I’ve been contemplating and playing over a blog post in my mind for a bit about two of the songs from The Book of Mormon Musical on Broadway. I know, I know…one day I will have run out of songs to talk about. The first song is called, “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” or in other words Salt Lake City. Nikki James sings a beautiful song that is endemic of the entire musical – it’s such a funny, both mocking and serious look at faith and harsh reality and the conflict that is of the somewhat prosperity gospel that is sometimes preached and how that is seen and viewed in the various lenses of most of the world.
It’s an interesting tension. And for me it really is a tension. I’ve spent most of the day working going over the budget and expenditures for this year at Wesley and budgeting for the year ahead. As some of you know, this past year our Annual Conference stopped providing program or building support for our campus ministries, but is still covering our salaries and benefits (which we’re really thankful for). As scary as that was, people stepped up in huge ways this year. And we have tried to use that money wisely – from mission trips to educational and missional opportunities on campus to small groups to worship to training up leaders and people going into ministry and everything in between. It’s exciting to look at. We couldn’t have taken students to training events without you. We couldn’t be in ministry with the poor and hungry here in York County, in our state and around the world without you. So I’m thankful for that. Hugely. Especially as we start visioning for a new year.
This afternoon, actually right now, I’m on a conference call with some folks working on getting equipment for the Women’s Spinning Plant, a cooperative of the CDCA (Center for Development in Central America) to be working and functional. We have worked with these women making concrete blocks, pouring concrete in the floors of the building, and tying rubar. We’ve protested the company that mislead them. We look forward to visiting again in August and continuing to work alongside these faithful, resilient, strong and powerful women and men who have withstood and determinedly marched on in the midst of all sorts of adversity.
See that’s the rub. When I think about what so many around the world are facing in terms of World Refugee Day that we celebrated earlier this week, those in the midst of war zones, atrocities that we can’t imagine, it really puts things in perspective.
We are beyond so blessed here. And to me blessed isn’t even the right word in some ways because to me that implies that God has blessed us and not someone else just because they were born in a different place to a different family in a different set of circumstances.
It just seems like a lot of time we throw our own “stuff” around and we’re selling people this line that may not be ours to sell and sometimes it even seems cheap and cliched somehow. One of the last numbers in the musical is the two lovely white guy mormons singing, “I Am Africa.” It’s very a la “We are the World” or something along those lines. And I’m not trying to hate on we are the world or Live Aid or the other benefit concerts or celebrity commercials out there. I’m really not. That raises money. And if it raises money and the money gets to the right people who will put their money out there and not just fund overhead and all of the work getting into a country, that’s a great thing. There are so many good folks like the CDCA, UMCOR, Church World Service, International Justice Mission, Imagine No Malaria that are doing work on the ground with people in-country who speak the language of the people and are being as least patronizing and colonializing as possible. And these folks aren’t doing the bait and switch and they’re not peddling mink coats.
Don’t have any huge answers today, but I just wanted to name the tension between our problems (check out those tweets #firstworldproblems by the way) and the things that are facing much of the world.
Still a big believer in the tremendous groups working on the ground and who live it out every day. Still a big believer in hope and love and humanity. But wrestling with all that these songs evoke in my mind. Which is what I think the writers did in a beautifully comedic and amazing way. To take something so funny and sarcastic and ironic and put so much real life and struggle in it – powerful stuff.
When it all boils down – what is the Gospel? How do we speak that clearly to the person next door, down the street, in the next state over, on the other side of the world? How do we share our faith in real language in the face of real problems?
Check out the words for Sal Tlay Ka Siti below.
My mother once told me of a place with waterfalls and unicorns flying
Where there was no suffering, no pain, where there was laughter instead of dying
I always thought she’d made it up to comfort me in times of pain
But now I know that place is real, now I know its name
Sal Tlay Ka Siti: not just a story mama told
But a village in Ooh-tah, where the roofs are thatched with gold
If I could let myself believe, I know just where I’d be
Right on the next bus to paradise: Sal Tlay Ka Siti
I can imagine what it must be like…this perfect, happy place
I’ll bet the goat meat there is plentiful, and they have vitamin injections by the case
The warlords there are friendly, they help you cross the street
And there’s a Red Cross on every corner with all the flour you can eat!
Sal Tlay Ka Siti: the most perfect place on Earth
Where flies don’t bite your eyeballs and human life has worth
It isn’t a place of fairy tales, it’s as real as it can be
A land where evil doesn’t exist: Sal Tlay Ka Siti
And I’ll bet the people are open-minded and don’t care who you’ve been
And all I hope is that when I find it, I’m able to fit in
Will I fit in?
Sal Tlay Ka Siti: a land of hope and joy
And if I want to get there, I just have to follow that white boy
You were right, mama, you didn’t lie
The place is real, and I’m gonna fly!
I’m on way…soon life won’t be so shitty
Now salvation has a name: Sal Tlay Ka Siti
Video for Sal Tlay Ka Siti
We have this poster framed on one of our tables in Wesley. I’ve always liked it because a lot of what we do with CROP Walk or Stop Hunger Now or Imagine No Malaria focuses on not just spreading a message of faith to folks but also feeding the hungry and providing basic needs. But singing “We Are Africa” in my head over and over because it won’t get out, part of me think this can be patronizing in some ways as well, because the continent of Africa is not the only region that faces these concerns. Again, things to think about.
The video for “I Am Africa”
Check out these great organizations:
Imagine No Malaria - http://www.imaginenomalaria.org/
Church World Service - http://www.churchworldservice.org/
International Justice Mission - http://www.ijm.org
UMCOR - http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/
Center for Development in Central America - http://www.jhc-cdca.org/