Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Expecting the Unexpected

There are many things I have seen since coming to South Africa that I never could have imagined…. A few weeks ago, I saw a taxi driving through a mall. Today in church, children played in the center aisle throughout the entire worship service. I’ve seen horses roaming around the townships and I’ve seen after-parties for funerals that easily could have been mistaken for wedding receptions. Even further beyond my imagination is the fact that I have come to expect these unexpected things. I have become comfortable seeing some of the random things that people come into taxis with. It is familiar and normal to me that people go to church with whistles around their necks to accompany the choruses they sing and I’m not surprised anymore to see young children standing on the benches during worship so they can participate in the singing and dancing during the service. It’s strange to feel so familiar with what can seem so out of the ordinary at times. There are moments when I stand back and objectively see how confusing this situation would normally be for me, but then I recognize that I really am learning to “go with the flow” as it were.

The physical objects and circumstances that I couldn’t have expected are frequent. However, equally as frequent are the interactions and conversations I have had completely unexpectedly and, more often than not, prove themselves again and again to be my favorite moments here.

Sometimes, these conversations start from a curiosity… someone wondering why you are riding public transportation or someone commenting about a sports team you support. A few weeks ago, several other YAGMS and I were standing in a parking lot talking and we ended up having an in-depth conversation with 4 “Capitec Bank” representatives for over an hour! I love these moments because it shows us that we have more in common with the people around us than we could ever realize. Taking the time to really see the people around us and recognize that they are worth our time can reveal massive amounts of insight about ourselves, others, the world around us and the God we are all a part of.

On Saturday, I found myself more confused than usual. I was at a church for a circuit council meeting and after the meeting, there was to be a meeting of the executive committee of the council. I figured it was a closed meeting so I would step outside and read my book. However, a woman came up to me and started asking me where we should go… this room or that one…. Or should we sit outside? She discussed it with the Dean of the circuit (not in English) and they chose a room- the sacristy at the back of the sanctuary and her and I entered it together. We sat down at the table and she began to ask me about my time in South Africa and about my work here this year. We talked about our families, about life, about God, about our spiritual gifts and then we got to the “point” of the conversation.

Eunice (as I later discovered was her name) told me that she used to be in the healthcare field and a little while ago, she single-handedly began an HIV/AIDS screening and education program in her congregation. It was very successful and there have been discussions of making it a circuit-wide program. The Dean wanted me to talk to her to see how I could get involved with the development of a wider program, and we did exchange contact information and ideas about the future, but what was gained from our conversation was of even greater value to us both.

As we talked about our families, Eunice told me that her grandchildren had lived with her since May when her only daughter passed away. I didn’t ask much about it at the time. Trying to be sensitive, I simply apologized for her loss and let the conversation continue. Later though, our discussion returned to the subject of her daughter and she began to describe how quickly her daughter had passed just a few months prior. As she talked, I felt my throat tightening. I listened to her story of how her daughter contracted meningitis and passed away in a matter of just days. She rubbed her eyes as she told me of her two grandchildren now living with her, having no other options. Tears fell from mine as I imagined her pain- and as I remembered my own. When she finished her story, we paused and I told her I couldn’t imagine her experience. I then told her about my own grief- my own recent loss and while losing a grandmother who had lived a long, wonderful life could not compare to losing a child, I also was grieving. She asked what happened and as I explained to her my Granny’s rapid deterioration in July and her passing just a week before I left for South Africa, I struggled to speak. Suddenly, she stood up, pulled me to my feet and wrapped me in a massive embrace holding me until I could breathe deeply and calmly again.

Who could have expected that scene? Grieving South African mother holding grieving American granddaughter. I certainly didn’t expect that the first person here that I would completely open my broken heart to would be a sweet woman like Eunice who I had just met.

It is sometimes said “God works in mysterious ways”. I am finding more and more that this is true in that God rarely works as we expect. Too often, we pray about our problems with a solution in mind; thinking we know what is best for ourselves. However, God more often works through the unexpected things in our lives. It’s written in 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring about things that are.” God doesn’t use what we expect God to use. We see power in what is already strong, but God sees power in what is weak and then makes it strong to display God’s power.

