Yesterday and today we attended training in Fairfax, VA for leaders of the Alpha course, a "Christianity 101" teaching and discussion-based class taught in churches across the world and across many many denominations. Wow. I am so grateful to Jiljane Brace for encouraging us to pursue this tool as an option for ministry in Peru. And I am equally grateful for God's precious timing in sending us on this Spirit-filling, faith-building, soul-encouraging retreat right before we leave for Peru (Wednesday).
Alpha is a course that presents the basic tenets of Christianity over the course of ten sessions and a weekend away. It is designed for anyone, really, but we mostly talked this weekend about what a great resource it can be for people exploring faith from the outside or for people just inside a life of faith that don't really have clarity about the things they claim to believe. It involves dinner together, a teaching on a particular topic, and small group discussion with the deliberate intent that anyone may feel free to say anything, regardless of how absurd or heretical it may seem to others.
Alpha has only recently been translated into Spanish, although it has been used in other languages and cultures across the world very successfully. Just this month, the first Alpha training conference was held in Lima, Peru, with an unbelievable attendance of 850 people. After our own training this weekend, we feel convinced that Alpha has tremendous potential in our ministry in Peru, and we can't wait to connect with other people pursuing Alpha as a route for God's work when we get to Arequipa!
One of the things we love the most about Alpha is that it has been used by so many different types of people. What other ministry tool is endorsed by Southern Baptists, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, the Salvation Army, Anglicans, Methodists, etc?
Anyway, I hope to have a lot more to say about Alpha in the future. We had a beautiful weekend and are looking forward to using this tool in Peru.
Monday night Tim and I went to see Guster play at the Neighborhood Theater. It was an awesome concert (and I don't even like concerts in general). They are definitely my favorite band to see live. While they were playing, people of all ages and shapes were singing along, screaming, dancing their hearts out.... I thought to myself that as far as the dreams of most aspiring musicians, Guster has made it. This is it. I've been reading a lot recently about pursuing your dreams and living our your deepest desires. Guster is doing it I suppose. I am, too. As I watched the band and watched the crowd, I felt grateful that God had put a different dream into my heart. Monday night was the height of glory for Guster, and they have to go back to that again and again every concert. But there is much higher and deeper glory to be found. I hope I will not find applause and adoration when I go out to fulfill my calling. My prayer is that through my efforts, Jesus will be applauded and adored, and that women in Peru will make their lives about worshiping Him. He is worth it, and in worshipping Him they will stumble into the hidden and deepest desires of their hearts.
We've been in Greensboro for a day and a half now. So far so good. Last night we had a birthday party for my brother David. We had lobster rolls (lobsters picked fresh from the Maine coast yesterday morning and shipping to us) and a tasty Cheesecake Factory Godiva chocolate cheesecake. It was a fun night in Mom's freshly remodled kitchen/living space. David and Margaret (his girlfriend of 2.5 yrs) seemed to enjoy themselves, but my heart is heavy with the goodbyes. He is so precious to me, my only brother, my closest look-alike, who knows where I've come from and shares my blood.
Tomorrow is his actual (22nd) birthday) and my 4th anniversary of marriage with Tim. Many reasons to celebrate.
PS- This is an especially good union for a post, because it was David that took Tim and I to our first Guster concert several years ago. What a lucky night!
Truth be told, I was secretly dreading coming to Charlotte this weekend. Goodbyes feel so awkward and difficult. Why would I come all the way here for no other purpose than to put myself through that torture? And yet this has been a beautiful weekend. From our first moments on 7th Street with the leaves crunching under our feet, we felt a sense of belonging. About everywhere we have been (new midtown Target, Visualite Theater, SouthPark Mall, Lulu's) we have randomly run into friends, former coworkers, supporters, etc. Surprising sightings for a city this size. It just reinforces the sense that this is our home, this is our community, this is where we belong. Beyond that, we have had some sweet moments this weekend.
Friday afternoon trip to the new midtown Target. Very fancy.
Famous slow dinner with the Finks at Customshop (in Elizabeth) Friday night, a particular treat since Emily was then and is still overdue on her baby
Crashing at the Landon's house on their surprisingly cozy sleeper sofa
Saturday morning soaking prayer (just for me) with Pat and Camille- a precious, irreplacable parting gift from two remarkable and beautiful warrior women
Saturday afternoon shopping at SouthPark Mall. Scary.
Dinner with the Landons and Warners at CANTINA 1511 Saturday night!! Oooh, I will miss American-Mexican food! Queso fundido, pork al pastor tacos, frozen strawberry margaritas....
Rosie Thomas and Over the Rhine at the Visualite Theater. I also took a nap there.
King of Kings this morning. So sweet.
Brunch at Lulu's with Chuck (my father-in-law). Delicious pimiento cheese grits!
Dessert gathering at the church office tonight. Thanks for your presence, your prayers, your love and support.
