Mozambique: Growing in Community

Well, I have made it safely home to Korea after a fabulous time in Mozambique! Thank you all so much for your prayers and encouragement, and please continue to pray for me as I process what I’ve experienced in the last three weeks. As dear friends, family, seekers, and the merely curious, I’d like to include you in that processing so you can share in the challenges and blessings it’s already unleashing. There are several concepts that came alive for me in fresh and powerful ways while I was in Mozambique, and the first I’ll reflect on is community. Later you can expect a bit about prayer, healing, brokenness, freedom, and the spiritual world. But community is a good starting place. :-)

Community. Well, I’ve spent the last year and a half reading about, talking about, and living in community. So it came as a bit of a surprise that I first started breathing community in the visitors’ compound of an orphanage 6,000 miles from here. I told you already about the prayer circle we had during my first week there and how opening myself up at a highly vulnerable level and being loved, encouraged, and prayed for really did wonders for my soul. That sense of community was not a one-time deal but an ever-increasing phenomenon as we truly became united as brothers and sisters in Christ. With them, no time was wasted. Just as any action without love is meaningless, it seems that any action with love is meaningful. So whether we were deep frying cheese puffs (I don’t recommend it) or making up silly songs while playing Skip-Bo, everything we did brought us closer together in a way only God could have done. (And no, it wasn’t all fun and games—we also got close by sleeping like sardines in sweaty sauna-tents in the bush, riding in the backs of enclosed pick-up trucks with our arms and legs sticking together, etc.)

Looking back, I wonder, What was the key to our amazing community? There are many church congregations that don’t feel like family at all, so what made the difference in ours? And I think it was that we prayed together. Not just one-liners to help someone transition well or get over the flu, but prayers that touched the depths and breadths of us. Prayers over our past, our present, our future; prayers over our relationships, with God and with others; prayers for our health and healing, at physical and emotional levels; and prayers of appreciation. We got to know each other at a really intimate level through prayer, and as we thanked God for each other and affirmed with spoken words each other’s gifts and contributions and visions for the future, we became tightly endeared to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Even in our separation now, I remember each one with thanksgiving and delight, overwhelmed at God’s kindness for having placed me in community with them and still inspired by each of their unique gifts of ministry.

Another cool thing was that as visitors went back home and new ones came, each one found a place in the family. It was like making a salad five different ways and having it turn out lip-smacking good every time. Each person had a role that was theirs alone, a contribution that strengthened and enriched the community.

So now that I’m back I wonder, How can I find this same sense of community at Sarangbang? Or can I? Is it possible to have really intimate fellowship without the facility of a common language? Is it possible to grow close in prayer when you can’t understand what the other person’s praying? My gut says yes, it is possible. But it’s gonna take a mighty huge outpouring of the Holy Spirit as well as heaping spoonfuls of courage and commitment. Courage to trust others with my vulnerable places, and commitment to keep working at relationships that take a lot of time and patience and energy to grow strong and bear fruit.

My deepest temptation is to feel alone here, isolated by my differentness from others. But when I think about the people in my “Skip-Bo family” from Mozambique, I realize I would have felt pretty different from many of them as well, if it hadn’t been for the unifying power of Christ who made us brothers and sisters. That power was the dressing that made the salad taste delicious no matter what ingredients were thrown together, and that dressing is available anywhere and EVERYwhere in the world. Here at Sarangbang, too. In your family, too. At your church, too. But I’ve got a feeling that when you ask for Him to pour it on, you’d better be ready to have yourself change flavor too. Here’s to community, wherever you are.

Mozambique: Getting Plugged in to God

I have just about 15 minutes to write this little blurb and a couple emails. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to use the internet next either. Well, my first week here has been pretty incredible. Also pretty normal. I’m finding many similarities between the people here and back “home” (wherever that is), in personalities as well as matters of faith. But God is really touching me here, working on me and seeking me out as I seek Him out.

