Saturday, January 30, 2016

Gettin' Practical

We finished out our team retreat Wednesday morning. It didn't end up being very restful for me since I was still spending a lot of time with people (gotta take advantage of this extra opportunity to hang out with the trainers!) and we still had classes. But it was still a wonderful few days! It was great getting to spend time with our trainers. We played some really fun games! One afternoon, a couple of us went on a hike in the neighborhood and surrounding streets. Even though the trees were bare, I still found it pretty in spots.

Also got challenged to eat a worm...which I did. Eating it wasn't bad, but the aftertaste was pretty bad. Big surprise... =)

(PC: Karen Beck)

I really enjoyed the lectures that we had this week. My most favorite lectures are the more practical ones and this week we covered the topics of recognizing and handling stress, making sure that we are getting proper soul care, and also how to teach (among other things). Some of the ideas for how to care for ourselves personally were ones that I had already been thinking about before Engage 5, but hadn't been able to find a good way to implement them yet. But after hearing these talks and seeing examples from my life of how I need it, I'm starting to take them a lot more seriously and am enjoying the challenge of thinking through this stuff. 

The ministry things that I had planned on doing this week fell through for various reasons so it ended up being kinda quiet after we got back from the retreat. It's encouraging to know that I don't have to change anyone's life during this really short time. Takes a lot of pressure off. =) But still hoping that next week I'll be able to do more.

About a week and a half more! Pretty crazy to see how fast it's flying by. Learning a lot still (sometimes it feels like too much!) and looking forward to the remaining classes and ministry times.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Of Culture Shock and Chickens

This week was a little less crazy than last, but still very challenging and lesson-filled. Monday started out pretty normal with class time in the morning, a fun visit to a new friend in the refugee community of Clarkston, and some game time with my mentor and two of her other disciples. It was a great day getting to continue building relationships with these people. But towards the end of the evening, I was feeling extremely tired and I could tell that my mood was going downhill very fast. I ended up going back to my room early that night to work on various homework assignments. That next morning, it was just as bad as the night before, if not worse. I felt frustrated, and didn't know why. My ability to carry on a conversation was almost non-existent. I felt extremely tired, even though I had gotten some extra sleep the night before. Several times that morning, I felt like I was about to cry for no apparent reason. After class time, I ended up breaking down completely and couldn't stop crying for at least an hour, which is extremely unusual for me. I wasn't sure what was going on. I figured it was due to not getting as much alone time as I needed last week since I had taken up so many ministry opportunities. My team was so encouraging that day as they explained that it was perfectly normal for this to happen, and that a big part of it was probably due to culture shock and stress, even if it wasn't bad stress. It was a really hard day, but I'm so thankful that I was able to go through this now with all of the supportive people around me to encourage and explain what was happening, instead of going through it once I got on the field. I was able to get some time to myself that evening, and by 7 that night, I felt much better and was actually wanting to be around people again. I was worried that it was going to take much longer to recover, but God was gracious! I did go a little easier the rest of the week however, just to make sure.

I skipped one of the ministry opportunities on Monday that we had right after class since I was having a really hard time pulling myself together, but was able to pull together enough energy and emotional stability for our next ministry time about 1:00 that afternoon. Along with 4 other people from Encompass, I got to help out in a class for Korean ESL teachers. This was a really neat experience, and I'm really thankful that I was able to do it! There were about 20 students of various ages who were divided into 5 groups, each of which was assigned to one of us from Encompass. I basically just got to sit there talking with them about Korea, their interests, their families, etc so that they could practice their English. I had a list of questions that I had been given by the teacher leading the class for the purpose of facilitating discussion but I found that I didn't need to use it too much as conversation flowed pretty well. Every 30 minutes, we would switch groups, so I was able to talk with almost all of them. I've never been in that sort of position before, especially with people who are older than me, so that was a really interesting experience! I really enjoyed getting to meet all of them. But it was a little challenging for me to have to be almost constantly talking and "on" for 2 and 1/2 hours straight. But it was fun! We're planning to go back next week to help again.

There was a lot of time spent doing homework for the classes. Some of the activities that we were going to do for ministry didn't work out, partly due to weather. We got lots of rain, and some snow!! I was thankful for the opportunity to get some Skyping time in with my family and my two best friends.

