Saturday, August 31, 2013

Beautiful!

This photo is from the top of the Bisley Nature Reserve. 

God is SO cool! 
There have been so many different magnificent things that our group has experienced in the past week. 

We have been blessed to visit and see different wildlife when we visited the Lion Park in Johannesburg and when we went to the Bisley Nature Reserve in Pietermaritzburg. We have seen lions, zebras, giraffes, dogs, impala, monkeys, etc. We learned about the Apartheid and visited the museum in Johannesburg. We have shared our stories and our expectations with each other. We have gathered together in great fellowship and shared meals. (Avocados are in season and we have definitely eaten our fill--on sandwiches and pizza) We have worshiped with a community in Wattville. We met new friends after chapel at the Lutheran Theological Institute (LTI). We have learned valuable information at LTI from many different people. 

Yesterday, we navigated the public transportation. Here there are Kombis (come-bees), which are 15 person vans. Tessa told us to go out in small groups to the Midland mall. We were going to 1) pick up anything that we did not pack and planned on buying here/forgot and 2) try out and learn how to use a Kombis. It is a different culture of transportation than many of us are used to. And to be frankly honest, I was really nervous about this. Before yesterday morning I had done pretty much everything in the large group (10 of us) and did not have confidence or awareness for what it would be like. I was unaware of what Kombis looked like and where I would even start to find one. So, I set out after breakfast with another member of our group, Keenan. It was great to be in a pair even though I was still very nervous. I did a wonderful job at following his lead but being aware of all that we encountered. We went to the grocery store (Checkers) and asked someone where we could find a Kombis. He kindly pointed us in the direction and the two of us found it and hopped on. I ended up all the way in the middle back and he ended up in the front seat (the last two seats open in the Kombis). Another thing about Kombis, they don't leave until all the seats are filled. Once it starts, people start to pass their fee forward. I took my que from the other passengers around me. I was not sure of what to expect or of exactly what I was doing. We had been given advice about how to navigate and were told to follow what others were doing. I saw that people were passing forward 10 rand, so I did too. Then money was coming back and the man next to me handed me some coins! It was my change. At that moment, with no words ever spoken, I felt at peace and looked out for. I did not know what I was doing, but I knew that the people around me were good people and they were going to help me. 

With every moment and every encounter with someone new I become more and more excited about meeting my host community in Thohoyandou, which I have learned is pronounced more as toy-on-dough. Thanks be to GOD!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lean On Me

I know that community is a powerful thing, but I am learning it in new ways.

Our flight out of Chicago was at 10:15 pm and we flew all night long to arrive in Germany at 1:30 pm. Many people slept, or at least got a nap in...I tried very hard. I switched into every position possible to get comfortable. I was normal, cross legged, curled up, backwards, nearly upside down, on the floor, standing, kneeling, and backwards kneeling while hugging the back of my seat. I could NOT sleep. Then I leaned into Abby to rest my head, and boom I was out (at least for 45ish minutes). I realized that although I wanted to desperately be able to function independently and not invade anyone's small space on the plane, I needed to, and was welcomed to.

In that moment on the plane I realized the power of leaning. I can't do it alone, no matter how hard I try. :) I need the community that is around me. That is also a blessing about having orientation, out of country and in-country. There is this time to build up community to lean on, for sleep and support. None of us can do it alone and are blessed with so many different communities to lean on. I am really excited to meet the community that I will be living with this year. It will be many different emotions trying to feel out everything, but I know that I will rejoice in those moments when God shows me that I can't do it by myself and blesses me with people who will help to hold my hand, feed me knowledge, and give me a shoulder to rest on.

During in-country orientation we have been building community and journeying together as we take in all that is around us. We have been processing things that surprise us, things that were different than we had expected, and things we experience. Johannesburg is a great example. It is a city. Sometimes we forget that Africa is bigger than just the African plains with zebras, lions, and giraffes. There are many more that we have discussed and we continue to have our eyes opened to new things. May God bless us with eyes to see and minds to be open to understanding--turning judgement into wonder.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What To Think

Orientation. It has begun, and with it so many other things have begun as well. 

