Friday, July 26, 2013

Bittersweet goodbyes

I'm sitting here at the airport in Minneapolis during a 6 hour layover and glad to have some quiet time. Yesterday was tough. It is hard to say goodbye to people, especially when you know you won't see them for a year.  I am blessed to know so many great people and to have a fantastic family.  They are so supportive of this adventure I am going on!  I thank God for each and every one of you.

From here, I fly to Amsterdam for a 3 hour layover (probably just enough time) then on to Dar es Salaam witha stop in Kilimanjaro.  I'll spend tomorrow night in Dar es Salaam before taking an 8- hour bus ride to Dodoma. I am so excited to be there!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dancing to the music of the future

Not too long ago, I received a plaque from someone whom I have worked closely with for the last two years, and whom I consider a friend.  The plaque reads “Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future; Faith is the courage to dance to it today.”  As I sit here, with less than a week until my YASC year begins, I hear this message louder than ever.

To me, hope is a powerful thing.  It is a promise of the good things to come.  When I hear the music of the future, it is a happy melody, even if it isn’t a simple one.  I look at my year to come and hear a complex melody with interwoven harmonies and a strong African drumbeat giving it life.  I hear it coming not from a concert hall, but from homes, churches, and schools around the world.  There are voices joining in; voices of children, parents, friends, and strangers all lending their stories to shape mine.

I do not worry about the things I hope for.  Worrying about them makes them feel wrong, like an overdue task that’s uncompleted or waking up just before the alarm goes off.  Instead, I look forward to them.  I hope for the culture and sights I will see on my 8 hour bus ride from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma rather than worrying about only one bathroom stop and being the only one on the bus not speaking Swahili.  I hope for a school filled with teachers all as eager to teach as I am and students who really enjoy learning.  I hope for experiences that will allow me to grow as a person and will stretch my faith and make it stronger and deeper.  I also hope for my fellow YASCers, that their years will take the amazing people each of them are and fill them up with great things.

All of this, however, takes faith, which is not as easy to have as hope.  Faith IS courage.  It takes a certain amount of bravery to make all of this happen.  I know that it would be much easier to stay at home and continue down the path I am on.  Easier, but not better.  Without faith, it is impossible to act and without acting, it is impossible to grow. 

On Friday morning, I will do something that, for me, will take a great act of faith.  I will say goodbye to my family, friends, and the life I know, step on an airplane, and leave it all behind for a year.  I will act in a way that leads me toward the things I hope for.  I am glad to have you joining me in this journey!  Faith is not something intended to be handled alone.  When shared, it grows stronger, like the shared light of a candle.  Plus, it is easier to dance with a partner.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I'm leaving on a jet plane