Class time this week covered topics such as spiritual warfare, leading small groups, and the agricultural metaphor of ministry. We also got to celebrate a birthday!

On Sunday, one of the gals from my team and I visited a family in the refugee community after church. We were hoping to get to talk with the mom, but she was out shopping. So we spent some time hanging out with the kids. At one point, the little girl got up to go to the bathroom, but soon came out saying that she had to use another one since there was a chicken in that bathroom. Since I often mishear things, I was a little confused, but assumed that she had said something else. However, the little boy began talking about it and saying how they were keeping it in there to eat. Curious, I asked if I could see it, but the little boy said, "No, because it has big shiny teeth." After being asked again a bit later, he agreed to show it to us. Sure enough, there was a big rooster standing there in their bathroom!! We could hear it crowing several times throughout the visit. Definitely my favorite experience of this whole trip so far! ;)

Our team is actually on a retreat right now so we can recharge before jumping back into the last two weeks of ministry (it's hard for me to believe that we're already halfway done!!). Yesterday afternoon, we girls drove up together and stopped to get gelato on the way. Yum!

 The house is right next to a lake, and the view is absolutely beautiful! We arrived when it was dark, so we couldn't see much. Woke up to this view from my bedroom!

We will be staying here until Wednesday morning. I think it's going to be hard to leave...

Enjoyed some fun games last night with the team: Bean Bamboozle and an intense game of "the Resistance"! ;) Finding spies is hard work...


Sunday, January 17, 2016

New Challenges

This last week felt incredibly full and busy. It feels as though two weeks have gone by instead of just one! Once again, we had class time in the morning and then spent our afternoons and evenings doing ministry in various areas whenever possible. 

This week we've tackled subjects including finding places where we can intentionally build relationships, learning about our own culture so that we can more easily learn about another culture, questions that we can use to learn about another culture, and various ways that people use to connect with God. 

This week I really got to dive into some cultural experiences. There's no easing yourself into anything here! I've been introduced to a lot of new cultural foods, which has been fun. Experiencing the generous hospitality of the various cultures has been really neat. This week, I've been welcomed into the homes of families from Nepal, Ethiopia, and Chad. Even though I was sometimes coming in as a complete stranger, they were so kind and welcoming. I've enjoyed getting to try coffee from Nepal and Ethiopia, both of which are amazing! Learning about the different cultures has been very challenging and even awkward at times, but fascinating. It definitely takes a lot of humility and a willingness to learn. Adjusting to the cultural differences has been tough, but I am very thankful for great instructors who can help answer questions!

One of the couples from RTN (Reach the Nations church) who came from Chad taught Claire and I two songs in French. We worked on them together for a few hours on Wednesday and Saturday, and then performed them for the RTN church during the service this morning. That was a lot of fun! 

We also got to connect with some international students at Mercer University. We just showed up at the cafeteria during their lunch time and joined a table. Not in my comfort zone at all, but Claire and I had a great conversation with two girls from Ethiopia and are hoping to connect with them again on future trips to Mercer. 

Despite the large amount of ministry happening, we also had some time for fun too. There's been lots of game-playing and movie-watching going on over here in the evenings. On Friday, I went rock climbing for the first time with two of the guys. I was pretty intimidated by it but wanted to challenge myself. I'm really glad I did! I had some great help and was pretty excited to be able to reach the top a couple of times. Unfortunately, I messed up my ankle a little bit dropping from the wall for the first time. In my defense, I don't have a history of purposefully dropping from things, so I haven't had much practice... :) Looking forward to going back though! 

One of our assignments this week was to look for a "3rd Place". This is someplace besides home (our 1st place) and work (our 2nd place) where we can develop strong relationships. So we took some time exploring various places. My chosen place was the Refuge Coffee Truck which had a warehouse area for people to sit and talk. Claire and I were able to connect very quickly with one of the refugees who comes there regularly. I'm hoping to go back there this week and connect with some more people. 

This week has been amazing. I am so thankful for all of the new experiences and growth that has happened! 

 (This was taken before our outreach in the Clarkston Station community last Saturday)

 (Yup, it's been cold enough for ice on our windshield. I'm getting used to the cold though!)

