Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Welcome to Bali

Life has taken a turn since my last posts in India. We said goodbye to the people of Mumbai and the Lutheran Center, goodbye to the former orphanage in the slums that we called home. We left the tastes, smells and constant horn-honking traffic for an air conditioned airport and airplane. We had a layover in Malaysia and I pondered the next time I would be on this part of the world. Oh, and God provided a Coffee Bean :) in the cool Malaysian airport so I spent all night on the plane to Bali hyped up on an iced coffee. Many people on the team were sick just before and during these two flights to Indonesia. We arrived in lush, green Bali Tuesday morning around 11 and were driven to the guesthouse where we are staying in Ubud, the art capital of Bali.

Bali is...opposite of India in several ways. It is so green here, though still humid. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, but Bali is primarily Hindu.

I have been learning a lot about Hinduism from the owner of our guesthouse, who is also a professor of Religion and Culture (two of my favorite things). Each morning people make a small offering of rice, coconut flakes, coffee or flowers on a square of banana leaf. This is to appease the evil spirits and to please the kind spirits to grant them prosperity and wellness in their businesses or homes.

I asked Mr. Budi about this and tried to steer the conversation towards the questions Hinduism cannot fully answer. I asked if these small offerings could ever be enough to satisfy the god of the universe. What about grace? If you do wrong, you are given bad karma, or imbalanced karma, and the only way to get out of that is to do good. Do you ever feel like you cannot do enough?

I know that I can never offer enough to compensate for my sins. And that is ok, because Christ has paid the price for our transgressions. What a beautiful concept. Man could never do enough, God intervened to give us true life, free from coconut offerings or trying really hard to do good.

I am still processing these concepts of Hinduism. Mr. Budi is an amazing man, and his wife is an amazing woman. Each morning she places various offerings around the hotel grounds. I see the striving, but I know we can never offer enough on our own.

I will be graduating from Concordia in May, and I am not sure what I want to do afterward. Usually this would scare me. I love having a plan, having everything organized and figured out. But now I have a peace about it. I know that I am available to go wherever God would have me. I will not sit around and be careless with time to dream and plan and apply for jobs or schools, but I trust that worrying thousands of miles away can fix anything.

One option is the Middlebury Language school for Spanish. It is a 7-week summer language program at Mills College in Oakland, CA. I applied and am fairly sure I will get in. Whether or not I attend will be based on how much financial aid they offer me, since it is an expensive program.

The newest option is Bethel's School of Supernatural Ministry. Bethel church is in Redding, CA only 3 hours from my home. I have considered this school once before, after my sophomore year of college, but I knew I had to get my degree first. It is similar to a Bible college, where you can take 1-3 years of classes. Classes run from September to May. I would have classes Tuesdays-Fridays 12:45-5:30pm, attend two church services per week and one cell group per week. Students read through the whole Bible, along with 12 other books by various theologians. Tuition is only 4,000 per year in addition to housing and I would be able to have a part time job.
I really feel like God has been preparing me for a school like this.
Here's the website to the school if you're interested:
http://www.ibethel.org/site/bethel-school-of-supernatural-ministry

It is an amazing ministry that equips people to walk in God's spirit and power. Practical skills are taught, as well as general teachings and spiritual growth.
So much has been going on here. I am excited to see what happens in these last few weeks of traveling, and the residual effects God will work in my life and the members of the team. Please be praying for guidance, wisdom and boldness. Missing home but I will be there soon!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Personality of the Written Word

Sometimes writing can be very pleasant. Sometimes it’s just easy. But other times I just want to go out and experience rather than contrive meaning from every single cultural encounter. It is like a chaperoned tour, or a trip with too many people. It is a claustrophobic feeling, trying to fit your ideas, insight and ethnic revelation onto a small, white page. It would mean taking a photo of a person and saying, this is him. This is all he is, he is here. He looks like this, he stands this way, and this is him. But after the flash he moves along, into another place and another pose as time ticks on. And this new place, this new smile or phrase or response is also him. And this process continues for many years, shifting him. Changing and growing him. And we say that old photograph, peeling at the edges, faded in color, that this is him. The same man that once was, is still.

