This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Friday Roundup: Six things worth paying attention to this week

David and Leann Augsburger are two semi-retired people who co-lead a home base church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care, and connect people in the San Gabriel valley. 

We are submitting our Friday Roundup from Nanjing, China where we are guests at the theological seminary where our daughter Kate serves on the faculty sponsored by Mennonite Partners in China and by MCC. So our perspective is testing what it means to be “Outliers” as Malcolm Gladwell recommends.

1. Double vision: We keep recalling the opening lines of Robert Burns’ 1786 poem, “To a Louse,” as appropriate to viewing the puzzle of America’s three branches of government in what appears to much of the world as a state of confusion. The news we see in Laos, Vietnam, and now in China, as well as what we can cull from various international internet sources, leads us to pray, “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us.” We want to encourage people to watch the CBC, the BBC, read the London Guardian or your favorite other-national or international voice for the needed vantage point called double vision.

2. A Bright and Shining Lie: Neil Sheehan received the National Book Award and the Pulitzer for nonfiction for this 1988 brilliant history of American involvement in Vietnam with a book that captures the tragedy of American mendacity in a Homeric scale. The book reveals the fatal contradictions that led to the destruction of a country and the squandering of American youth on a fool’s mission that we are in great danger of repeating. I read it in the 80’s and now sat rereading it in the Tranqil Café in the old city of Hanoi. A searching, humbling, terrifying, very instructive read that can be found in a library near you.

3. Nonprofit Restaurants: MAKPHET in Vientiane, KHAIPHAEN in Luang Prabang, Laos as well as  KOTO in Hanoi, Vietnam, are all nonprofit restaurants that train cooks and servers with disabilities or other disadvantages. The food is more creative, sometimes Asian fusion, but locally based and regionally grown. We returned, not just for a perfect lunch, but to support and encourage people doing good for their neighbors.

4. COPE Laos: COPE stands for Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise. A visit to their museum of bombs is heart wrenching, and a walk through the display of prosthetic limbs that have led to thousands maimed by bomblets and cluster bombs paid for by Christian America is soul-searching. You can also tour the workshop where new prosthetics are being made. Legs, arms and eyes are lost each week to a few of the millions of baseball size UXO’ss (unexploded ordinances)—from 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped 2 million tons of bombs paid for by our tax dollars. Raise a voice in support of banning cluster bombs. Check out

5. IKEA and shared communal space: When one walks through the home furnishing store IKEA in Nanjing, you see how a community has appropriated the giant box store to become a community center. Mothers sit on the beds in the display rooms with children sleeping while parents watch over them and visit. The dining area is a place for all sorts of gatherings and group events—family celebrations, auntie’s knitting clubs, noisy and fun. No longer do people squat along the street in groups of friends chatting and connecting, they have found shared space. How is your community meeting this need for human grouping and gathering?

6. Fred: We are talking about Fred Augsburger, David’s oldest brother, who was celebrated at a memorial last Saturday. He was an active pastor until age 95. Right to the end. A truly good man. It is hard to be in Asia when one’s family gathers to grieve in Ohio. The internet connects, but does not offer an app for hugs. Love, grace, loyalty, gratitude and God connect us. And the gift of charismatic Fred.

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