These past few months, I undoubtedly have experienced God working through unexpected people and unexpected circumstances to bring about change in my life and in the lives of those around me. So, as I learn each day to expect the unexpected, I continually am reminded that in this way, we must make room for the Spirit to move through our lives. Making time to willingly engage in that unexpected conversation, or embracing unanticipated circumstances that threaten to “ruin” our day… these are the first steps we can take towards being free to experience the unexpected and the closer we come to truly opening our hearts to those around us. You never know what to expect!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some random facts about life

So, more and more, I am realizing that there are a lot of little things about my life here and SA that have not been communicated to you all... so, I am stealing this idea from a fellow YAGM in order to get across to you some random facts about my life here and life in general. I promise I'll have an actual post of substance up here soon. =)
SO here goes. Some random facts;

1) Traffic lights are robots. The trunk of a car is the boot. Tomatoes are pronounced Tomoto... (like when people say "tomato, tomoto"... yeah). You don't send a letter here, you post it. You don't go to the bathroom- you go to the toilet.

2) If you want to say "okay", "goodbye", "that's fine"--- you can just say "sharp"- but don't actually say sharp... say shop. Example,
Person #1 "I'll see you later then?"
Person #2 "Sharp, sharp"

3) Snail mail is a God-send.

4) Here, it's hard for me to tell what the primary language is. I'm working with Zulu people, Sepedi, Zimbabweans and a whole mix of individuals. While I think I mostly hear Zulu, I'm not quite sure. Also, you would think this would be an issue for the people here communicating with each other, but the vast majority of them can hear the other languages... so a perfectly normal conversation can occur with one person speaking strictly Zulu and the other speaking only Sotho... This is moderately mind-boggling to me.

5) I am constantly surprised at how happy I am here. I have made some wonderful friends and I am learning a lot. The year is going quickly! And I am determined to live in the present as much as I can and enjoy the people I am walking with this year.

6) The above being said, I am always thinking of home. I'm missing people to some extent... but more than anything, I think I am just looking forward to spending some good, quality time being comfortable with the people I love back at home when the times comes for that. NOW though, I am determined to be fully immersed in this awesome experience.

7) Did you know people drive on the left side of the road here? And the right side of the car? It took me a long time to get used to it (and not get completely freaked out at intersections!) But I'm pretty much acclimated to it now, for the most part... I sometimes dream with the wheel on the right side of the car.

8) Things I've been surprised to have here- The Oprah show, Amstel lager, the occasional oak-lined stretch of road that looks like the suburbs around Muhlenberg, Chips Ahoy!, soft-serve ice cream that tastes almost like home, American club music

9) Things I miss but didn't know I would- Autumn, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, Reese's PB cups, worshipping in English

10) Things I knew I would miss- my dogs, the smell of my home, receiving and sending short text messages to friends just to say hello, driving

11) Things I've discovered and fallen in love with- House music, HUGE emails from close friends, GENERATIONS (my fav soap opera), random adventures, being confused, Zulu hymns, the MUD family (the 10 other volunteers here in SA who I am in regular contact with and visit! They get me through tough days!)

12)The MUD program here has a blog that you should check out! Here's the address: AND if you are on Facebook, you should "like" E.L.C.A. MUD as well! =)

This is all I can think of for now, but I hope you are all well and you can expect another blog from me soon!!
All the best!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Just call me Lerato Mnisi

This past weekend, I found myself in the kingdom of Swaziland for the bishop elections of the ELCSA Eastern Diocese! Fellow YAGM volunteer, Christine Doidge had invited me to the 2 day meeting of delegates throughout the diocese which encompasses Swaziland. At these two special days, among various reports, debates and lots of singing, Christine’s host dad, Dean Mnisi was elected as the new bishop of the diocese! It was such a successful, peaceful and exciting election but I had no idea that I was just glimpsing the surface of what an exciting event it was for the family and for the diocese!

