Friday, December 29, 2006

Moments of Conversion: Part 7

Moments of Conversion: Part 7
On the Porch with Mallory

July 2006
So this past summer I was a youth intern at South Plains Church of Christ. I've been a member of that church since 1998 and getting remain there through college was one of the few benefits of not moving off for college. I watched many of my friends struggle to get plugged in at churches they hadn't grown up in. I guess I lucked out. For the summer intern gig, I had been helping with a couple of the classes during my last year at LCU and just on a whim asked if they were looking for summer interns, and BAM, I had a job. I spent most of the first month of summer finishing up a couple history classes then spent the last couple months traveling with the youth group and helping to coordinate the weekly service projects. It was an easy fun job that basically I had an excuse to hang out with some really cool peeps.
The last couple weeks of summer were fast and furious. The beginning of July we went to Mexico to work and play at an orphanage. Then I came home for three days of service projects and frantic packing. Then the two interns (I'm one) went off to prepare the camp a couple days before the rest of the group got there. The last week was a camp run by the youth group for the younger kids at church. I was in charge of the freshmen and sophomores who volunteered their week to do dishes and coordinate whatever needed work during the week. This was a great bunch of young men and women. During our free time they would school me at hacky-sack and we would sneak off at night to crack open glow sticks and have techno parties. This high energy fun was necessary to encourage good attitudes for carrying trash and scrapping syrup off breakfast trays.
I didn't end my time in Lubbock very well. No details here. My youth group didn't know what I'm referring to either. I would stay up particularly late at night (I couldn't sleep) that week, out on the porch of the director's cabin. It was a good watch point to make sure my students wern't sneaking around or getting into too much trouble. One night a young lady, Mallory, joined me on the porch. She sensed that all wasn't well with me. It was easy to pass it off as my nervousness for moving the day after getting back to town. We talked for a long time. She was a huge encouragement to me that night. Her family has been through a lot over the years and I've been with them through a lot of it as well. Her family adopted me very quickly after I started attending the church, I had babysat for their girls, went on their family vacations to the lake, and watched their school performances. Mallory informed me that for years she had looked up to me (God knows why) and lots of other fluffy cute things that are not going to be written here either. Her saying these things to me would just be slightly uncomfortable on any given day but on this particular day, in light of my recent mistakes, she was unknowingly convicting me and reminding me whether I want it or not I am in a position of influence and leadership. This means that I have a responsibility to God and people around me. I don't want to influence people. I mess up all the time. But I do want people to know Jesus and I know Jesus gave us an example of how we should live.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Moments of Conversion: Part 6

Moments of Conversion: Part 6
Lindsey's Prayer over Me
March 20, 2006
Why do I have such great friends?

Quick summary of March 06:
Put Jeep up for sale, bought a motorcycle, went on a camping trip with ex-boyfriend, roomie, and two of her friends, hitch-hiked home, neither vehicle was operational, started a new job to add to my other three, went on spring break to Portland, got sick and puked all over downtown, had major flight delays coming home, found out I was illegally working at new job, working on a very important presentation (monologue drama of Peter), lost my cell phone riding to new job, which brings us to the night being discussed.

These were all my surface concerns which were masking all my emotional turmoil of the times. I was inwardly concerned about graduation and moving and the ex and being a workaholic, and on top of it all a self-sacrificing friend with no cell phone. The day before, Sunday, I had pulled a morning shift (7a-3p) at the shelter and my roommate picked me up because of my vehicle situation. We get to the apartment and she loans me her phone to see if my family is going out for lunch (Sunday ritual, we all eat lunch together no matter what). They are still at my favorite restaurant and just ordered. And that was it. They didn't make any arrangements for me to join. I was out of luck for not having a car. I'm passive aggressive sometimes. Today was one of those days. I had had enough of it all. So in a calm pleasant way I ask my roommate what her plans are for the day and ask if she wants to go for a walk. I'm gathering my bike helmet and platypus and heading out the door. She follows. We begin the 6 mile walk/ride to my dad's office (one of the places I work). About half a mile from arrival my parents drive by on their way to Sam's and asked what we were doing. I say going on a hunt for food. They drive off. We get to the office and I realize I don't have the key. Luckily there is an Arby's a block away. We get there and start to order and I realize I don't have money. So we go another 2 miles to my parents house and make some microwave pot pies. Parents come home after a while, take us for ice cream and drive us home. Don't make me mad, I might walk to Yorkville to sit in some porch hammocks!

