Virginia Bound

In my last few posts I have been hinting that I have plans for my next step of life, and that I do!

After months of job searching the Lord provided, as always! I have accepted a job, have housing lined up, and tomorrow I am moving to Charlottesville, VA!

I will be working as the Program Director for Bread & Roses, a ministry through Trinity Episcopal Church focused on transforming the way we acquire, cook, and relate to food around us.

I am both thrilled and terrified to begin this journey!

Here’s the thing, ever since I graduated high school and attended a week of culinary school in Tuscany, I have been questioning the role of food in my life. As I planned 4-course meals at home, read Michael Pollen for fun, and sold dinner party packages at silent auctions, I always pushed further training aside knowing that cooking and caring about food could always be a part of my life despite other career goals. It is thrilling to finally have an opportunity to delve into these passions of mine through ministry! It is terrifying in that there will be lots of work to be done in a community that I have not even met yet – but after moving across the world to China, surely Virginia can’t be too bad. 😉

I’m not sure whether I will continue this blog, start a new site, or express myself in other formats but thanks for reading, following, and sending prayers throughout my journey. As I mentioned in a previous post, the journey is not over.

I am still “Taking the Call.”

Peace out!

On the Road Reflections, Reprise

I find myself back on I-29 North towards Sioux Falls. The sun slowly slowly lowers in the sky, casting slight shadows across the rolling fields of growing corn. It is peaceful. My soul is content. I have no need for the drone of the radio even. Instead, thoughts fill my mind. Feelings of nostalgia encompass my being, remembering how this drive felt just two years ago.

Two years ago I was ready to board a plane to China, but with visa issues I was delayed a few days. I headed south to Nebraska to connect with friends and supporting churches for a lovely, spirit-filled weekend. Upon driving north back towards my hometown of Sioux Falls, SD I was filled with that sense of home, knowing that I would be leaving my Midwest haven so soon. In my post on August 11, 2014 I reflected on the imminent change I knew would happen while I was away yet knowing that home would always be home.

A lot will change in two years, and yet nothing will. I think that is the beauty and fear of leaving, knowing that people will come and go, friends will graduate and get married, cities will grow, restaurants will go under and new ones will pop up but the essence of home will always be there.”

I mention in that post that every time I exit I-29 onto I-229 into Sioux Falls, a warm sense comes over me, knowing that I am almost home. This feeling remains true. The same happens when I arrive in the Sioux Falls airport, the statue of Joe Foss standing regally in the center of the atrium.

I knew that Guyuan had become a home when that feeling became part of my returning process. Whether entering the city by train or bus, either by night or day, I would look for Guyuan Ling, the pagoda on a hill near the University. After LONG days of travel back to Guyuan, this sight brought relief, comfort, and a warming of my heart – a sense of home.

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And so sitting in my car, driving across the plains, I am filled with a nostalgia mixed with joy and hurt. It is beautiful and natural to be back in the USA and back in my South Dakota home, but I still can’t quite comprehend the Guyuan home that I left behind. And…I’ll be making creating a new home in a new place here soon. I guess I’m becoming a pro at transitioning!

More updates and Guyuan city pictures coming soon!

Renewed Vows

For the past six weeks I have been living at Emory University in Atlanta, GA as I have served as a trainer and facilitator for the 2016 Global Mission Fellows Training. Six weeks is the longest time I have been anywhere since coming back from China three months ago. Despite the work in planning, preparing, and facilitating, the busy schedule, and the long days, it has felt good to “settle” into a place.

Being here for six weeks and amidst a team of Global Mission Fellow alumni and candidates has been a wonderful time of reflection amidst the busyness. On a professional level, I have been able to learn about and practice different facilitation styles, understand my own skills better, and observe some wonderful professional facilitators. But on a personal level I have been able to reflect on my two years as a Global Mission Fellow in service. Being a part of this year’s training provided a time-capsule from my own training in the Philippines two years ago. It has been neat to sit in on sessions again with more experienced eyes and ears, reflecting on who I was then and who I am now. It is rewarding to see that newfound spark of passion in the faces of the new candidates as they delve into what being a missionary is in our 21st century and what justice seeking might look like in their placement context. It is thrilling to see them sitting in the tension of theology and injustice, just like my class of 2014 did, and to be reminded that this tension still exists and can bring so much growth!

More than ever I am understanding that the values of the Global Mission Fellow program are not limited to a two year service commitment, but in fact, they are now forever a part of me knowing that my journey is never over.

Being a part of the commissioning of the 43 young adults  who were at the training in Atlanta allowed me to affirm my own vows two years ago. The journey persists and I will continue to wander with Spirit-filled compassion, in pursuit of justice and community.

More about where I’m wandering to in my next post!

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,

exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.

-Wesley Covenant Prayer

Photo Credit: Mike DuBose, UMNS

 

 

Hope for the Church

The end of May brought a final family reunion for the Global Mission Fellow class of 2014-2016. Upon the end of General Conference in downtown Portland, we bused out to the serene haven that is A.Collins Retreat Center. Isolated in the midst of Oregon forest and under the warm hospitality of retreat staff, we were able to reflect, laugh, and be in community.

I have often described this family with positive words, unable to fully convey the unique love that has formed among us, but after attending a week of General Conference and then two weeks of our End-Term event, I now know what I am most proud of.

General Conference brought much dissent, emotions, and negative talk within the United Methodist Church. Tensions were high, decisions were made (and not made) to disappoint some and discourage others. Some left the Conference disheartened or even angry at the Church. But I left with hope and being among 33 young adults immediately after brought even more hope.

