Oct 30, 2010

The Arrival of the Atypical

"Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you..." Genesis 26:3
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “typical” student missionary. We’re all in such different circumstances and positions, surrounded by different people, facing different hardships and joys. We have much in common, but I don’t believe there is one picture that paints what student missionaries look like.
However, if I did believe such a thing, I would consider myself far removed from the “typical” label. I arrived here on Tuesday, October 26, around about the three month anniversary of many SMs being in their countries. I settled into my room in the pavilion, feeling much like moving back into a previous home. The rest of the missionaries left on a trip shortly after I arrived, and as I stay here, the only American for miles, I feel far from lonely and isolated. I’ve spent the last few days getting reacquainted with friends and local church members. Rather than spending my year creating lesson plans and grading at late and odd hours of the day, I’ll be having a fairly abundant amount of time for reflection, reading, writing, and spending time with God.
My first week here, I haven’t been homesick or in culture shock (I believe I’ve crossed those bridges in years passed). I don’t doubt that I’ll be homesick at points while I am here, but as for this beginning, I’ve had nothing but a pleasant time. Sabbath was enjoyable, filled with meeting new people and refreshing previous acquaintanceships, plus a tiny potluck which slightly reminded me of the Hatter’s tea party in Wonderland, much to my inward chuckle.
The Riveral family is acting as our guardians here. At nights, the Riveral children sleep in the pavilion with me so I’m not alone. Last night I taught them how to play Pit. Oh. My. Word. They loved it! We literally played for hours. I’ve never played so much Pit. We had to have been keeping up the neighbors with our yelling and laughing and our fighting over spoons. I’m certain that if we play again, there will be casualties—I have grown quite sympathetic for silverware and cards. I will undoubtedly have to pick up a new deck when I reach America again.
I’ve only just begun my time here. I know there will be a mixture of hardship and joys, like anywhere on earth. But for now, I’m just soaking in the wonders of this land, and thanking God for the blessings He brings my way. Blessings like a wet, blustery Halloween to keep in tradition with all the previous years of my life.

Oct 28, 2010

Detour Blessings, Part 3

"No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. " 1 John 4:12

You cannot give if you have nothing to give. Seems pretty simple. If Jonny has no apples and he gives two apples to Sally…Sally better check what she actually received.
I’m writing this entry a little later than I had anticipated writing it. I’m sitting by myself in the terminal at SEA-TAC. I just said goodbye to my mom and dad, and in saying goodbye I was reminded how much I love them and how much they love me.
During my extended time at home, I’ve gotten to stay longer with my mom, dad, brother, and new sister. I’ve gotten to see and talk with incredible friends. I can’t tell you how many people have been praying for me, writing me cards, notes, and emails, and have been supporting me through this sickness twist. Before going out to give of myself to others, I received so much from those around me. It’s been incredible.
And I think that one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned (or relearned, I suppose) through all this experience is that simple math equation which remains at the heart of service: you need apples to give apples and you need God’s love to receive God’s love.
I thank everyone for filling me up with the Lord’s love because that’s exactly what I need as a student missionary and as a child of God. I, like you, need His love for myself. I need it for nourishment and growth and understanding. But I, also like you, need it to give it. I’ve been fueled up in excess in preparation to give, and this has reminded me that I constantly need to be fueling up on God’s love—receiving from Him and also from His servants.
It’s a pretty cool process really. We receive to give so that others may receive and in turn give. It’s an exponential web of love, a marvelous design by the Father. So my challenge to myself and to you, dear reader, is that you may practice receiving. For once we have truly received, we have the heart to truly give.
I love love and could talk about it for quite some time. But right now I have a plane to catch. It’s time to give.
Love to you.

(P.S. I'm posting this a couple days after arriving. I'll write something more recent soon) 

Oct 20, 2010

Detour Blessings, Part 2

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34,35

It’s about time part 2 made its way onto the internet.
I lay down on the table and stared up at the ceiling. It was dark and a little chilly in the room. A little woman with bushy hair entered after a few minutes and pulled up a seat next to me. She began fiddling with her computer.
“Hi,” I said at last.
I rolled my eyes around the ceiling again. I was about to start my echocardiogram, a test that would take half an hour.  I was hoping awkward greetings wouldn’t be the only thing the technician and I said to each other in that time.
“So…how are you doing today?”
She looked over at me. “Uh, I guess I’m okay.” She turned back to her computer while continuing, “How about you?”
“Oh, I’m alright. Kinda hoping to figure out all this business soon so I can go back to work. But can’t complain too much.”
“Well that’s good…” She started her test, her eyes scanning my heart on the monitor.  “Where do you work?”
“At a summer camp. I’m usually a counselor there, but I haven’t been there in a week because of all this.”
“Oh yeah? Sounds like a tiring job.”
“A bit.” I laughed. “Days off are always nice. But it’s really great. I love working with kids. You have fun and get to do a lot of good. You give them a chance to really be who they were meant to be, you know? You get to step out of yourself and just spend a summer helping others. At least, that’s the hope.”
She nodded and smiled. “Yeah, that’s really nice. You like service?”
“Oh definitely! It’s the way to go.” I smiled.
“That’s what I like about working for Virginia Mason: it’s all very service and people oriented. I worked for another company in California where, I don’t know, everything seemed to be about business. But here it’s about people.” Her eyes were starting to light up in the dim room.
“That’s awesome!” I let her work in silence for a few minutes. “You know, I’m really hoping to get everything figured out soon—I’m supposed to be flying to the Philippines to serve as a missionary for the year.”
“Oh really? Where? What will you be doing?”
I filled her in on some of the details. Then she asked, “Is this church-related? Or is it a program with your school?”
“Well, kind of both. I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist and our schools are very mission oriented. About a hundred from my college go every year.”
“Huh, I dated a Seventh-Day Adventist a couple years ago. You know, if everyone just followed what Ellen White wrote, we’d only have half as many people in our hospitals.”
I laughed in surprise and agreed with her. For the rest of my echocardiogram, we talked about Ellen White, Adventism, service, and our purposes in life. When she was done, we thanked one another for a good conversation, and she wished me the best of luck in the Philippines.
I’m pretty sure just about every medical person I’ve come in contact with these last few months knows I’m going to the Philippines. I’ve had a number of conversations about service and humanitarianism and God, sometimes in very unusual ways. Well, maybe all in unusual ways. This whole time, it’s felt like I have this team of medical staff all prepping me to go. Every new nurse, technician, and doctor is sort of sucked into this deal with me, making my solitary little flight over seem to be much more.
My final post-op appointment with Dr. Crider, she made me promise to send her a post card once I arrive in Pagudpud. She’s been on a couple of mission trips herself and hopes to return to the mission field soon. She’s been doing her best to make sure that I can leave as soon as possible, and I don’t intend to disappoint.
At times, I’ve felt like a sort of rallying figure, or that little voice of a reminder. All these people from all these clinics and hospitals, they’ve all been serving in a mission field for years. Not only do they help heal people and bring the tremendous blessing of healthy living, but they help make it possible for others to go out and serve as well. It was my pleasure to remind them (and seriously thank them) for all that they’ve been doing and all that they stand for in their careers. And after receiving such a blessing from them, it’s my turn to take this healthy life I’ve been given and use it to pass on blessings to others. I’ve seen that it’s quite impossible to go out and serve just as myself. As I leave America, I represent so many people who have put their energy, money, time, and prayers into my year abroad. They are all serving. Through all this, I’ve come to understand just how, well, big mission work and service is. It’s not about the single student missionary off in some corner of the world. It’s not about me.
It’s about us. And it’s about God. All together. That’s big.