indiana)
Thanks to everyone who helped make this trip possible!
This report is a fusion of two sequences. One is the entries that I posted while we were actually traveling. The other segment is the later series of reflections on the trip. I intentionally tried to save most of the more conceptual things for the second series and to keep the from-the-road reports more touristy, as it were. Those, I also basically kept as authentic as was practical, not changing anything more than necessary. On the other hand, I felt free to edit the later entries to fit them in as smoothly as I could. Still there is a good amount of overlap. I shall attempt to streamline the redundancies, but not to the point that the aesthetics will be marred.
Apologetics Conference in Cherokee, NC
First Trip Update. Posted October 2, 2011. Covering Friday, Sept. 29 to Sunday, Oct. 2 June and I are off to what eventually is going to look on the map like Paul's fourth missionary journey, though I'm merely speaking geographically, not in terms of ministry-effectiveness. Still, who knows what the Lord may do in the course of our wanderings. This entry will basically be just a quick event-update. As I said, I will let you know the itinerary ex post facto. Please pray for our safety and that the Lord may use us in some small ways as we meander along. I'll save more profound thoughts for later.
First a couple of pictures from last Sunday. Since we had planned on leaving on Wednesday, Seth's birthday, as well as our being gone a while, June organized a spur-of-the moment get-together at Seth and Amber's. Seth assigned everyone tasks; mine was to bring my adapter so we could watch soccer on TV via my computer. In addition, I also brought a slightly early birthday present, which I had made, remembering the game we had watched together a few weeks ago. The other picture from Sunday is of Tiger, the whippet, playing with Haven, the new Great Dane. For some reason Tiger needed to wear an early Halloween costume as a bee, which didn't suit him all that well. And, of course, Haven is having to wear her ear cones for a while now until her ears stand up nice and straight in typical Great Dane fashion.
Well, as it turned out, we didn't get to leave until Thursday, which wasn't any big deal. Even when our bright-and-early start didn't materialize until eleven or so, which tends to be the pattern for leaving from home, as some readers may remember, it wasn't a nerve-wracking matter since it's been a relatively short trip, and we still intended to do it in two days. What actually fell out was spending a day in Gatlinburg, TN, but that really wasn't in the budget anyway.
So we hit the road on Thursday, had a drive in beautiful weather down to Berea. KY, where we spent the night. Then early in the afternoon of Friday we arrived here in Cherokee, NC for the apologetics conference. The conference took place Friday evening and Saturday at Christ Fellowship Church of Cherokee and was sponsored by the ever-active Community Fellowship Church of Charlotte, NC, under the leadership of its Pastor David S. I must say that I am becoming increasingly impressed by his leadership qualities, as well as his discernment and communication of truth. This is the fifth Indian reservation on which he has carried out some ministry.
In the pictures you see first the sign at the top of the building, which has faded a bit. Then there is a shot of the building. In the third row is Matt G., giving a talk on the role of emotion in apologetics and his wife, Jill G., along with the drama team, doing a presentation. Both of them are members of that large group of people I consider to be FSANF's, a term that I probably haven't used in quite a while, meaning "former students and now friends." Both of them were in my summer class at Southern Evangelical Seminary on world religions in 2005.
Your creative bloggist was asked to do a presentation on "Culture, Tradition, and the Christian Faith." The topic was not easy for me to get put together so that it would not just be an abstract discussion. However, I think that I came up with a sufficient number of illustrations that captured everyone's interest that I was able to communicate my points:
Just for fun, here are the first three slides from my presentation.
Yes, in some ways, there is a definite resemblance between my PowerPoints and DVDs on the one hand and this blog on the other. As I already mentioned, Lord willing, the end of the week will find us in the Boston area. Before then, hopefully some more updates.
Second Trip Update. Posted Oct. 4, 2011. Covering Sunday Oct. 2 to Tuesday, Oct. 4.
It's Tuesday evening. We're just a little north of Charlotte. As it turned out, after Sunday, neither Monday nor today were very long days. But a bad headache on my part took the relaxation out of holding ourselves to short days. Today (Tuesday), we met up with high school classmate Tom Meleney, the young man who has served as "relationship coordinator" for the WalterJohnson High School class of 1966, a group of 714 phenomenal people in the Bethesda suburbs of Washington, DC. A lot of people who have achieved quite a bit.