I was going to wait another day or so to post this, but I realized that I don't have that much time.
2 days ago, I received my official departure date!  I am leaving from Billings, Montana on Friday, July 26th!  Yes, that is NEXT FRIDAY!!
I will fly from Billings to Minneapolis, then on to Dar es Salaam with a stop at Kilimanjaro.  I will get into Dar on Saturday night and will then have the option to spend one night and take the bus into Dodoma on Sunday to settle in on my own before meeting with the staff at CAMS a few days later or staying until Tuesday and taking the bus in with some other staff members who are arriving on the 30th. 
I am so excited, and nervous at the same time.  I know that I am going to have an experience unlike any other and will be able to see amazing things and grow in unexpected ways.  This is going to be the experience of a lifetime.
On the other hand, I am leaving behind friends and family who are the biggest part of my life.  I am also leaving behind my dog, whom I have not lived without since he became mine 5 years ago.  It's hard to believe that I am leaving home in a little over a week.  I'll have to drive up to Billings the night before since my flight out will be early in the morning. 
I ask for prayers, not only for me and my safe travels, but also for my family and friends.  I know that my journey will be as hard, if not harder, for them than it will be for me. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I know, I know... It's been a while.
As promised, here is a brief recap of YASC orientation in New York.
I also added the video Ashley Cameron created introducing my fellow YASC missionaries.  Check it out and meet some AMAZING people!
After flying to JFK Airport on June 16th, I took a shuttle bus to Grand Central Station.  Here, I met up with Becky, Maurice, and Claire.  It was SO good to see Maurice and Becky again, and Claire fit right in with the rest of us.  We ate a quick dinner and took a train to Terrytown, NY, where we were picked up by David Copley and headed to meet the rest of the group in Stony Point.
The center we stayed at for the 2 weeks in Stony Point was fantastic!  We were fed home cooked meals, with much of the produce grown on site!  The center provided us with a meeting room, sleeping rooms, and 3 meals a day in their cafeteria, as well as having huge grassy areas, a fire pit, meditation room, gift shop, Japanese Garden, labyrinth, and a short walk to one of the coolest cemeteries I have seen.  Needless to say, the facilities were fantastic!
Orientation wasn't all about relaxation, though.  We experienced two JAM-PACKED weeks of learning.  The focus of orientation was basically three-fold.  There was the logistical part, where we learned about who to call, when to call them, what to bring with us, how it all worked, etc.  We met with the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jeferts Schori, and other important people at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City. 
We also spent a day at the Holy Cross Monastery learning about spiritual practices and ways to keep ourselves going while serving overseas.  Brother Robert gave us a private tour and lead our discussions.
One of the coolest experiences I had while I was there happened in the middle of another labyrinth.  This time, I took my picture and was snapping some shots of the things people had left on the rock in the middle of the labyrinth when I noticed this Taize cross.  I thought I would take a closer picture of it and happened to see the coin sitting right to the left of the cross.  There was something totally reassuring about seeing a Wyoming quarter next to the Taize cross in the middle of a labyrinth during YASC orientation.  The three parts of my life were meeting up right here, and I got to see it!
On Sunday, we joined the congregation at Christ Church in Terrytown for a bilingual service.  The people in the congregation were incredibly welcoming and hosted a multicultural lunch for us after church.  We were fed on empanadas, chicken, rice dishes, and amazing deserts! 
One day was spent with an organization called Faith House Manhattan.  The people of Faith House organized a multi-faith day where we were able to visit several places of worship throughout Manhattan.  We started with bagels in the oldest kosher bakery in the US and this beautiful Jewish Synagogue in the middle of Chinatown.
 After touring the synagogue, we took a bus to St. Peter's Catholic Church on Wall Street.  This is a picture of the beautiful marble statues and altar inside the church.  We joined a small congregation there for a  Noonday Mass before heading to lunch.
 After a delicious burger at a tiny burger joint, we made a brief stop at Trinity Chapel.  This is the chapel many of the firefighters and rescue workers took refuge during the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath of the events.  It has now turned into something of a museum, but there were still people seen within the grounds taking lunch breaks and seeking refuge from their daily lives.  Just around the corner, you could see the new Freedom Tower, which is still under construction.

We then headed on to Park 51, the Muslim center located a few blocks from ground zero.  Here, we met with a great pair who introduced us to the life of Muslims in NYC and talked about the community center they are building, and the negative press their little operation has received.  Here is a picture of what media has called the "Ground Zero Mosque."  I was amazed at the plain-ness of the building, given the mass coverage. 

 We were also given the opportunity to visit a Buddhist prayer center, but were not asked to refrain from picture taking while we were there.  While we were there, we were given the opportunity to sit in, or join in if we wanted, to part of their evening chanting.  It was definitely an experience I had never had. 
Also as part of our multicultural experience, we were broken into groups and sent to different neighborhoods throughout New York City.  Our assignment was simple: talk to people and discover their stories.  I met the most amazing 87-year-old Dominican man, whom I adopted as my grandfather.  We only had a short time to talk with him, but I would have LOVED to have more.  He told me the best thing I think I have ever heard.  He told me "The people who grow like a tree have it backwards.  You need to sway in the wind before you plant your roots."
In another neighborhood, I discovered something else I thought was unusual.  This Headstart building in Harlem is definitely different than the ones I see at home.  At home, there is no barbed wire or razor wire around a 10-foot fence.  These are the lengths that the school goes through in order to keep the kids inside safe. 

 The experience wasn't all work and no play.  We were given one day roam New York City and see the sights.  Here are four lovely ladies waiting in line for tickets to Pippin on Broadway.  Unfortunately, they had no tickets for us, but we had fun hanging out for 45 minutes!
All in all, it was a FANTASTIC two weeks!  Here is the group of missionaries who took part!  Most of these are my YASC Friends, but you'll see four faces that are a little older than the 30-year-old cutoff.  These are four adults who are dropping their lives for as much as 3 years to do good work outside the USA. 
What a great group of people!  Don't take my word for it, you can hear it for yourself!

Also, I got my departure date!  This is getting LLOONNGG, so I'll tell you more about that later!