Tomorrow we have a few more stops (Tim's last Hep B shot, parting orientations at the mission office, maybe going to see Guster tomorrow night) and then off to Greensboro. I am glad to belong in Charlotte, to be sent from somewhere, to have somewhere to miss.
We're all packed up... again. Our 6 weeks of training are over, and we leave today for a 2 week goodbye tour:
Oct 19-22 in Charlotte (farewell dessert Sunday night- thanks to Marty and Jess!)
Oct 22 parting "interviews" at South America Mission office
Oct 22-25 in Greensboro
Oct 25-28 in DC area- Alpha training, last minute outlet shopping for staples, and a 4th anniversary dinner
Oct 28-31 in Greensboro
Oct 31 fly out of Charlotte airport for Peru!
Our team leaders will meet us in Lima on the 31st and have an adventurous culture-filled week planned in Puerto Supe. We start language school in Arequipa Nov. 7.
We have 5 large duffel bags, 2 carry-ons, a computer, and 2 instruments left. It's amazing to me all the things I don't need in order to live. We filled up another bag yesterday of clothes for Goodwill.
On another topic, vegetarian life has been delightful. I'm pretty sure from now on I'll be a vegetarian (plus fish) at home. No ethical issues with meat, though, so I fully intend to enjoy steaks at restaurants. Plus we'll be living with a host family for the next 4 months or so, and I don't plan demanding vegetarian fare.
First of all, I would like to apologize for just now posting this blog. As I am sure most of you are already aware, Radiohead released their latest album, In Rainbows, last Tuesday. If that wasn't reason enough to celebrate, they have revolutionized the music industry.
The only way you can receive a copy of the album is to go tohttp://www.inrainbows.com/ and download it. You may still be scratching your head and thinking, "What's the big deal, I already download all of my music off of iTunes." The difference my friends is that YOU decide whether you pay $500 or nothing for the new album! I chose to pay about $4 for it because I really enjoy their music (those of you who are unable to recognize genius - don't laugh!).
My advice, go, try it out for yourself and if you're not a fan or don't have any money you can still download it and you don't have to pay a dime for it. I promise this is legitimate; feel free to google it and find out more. Also if you're a little bored or want something to do while listening, go tohttp://www.official-linerider.com/play.html
Here's what I've been doing recently with any free brain space: knitting. In the car, in class, while reading, watching movies.... I think my capacity to knit and not pay any conscious attention to it has something to do with my ADD. If the pace around me is too slow, I can't handle it. Knitting (or some other similar activity) occupies part of my extra energy and allows me to focus with what remains. It's also been a fun connection point with some friends here at CIT.
Last Thursday I started making this blanket from a free online pattern (except mine is 50% larger and different colors). It's been fun- something interesting without having to branch out of my comfort zone of knitting rectangles.
I also just ordered some pretty teal boucle yarn to make a shawl for Mom. Shawls are good for sad moms, you know. Kind of like a hug you can keep on your armchair.
Also, if you like knitting, you'll be interested in knowing about a new website someone showed me: KnitPicks. Looks like high quality yarn for much, much less money.
My newest literary undertaking: God's Politics. Recommended to me by both a staunch conservative and a donor to the Democratic party, I figured it must be worth checking out. So far I am finding it fascinating, although it is mostly about the 2004 US elections (I'm on page 50 or so). Since I'm on my way out of the country, that isn't the top item on my mind right now.
Nonetheless, I appreciate the reminder that the "moral values" Americans claim to hold so dear go beyond issues of same-sex marriage and abortion. Let's not be single issue voters. "Religious issues" include poverty, the environment, war, the integrity of our elected officials, human rights, our response to terrorism, and a consistent ethic of human life.
Specific to that last idea, I am both challenged and encouraged by Jim Wallis' conviction that "a consistent ethic of human life" encompasses yes, abortion issues, but also capital punishment, euthanasia, weapons of mass destruction, HIV/AIDS, other pandemics (can we get some press for clean water around the world?), and genocide. What would it look like for American voters to embrace a consistent ethic of human life? What would it mean for me personally? What difference can I make anyway? How can I march forward as a Christian and a responsible citizen?
One of our first days here at CIT, we learned about the stages and stresses of the transition process. We begin by leaving, pulling away from relationships, relinquishing old roles. The liminal stage of transition is characterized by chaos and anxiety, exaggerated problems and behaviors, self-centeredness, fear, grief. In less than 3 weeks, we will find ourselves entering into a new culture, marginally and superficially at first, uncertain of our roles, tentative to accept what is happening around us. Finally we will re-engage in the new place, unpack the "me" inside that American suitcase and let myself out into Peru. I will make a choice to settle there, a choice to connect to the culture. I'm not sure where we are in that process. Somewhere in between leaving and transition, since we have already left our home, jobs, and routines.