Last weekend I spent 3 days, 2 nights in the bush. We didn’t end up building a church as we’d been told, but we chopped and cleared brush to make space for a church to be built as well as for the village to be extended. The most incredible part was seeing the sky that first night. It was so clear and I could see millions of stars and the white smear of the Milky Way. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. The second night was overcast, so that just made the first night all the more special. We cooked our food over a campfire and got our water from a well. There was no electricity, of course, and there were many thatched huts around, as well as some cinder block buildings. The pastor we were clearing the land for (for his church) said we ought not work in the afternoons—guess it’s African style—so we went to the beach for many hours. Even though I put on sunscreen I still got fried. I look like a lobster now, but I imagine (if I don’t peel) the tan will last for years. :)

Yesterday we had church, which was pretty cool. There was so much dancing and they translated the sermon which was helpful. I felt pretty broken and disconsolate afterwards, just feeling far away from God and like I’m not “on fire” for Jesus as so many are. I decided I didn’t want to participate in any more faith activities with other people yesterday and just tend to my journal and private Bible study. But last night about 8:30 a good friend asked if I’d like to come out and pray and sing with the other handful of visitors. I debated about it and finally—more to get him off my back and just be decisive—I consented. We went around the circle sharing our prayer requests and I just told them everything I’d been feeling lately with my faith and how I want more of the Holy Spirit and want to feel a living spring within me instead of a lake of water that keeps getting recycled over and over until its nutrients are depleted. I also asked them to pray about the anxiety I struggle with.

Then we all took turns sitting in the middle of the circle and having everyone lay their hands on us and pray over us. There were only about 8 of us but it took almost 4 hours by the time it was all said and done. They prayed so many blessed things over me and I felt hope and encouragement welling within me. I was so happy when I went to bed last night, knowing that they really knew me and I was not alone.

Then today I went to the staff worship service and that was just as incredible. It started with about half an hour of dancing—not naturally my thing but I actually liked it—and then there was more praising and a sermon. The sermon was all about getting connected to God and it seemed like the pastor was speaking straight to my soul. He described me SO well, better than I could even put into words when I was sharing last night. And I was crying and afterwards asked him to pray for me and he did. And something just clicked with me about Jesus. Jesus is the one who plugs us into God. We can’t plug ourselves in. Jesus is the precious name by which we are saved. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. I know that I don’t have it all figured out, but I feel so much closer today and I feel much more hope and joy inside me. Please, please pray that Satan’s power would be bound and that I would not be hurt by him but would be able to stand strong and fight against him with the armor and power of God.

Well, I have 3 minutes left… better copy this and get it pasted into some emails… I love you guys. Thanks for reading this and please keep the next 2 weeks covered in prayer. God is faithful and I want to know more of Him.

Field Trip to Geojedo

Day 1:
As soon as we arrived at the empty but beautiful tourist farm and finished our initial orientation, the kids started right in with recreation.

Day 2:
We took a bus tour of the Samsung Industrial Park where they specialize in building ships (it’s the largest ship-building site in the world). Then we toured the grounds and museum of an historic POW camp. In the afternoon, the kids played soccer at a huge recreational park.

Day 3:
We took a boat to Oido, an island privately owned but open for tourism. The gardens were incredible!! Then we walked up a short hill to a windmill and stopped by a rocky beach to skip stones.

School's Out!

…and it’s been FAR too long since I updated my blog! But classes are finished now, my luggage from the end-of-semester field trip is unpacked, and the savory scent of banana bread is beginning to waft from the mini-oven. Like any cross-section of life, the last month and a half has had its share of trials and blessings. A few highlights were seeing Heejung and her two daughters (all visiting from Germany), making pies for Thanksgiving, catching up with and meeting new Korean friends, becoming a little better at Korean, and of course hiking, though really I haven’t done much of that this winter. Just yesterday I got back from visiting an island in the Southeast with the middle and high school students. My pictures don’t do it justice, but at the time I felt it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. I also got to put my hands in the sea water, something I love to do. (When I touch the ocean, I feel I’m touching a bit of every coastline in the world—it makes me feel connected to home and the rest of the world.) And last week I got a whopper of a Christmas package from my Sunday school class in Goshen!

There were a couple weeks where I went through a bit of a dip in culture shock, I think. I felt really impatient with the little boys in my house and was not viewing cultural differences with the respect they deserve. Thanks to the prayers of my small group at church, I feel more patient and positive again. As far as friends go, I’m sad that a couple of the fun, single women from next-door will be leaving our community in just a couple weeks. But as in times past, God is faithful to provide, and a very close friend from my small group will be joining our community at the same time the others leave. I’m really thankful for that.