This place is not an aged photo. It brings forth life, not death. It has seen, heard, felt and known so much more. It is different than before, but others insist on saying it is the same, or if changed, only slightly. It is a tragedy, to claim this picture as what will stand for all eternity.

While writing can be a joy, it creates only a photo. A new story must be written, to document what has been taking place under the surface all this time. A new story has been welling up, forming, being prepared for its second encounter with the writer. It is the written that shows growth, where he came from, what this landscape used to say. And now, I write a new story. It is a story of adventure, of calm, controversy, creation. It is written. And it will be written.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What are your moments of enlightenment?

What are your moments of enlightenment?

  1. Argentina, waiting for the bus from the airport. The first realization that time does not always mean doing life by my schedule.
  2. Learning loss in Argentina, one week into the trip, in Russia and in Turkey. Losing what I thought was valuable and continuing to wrestle with that loss throughout the trip. The drive from Cairo to Sinai and dealing with my frustrations of having no music or books to pass the time.
  3. The idea of doing absolutely nothing for 4 days on the felucca sailboats, and being moved by our devotions, Dr. Norton’s message about Woe to you who go back to Egypt for comfort. Too much time for prayer and not enough distractions.
  4. Africa-dealing with the apprehension and fear of coming to Kenya. Worried that my life would change, that God would call me back, that my heart would break for the country.
  5. The walk in Kibera, the second largest Urban slum in Africa. The homestays with Mamma Grace and Joyce’s family, selling vegetables and reading Scripture together with her family.
  6. All of India. Being constantly uncomfortable and slightly on edge.
  7. Learning to deal with my discomfort, my fears, my anxiety and seeing that God is the only constant thing on this trip and in my life.
  8. Learning that I only have a small amount of control over the future and my future ambitions. Trusting in God that he will provide and take care of my living situation, money, my car, classes, my job and career and my relationship with friends, family and Matt.
  9. Knowing that I need to be continually praying for my mom, sisters, brothers and family
  10. Accepting a compliment.
  11. Finding joy in writing and recording stories.
  12. Seeing joy in people who have nothing, no money, little food, poor living conditions, children begging and not in school.
  13. Having church, worship and devotions with no carpet, no coffee, no fancy sound equipment, no RockHarbor.
  14. Wearing the same 3 outfits over and over. Learning to be dirty and not hate every second.
  15. Diving into Scripture and reconnecting with God who wants to speak truth and love into my heart
  16. Preparing and dealing with Spiritual warfare in Turkey and Egypt and in primarily Muslim or Hindu countries.
  17. Dreaming about how God will use me to impact the world
  18. Giving a devotion and knowing that God will use my to speak His truth
  19. Discovering that the Lord does give strength to his people, he blesses his people with peace
  20. Recording the good and the bad. Getting frustrated with God, saying that He has taken everything away from me. And he has. He is removing my crutches, my earthly desires, what I think I need or want. He has taken them and replaced them with a beautiful community of fellow Christians who can pray and support me.
  21. Not having anything else to rely on but God-no clothes, no snacks, no car, no music, no job, no income, no cell phone, no Internet, no schedule or Starbucks. Relying fully on him as my support, my foundation, my comfort, my joy, my love, my devotion

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's Set in India










India. I never would have guessed it would take part of my heart. I have been taken by the bright fabrics, dark skin decorated with gold or silver bangles, nose studs, mendi, too much chai and crispy snacks that are forcefully offered to me from a generous heart. Multiple generations live in a single room. Water from hand washing laundry runs through the uneven stone alleyways. Children shout out Hello and push their hand into mine as a greeting. A few words of broken English and Hindi with expressive hand gestures show the story and big, white smiles tell the rest. The heat is almost unbearably humid and being constantly sweaty has become an unavoidable reality. This is an unexpected love, which is perhaps the best kind.

Monday, November 8, 2010

So I Will Rest Here


This field is a place I have never seen before. Never have I ventured beyond the tall grass that divides the meadow from the forest of trees. Yesterday I awoke to a beautiful sunrise. I stepped out onto the porch to better see the birds and smell the flowery, damp scent after the cool rain. Breezes ticked my face and a smile played on my lips. My eyes search farther than usual, and I decided tomorrow would be the day to explore. So here I stand, the trees are close enough together to touch one with each hand. The crunchy sound of fall leaves breaking under my bare feet breaks the silence.

