Monday, June 30, 2008

Our First Day of Service

Until recently children with mental or physical disabilities were hidden away at home. They were considered shameful, a result of sin. Of late individuals have started building centers where these children can come and get therapy and their moms can get education about caring for them. Our team is the first one that has been let in to serve the moms who are waiting for their children at a center. We were told that many of the mothers suffer from depression because being a mother of a child with disabilities in this country is very difficult. Today the moms knew we were coming and greeted us warmly at the door. They loved the cross-stitch project that we brought for them to do. (They do a lot of stitchery already, but it’s very different). At one point a woman turned to Susan and tried to tell her something, but she didn’t speak English, and couldn’t make herself understood. The woman took Susan’s hand and started crying. Linda, our interpreter came over and the woman asked why we were here. Susan said "Our scriptures tell us to serve others, so I came", and the woman gave this whole speech about how we should all be serving each other and there are too many barriers in the world. She was so articulate and open, and it was an emotional moment. (See photo taken after her speech).This is the value of a short term team. Linda and V. couldn’t come into this center as individuals, but now they have an inroad to come back and continue to serve these dear women.

Anton is shadowing Phil (the associate pastor of the International church), and came back with great stories. He met Marcus, Ben, Pam S. (who serves at the cultural center and also served with Zef and Altin in Albania), and many others. When we reconnected later in the day, it was like when the kids come home from school and they tell you all this cool stuff. Then he asked for more money. At least he didn’t want us to do his laundry. Are you kidding me? (Joke for those who know him).

A Serious Case of Too Much Flying

We arrived at our final destination last night after 3 days of transit. We were hot, tired, and crabby. When we arrived we found that the hotel we had contracted with had given away our rooms. (V., our liaison here suggested that the owner was eager to make the deal with her, but then changed his mind without telling her when he was able to fill the room with higher-paying tourists). The new rooms we were given had no air conditioning, and it would be impossible to sleep well in them with outside temperatures in the 90s and high humidity even at night. We were not happy campers, but after having a mini meltdown, we prayed, and called V., who straightened things out. We will pay more for the air-conditioned rooms, but will pay the same amount because Anton will stay at Ben and V.’s house. He is thrilled since he has a nice room, a fabulous ocean view (see photo of the view from his room), and will have a chance to get to know Ben and V. better. AND he really does need some time away from these five women. Even though I knew that obstacles would come (and they still will), when it happened last night it just felt horrible while it was happening. My team was unhappy, the hotel owner was shouting, and I hated to be whiny on our first day here. Looking back I can see how God uses our difficult situations to keep us trusting in Him, and bringing us closer to complete dependency on Him.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cross Training Part 2

Traveling to Turkey has been like an extension of cross training. There have been plenty of stressful times that have bonded our team further, and times of joy. The stressful: waiting in long lines at LAX, being crammed in a 10” by 12” space for ten hours with a guy who hogged the shared armrest and thought my leg room was his, and arriving at the Istanbul airport ready to take a picture of the driver holding the IMPACT sign, and realizing there was no one to meet us. Additionally, it was hard for Patti to say goodbye to her family at LAX. Her son is going to Thailand and she won’t see him until September. The good times were the treat at the London airport (Starbucks-see photo of Anton and me), finally figuring out that the guy with the Rainbow Tours sign was our hotel driver, and getting our first glimpse of this beautiful country. Pray that we can get to Ant___a safely this afternoon, and that we can be a light to the people we have contact with today.

Pray for the Romania team

The Romania IMPACT team had hurdles to overcome all week at Cross Training. Their leader, BR, got pneumonia, and wasn’t able to go. The team is composed of active teens (mostly boys) whose favorite game at Cross Training was called “Street Fighter” and involved a lot of yelling. The co-leader is amazing, but not much older than the team members. Meanwhile, the associate pastor of the church many of the youngsters attend volunteered to drop everything he was doing and co-lead the team. Praise God! When we stopped off to relax at a house on the way to the airport, it was discovered that one of the passports was missing. The kids tore apart their bags and prayed. The father of the boy with the lost passport drove him to the consulate, and got almost there when the passport was found. This team has certainly been through the Refiner’s fire. Pray for them! Both the Turkey and Romania teams traveled on the same plane to London. It left at 9:00 PM. The newly-appointed Romania leader had a wedding to do at 5:00. We gave a huge cheer when he showed up at the LAX gate with time to spare. I can see us all depending on Him more and more, especially as we see answers to specific prayers. (The picture is of Cindy, Jenn and me on the plane)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Between Cross Training and Turkey

Cross Training ended today and we are relaxing at a home on the way to the airport. I’m just adding three posts that I wrote this week while I had no internet. My plane leaves in a few hours, and I’m still terrified, but also very happy because I am surrounded by wonderful people and the week of worship, teaching, and experiences has shown me how intentional our Lord is. We had a foot-washing ceremony last night and took communion together. It was amazing.

Two fun things

Two great things happened today. Both started out bad. The first happened when I didn’t get a giant M&M cookie at dinner last night because the young men took too many before I reached the line. Today the cook found out and made a whole bin of giant cookies delivered to me during free time. Yum! Everyone wanted to be my friend as I passed them out liberally. The second thing happened when I broke my glasses. They are the kind with the invisible frames, so you need a special machine to pop the lens back in. (These are progressives—not something I could replace easily.) I really needed to be able to see distance on this trip, and was distressed that this would happen before I was even out of the country. Sigh. MacGyver Greenslate (names changed enough to avoid Google, but he deserves a shout-out), put the lens in the freezer so that it would contract, and then (with much effort) it fit back in the frame. Thrilling! I think God is looking out for me.