When we arrived on Wednesday I felt all feelings and none, all at the same time. There is no other way to describe it. It was all and nothing all at once. 

Words. I have none. There are so many that I want to put on this page, and yet there are none that seem to want to flow coherently.

Luckily there are many wise people here to support all of us in this difficult roller coastery whirl of a week right before we fly out. 

The staff, the Alumni team, and the current YAGM participants have been very helpful in conversations and giving language. We all have felt or are feeling everything and have many different words that we need to describe and articulate where we are at. 

  • The first piece that I liked was a conversation about feelings. When do we stop feeling all the feelings, and do they ever go away? The response from a very wise alumni was do you want to stop feeling all those things? And I think that is accurate. It is hard to articulate with words (and even sometimes with gestures) the emotions and feelings that are dwelling within ourselves as we prepare, but I don't think we always have to. And when we are overwhelmed with sixteen different feelings all at the same time, that is also okay and good. We should and get to sit with that. 
  • Another piece of language that ties in with all that we are feeling and experiencing is 'grace space'. Someone during orientation coined it and many of us have begun to use it and dwell with it. This is space that we should give ourselves, space to be gentle with ourselves, to give ourselves grace. 
  • Seasons. Another term that I had not heard of before this. We talked about how other people sometimes can view our year as differently than what we think it is. It is nothing different than a different season in our lives, a new place, a new community, a changing of the seasons to experience new life.
  • Which was a piece of this grand conversation that I loved and have been dwelling with. Language is very important and can alter what we mean. So we have been challenged to remove "I" and "My" from the title of our year. (Bear with me as I try to put this into correct words that articulate what I want). When we think about this year, we can be tempted to think in terms of "my year," "the service I did," etc. But it is not. We even discussed that it is not even YAGM that we should replace it with, but God. We are responding to what we feel that God wants us to do. We are living out God's service and His will. 
All of these are bits and pieces that we have been discussing and sharing with each other to understand more fully who we are and what we are called to do. We are missionaries. We ALL are missionaries (me, the other YAGM, and you. Yes, even you reading this right now). A missionary is someone who is responding to God's call and looking to live that out in their life. We, the YAGM, are just responding to a call.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Community Support

Blessings. I can never stop talking about all the blessings that God gives. I have been so blessed to be surrounded by communities that care and love me and want to support me. Part of my responsibility for this next year is to raise money for my year of ministry. I had faith that I would be able to rely on the communities that I am a part of to support me, but it is a lot of money that I have to raise, and I was a bit nervous about reaching my goal while spending my summer, and fundraising time, at camp. In the beginning of the summer I got a wonderful e-mail that said a church, which I had never been to or heard of, was going to sponsor me for part of my year of ministry. I was, and still am, silenced by their kindness. This is such a generous gift. I then got the chance to go thank them personally and talk to their congregation about what I am going to be doing and what I know so far. They welcomed me in with open arms and let me talk at multiple different times so many people got to ask questions and I got to thank many people. I can't wait to stay in touch with them throughout this next year and then meet up with them again when I come back to the States. There are no words that can accurately describe what it feels like to know that a group of people who do not know you or anything about you are willing to support you in the works that you are going to do, even when you are not sure of exactly what those works are. They not only said they were going to support me financially, but they said they were going to pray for me and some members talked about sending me mail. Knowledge that people who just met me are praying for me and looking to keep in touch with me while I am in South Africa is a very comforting thing to know. This community that I am blessed with, that keeps growing, is a blessing that I cannot articulate with words (or motions and sounds for that matter).

Now, my community of support has grown in size and in strength. As I mentioned above, I was nervous about how I was going to fund-raise while working at camp this summer. I was concerned that I would not have enough time or enough people to talk with in the communities that I am a part of. But the blessings in my life have been abundant and I cannot give enough thanks to God for them. I was anxious about getting enough funding, but I found out earlier this week that the communities that I am a part of have been so kind and have supported me over and above for me to reach my goal. I am grateful and so blessed.