I’ve been studying Korean quite a bit lately, as well as reading books in preparation for my trip to Mozambique. I can’t believe I’ll be sweating and wearing t-shirts just three weeks from now! It took a while to track down malaria medicine, but a nurse from our church found some and even gave it to me free-of-charge, a $100 value here in Korea! I’ve also been playing piano about every night, practicing some variations of hymns from a new songbook. And I decided yesterday I want to watch a bunch of Korean movies during this vacation, supposedly to practice my Korean listening skills, though I can hardly believe something so entertaining could be educational. ;-)

I don’t have much to share in terms of contemplation from the last couple months. Not because I haven’t been doing any, but because it’s too personal. :-P I’ve been thinking a lot about love and relationships lately and what’s most important for their maintenance and growth, especially in a cross-cultural context. I’ve also been reading /Experiencing God/ by Henry Blackaby and thinking about the stark differences between the way the status quo church initiates and carries out plans and the way of faith and personal relationship in which God calls us to walk. So challenging!

It’s about that time of year to start reflecting on the past twelve months and pondering how to live more fully in the next twelve. Looking at my journal entry from December 30th of last year, it seems my goals for 2010 will be about the same: “I would like to seek and find God more. I would like to trust Him more, pray more, be less afraid of sounding like a goody-goody. I want my faith, or rather the Holy Spirit, to touch more of my physical, practical world. I want to be more faithful—in prayer, and in following the Spirit’s nudge. I want to use my time more wisely. To not waste it on mind-numbing escapes or trivial frivolities. Somehow I want to be more faithful but less religious, or I want to make religion work for me, not me for it. I want to continue to learn new things and become more culturally competent. I want to be a more effective teacher. I want to be diligent in self-educating via books, websites, experiences, conversation, and so on. I want to become more integrated into the community, but I want that to be of my own accord, not because someone says I should. I want to learn a lot of Korean—all aspects of it. I want to share more of myself.” Looking back on 2009, I’d say most of those goals have been met part way but none of them fully by any stretch of the imagination. Here’s to more growth in 2010!

Money, Money, Honey

When I was in college, I made a goal to keep my budget as student-like as possible no matter how much money I made in the future. Whatever extra I made, I aimed to give away. That would keep me from getting greedy and at the same time help others. Well, unfortunately, as my earnings have increased, my spending has too. But it’s still a goal.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a full tummy, a warm coat, and a roof to sleep under. It can’t buy peace of mind, but it can buy an education and important medical care. This is the view I want to have of money. An outlook that values money not for the power, comfort, or luxury it can afford, but for the real needs it can meet. When I value it for meeting real needs, I don’t have a desire to collect it but to supply it where it is lacking.

These days, Micah 6:8 has been on my heart: “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Lately, the “do justice” bit has convicted me and I’ve begun to think that justice starts by redistributing my wealth and possessions among the people I actually know. You’re either thinking, “Wealth? What wealth?” or “Yikes! She sounds like a communist!” Well, wealth is all relative, and let me remind you—I do live on a commune of sorts. :-) Actually, these thoughts didn’t stem from that at all, but from God bringing certain people and needs to my attention, then pointing at my excess and putting it on my heart to share with them. If I’m still in doubt, there’s plenty of Scripture to drive home the point: God will provide for me, and I am to give generously to those in need. I’ve been a little surprised by how close “those” people are to me. They’re in my own family, my circle of friends, among the people I live with, the people I go out to dinner and study groups with, even passengers on the bus I ride. It’s convenient, really.

And they’re the people noticing what kind of person I am and wondering what kind of God I serve. I’m no expert in economics; I just know I have more than what I need while others whom I’m close to have less. I want to share. I want to help bring about the Kingdom of justice.

Snapshots from my Daily Walk

Folks, this is the newest of the 3 new entries tonight. You know what they say: “When it rains, it pours.” :)

Photo Diary

My housemates Qing Xia, Hua Lei, and Jiny took me with them to Sanjeong Lake one weekend. Speaking of whom, Qing Xia is expecting! She told Jiny that she wanted a boy baby and Hua Lei wanted a girl baby, then asked Jiny what he wanted. He wants an American baby! Now wouldn’t that be something. It sure made my day!

School’s back in session, and so are field trips. We had to study in my bedroom for the first couple weeks until the new classroom was finished. My housemates also swapped rooms around and put down new flooring…

Chuseok—Korean Thanksgiving!

I went to Pastor Lee’s family get-together at the South Sea again. It was beautiful as before, but much warmer than on the New Year! When we came back, it was our small group’s turn to be the church choir. We dressed in Korean traditional clothes, called hanbok.

I visited Bonseong Temple last weekend—I just couldn’t get enough of the cosmos!