Thursday, December 27, 2012

Restless Wanderers (Written originially on 21/12/12)

A warm hello to you and your family!  I am currently in Turkey, where the weather is actually above zero, so that is really nice.  I hope I can bring back some of the snow that has blanketed much of Central Asia so it will be a ‘White Christmas.’  As much of a pain it was to walk in slushy, icy snow every day, I think I will miss it.

This past week my HO friends and I had some debrief sessions that were really helpful in preparing us to be proactive in the process of ‘re-entry shock’.  This is similar to culture stress or culture shock, but related to one’s original culture.  I remember going through this after my first trip to a third world country.  After returning from Rwanda, I was a little bit annoyed with a couple aspects of American culture, one being materialism.  I wondered why I had a car and why I spent money to wash it when I could be doing better things with my money and resources.  I anticipate re-entry shock from being gone six months will be quite different than before, yet in some ways still similar.  The day I go into Wal-mart or any other major retail store might be a bit difficult.

Sitting in airports has given me a lot of time to think and reflect back on my semester abroad experience.  There are so many emotions going on as I am heading home.  First and probably the most significance is sadness.  It was heart-breaking to leave the friends I had made after only knowing them a short time.  Some of them I feel like I have known them my whole life.  Those are the friendships I am eternally grateful for because I know we will keep in touch and continue to encourage one another in our walks with Papa.  My leaving has also made my local friends sad.  I was messaging one of my dearest Sisters here after we had said goodbye and she told me that even though we had both been very busy this semester and had little time to get to know one another deeply, she was so grateful for the time we had together.  She said that saying goodbye to me and my roommates was different than saying goodbye to past semester students.  She used the English word ‘anguish,’ which is a uniquely strong word.  This touched me very deeply.  I will always remember her and her smile and will continue to lift her up to Papa.

Another emotion is happiness, the complete opposite.  I just love that I am leaving so close to the holidays because coming home will be a sweeter experience.  I am really looking forward to spending quality time with all of my family the day after I fly in.  It is hard to express to people here how happy I am to be going home because I do not want to hurt any feelings.  The one thing I am most looking forward to is getting hugs from my brother, father, mother, sister and Ashley.

I am waiting for my flight that I missed so I have a lot of ‘quiet time’ ahead.  I have read the last letter from my friend and it was very encouraging for me.  She explained that more than anything, I will probably join the ranks of those who are known as “restless wanderers” – the ones who feel homeless and unsettled.  No matter where I am, a part of my heart will always be somewhere else.  I will always seem just a little “different,” a little strange to others, and that is perfectly okay.  Father has given me incredible and stellar experiences and I am ready to share with people about my love for Central Asian people, those who have become my dear friends.  I am prepared to coach others in a heart for the nations as well.  I may feel a little out of place being home, but I am never out of place in my Father’s mind.  I am exactly where He wants me.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young-- a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. <Selah>
 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
 Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. <Selah>
 Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.
 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.
Psalm 84

Friday, December 7, 2012

His Working Hands

Hello friends! It has been a great week in the city of snow.  The other night as a break from writing a paper, I stopped to organize my room and start packing a little.  It seems so weird to be using those suitcases again!  I’m trying to get a head-start on packing because I don’t have my expert packer, Clara, here with me.

Well, today was my final exam for language class.  If you say my email and lifted us up, thank you!!  It wasn’t too bad.  My teacher will grade the tests and we will have a certificate ceremony on Tuesday.  Gabi and I still have an evaluation of our language to send back to SBU due next week, but I feel like this weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  Next week I will have lots of time to see my friends one last time and say goodbye.

This past weekend Gabi and I visited our friend Nat in the village.  This was our last hoorah with Nat and the English club students there.  Traveling on the Steppe in the winter was very pretty with all the snow.  It looked so desolate, yet peaceful.  Although, I would not like to be stranded out there!  Caz, our British friend went along with us for fun after hearing numerous stories of Nat always trying to play match-maker for us.  It was also a special time because they were celebrating Thanksgiving in our honor.  On Friday night we had a mini-feast of some turkey, bread and of course chai.  We discussed Thanksgiving and its significance for American people today, as well as telling our family traditions.  We also discussed other national holidays that are coming soon.  As is traditional for any Kazakh celebration, there was a miniature talent show.  One of the students played the dombra, which is the national instrument (similar to a guitar) with only two strings.  Another student showed off his beat-boxing talents.  It was a really great last English club with our favorite high schoolers.