After the election, I got to spend some time with the Mnisi family and Christine in their hometown of Carolina, which is in a rural area of SA about 3 hours East of where I am in Bonaero Park. The love, hospitality and faithfulness I was immediately made a part of filled my heart with such joy and peace. It was a fantastic, unexpected experience to find a home so far from home. =)

Just a few minutes after meeting Ma Mnisi, she was introducing me to other people at the meeting as Lerato Mnisi. Lerato is my African name. =) Given to me last weekend by my friend Thando, Lerato means “Love” in Sotho, a language mostly spoken in the Northern regions of South Africa. Thando, one of my best friends here, gave me this name because her name, “Thando” also means love! Thando means love in IsiZulu which is one of the most common languages here, and mostly spoken in the Southeastern region. And Mnisi, my new surname, means “rainmaker”!

So if you want to try to pronounce my new name… here’s some tips.
Lerato: don’t pronounce a hard “R”. It’s not Le-Rato. Instead the r is almost like a quick D… if that makes sense. =) “Leh-dAH- toe” almost… haha
Mnisi: Start with a bit of a hum… then say nee-see. “m-NEE-see” =D Good luck!

From the very first day when the Mnisi’s slaughtered a “welcome chicken” for me, to this morning when they demanded hugs and pictures before I left, I’ve never felt more completely and freely invited into someone’s home, family and heart. From the first moments with them, I was made part of the family. This meant I was expected to take part in daily morning and evening devotions. I was a part of making and serving the meals. I even became the go-to person for fixing the new DVD player… Haha. So if I was reading or working on making dinner with Christine, I knew my assistance was needed when I heard “Lerato!!” being called from the living room. =) It was wonderful to feel so at home and I was grateful that they were so comfortable treating me as one of their own children… and Lord knows that children are there to serve!

Although I didn’t necessarily DO a lot this week while serving with Christine, it was wonderful to work in the Mnisi’s garden, weeding, picking spinach for customers, delivering orders to town and generally experiencing life with the family. Sometimes the most important thing we can do in life is open our heart to what we are experiencing… becoming fully present to the people around us and completely devoting our attention and time to others. Showing another person they are worth our time and our love may be the most valuable ability we have. Never underestimate the worth of an open heart. The Mnisis taught me this weekend that there is no greater gift than this.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teaching in Tembisa... a moderately traumatizing experience. =)

A new day and a new adventure! I got out of bed earlier than I have any other time this year to get ready for another day at school. On this, my second day at Mrs. Mathe’s school in Tembisa, I had no idea what I was in for. Tembisa is a township nearby where I am staying in Bonaero Park. A township is an area that was designated during apartheid to be a black-only area. Thus, when you drive into a township, you find that in the space between the city of Joburg (which was whites-only during those times) and the township, there is a buffer-zone of several kilometers where there is nothing. No houses, businesses or cross-streets. Although there are no longer laws that require townships like Tembisa to remain exclusively black, it is the reality that not much relocation has occurred since the end of apartheid. Thus, I was rather noticeable around the school grounds and the children on that first day were rather shell-shocked by the fact that I was there.

My first day at the school had been relatively tame despite the stares. I’d helped with Mrs. Mathe’s 4th grade class and we were talking about religion! One of my minors in college. I felt that I was put to good use and the people and kids were excited to have me there.

On this, my second day at school, however, I would experience the break-down of those barriers and a complete destruction of my expectations! The day started like the day before had. We pulled into the schoolyard with what felt like a million eyes on me. We parked the car and Mrs. Mathe’s students unloaded the contents of the trunk- boxes and bags of papers and teaching resources. We then began the day and I was asked by one of the 7th grade teachers to come into his class to talk to his students. He said I could talk about whatever I wanted. After some initial awkwardness and introductions, the students were suddenly teeming with questions about America and about my life there. They were just about to make me sing for them when we were interrupted by the principal knocking on the classroom door. I was called out and told that one of the 4th grade teachers hadn’t shown up that day and I was asked if I could take over his Natural Science class. After freaking out for a moment and getting a book from Mrs. Mathe to help me out- I found myself just a moment later approaching a classroom where I could see the children inside were yelling, throwing papers around and wrestling with each other in the absence of an authority figure. As soon as I appeared in the doorway, I was ambushed and nearly knocked over by just about every student in the classroom coming to hug me- cheering that I was their teacher for the day.