Even though our Global Mission Fellow family is close, like any family, we have disagreements and we hurt each other. At our Midterm event in November, some of our discussions regarding the global church and theology in general did not end very well. While trying to show love we also spoke some hateful words and we put aside cultural context. Almost 6 months later we engaged in healthy dialogue about the same controversial issues that the global church is juggling – human sexuality, women’s health, interfaith dialogue, etc – and we did so with incredible love and sensitivity. Finally, we were able to truly listen to each other, ask honest questions to understand one another, take cultural context into consideration, and speak with respect and love.

This act brought me to tears one day because it brought me hope. It brought me hope for the Church. If young adults can be the change, if young adults in be an example to the church, forging the way to build relationships and to truly try to understand one another, maybe the church will also make steps to truly understand each other as well and stay unified.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” -Ephesians 4:2-6

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Photo Credit: Liz Lee

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Global Mission Fellow class of 2014-2016 attending First United Methodist Church in Portland, OR

Representing Young People

Check out the Young People’s Address from General Conference yesterday! Powerful words!

The Book of Fellows

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As an ecumenical mutt, this has been my first year to really follow the events happening at UMC General Conference. It has been hard to read and watch over the past week as decisions have been made (or not made), riling up voices on social media and blog sites.  I’m not here to challenge any of the opinions or decisions presented, but to focus our attention on the young people represented. It was powerful to be able to stream the Young People’s Address yesterday and hear from Chelsea Spyres and Peter Cibuabua, two amazing young adults who were chosen to speak on behalf of young adult Methodists across the world.

I encourage to listen to the address yourself, click here!

The message Chelsea and Peter share is bold and powerful. They mention some touchy subject on human sexuality and funding/support of young adults in the church, but they also…

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Reintegration

Now that I’ve been back in the USA for two weeks now, I suppose it’s time for an update!

To be honest, adjusting back to American life has been pretty easy, only because life here feels normal I guess. My hometown, family, and friends, they are all part of my normal life before China, so in some ways it’s easy to go back into “auto pilot American life.” Yet within this normality, I am very aware that this life has not been my normal life over the past two years. Though people and places have stayed mostly the same, I detect slight changes that have occurred. It’s like  living outside of my body – living but watching it all play out – recognizing that this is reality, but American life has not been my reality for the past two years.

Strange enough, I didn’t deal with much jet lag and have been void of emotions. I could easily blame this on the “high” of being back. The past two weeks have been filled with family gatherings, conversations with old friends, and organizing summer gigs. There hasn’t been a lot of time to just sit and well, miss China.

It is strange to wake up to messages from my students on WeChat. It is strange to enter the world of 4G again. It is strange to have access to unlimited “western” products and restaurants. It is strange to drive a car and strange to have to take a leisure walk just to get in my minimum number of steps in a day.

In short, I’m aware of small cultural differences but am not in the thick of “culture shock,” and honestly don’t expect it to hit until the fall when things slow down.

I am now in the “reintegration” portion of my time as a Global Mission Fellow. From now until August 15, I will be engaging in my home community and continuing to work with Global Ministries to help process my time in China and support the Global Mission Fellow program. Here is what I will be doing over the next few months:

  • GMF End Term event (May 18-26) Portland, OR
  • Leading a 4-day Liturgical dance camp at First Presbyterian of Sioux Falls (FPC)
  • Choreographing and assisting  with the annual music and drama camp at FPC
  • Trainer for the Class of 2016 GMF Training event which will be held in Atlanta (June 26-August 3).

I ask that you continue to send prayers to Portland as the UMC General Conference continues and as the GMFs in my class travel in from all over the world!

Sacred Moment: Goodbye

April 29 – 6 hours left in Guyuan, 16 hours left in ChinaI woke up with a deep breath, trying to take in the final moments of waking in my large, China bed. The soft glow of the morning sun shone through the curtain and I couldn’t help but eagerly hop out of bed to make it to the track one more time. 

It was a typical Guyuan morning. The warmth of the sun cancelled out the morning chill. The track area was filled with the ayi (aunt/grandmother) walkers, badminton players, tai chi -ers, and other exercisers. I, too, followed routine, running 6-8 laps (2 miles), then cooling down with walking and stretching. 

This is not a socializing time for me, despite the fact that the ayis are social butterflies, but I have developed a small “nihao ma?” relationship with them. This has been enough to make me feel welcomed and connected to this morning community.

But today, as I walked and prayed, I felt like I needed to say goodbye and thank them for their presence in my life. As the bend approached, I moved to the outer lane, near to the exercise equipment, where 4 ayis were scratching their backs against the equipment. 

Eh, nihao! Wo hui-lai meiguo…maintain,” I spoke in my broken putonghua, trying to convey that I am returning to America today. After a few seconds (realizing I had actually spoke to them in Chinese) they responded in thick Guyuanhua, words of best wishes and regret. Shaking their hands and hearing their words filled me with relief and warmth, feeling a new sense of closure. 

I repeated the process to another set of women I felt fond of, and then made my departure down the driveway towards my apartment. Within two steps my eyes had clouded with tears and hardly two steps later I heard, “eh mei guo ren!” I turned around and saw one of the ayis coming towards me, indicating that she will walk back with me. 

Upon reaching my side, she took her small, gloved hand with mine and led me, hand in hand, down the drive. This act of compassion allowed my held back tears to let loose. The ayi gave me a tissue and patted my back as she led me on, telling each person we encountered that her American friend was leaving today. 

I was overwhelmed by this simple act of love, this grandmother’s willingness to take my hand and walk with me. Not only was it a beautiful moment that will always remind me of my track community, but it also reminded me that as I transition to America, God is always willing to reach out, take my hand, and lead me down the right path.

Thank you God for sacred moments. 

P.S. I’m back in America! 🙂