 (Break during class)

 (Break during class)

 (The Refuge Coffee Truck)

(Our wonderful friends who taught us the songs!)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Settling into Atlanta!

On Tuesday, my mom and two sisters and I flew out to Atlanta, GA for my training program. It just so happened that two other friends were also leaving from the same airport about the same time that we were! It was great getting to see them before we left. I was disappointed, however, that I was only able to get a picture with one of them. =)

 (This is one of my very best friends, Lydia!)

We girls spent Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning together in Atlanta exploring and hanging out. This was a great time, and I'm very thankful for it. Wednesday morning, we visited the various Martin Luther King Jr. exhibits in Atlanta, which I really enjoyed. Places like these always get me in a thoughtful mood...

However, our time together was rather short. They dropped me off Wednesday afternoon at the house where I will be staying for the next five weeks. I enjoyed getting to have them there for that so they could also meet the people who I would be spending time with! Almost our entire "trainee team"  was there except for one couple who would be joining us late the next night. It was a little hard having to say goodbye again, but I am very thankful for the ease of communication that the internet and texting has provided.

There are seven people in the program, including myself. Once again, I am the youngest in the group! But it has been incredibly easy to get to know everyone and feel comfortable around them. There are two couples, one single gal, and another single guy, and myself. There has already been much fun and laughter. I've already been given the nickname "Sparky". We'll see how long that lasts... =) The Encompass staff has been wonderful as well. They are very knowledgeable about the subject of cross-cultural ministry and it's been great learning from them. They also have great senses of humor, and have lost no time in finding certain people to "pick on". ;) Which makes it very fun.

The night we all arrived at the house, some of the Encompass staff joined us for dinner and it was so wonderful getting to know all of these awesome people.

One highlight for me has been my sleeping arrangement. I actually have a room to myself for the first time in forever, and it's downstairs in the basement in their home theater. With 11 electrical sockets. No worries about not being to charge everything at the same time! That's been a fun room to stay in. For some reason, I have had visits in my room from four ladybugs.... Preferable to spiders, though!

On Thursday, we had a briefing at the Encompass office about what the next few weeks would be looking like and we got to meet even more of the amazing Encompass staff. We joined them for their daily prayer time that morning which was wonderful. After that, we joined the leaders of an organization called Reach the Nations for lunch. This is the organization that we will be working with over the next few weeks. Their ministry is with the refugees in the area. It was great getting to meet them and hear more about their ministry! I'm looking forward to working with them more.

Friday was a light day. We had our first official class at the Encompass office and talked about church planting and the various aspects of that. Learning lots of things over here! That afternoon, we just did some shopping and then spent the night hanging out! I intended to go to bed early due to tiredness from lots of new experiences, but ended up staying up pretty late playing games. It seems that sometimes a little bit less sleep is worth it in exchange for good memories every now and then. ;)

Saturday was our first outreach with Reach the Nations. We headed over to the Clarkston Station refugee community and spent a few hours handing out socks, school supplies, and hot chocolate. Our hope was to use it to connect with people in the community and be able to follow up with them later. Not all of us were able to connect with people like we had hoped, but there will be many more opportunities! We were able to hand out lots of supplies though, which was great! That night one of the gals from our team and I had dinner at the house of two former missionaries with Encompass. This was my first time meeting them and it was wonderful getting to know them! We had some great fellowship and overall it was a very encouraging evening.

Today we joined the RTN church for their service. Apparently it runs on Eastern culture time and doesn't always start right when it says it "should" which is about 10:30am. =) It's a small congregation with a variety of cultures represented. My favorite aspect of the service was the worship. They sing lots of songs, and most of them are in languages other than English. For instance, several were in Nepali and Swahili. It was challenging to pick up the proper pronunciation, but it was really neat to worship in a different language. They had English translations for all of the songs so that we could understand what they were saying.

 So far, it's been a great experience! But one challenge is the lack of routine...still working on trying to figure that one out so I can maximize my time here, both task-wise and "relationally" since both are important. =) SO much has happened in the past few days and I'm still working on processing everything. It's been tough so far to pull the words out that are floating around in my head so I can share them! Hopefully that will become easier...Hoping to get more pictures too. =)