Northeast Ohio is home to a rare gem: a beautiful dining experience called The Heritage Gathering. It is a farm to table meal where everything is either grown on site or locally sourced nearby. The irony is that this isn't just about food. It's about the beauty of community and living fully out of your passions. The organic farm (Venture Heritage Farm) where this takes place is breathtaking...wide open fields of wheat, vegetables as far as you can see, open countryside, gorgeous flowers, farmhouses, and kittens. You can't help but take a breath and reflect...aaaand then eat, because THE FOOD. The food is the best you'll ever eat. Maybe it's because the ingredients are fresh and real. Maybe it's because the women have put their souls into every dish. Maybe it's because it's presented perfectly. All I know, is that it's FANTASTIC. The pace of the meal is slow and served family style, starting with drinks and appetizers. It gives folks an opportunity to focus on what matters: PEOPLE. There’s time between each course to walk around, sit and chat by the fire, and just HANG OUT. Each gathering is seasonally based, meaning sometimes folks are given the opportunity to pick flowers for bouquets, or pick fresh produce to take home and share. All while watching the sun slowly descend over the horizon. I mean, c'mon! How incredible! The evening draws to an end with dessert and hot coffee as you sit under twinkling lights immersed in full conversations. It's a spiritual experience that drew more emotion out of me than I expected. Witnessing this beauty reminded me that pieces of the kingdom of God are here, NOW. We are meant to care for and enjoy the fruits of His creation. This gathering is such a perfect picture of how to do this. Kirsten Detweiler, Rachel Forrer, and Jani Hershberger are the curators of this beautiful experience. Their love for food, hospitality, and beautiful details is evident in the entire gathering. If you get a chance to go, it will not disappoint.
If you haven’t heard of Basha prior to this post, I urge you to go check out their website and learn more firsthand. https://bashaboutique.com/ They are one of my favorite organizations, EVER. Here’s a VERY brief explanation: “Basha creates high quality, unique, handmade products which reflect the love for the traditions of Bangladesh while employing women at risk and survivors of trafficking.” They are doing things right.
Friends. It’s so hard for me to try to convey an experience that requires CONTEXT. It would take days to TRY to explain the country of Bangladesh with all it’s cultural nuances. That’s a huge part of being able to truly understand. I want to sit here and tell you the names of the women of Basha and the powerful stories they have to tell. I want you to know their hearts and where they’ve come from. I want you to know what they have overcome and the hope they have. I want you to FEEL all the emotions and experience all the JOY. These women have endured unfathomable tragedy but are now breaking the cycles of poverty and abuse and exploitation. The Basha women are legit superstars. LEGIT FRIGGIN’ SUPERSTARS.
I hope the following images speak louder and clearer than I can.
Also, my friend Marita recounts one of our experiences so beautifully here: http://kahiniwalla.com/blog/dignity-restored/?fbclid=IwAR2dvuvFnC1nRYpyJzi-oJTyse8E6Xpv_Rqe5087WY8mt73SauvLfkN6otg
I’ve kind of been avoiding this post for a few weeks now. My words fail me.
I visited the world’s largest refugee camp, a place that houses ONE MILLION refugees: the Rohingya people. They have been fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh for a few years because of ongoing genocide…GENOCIDE. Let that sink in for a minute.
One of the young men that walked with us (for HOURS) through the camp told us his experience. My dear friend, Carissa, recounts his story beautifully: “A kind young man was assigned to be our tour guide for the afternoon because of his ability to speak English, along with four other languages. You could say he was very smart. He told us of his previous life across the border and of the day his Buddhist neighbors ran to his house, yelling for them to leave quickly because of the military force sweeping the area, burning all Rohingya homes. He and a brother fled on foot, stumbling through thick jungle and swimming across rivers for seven days until they crossed the border and found themselves safe in a foreign country.”
His story is literally one of a million.
The Rohingya have been left with no country. They cannot return to their homes in Myanmar, for obvious reasons, but they also can’t enter into Bangladesh, or any other country for that matter. They are stuck in an actual limbo, a permanent state of uncertainty. This refugee camp is both a safe haven and a prison.
But here’s the crazy thing - We’ve all seen images or watched news reports of refugee camps across the world and they look horrific, right? I was prepared for that…as prepared as you can be. I expected to arrive into a place of complete and utter despair. The situations these people have experienced is indeed horrific and the trauma they are enduring is unimaginable but this particular camp is…well, it’s clean and organized. There are schools, medical clinics, and even jobs. There’s not enough but it’s a work in progress…and there’s PROGRESS.
So, what now? Good question. Honestly, I don’t know. I hope this sparks a holy discontent within us all. We live in an amazing, terrible, awesome world and I hope my experience helps to broaden our horizons and affect change somehow.