I have the coolest story to tell, but some of you may have heard it before.  Those of you who saw me on Skype last Sunday morning know that it was a joyful trip to the village.  This story may read differently than the one you heard because I am not the greatest at storytelling.  Gabi was in the other room and included me in some little details that I missed.  Nat told us this news all in Russian, so I did not understand how some parts connected.  Anyways I’ll start at the beginning.  During the summer when we went to help with summer English camp, the NGO we helped was anxiously awaiting their grant funding for the quarter.  They had little money but were still preparing for camping.  Gabi and I had a grand time helping shuck peas, shred carrots and making paroshque.  Nat and her husband, not wanting to take out a loan from the bank started to ask neighbors, friends and merchants if they would donate items for camp or even let them borrow food and supplies with the promise they would refund everything to the full once they received the grant money.  Gabi and I were inspired to help them in this by buying candy for the students.  We actually had not gotten our stipend before leaving the city, so we did not have much to give but what we had, we gladly gave.  One man Nat asked for help was Igor, a local meat seller.  He was a strong atheist and really had a hard heart towards people.  When Nat asked to borrow a considerably large amount of meat from him, he was very worried that his business would be in debt a huge amount.  Nat assured him that she would repay him.  He initially didn’t want to give his meat away, but after hearing about us, he changed his mind.  (Actually, Father did the changing).  She told him that two American girls even helped by buying candy, so he could surely help.  He was still a little worried, but Nat assured him that because she is a believer, she will repay him.  He asked if Gabi and I were believers.  Nat replied that we were and that the camp was not a believing one, but that we genuinely cared for the students and wanted to help.  It made him think that if the American girls are so kind to buy candy, then he could let Nat borrow meat.  After doing so, he began to worry again that his business would suffer.  He talked with his neighbors (who, PTL, are believers) and they started to lift him up and ask Father to provide from him.  The very next day a man came to visit Igor who had borrowed from him 10 years ago and came to pay off his debt.  Igor had forgotten about this man because after borrowing from him, the man went to jail and he never heard from him until that day.  This was amazing because it was the exact sum of money that Nat had borrowed from him! PTL.  Igor was so amazed at this unexpected payment.  He began to believe in Father and his heart became softened.  A couple weeks after English camp, Nat received the grant money and called Igor to let him know she was coming.  He told her to bring her husband.  At this meeting, he told both of them that he had begun learning of Father and meeting with his neighbors.  “I am starting to believe” he told them, “and it’s all because those girls bought candy!”  (It was not me at all, but totally Papa’s work!)  The story gets better because last week Nat ran into Igor at the market and he told her that he, his wife and three children all believe in the Son now.  Wow!

When Nat told us this story she said she still couldn’t believe it because for this man’s whole life he was very much against Papa.  What a blessing that this has happened and that I got to hear the story of this man finding forgiveness in the Son.  I am so blessed to hear of fruit.  Igor wanted to meet Gabi and I last weekend, but he was out of town buying meat for his business.  I may never meet this man, but I will always remember him.  It is a great encouragement for me, especially now as I am thinking more and preparing more for returning home.  It is such a great display of Papa’s mystery and His grace.  It is a reminder that He chooses to use us sometimes in the most unexpected ways.  He used a simple thing – buying candy – for His glory.

I hope this encourages you today!

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the fellowship and in the Son throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  Eph. 3:20

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Time of Thanksgiving

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worsh1p the Father with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that His is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For Father is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.
PS 100

Hello everyone, I hope you are well!  Blessings to you during this time of year! It is snowing even more and it looks so beautiful.  There is a common saying that when walking on ice here, it is not a matter of IF you fall, but WHEN you fall.  I have not yet wiped out on the ice, but I’m sure it will come.
I got an email a couple weeks ago about my “One-Month-To-Go” goals.  Reading it was one of the first times that I felt very sad about leaving.  I boycotted responding to this email because it was so hard to believe that my time was almost over.  I felt like there was so much to do that I did not want to think about it.  I later filled it out and it was actually very helpful.  Most people during this time of only one month left in country kinda start to get lazy in the work and start thinking about home or the next thing in life they’ll be accomplishing.  I saw this email as a reminder to finish the race strong and still make goals for this time that can be accomplished.  Father is working and moving even in the last few weeks, so I want to be focused on Him even more.

SO, I’ll share a few of my goals with you. There are many things that I’d like to accomplish, but these are some good things to start with.  You can ask me about them anytime – throughout the week or when I get home.  Ask me if these goals were met or if I was effective in any way toward these goals.

Friends: I will meet with Dina once a week and continue sharing with her.  I will meet with Arie and encourage her in her faith, encourage her to tell her story with people and study the Word together. Finally, I will meet with Cami to get to know her better, talk with her about her faith and why she stopped going to fellowship. I’d like to introduce her to other believing friends.

