Saturday, January 28, 2017

Walking with Jesus

"What's it like to walk with Jesus through that?"

This has become sort of a mantra in my Growth Group. All four of us are completely different; we have a recent college grad headed to Europe to work with youth, a married mother of 4 headed to Ireland, and a single mother of two teenagers who is headed to Asia, and me. We often share things we're learning or things going on in our lives that don't have a clear resolution or a simple answer. We're learning to not discount each other's experiences and journeys with God, or step in and offer advice we don't have. We share truth, we share tears, we share dark chocolate, and we share Jesus.

When confronted with a hard situation, an inter-personal situation that seems to be forever unresolved, a huge joy that makes my heart sing, a problem I can't puzzle my way out of, or when all I see is chaos and mess--what does it mean to walk with Jesus through that?

Sometimes I don't know What Would Jesus Do? Sometimes I don't know how to view it from God's perspective. Sometimes I don't know how to see what God might be doing in my life through this situation. But I can learn to walk with Jesus through it.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Transition: The experience of the gradual, physiological reorientation process that happens inside us as we respond and adapt to the external change. Transition often results from a change, but it may also be triggered by the news that a change is imminent and, so, start before the change actually takes place. (William Bridges)

Last week we spent an entire morning talking about transition. We visualized the transition to a new country/ministry/location/people group as a bridge with five different stages:
  1. Settled
  2. Unsettling
  3. Chaos
  4. Re-Settling
  5. Newly Settled
On our own papers, we wrote both our positive and negative feelings and word associations with each stage, then circled the one word (either positive or negative) that most describes our feeling in that stage. The instructor asked six people to share with the class their words along the entire Transition Bridge, with positive words above the bridge road-bed and negative words below (these are charted below in 6 different colors). Then the rest of the class chimed in to build a "word cloud" (these are written at an angle).

I loved that we were allowed to speak in paradox, and we did not have to follow up a negative feeling or word with "Yes, but remember God's promises" or "It'll be OK." Because no matter how many times you've done a major transition, or if you're navigating it with a family or supportive team, or if it's to a similar culture, transition is still hard. And it is normal to feel either positive or negatively--or both at the same time.

And if you want to know what I'm feeling in this transition, follow the purple letters across.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Four things

There was a young adult Christian fiction series I really enjoyed in middle school. I distinctly remember the last line of one of the books and it's been coming to my mind frequently over the last few days:

"I may not know what the future holds or where I'm going, but I'm positive of these four things. The moment. The people in that moment. God. And God's promises."

That's what I'm hanging onto today. There's 4 more days here at Mission Training International, and about a month before I leave for Nigeria (don't ask me exact number of days left or I might cry). I'm trying to stay grounded in this moment, relating to and engaging with the people in the moment, remembering God's presence, and choosing to believe God's promises.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

1 Corinthians 13 for New Missionaries

"If I speak with the tongue of a national, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I wear the national dress and understand the culture and all forms of etiquette, and if I copy all mannerisms so that I could pass for a national but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor, and if I spend my energy without reserve, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love endures long hours of language study, and is kind to those who mock his accent; love does not envy those who stayed home; love does not exalt his home culture, is not proud of his national superiority,
Does not boast about the way we do it back home, does not seek his own ways, is not easily provoked into telling about the beauty of his home country, does not think evil about this culture;
Love bears all criticism about his home culture, believes all good things about this new culture, confidently anticipates being at home in this place, endures all inconveniences.
Love never fails: but where there is cultural anthropology, it will fail; where there is contextualization it will lead to syncretism; where there is linguistics, it will change.
For we know only part of the culture and we minister to only part.
But when Christ is reproduced in this culture, then our inadequacies will be insignificant.
When I was in Britain (Korea, the US....), I spoke as a Brit, I understood as a Brit, I thought as a Brit; but when I left Britain I put away British things.
Now we adapt to this culture awkwardly; but He will live in it intimately: now I speak with a strange accent, but he will speak to the heart.
And now these three remain: cultural adaptation, language study, and love.
But the greatest of these is love." - Author Unknown

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter Fun!

It's all melted now, but about a week ago, we had a pretty good snow. A few of the younger girls wanted me to go sledding with them, and I was all too happy to oblige!

This morning I was invited at the last minute to go with two of the families on the Manitou Springs & Pikes Peak Railway. I thoroughly enjoyed the 45min ride over about 4miles  with a 5,000ft elevation gain. We couldn't make it to the 14,114ft peak due to the heavy snowdrifts, but at times we were on a 25% grade!