This week I have felt a heightened anxiety that I can only attribute to the transition. Tim asks me, "What are you so anxious about?" I don't have an answer. There are no specific worries in my mind, but I know from what we learned here that my reaction is normal and okay. Tim doesn't "get" that, but he's willing to believe me anyway. I feel myself growing irritable over small things and raging over only slightly larger things. I am restless (and have pretty much knitted an entire blanket in the last week). I am tired.
I am nervous about this next stage, particularly the idea that we will be in Arequipa for an indefinite period of time over which I will have absolutely no control. Will Tim dedicate himself to learning Spanish in the way I want him to? How will I react if he doesn't? How can I let go of my demands and expectations? What will I do with 3, 4, 6, 8, however many months we will spend in Arequipa waiting for Tim to feel competent in his language ability? How will I know to what degree I should commit myself to this city and culture and people if I don't know how long I will be there?
We will board our plane for Peru in 19 days. Between now and then all I know to do is to bring myself exposed before God and ask Him to take care of this mess I'm in.
Our language class is going well so far (3 days in, 7 to go). We are not learning a language but rather learning about learning a language. We've talked about learning styles, language schools, tutors and assistants, techniques for practice, and phonetics. I am realizing that my reading and writing are nearly fluent, but I am weaker in listening and sometimes speaking. I have also been scheming about possible ways to improve my language while Tim is in language school (if I'm not). I think I will probably undertake a planned self-guided ethnographic study. I can imagine that a lot of good would come out of me having daily planned conversations about cultural issues. Both in terms of cultural adjustment and language ability. I think because of my bent toward analysis, this would help make up for some of the weaknesses in my language skills.
Tim and I are continuing to lead worship in the mornings, during this class I think every morning (earlier only once per week). We are both enjoying that time and the routine of it. I know we will want to use our music in Peru, but I am also recognizing that our style of worship music is specifically American. Translating worship music for Peru will not simply be a matter of linguistic translation. Their entire approach to worship music is more communal, whereas ours is markedly individual (me and God). Also, our music tends to be very serious, while theirs is more celebratory. We are both looking forward to learning new styles and approaches, but we also know that we need to play with Peruvians (under their direction) to really get a feel for their music. That will take time and work.
In the afternoons, we are spending 2 hours with a native speaker of another language practicing our techniques for language learning. These native speakers are not trained in any way- their role is mostly to respond as we ask simple questions (How do you say "school"?) and patiently let us practice. I am learning Vietnamese, and Tim is learning Russian. We're both thoroughly enjoying ourselves! We are using some of the learning/teaching techniques I learned about in my short career as a Spanish teacher, but there are many more that seem so obvious and awesome I can't believe I never thought of them. Then again, there's a big difference between a group of 4 missionaries-to-be learning language as a vital professional skill and a class of 30 14-year-olds taking my class because they need it to graduate. I'm not sure some of these techniques would be so useful in public high schools!
Two excerpts from "The Spirituality of Fund-Raising" by Henri J. M. Nouwen. I include them not to convince you to give but to share something I am learning and to give you who are funding this work in Peru some vision regarding your participation. The booklet is free on http://www.henrinouwen.org/ if you're interested.
Fund-raising is proclaiming what we believe in a such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission. Fund-raising is precisely the opposite of begging. When we seek to raise funds we are not saying, "Please, could you help us out because lately it's been hard." Rather, we are declaring, "We have a vision that is amazing and exciting. We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you- your energy, your prayers, and your money- in this work to which God has called us." Our invitation is clear and confident because we trust that our vision and mission are like "trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in eseason, and their leaves do not wither" (Psalm 1:3).
In fund-raising and ministry we are inviting people into a new way of relating to their resources. By giving people a spiritual vision, we want them to experience that they will in fact benefit by making their resources available to us.... "You won't become poorer, you will become richer by giving." We can confidently declare with the Apostle Paul, "You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity..." (2 Corinthians 9:11).
Today we started our Second Language Aquisition class.... sort of funny for me, since I've been working on Spanish for 12 years and teaching it for 3. I'm realizing that my habits of language learning are deeply ingrained and not necessarily helpful. I have a lot of work to do and there's no easy way around it. I know that bridging the gap between wherever I am (and have become fairly comfortable) and total fluency will be a huge challenge for me in Peru. At the same time, I am so thrilled at the prospect of finally arriving at fluency.
Over our long weekend, we went with two CIT couple friends to the beach (DeBordieu) for one last visit. I won't attempt to put into words the emotions around this goodbye. Let me just mention that this vacation home has been in my family my whole life and will very likely be sold while we are in Peru. I spent my childhood summers there, spent most Thanksgivings and Easters there for as long as I can remember, attended Christian discipleship training nearby for 3 summers, fell in love there, was married there. It is more of a home to me than any other house I am connected to.
Well anyway, we had a fabulous relaxing weekend full of knitting and tasty food, and I really enjoyed sharing the time with my new missionary-to-be friends. There is something very relieving and satisfying right now about conversation with people in this same crazy stage. All four of them are from California, so we took this photo to clarify the geography for them.