Throughout the day, I attempted, often to no avail to keep order in the classroom. I didn’t realize until I was in front of a class of 40 distracted 11 year olds how handicapped I am by not knowing a language here! Most of the children in the class speak isiZulu- which I am slowly learning, but this was like being thrown into the deep-end of a swimming pool when all you’d done prior was wade in to your knees! The students could understand English, but when it came to being able to clarify their confusions, it was difficult for them to communicate with me their issues with the lesson. Also, try sometime getting the attention of children in a language that is not their native tongue. Not very effective!

So, after a long day with lots of challenges and moments of relief (as when Mrs. Mathe visited my classroom and sent several kids to the principal’s office) I finally reached the end of that long day. Moderately traumatized but with a new sense of appreciation for the teachers there, the difficult task they face head on each day, and the power of language.

As a lover of learning, there were elements of this experience that made me consider my own education in the states and the blessing it was to have the opportunities I did. Had I been born in an area like Tembisa with the distractions, limitations and challenges of education faced by students there, I’m not sure where I would be. As difficult as it was to teach in this environment, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to attempt to learn in an overcrowded classroom with a teacher who cannot be expected to control the behavior of 40+ kids. And yet, despite it all, there are students that succeed and excel there.

I took a break from 4th grade at the end of the week and ended up spending several days with Grade R, which is equivalent to Kindergarten. =) It was wonderful working with the little kids as they learn to count and they learn important things like how to wash their hands and such. I am looking forward to working with the school on a regular basis during the weeks ahead and I’m excited about the experiences and insights that the future holds there. And hopefully, the next time I am put in front of a classroom I will at least be able to say “Settle down” in isiZulu! =)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Getting acclimated... and learning to go with the flow.

“You know? I don’t remember the movements… Haha!” Mantsha, my new friend of less than 24 hours turned to me and exclaimed. We were assembling in the back of the performance hall getting ready to bring forward the offering from the Young Adults League (which I apparently am a pseudo-member of now?). My jaw dropped for a moment… “Movements? We’re dancing?”

At this, the Eastern circuit rally for the installment of the new Dean, we had seen many of the leagues and groups bringing monetary and musical offerings forward in front of the hundreds of people in attendance. Spirits were high, people were celebrating and the celebration of being able to bring forth an offering had been going on for at least an hour. First, at the conclusion of the worship service, individuals came forward dancing and singing in languages between which I still can’t quite decipher the difference. But always with a rhythm in their step, arms waving and smiles on their faces. This manner of coming forward was repeated many times- each time with a new group and a new song. Then at the start of the rally, each of the 10 parishes within the circuit were asked to come forth. (A parish is a group of several churches, often served by a single pastor) Then each of the leagues- Prayer Women’s league, Prayer Men’s league, Young Adults, Youth (with vuvuzelas in hand!!), Sunday school, etc came forth. It was wonderful to sing and dance and experience the excitement. Each time that either Mantsha or our other friend Mpho would go up, they would bring me along to give an offering. This time was the most important and planned for, it seemed. The Young Adults, being a newer league, were eager to sing and dance well for the assembled crowd.

So yes, just moments after finding out that we would be dancing (with more than just a rhythmic step, I mean) I found myself watching the feet of the people in front of me, mouthing the words (which I still am not sure of) and laughing at myself as I worked to catch up. =) It wasn’t too bad- just a special back and forth step through the verses, and then at the chorus a turn with the rhythm and a deep bob at the knees at the end. And the words sounded something like “Vie…something, something... Fanta”? Hahaha- I’m not sure. But I seriously made some people laugh as they watched the clearly confused American struggling to dance and most likely singing the wrong words… It was wonderful.