The scenery was beautiful!

It started to snow during our ascent, and the conductor could not resist a few jokes: 

We made it to Inspiration  Point at 11,500ft before having to stop due to snow. It was so foggy that we could barely see the nearby peaks. 

Then we returned to 4 Mile Point where the train let us off to walk around a little bit.

All in all, I've enjoyed the wintery weather here, but am glad I don't have to deal with ice and snow and high winds either in Texas or in Nigeria!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Visas and Airports

Just a quick post before I get ready for language lesson tomorrow.

I just submitted my Nigerian visa application... 4th time's the charm! Each time I'd get a little further in the online application before realizing I didn't have all the information I needed--and because there was no way to save the application, I had to restart it every time! Today, I finally had all the right pieces of information, an official job title, and knew which option to select from the various dropdown boxes. So while I was out at a coffee shop with another of the girls after classes let out, I decided to tackle the application.

I finished the last page and clicked submit... and nothing happened. I was too afraid to hit refresh, so I decided to call their customer service. A nice guy answered on the second ring and told me that the server was down for "one hour and a half hour" and asked if I would "kindly attempt to retry again in ninety minutes."

Well, the coffeeshop was due to close in 18 minutes, and we were expected for dinner back at the training program in 3 minutes. So I decided to attempt the near impossible: keep my mobile hotspot on and keep my laptop up and running on the drive home so that it wouldn't disconnect from the internet. (And did I mention that we currently have gusts up to 80mph going through Palmer Lake and the area West of I-25?) Ah yes, that was a fun walk/run across the parking lot while holding a laptop open!

Anyway, I got back to my room and everything was still online. I just retried the application and was able to submit and pay for it. (Interestingly enough, my credit card didn't have a problem sending an online payment to Nigeria like it did last year.) So glad that is done!

On another God note, I found out a week ago that the airport in Abuja, Nigeria--the airport I bought a ticket for a few weeks ago--would be closed for six weeks in February and March! I started praying like crazy, along with my parents, and my small group here at Mission Training International, that God would work it out. I really did not want to fly into either of the other Nigerian airports, as that would make the airport pickup a 2-day event, and I would not have an easy way to keep an eye on all of my bags.

I got an email yesterday that the date for the airport closure has been pushed back to mid-March--after I am scheduled to arrive.

God is good!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

"Cám ơn cô"

Today I learned Vietnamese.

Yes, Vietnamese. My "target language" (the one I'm going to be using in Nigeria) is Hausa, but my "practice language" here at Mission Training International is Vietnamese.

We've spent all week in phonetics. This is what it's sounded like most of the week:
ba ba ba ba
da da da da
ŋe ŋe ŋe ŋe 
ᵽu ᵽu ᵽu ᵽu
tha tha tha tha

Did you know that th (aspirated T) sounds different than t (unaspirated T) or that a voiced t sounds like a d sound? Do you know what a "fricative" is? Or that English doesn't have any words that begin with ŋ (ng sound like in "sing"), but other languages do? Or that if a word is phonetically spelled with Mm  that you should puff out through your nose as you say it? Or that the word "nosy" is phonetically written as Nnozi?

I do. And that's what I've spent all week working on!

Today, my little group of 6 adults and a Vietnamese language helper spent 3 hours together. We started off by pointing to drawings of four different buildings (home, church, hospital, market) as she said the words. Then she said the word and we pointed. Then she said the word, we pointed to the building and mimicked the word. Then we learned "you went to" and put that together with the building.

Then we learned airplane, bicycle, and car. Again, she said the word and we pointed. Then listened, pointed, and mimicked. Then combined it with the building so we could comprehend "you took the bicycle to the church." Then we learned "true" and "false" so she could ask us questions like "did you take the airplane to the church?"

Then it was time for pronouns. We had cards which stood for I/me, she/her, they, we. Again starting off by identifying the card, then listening to our helper and pointing. Then mimicking as we pointed. Then combined it to sentences like "they rode the airplane to the church." That got a laugh as soon as she said the Vietnamese sentence--I understood a joke in another language in less than an hour of work! Y'all, that's a big deal!

After a short break to let our brains rest. We jumped back in with the next activity. The steps were the same, (Point and listen. Listen and do. Listen and do and mimic. Listen and do and answer questions.) but we used objects, colors, simple prepositions, and numbers. By the end of it she could say "Pick up three red pens. Put three red pens under the table." I got lost somewhere in the prepositions as I tried to listen to the tonality of Vietnamese, but I was able to follow the progression of the language acquisition activity.