I am alone, except for these trees. They hear my thoughts, know my dreams, push me further. And so the journey continues. Each step brings a new revelation. To take them all in, I pause. A long pause, so the new ideas may catch up with my racing mind. I desire my thoughts to be as calm as these trees, stoic, firm, grounded in truth. They have never moved from the place in which they grow. And yet they are away from the meadow.

So I will rest here a moment, catching my breath. A life exists beyond my porch. It is a life I had never hoped for, a distant life. Everything is new, clean, alive.
So I will rest here a moment, focusing on the details of this new world. I also yearn to understand the former life, where I was just yesterday, or so it seemed. More time has passed, I start to realize. This much change takes more than one evening.
So I will rest here a moment, learning to see well, no longer through stained glass or from a far distance, but with wide eyes, clear and pure.

"This is the resting place, let the weary rest. This is the place of repose" Isaiah 28:12

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Refined by Fire


Journaling from a few weeks ago (Egypt):
Felucca trip up the Nile. 3 days of doing absolutely nothing except relaxing, swimming in the Nile and praying::
So many thoughts and prayers are being sent up right now. Floating here, rocking gently in the water. I'm discontent with myself. I need God to meet me in my inadequacies because I am unable to fix them myself. God, I want to see you. You say, Receive your sight, your faith has healed you. Meet me in this quiet place. Touch the deepest part of my heart. I realize over and over that I cannot do this on my own. Show me my place here-in this group, on this trip. Don't let life just pass me by. Surprise me with your creation, the vast beauty to explore. Heal my heart and give me new eyes to see.

This is perhaps his response:
“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Revelation 7

The Creator God has been guiding my heart, mind and steps to produce something in me that is of greater worth than gold, refined by fire.
It would be easy if God forced us to love him. But to be presented with the choice to accept or reject his love-how much more valuable:
"For up to this very point, for this very point, he has been educating us, leading us, pushing us, driving us, enticing us, that we may choose him and his will, and so be tenfold more his children, of his own best making, in the freedom of the will found our own first in its loving sacrifice to him, for which in his grand fatherhood he has been thus working from the foundations of the earth, then we could be in the most ecstatic worship flowing from the divinest impulse, without this willing sacrifice" (Unspoken Sermons, George MacDonald)

I am no longer in that place of loss and confusion, yet I know those situations are never wasted. God isn't vindictive or crude. Every struggle, while not necessarily caused by God, can be used by him to draw us closer to his heart, which is when and where we find purpose and hope. Blessings friends and family, may this hope work in us and in this team.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Africa





Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Heart of Light

Arriving in India has spurred my longing for the green grass, red dirt, ugali, coffee and peace that is Kenya. The plane landed at Jomo Kenyatta and I was extremely fearful of what Africa would do to me. I was nervous about how my heart would respond to a country famous for pulling in missionaries with a passion for helping people. We arrived at 4am, tired from the flight from Cairo, and I was ready to sleep the next two weeks away, in order to protect myself from Kenya's embrace. That morning groggily set the tone for what I would experience. A welcoming crew of 12 from the ELCA church in Kawangware greeted us with a warm handshake and Karibou Kenya.
Our days were spent at the church, serving children food, playing games, taking pictures and worshiping with the kids. We had two different homestays with families. At the first one, Becca and I sold vegetables and fruits and Mamma Gracie's shop at the front of her two-room house. I counted and added in Swahili, while Becca and I traded off making dinner, boiling water and cutting vegetables. After dinner we had tea, the best chai of the 8 countries so far.
I made friends and connections for future ministry projects, and God stretched my heart for these people. I would say it broke for them, but the hope we have in Christ holds it together.
I was able to capture some pretty amazing pictures, and was even allowed to interview a family of 8 to share their story with the world.
Now we're in India, it's hot, loud and the start of the 5 day Diwali festival. Fireworks are in full force outside the internet cafe. Hoping to post pictures soon, after writing a few papers because, that's right, we are taking 5 classes over here. Praying for patience in this new culture, as well as a heart for a new country and everything India has to teach us.
Missing family and friends, sorry about the lack of communication in the past few weeks. Hope to catch up soon :)