Work Responsibilities:  In preparation for Russian class, I’ll focus more on homework and be more on top of things.  I’ll start studying for our practicum next week.  I will meet with my local friend Martha once a week to practice language.  When I meet with Arie I’ll practice language.  I translated my story into Russian and I want to tell 2 people.  For English clubs, I was to prepare more creative lessons.  I will keep attending Saturday night game night and have movie nights for EC students on Friday nights.  I will meet with a couple EC students outside of club.

Be a Blessing to Supervisors: I made the sugar cookies and scrapbooked a Thanksgiving ‘thank you’ card. I will keep helping with babysitting for basketball night and hanging out with the kids during the week. One of these pizza nights, us HO girls will be making pizza for everyone! I’ll be collaborating with the other girls to see what else we can do together :)

Things to Accomplish: (Besides buying souvenirs…) I really want to tell the C to C story in entirety to someone before I leave.  That was a goal that I made in the beginning of the semester that I have not accomplished yet.  I will visit the Village once more before leaving too.

Ask Father About the Impossible: I am asking Him about my future plans and what He would have me do.  I am asking Him about finding a job once I get back.  Mostly, I’m asking that I will finish strong and sprint to the finish line for this semester.

Ok, so essentially, those are some things you can be lifting up for me.  Also these next couple weeks Gabi and I will be working on a research paper.  Ask for good time management and diligence.

Thanksgiving week was a wonderful time here.  It is still odd to me that there was so much snow on the ground this last week.  It felt more like Christmas in that way.  My week was packed with exciting events.  For both of the English clubs we help at we had a feast with traditional American Thanksgiving holiday foods.  We told the story of the pilgrims coming to America in search of religious freedom, their hardships and their befriending Native Americans whom they celebrated with the next harvest.  There was even a skit of this that we let the students do, which turned out pretty cute.  From the simplicity of blessing the meal before eating and answering their questions, I can only see Father’s hand in our club times last week.  It was a great opportunity to just hang out with the students, share a meal and talk about what we are thankful for.

On the actual holiday, it was very relaxing.  It just so happened that on Thursdays we do not have language class, so the day pretty well was a holiday.  We celebrated in the dorm in our own way with baked chicken and mashed potatoes, sharing our family holiday traditions over the hot meal.  I made cookies for my friends with the cute fall cookie cutters, sprinkles and baggies that my mom had sent in a package.  Most local believers here know about and celebrate Thanksgiving as a time of praising Father for all the blessings He has done in their lives.

We continued celebrating this weekend with gathering together with other workers from the company.   People went all out with foods that had been sent in holiday packages (mainly cranberry sauce and rice Krispy treats!)  It was a lot like being with my family at home… I ate too much and there was football all day long.  We had a great time of fellowship and thanksgiving to Father with songs and prayer.  Finally, yesterday was our last feast as we celebrated with our fellowship, gathering together for worsh1p and sharing a meal together.  Our friends came with us and I think they really enjoyed it.

Last week I was really reflecting in my quiet time on what I was thankful for.  Paul reminded me to devote myself to prayer, be watchful and thankful, pray that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of the Son, and pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should (Col. 4:2)  There is so much to be thankful for!  I am grateful for the opportunity to keep studying in my language class.  I so appreciate our teacher and her patience with us.  I lift her up to Father every day and she continues to be gracious with us. I am thankful for my friends helping me practice language and helping me with homework sometimes.  They are a big help.

I am very thankful for the support that I have here among my teammates, supervisor and other families.  They have been a great help to me in numerous ways.  Praying for me, giving me a hug when I’m sad after Skyping my family, talking to all hours of the night and having sleep overs.  I have been really blessed to be so involved with my supervisor’s family.  I love hanging out with their kids, reading books and doing crafts.  One night after babysitting, they said, “Dad! You can’t believe how much fun we just had!” That made me so happy.  The opportunity I have to have a cool ‘Aunt Callie’ relationship with them and talk to them about Father and stories from the Word is so amazing.

I am thankful for living in the dorm.  I love seeing people I know from living here around campus and chatting with them.  I love getting together, studying the Word with my friends and just being available to talk with them.  I am thankful for Addie and her roommate Ida.  I’m thankful for the Cardamom guys and local guys we have met and every chance we get to introduce them to our Brothers here.

I could keep writing about all the things I am thankful for and it would be the longest blog in blog history, but the one thing that I am most thankful for is the Son.  I am so thankful for His sacrifice and rising from the dead to give me life as well.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to live in Central Asia and share about Him.

Peace and blessings to you, my dear friends.  I am so thankful for you reading my blogs and lifting me up to Father continually.  It is such a blessing knowing that you all are interceding for me, even being thousands of miles away.
Love to you all!!