More often than not, this seems to be the way of things here. Suddenly, thrust into a new unexpected circumstance and all you can really do is try to keep up and then laugh at yourself. I have learned not to ask too many questions because there often are not answers yet. The day unfolds as it will and I am often told “no stress”- which I have come to equate with “it’ll all work out” or as my mom always says “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it”.

I especially have learned to completely abandon the word “when”. First of all, the conception of time is very different- as the presiding bishop told me last weekend when we were driving from Soweto back to my compound in Bonaero Park, “You cannot be a slave to time- you must have time work for you.” When we work for time, it can drive us crazy… it’s relentless and constant. It is possible to become consumed by it and we, as Americans, often are. It is sometimes amusing for me to witness the clash of the “right now” mentality that we have as Americans and the “just now” mentality found here. If we were supposed to go to the store or something or we had day out planned and I told you that we are going to leave just now, you would probably start making your way towards the door thinking that it would be any second now. And if we were here, you would be 100% wrong. I’m still not sure what the window of “Just now” is, but I’ve experienced everything from 1 minute to 30 minutes or more…

The night before the rally, I stayed at Mpho’s house. After spending the afternoon with Mantsha, she was preparing to leave with her two year old son. Their car was parked within the walls surrounding Mpho’s home and she suddenly realized that her nephews had gone and locked the gate to her house. She quickly turned to her niece and said “Oh! They locked it! They need to come back! Did they just leave now now now now?” Hahaha. I nearly laughed out loud. To make it clear that she meant RIGHT NOW… as in just a few minutes ago, she said now multiple times. And although the niece agreed that they had indeed just left now now now now, it took them 10 minutes to turn around and get back. Conceptualizing time in this way and learning to look at it from a just now perspective has been really wonderful for me and has helped me slow down and stop pushing for answers all the time.

I can see that slowly but surely, I am becoming acclimated to this new place and this new way of living. Although I have not spent much time yet outside of my compound, I am learning a lot from the people who live here and the people like Mpho and Mantsha who have come into my life with their arms wide open, ready to welcome me and help me with anything I need. Whether it’s picking me up for a weekend of wedding planning, and 6 hour long church services or just sitting with me at night watching Generations (a South African soap opera that the staff here has me addicted to) people are watching out for me and showing me great hospitality and love.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A New Beginning

Ahh, it seems like it's been ages since my last post! I'm sorry! =) Things are beginning to settle here at my placement a bit and I am getting used to the people and the place. SO let me tell you about it!

Let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). Our South Africa group of 11 flew from Chicago on Wednesday evening to Frankfurt, Germany. We had a long layover and were able to spend a number of hours in the city before flying to Johannesburg on a 10 hour flight! We finally arrived in our final destination, Durban on Friday afternoon with all 21 checked bags and with our country-coordinators, Brian and Kristen waiting to receive us at the airport. The next 10 days were filled with awesome orientation activities and discussions and also left a good amount of time for us all to spend with each other- making dinner every night and generally getting to know each other. By the time Monday came, we were all so sad to leave each other!

On Monday, we were dispersed across the Eastern half of the nation ranging from Durban to Kimberely to the Northern region of Limpopo! Some people were at their sites within 30 minutes of being picked up and others had to travel for 2 days! When I set out from Pietermaritzburg, I was with two other volunteers, Heather and Joy and we were travelling to Johannesburg where Joy's placement site people would pick us up and bring us to Soweto for the night. We had a wonderful time together signing Karaoke with some of the hilarious ELCSA staff people living in Joy's compound. We also went for a drive through Soweto- probably one of the most famous townships in South Africa and the heart of where the Anti-apartheid revolution began.

On Wednesday, my hosts in Bonaero Park were ready to receive me, so Joy and I were driven from Soweto to the compound where I am now staying! That afternoon, I met the ELCSA General Secretary, Rev. Mathe who will be my supervisor for the year. He took me around to the various people working in the ELCSA head office and was kind enough to introduce me to everyone. Along with containing the head office for ELCSA, this compound also contains the Lakeview Airport Lodge conference center owned by ELCSA. So, I was also introduced to the people living and working at the conference center. It was a very exciting day but once Joy left, it was strange to be alone for the first time in weeks!