Our Team

One of the best parts of being here is being on a team of people like me, who love serving God around the world. All six of us have traveled pretty extensively, and it’s been fun to hear others’ cross-cultural stories. Anton, is our eighteen-year-old stuck with these five old mature ladies. The other groups consisting of mostly young people tried to get him to switch ships. “Who’d want to be on a trip with five MOMS?” they told him. He told them he liked these crazy women, and besides, he would have wi-fi, while they had pit toilets. We have a great team. This is us leaving Cross Training.

Our Team Bonded over the Ropes Course

Our team bonded over the ropes course today. During the low ropes part, our team had to figure out how to get 18 people over a “noxious pit” via a hanging rope and magic “hover discs”, and the hard part was the people had to land in certain strategic locations on the other side. The secret was to pretend you were at a rock concert and “surf” people over the crowd, after you had everyone in line. It took good communication, trust and teamwork. On the high ropes course I was the first to complete the Leap of Faith, which involved jumping off a high tower, propelling yourself with all your might and catching a trapeze that looked impossible to reach. It was scary, and stretched me out of my comfort zone, which is great preparation for the days ahead. I know there are good times ahead, but it's definitely a leap of faith!

Last night we completed an assessment that highlighted our personality types. You won’t be surprised to know I was the one who liked adventure, change, people and a good time. My type is the one that wants everyone to be happy and included. We have three “C” types, who like order, rules, and details and need a lot of information. I learned that as a leader I need to give them LOTS of information, time and reasons why before we make changes on the field.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jury Duty

At jury duty today a college student sat next to me with her Mac. Half an hour into the morning she said “OK, my name’s on the list. If I just left, they wouldn’t know, right?” “You must never have done this before.” She’s attending UCSB, wants to be a teacher, and works at a preschool. An hour later she said “There should be some way around the system. Do you know if I could find out when they were going to call a group? Then I could just show up for that.” “Do you believe in the jury system?” “What? No.” “You mean, if you were falsely accused of a crime, you wouldn’t want a jury to be there for you?” “Yeah, I’d want THAT, but I just don’t think I should have to waste my time doing this. I didn’t even register to vote.” Most of the young people I’m connected with are caring, concerned people who are doing good things in the world. They are interested in community service and they want to make a difference, but they also seem to have more of an entitlement attitude than older people. Every once in awhile, people from this twenty-something generation show a side that is incredibly selfish. Mr. Rogers didn’t mean that just because you were special the world should wait on you!

Monday, June 16, 2008

BKP Graduation

BKP graduated from Cal Poly yesterday. I love all the tradition and ceremony of graduation. I cry at Pomp and Circumstance. (It's especially wonderful when played by a real orchestra). Because she won the Most Outstanding Senior in International Business, one of her professors was making this little speech about BKP, and when the prof said she graduated in three years the people behind me said "Oh, Wow!", and then when the prof said she was in Campus Crusade they said "That's why." (Meaning Christians don't party).

Here's a story she sent during the last crazy week of school, when her skin turned pale from being in the library 18 hours a day: I'm at the library, of course. I had finished all my snacks around lunchtime, so I decided to go down to the vending machines on the first floor to get a snack. I opened my wallet and realized i only had two twenties. The vending machines are in the 24 hr reading room, which was quite crowded since it's nearly finals week. I was going to walk over to the desk to ask for change when I noticed the change machine on the wall. I inserted my $20 bill, and then realized, to my horror, that it was coming out in quarters. Duh, it's a change machine. It felt like it was spitting quarters for five minutes, all eighty coins clanking into a metal tray. I tried to surreptitiously slip the coins into my sweatshirt pocket while my face burned red. Of course, then I still had to walk over an buy my Reese's pieces. Once back at my workspace, i pulled out my quarters and put them in a little baggie. I had to walk outside because the thought of all my quarters kept making me laugh.

There was a little party at her house, since she and the two girls she's lived with all three years, were all graduating. BKP made Lemon Cheesecake, Mud Pie (from the Charthouse recipe), and Strawberry Pie. AM's dad barbecued tri-tip. BP's mom made salads. YUM! J made a video of BKP's life that was quite professional. It was a fun day, and I'm so very proud of her achievements.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Desiring to be a Servant Leader

I was talking to a friend of mine who has recently returned from a trip. He said one of the best things about it was that he didn’t have to manage a team, so that made it easier to focus on his hosts. When you go as a team leader you have your ministry, and also all the managing of the team schedule, feelings, and group dynamics. I realize that in a cross-cultural setting, if someone has “baggage” (and I’m not talking luggage here), the stress of being in a foreign country presses it out. I have a fabulous team. I love each member, and we’ve bonded well already. But I do know that in every team there’s a honeymoon period, and then there’s the inevitable conflict. We are human sinners. And when you are tired, eating different food, dealing with a different language, and removed from the comforts of home, sometimes it’s hard to be your best self. By God's grace, I want to be a great team leader. Pray that I’m up to the challenge.

M's Graduation Ceremony

M's graduation ceremony was last Friday. It was so fun to have my whole family together celebrating with her. Graduation is always an emotional time for me because of my own students graduating. All the teachers talk about their students, and M's teacher told how M. had worked at two elementary schools, taught swimming lessons, worked with children in Honduras, and achieved academic honors, including CSF. I'm so proud of her many accomplishments. She still has lots to learn. Tonight she asked if a garden burger counts as a vegetable.
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