What a morning! I was a bit wary of trying to "learn" another language that is nowhere close to Hausa, but I learned a couple of things today.
1) Listen first, and don't feel pressure to mimic until I'm ready
2) Language is best learned when the learner directs the helper as to what she/he wants to learn
3) As soon as possible, put words into simple sentences. Don't just learn vocabulary.
4) Although I may not be able to recall any of the Vietnamese language tomorrow, I will likely have retained much of today's lesson.
5) Do not write ANYTHING down until I can do so phonetically. Don't think "that Vietnamese sound is like the English word ___."
6) It's going to take some time, but it can be done!

My brain was so tired by the time it came to lunchtime! I was definitely ready to say "Cám ơn cô" ("Thank you teacher (female).")

We'll see how well our language learning activities session 2 goes next week. Meanwhile, I'm off to a coffeeshop with one of the other girls, then to make plans to enjoy the weekend! (Oh, and do a bit of homework too!)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Quacky Paradox

Hey all, I just finished the first full day of training at Mission Training International in Colorado where I'll be for the next month. This morning we started working on phonetics and learning how to recognize certain sounds in English (later this week we'll start learning non-English sounds), all with the use of a pocket mirror to make sure we formed the sounds correctly. At this point, I wish I was a speech therapist so that it would all make a little more sense!

One of this afternoon's sessions really spoke to me. Our instructor brought up two rubber duckies; one is "Yay Duck" and the other is "Yuck Duck."

These two stand for the things we think and say that are either positive/optimistic/happy or negative/pessimistic/down.

The instructor held the ducks in his hand, then asked us, "What do you get when you have two ducks?"

Wait for it....

a paradox.

*Cue groaning*

The instructor went on to say that a paradox is an apparently self-contradictory statement that is still true. Both are valid, and both of these thoughts can live in the same heart, at the same time, about the same issue.

Process this with me for a minute:

1) How would you respond to someone that says, "It's SOOOO hot here!"

Would you respond with something like "Yes, but just wait until August!" or "Yeah, but at least we have air conditioning?"

Try this one:

2) What if someone says, "I'm so excited about the snow!"

Would you respond, "Just wait until it all melts and gets nasty" or "It's not as fluffy as the snow we have at my home?"

If you thought of those kinds of responses, you're like most people. Congratulations. But now think about how you'd feel if someone says those kinds of things to you. That doesn't feel so good, does it?

Why do we feel like if someone presents us with a "Yay Duck" we have to respond with a "Yuck Duck" to bring them back down to earth? Or why do we feel like we have to remind people of the bright side when they're voicing more negative feelings?

How about this:
"It's SOOO hot here!"
"You're right! What's the weather like where you are?" or even "It sure is. How does the heat affect you?"

Those kinds of responses validate the person's feelings, tell them it's OK to feel and process that emotion, and invites more discussion on the same side of the issue. You're at least trying to stay on the same side of the issue long enough to understand them.

What if I tried to help that person stay in paradox and be able to stay on both sides of the issue at the same time? What if I learned to miss places I've lived at the same time being glad I'm not there anymore? What if I was able to express how hard a transition is while still reminding myself of God's faithfulness?

What if I live in paradox right now? And what if you--my friends, my family, my coworkers, my Facebook friends, and my supporters--helped remind me that it's OK.

(As always, I invite you to comment below and engage with me on any of the topics I write about)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Making myself happy

I just started reading a book called Looming Transitions, it was highly recommended by the staff at SIM to help missionaries finish well and navigate the transition either to the mission field or back to their home country.

A fellow new SIM missionary read it during her preparations to leave and recommended I start it 4-6mo before I leave, then re-read it just before getting on the plane. I am just now reading it--2 months before leaving. :)

I was struck by this thought from the first chapter. The author likens relationships to balloons; their shape is determined by both internal and external factors. She goes on to say that navigating transitions also has internal and external factors--is it initiated by me or by others? Does it feel like the start or the end of a dream? The author then to quotes Carlos Castraneda, "We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same."

How true this is. I know what makes me sad right now in this time of transition (and dwelling on that makes me miserable), and I know what makes me smile and can turn my entire day around. I may not be able to change any of the outside factors, but I can work to stay focused on God, on the dream, and on what brings joy.

Today I choose happiness.