Since arriving last week, I have become more oriented to the way things work with the conference center and with the office. I have been working at the reception desk for the conference center! Wearing high heels! Haha. Although it has definitely been a surprise, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about how this place works and it's been nice to get to know the people who work here! Everyone has warmly welcomed me and have been more than willing to teach me all about the things I have no clue about. I have been learning how to make pap- a staple food item in most meals here. Also, people have been teaching me Zulu! Although most people speak many languages most people here at least have a general understanding of Zulu. So, it's been very fun getting to know my new host "family", the staff. =)

Soon, I will be working more with the local churches and with a Music education program in Boksburg as well as assisting in the office at times, but for now I am settling in and enjoying the fact that I'm not living out of a suitcase for the first time in weeks! =)

It's wonderful to hear from family and friends back home about everything going on in your lives! SO feel free to write or something at any time! I DO read them =)

Also, if you are interested in sending a letter or package through the mail (hint*hint) My mailing address is:

Amanda Tompkins
P.O. Box 7231
Bonaero Park, 1622
South Africa

I haven't gotten to the post office yet to see how all that works or anything, but I'm assuming it's all set up and ready to be used! Shoot me an email or something if you send something though, so I know to expect it! The post office is a bit of a walk from here.

That's all for now! I'm excited to be here and meeting everyone but I think of you all often and I thank God for your support, love and encouragment that have gotten me this far. Thank you for keeping me in your minds and in your prayers throughout this year! I will update again soon!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And so it begins!!! Finally!

I leave tonight for South Africa.
In 7 hours, I will be in the air.
It’s surreal in a big way but it also feels too real to be true… if that makes sense. After this awesome week of orientation in Chicago, I feel secure in my decision to answer this call and become a servant abroad for a year. However, I also have a better sense of how challenging this year will be. This isn’t an experience of comfort- it’s going to challenge us to be dependent on others for the tiniest things, especially with language and culture differences. But the YAGM program is so wonderful and I completely trust the people in whom we have put our faith. They are awesome!

This entire week has connected us not only with each other but also with Alumni of the program. The relationships we have formed here, I can already tell are going to be awesome resources for our spiritual journeys. These people understand the depth of what is happening for us all and have (or will have) first-hand experience similar to what this year will bring. I am SO grateful for the friendships we have made here!!

On a less joyous note, today and this week in general have been hard for me. Saying “for real” good-byes to friends and family over the phone has been pretty difficult and although I know in my mind that a year will go fast and it will be an awesome experience, my heart feels the sadness of departure. I also feel that a large part of why this has been difficult for me is because of other matters weighing down on my emotions. Last week, in the two days leading up to my flight out to Orientation on Wednesday I was at the memorial service and committal of my Granny. My mom’s mother had been sick for a few weeks and we didn’t really know how it was going to unfold. But I am so thankful that I was able to attend the services and be there to start the grieving process with my family. This event, I believe will be a huge part of my year away. Being away from my family during this time will be difficult for me and while I’m excited beyond expression for what lies ahead, I’m worried about them… to be honest.

So- That’s where I’m at!! A little nervous, a lot excited, grieving, Spirit-filled and ready to do what God has set before me. In a strange way, it truly is a beautiful thing!

Thank you all for your support, prayers, friendship and well-wishes. It would have been impossible for this to happen without your love and support. I'll miss you but I am SO grateful for each of you! (If you are not yet on my email list for my monthly newsletters, EMAIL ME!!!

PEACE!!! =)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Logistics, placement and fund-raising

Since the last time I wrote there have been some major developments in my life and in preparation for South Africa. Firstly, I am a college graduate! Hooray! I graduated on May 23rd and it seems I’ve been in a whirlwind ever since! Especially with trying preparing all kinds of documentation for my Visa before I get ready and start at camp on Sunday! Insanity! We are getting traction though, it seems… on most things. There seem to be a million tiny details! It’s somewhat stressful and yet, in the chaos, I still find for myself little moments in which I realize that I literally have less than 2 complete weeks of being home between now and when I leave the country. Working at my camp will be awesome. But it will take me away from my home for the majority of the summer. It won’t be easy!

