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Arts & Letters



Big Spirit, Small Press

Four beautiful and very different works are published by Pendle Hill and Creative Arts Book Company

By Lois Barton and Kate Kimball, Reviewers

Posted on Nov 26, 2002

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Soul Survivors cover, courtesy of Creative Arts Books Company
Soul Survivors: Stories of Women and Children in Cambodia
by Carol Wagner
Photos by Valentine DeBasky
Creative Arts Book Company,
Foreword by Jack Kornfield

Review by Lois Barton

In his introduction to this moving book by Carol Wagner, a Quaker who traveled to Cambodia and documented the stories of survivors of the killing fields, Jack Kornfield writes, "What can we say in the face of such human tragedy? How can it be held and how can it be healed? In their extraordinary way Carol Wagner and Valentine DeBasky have entered the heart of sorrow to bring forth the spirit and let it speak to us."

The book consists of fourteen interviews with survivors of the Cambodian wars - a classical dancer, a teacher, a human rights worker, a fisherwoman, an orphan, a medical doctor, a land mine victim, a nun, a women's organization president, a prostitute, an ethnic Vietnamese farmer, an orphanage director, and a computer programmer.

Each interview tells of the fear and horror, physical , emotional and mental suffering they experienced over a decade or longer. They also tell amazing stories of compassion, life-saving help from complete strangers, unexpected sympathy from perpetrators.

Valentine's appealing black and white photos accompanying each story let the reader see the place and the people in a non-judgmental way.

A chapter deals with the US role in Cambodia. Another deals with the millions of land mines. Still another, with the Peace Movement that gives a glimpse of hope. There is a chronology of Cambodian history from 802 AD to the present and a list of organizations who are helping, and how to reach them. This includes the American Friends Service committee.

One's faith in the resiliency of the human spirit is reassured by this account. If you need a reality check on the unspeakable destructiveness of war, this book is for you.




Cover photo by Charlotte Lyman Fardelmann
Nudged by the Spirit:
Stories of People Responding to the Still, Small Voice of God

by Charlotte Lyman Fardelmann
Pendle Hill Publications
2001

Foreword by Martha Paxon Grundy

Reviewed by Lois Barton

Charlotte Lyman Fardelmann tells in the first chapter how she came to create the Lyman Fund from which grant money is granted primarily to Quakers who are seeking to follow divine leadings.

There are thirteen other stories of people who have received grants from the Lyman Fund to support the work they felt called to do. In most cases individual leadings have been supported by clearness committees from Friends Meetings.

The variety of callings ranges from spiritual discernment through pilgrimage and protest to hands on healing, therapeutic art, music, a struggle for justice, world wide ecumenism and more. Charlotte has interviewed each person, giving a picture of their life situation and the process of clarifying and pursuing their calls. These are ordinary people called to extraordinary witness. Their faithful commitment through doubt, physical and emotional challenges make inspiring reading. She features western Friend Lucy McIver among others "nudged by the Spirit." It is heartwarming to observe God's work being carried out all over the world; to learn of these folks who have responded to God's promptings creatively.




Photo by Gabriel Frayne Jr.
God's Spirit in Nature
by Judith Brown
Pendle Hill
Pamphlet # 336,
1998

Reviewed by Lois Barton

Judith Brown took a course at Pendle Hill in 1995 titled Global spirituality and Earth Ethics. In the class she encountered more fully than ever before the idea that in a metaphysical sense the Earth could be considered the Body of God. This pamphlet is a collection of meditations growing out of that realization. The introduction refers to the "Population/environment catastrophe we face" as being as threatening as nuclear disaster, but more difficult to communicate. Judith Brown feels that, while she cannot stop a nuclear disaster single-handed, she can "practice stewardship of the earth with...integrity."

These meditations reflect her insights as she works in her garden. If all creation is the Body of God, how does one deal with slugs, chaos in nature, compromise, anger, discouragement? When destructive forces of nature tear away at God's body, how does one understand it being affirmed by earthquakes and floods that destroy a bio-region?

An immediacy of experience shines through each presentation: bird song, the smells of decaying wood and new green foliage, life rhythms, foraging deer, modes of prayer, the nurture of silence. Each meditation ends with a brief prayer summarizing the insight gained: e.g. "Ah great God, I thank Thee that the universe has imponderables. It seems good to know that there will always be things humans cannot figure out...mysteries."

I'm grateful to Judith for candidly sharing her uncertainties as well as her reassurances. This pamphlet would make a nice gift for a spiritual friend.




Photo by Paul Dix
Walk With Me:
Nonviolent Accompaniment in Guatemala

by Peg Morton
Pendle Hill pamphlet

Reviewed by Kate Kimball

Pendle Hill Pamphlets are sneaky. They are short enough one feels able to read one even if the topic is unfamiliar or not of interest. They are long enough to educate and intrigue. Once finished, the material haunts, quietly. So it is with Walk With Me: Nonviolent Accompaniment in Guatemala by Peg Morton, a member of Eugene Friends Meeting in Oregon.

If it were a book, I would have passed this by and I would have been the lesser for it. This slim but fulfilling work moved me by revealing the profound needs of our neighbors in Central America who have been killed or displaced by the violence there. Morton explains briefly the history of "accompaniment": the presence of volunteers from Europe, the United States, and Canada to accompany those at risk of political violence in their return to their native country. White volunteers from prosperous nations are the most desirable accompaniers, because their mistreatment is almost certain to generate news.

An American injured anywhere blasts across our television sets, while the killing of dozens of Guatemalans is not considered newsworthy. What does an accompanier actually do? In one sense, very little. In Morton's description, her days are often filled with bathing, washing clothes and trying to get food from the tiendas (small roadside markets). During her sojourn, Morton typed land agreements, attended International Women's Day and other meetings. But little was "done" by the non-natives. This may be the greatest gift of all. As Morton emphasized, their job was to be there. The accompaniers were not asked to lead, but to share. They were not relied upon to make decisions, but to move with the group when it was time to go. An accompanier is a beacon for those returning and a sign to those who oppose their return: you are being watched.

In moving past an army caravan, Morton stood so the soldiers would know an accompanier was present. The mere act of a white woman standing was a form of protection, a silent, Friendly witness for peace. As Morton writes, "An accompanier is one who walks with the people. ...Accompaniment is the willingness to step outside of our own lives and move others."

Surprisingly, in this brief piece Morton draws us into the poverty, the hope and the persistence of those who have led lives that can seem so remote from our own. Her own return in the fancy, paneled bus and flight home are, in her words, "gut-wrenching." We can share her discomfort at the contrast between the threat of violence, the poverty and illness of those she left behind with the luxury and peace of those in the US.

On her journey, a little boy asked: "Do you have the same moon?" "Yes," came the answer. "We have the same moon and sun and stars and earth. We are all sisters and brothers."

Three of these reviews first appeared in the Friends Bulletin

Also visit: Volveremos! at WxNw.org, text by Pam Fitzpatrick and photos by Paul Dix for an update on Central American witness.



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