Well, anyway coming back to Sunday. It was an incredible day. First of all, at the Sunday morning service at Christ Fellowship Church, I got to play my harmonicas along with the praise band. It was the first time in forever that I've really been able to play seriously with a group, and it was awesome for me to improvise along. Then Pastor Dave preached a solid sermon on Eph. 4:1-3.
After church we had lunch with Simon B. and family, and then June and I headed up to a Cherokee village replica. The frame below contains 47 pictures, and I'm going to try to add some comments and videos to it eventually. For the moment, I need to let the pictures speak for themselves, or I will never get this posted. Each time that you click on a picture, the slide show advances by one picture.
This has turned into more work then I had anticipated for doing while on a trip, so I will enhance it later.
For now, we're planning on heading up to Boston from here over the next couple of days. Please pray for our safety.
Oconaluftee Indian Village
Sunday, October 2
In case it makes any difference in trying to find some underlying order in this collection of entries, those that have the "So what did you learn?" tag are posts that I put together at home after the trip when I had more time and opportunity to sort through the material. So, for example, this one was written on Saturday, Nov. 5, but it refers back to Sunday, Oct. 2., back to the beginning of the trip, when we visited the admittedly touristy, Oconaluftee Indian Village of the Cherokee reservation, appropriately located in Cherokee, NC. On Sunday afternoon, after a stimulating conference and a good worship service, June and I visited this site. The choice was between the model village and the museum. Among various reasons, you can't talk to the museum exhibits, so we chose the village and definitely felt afterwards that we couldn't have made a better choice. Even though neither June nor I are social butterflies, we tend to lose any shyness or reticence when it counts. The folks are there to answer questions, and we like to think that an occasional intelligent inquiry or two might just make their day. That's presupposing that they are prepared to respond to the occasional intelligent inquiry. I will mention without further detail that not all participants were. These remarks expand on my earlier comments, which features a slide show that you shouldn't want to miss.
Please recall that the Cherokee of North Carolina are a different branch of the nation(s) that are now housed in Oklahoma, brought their on the infamous "trail of tears." These are Cherokee who secluded themselves in the mountains and remained in hiding until 1868, when they were able to establish their reservation on their own grounds. In the meantime, they underwent an unavoidable change in culture. The Cherokee, distant relatives of the Iroquois tribes, were effective warriors and woodsmen, but had started to concentrate on an agricultural way economy, and their religion reflected this way of life, according to the books. However, growing corn was hardly an option when concealing yourself in the forested mountains, and, consequently, none of that supposed heritage was visible, except by inference (see below).
So, I asked Bruce, the gentleman who was working on a blow gun, a somewhat silly question (in so many words): "To what extent are the local people practicing the religion of the Cherokee as it was observed prior to contact with white people?" It would have been nothing short of a miracle if he had been able to give me a precise answer to this rather academic question, but that wasn't the point. The idea in asking a question like that is to acknowledge that they had a religion prior to the coming of Christianity and that we were interested in listening rather than talking. I guarantee you that what he told us was far removed from the religion of the Cherokee in the 18th century; it was an amalgamation of many "typical" Native American beliefs. But they were his beliefs, not something he put together for my benefit. In sum,
Remember, I'm recording here what he said, not a factual generalization that represents all Native Americans. Undoubtedly I did not receive the whole story.
The village had the sweat lodge, propagating a practice that has become nearly universal among American Indians.
I was fascinated by the fact that was chief's headdress was a crow. Why not a hawk or some other aggressive bird of prey? I'm wondering if that practice goes back to the days of an agricultural economy?
The North Carolina band of Cherokee is divided into seven clans. These are not technically totem groups. They are exogamous (viz. one has to marry outside of one's own clan), but there are no further taboos, such as prohibition of certain foods. Below are two clan insignia with their names. A while ago I wrote about the development of scripts, as depicted in the Museum of the Alphabet in Charlotte, NC. If you look at the alphabet tree, you will see that the Cherokee script is an offshoot of the "Roman" alphabet (ours). It was invented in the 1820's by a man name Sequoia, who was illiterate with respect to English reading and writing, wanted to be able to express the Cherokee language in writing. He used Roman letters as a basis and added a few signs of his own devising. However, that doesn't mean that we can simply read it, let alone pronounce it or understand it. For example, the "Dh" on both signs means "clan," and it is pronounced "Ahnee," somewhat nasally. I don't know what the additional marks are; my guess is that they are remanants of a vestigial set of pictograms.
Finally, how can you have American Indian culture without ritual dancing? I will let the little video clip of the gentleman giving the lesson speak for himself.
The reflections are just beginning.