Specific details about my actual time in South Africa also are quickly unfolding! I received my placement information on Tuesday! It turns out I will be living just East (about 15 miles) of the very large city of Johannesburg in a smaller suburban-type sounding city of Boksburg. I also have been primarily matched with a care center that works with the terminally ill and a specific branch of the center (it sounds like) which works on developing children from infancy through 12 years old. The program sounds like a great match for me and it also sounds like there are lots of other opportunities to explore within the “Eastern Circuit” diocese of the church such as parish ministries, music education and youth group and bible study type ministries. So we shall see. For now, it sounds incredible!

Also, there have been some major developments in my fund-raising efforts! I have decided to collect donations through Faith Lutheran Church in Blakeslee, PA where I have interned for several summers. The people up there know me pretty well and are familiar with what I’ve been up to the last few years so when they offered to hold my funds, I was more than happy to work with them! SO, a word about fundraising!

As I said in last month's post, each volunteer is asked to raise about $4,000 towards their support costs for the year. I’m not very good at asking people for money but when I start to think about it, it really is an awesome way to invite people to be part of the journey in a very real and practical way. So if you are interested in supporting me in this way, you can send checks to: Faith Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 228, Blakeslee, PA 18610. And you can make checks payable to “Faith Lutheran Church” with YAGM in the Memo line. Thanks for considering it!

I’m excited at the prospect of having a whole network of supporters and contributors who will receive my newsletter updates and will be praying for me throughout the year. It’s so comforting to know this will be a reality soon! =)

That’s all for now, I think. If you’re interested in hearing more or being on my email list, feel free to email me anytime at


Thursday, May 13, 2010

The challenges for now. =)

This is my first post of what will be many, I'm sure!

Today I finished my last final at Muhlenberg and I am now DONE with my undergraduate education! =) It's strange because in past years, when I would get to this point, I would have plenty to think about in terms of the summer, the next year of academics, which friends were living where, etc. But now, all I can think about is that I'm leaving!

For an entire year, I'll be away from my family and closest friends. I'll be serving with the Young Adults in Global Mission Program of the ELCA in SOUTH AFRICA! The process of discernment that led me to this decision was so tumultuous and so uncertain. But, when I left the YAGM discernment event back in April, I knew this placement was right for me. That weekend, I found out how easy it would be to trust the people working with the Global Mission Unit of the church. The people in Chicago and around the world working with YAGMs are so invested in the program and so committed to the vision of the church in the world.

What especially attracts me to Global Mission service with the church is their model for mission: accompaniment. Serving is not about going abroad and "fixing" what is "wrong". It's about living and serving in a new context. Learning to slow down and be present with other people who are also part of God's story. I'm so excited for the opportunity to live and serve in a completely new place. =)

SO- the challenge now has been, and continues to be the following:

Preparing my family and friends...
This has been so hard for me. It's incredibly difficult to articulate a sense of call to some people who just don't understand. Also, even if people do understand, it's still hard to say goodbye to them and reassure them that it will go quickly and I won't be completely MIA for the year.

Raising financial and personal support...
It's been so fun telling people about my awesome plans! The more I discuss it, the more excited I get!! Plenty of people have asked to be on my mailing list for monthly newsletters. I've also had some offers of financial support. The challenge though is learning how to ask and inviting people to be a part of my adventure. =)It costs the ELCA about $10,000 to send one YAGM abroad for a year. Each volunteer is asked to raise about $4,000 of support. It will be interesting. But God has led me thusfar through this process and I have faith that it all will fall together.

Basically those are my two main challenges now. Also, it's a constant struggle to keep myself in check and keep from letting my imagination (worry, mostly) run away with me! I just keep remembering the path I took to get this far and I'm constantly assured that this is right. =)

Thanks for reading!! Can't wait to travel this road with you all!!