That night at 12am I go in to work at the college women's dorm front desk. At the desk I generally catch up on homework until 6am. That night a friend of mine, Lindsey was working on the same projects as me. So she said she would probably be up in the lobby area with me for most of the night. Around 3 she joined me at the front desk and told me about the presentation she had been working on, the Prodigal's son. After talking about that for a while she asked me how I was doing. I thanked her for sharing her warm fleece blanket with me and told her about my frustrations with life. I just couldn't understand why it felt like everything was falling apart around me. I was mad at the current situation, I was still tearing myself up for mistakes in my past, but I was more afraid of my future. Lindsey was able to sense the need for peace in my being and wrapped her arms around me and we entered into prayer together.

I don't remember a thing Lindsey prayed now but what I remember is feeling God. As a younger child back in jr and sr high school often I would cry out to God that all he needed to do to rescue me from the hell I thought my life was would be to embrace me. That night, a couple months from leaving LCU and beginning the new life that I now live, God reached down and embraced me through Lindsey. Lindsey really is an amazing woman with a heart of gold. When she listened to my pains I could see in her eyes that she not only cared but hurt with me. "The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us." (John 1:14a) Jesus showed up in Lindsey that night and has propelled me into the fury of life again. He provided me the strength to continue to search for wisdom to deal with frustrations not just in my petty struggles of life but in matters of religion and justice.

This was a really neat experience. I've never known a more sincere prayer. I was able to thank Lindsey a couple months ago at the World Mission Workshop and let her know what an impact her prayer had on me. I hope our paths cross again someday. Thank God for friends who care about our spiritual well-being.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Moments of Conversion: Part 5

Moments of Conversion: Part 5
Sitting in Front of a Chinese Classroom

July 2005
CampChina ELI/C
Shashi, Hubei, People's Republic of China

Ms. Jen was the teacher for class 6, five flights of stairs up a tower of a school in a small Chinese town of 2 million. She had about 16 students who became the delight of each day and made the climb up the stairs several times a day worthwhile. Some of the things I remember most from that time spent in China were the 100+degree days and humidity more oppressive then I ever thought possible. Air conditioner was thought to be bad for your health and coffee as well. But these minor struggles were worth it just to hear the way my students called my name. I started blogging just before going to China so I want to pull up two of those blogs because too much time has passed and I can't write from my heart about China anymore. But maybe you will hear through my earlier writing some of what happened to me that summer.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Today I must say good-bye to many of my students and so I can't sleep. I realized something, again, tonight. Last summer I made this same mistake. I forget that while I am away from Lubbock the rest of you guys lives are still going on. I am so used to talking to all my friends everyday that when I go a whole summer without talking to you in my mind your lives are on pause. I know this isn't the case. So...when I come home I want to hear lots and lots of stories. I want to know who has been spending time with who. Who went where. What happened at all the camps and missions trips. Please tell me lots and lots of stories. I hate that I missed out on such a big part of all your lives, again. That however does not make me regret being gone for another summer. This brings me to what made me originally remember missing out on so much. I feel like, in a small way, I have been silenced much like Zachariah. My voice is all but gone from being sick so I am not a very good teacher on my last days teaching. So I try to keep my words as few as possible. I really want to take a step back and take it all in before I go. There are many faces here I may never see again. Many faces that mean so much to me. So I will stand quietly watching everything. Maybe by the time I go home I will be well and be able to sing like Zachariah, a song of China. And maybe it will be a little while. I hope it is really because for now I have many things to think about and many stories to listen to from all my friends. So please tell me your stories first and then please help me figure out what happened to me during my brief stay in China. I miss you and cannot wait to be home in a real bed sleeping on a real sheet under real blankets. I cannot wait to have my own room and people who can understand what I am saying. But then again, I will never forget my home in China. I will never forget the faces who loved me because I was courageous enough to travel around the world to teach them something that will help them LIVE in this world. I decided I also want a Pizza when I get home, with real cheese. Have a good evening and Peace out!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Today we leave Shashi. I have to admit that I have cried already more then I thought I could. I am pleased to say that I went out with a bang however. My last class was with out a doubt the best class, even though I had no voice all morning. Everyday my teaching really did improve. No matter how difficult or tiring teaching was, I never gave up and every day got a little easier and a little more comfortable. Friday night 12 of my students took me to a western food restaurant and they were such inexperienced fork and knife users. It was ridiculously funny. They stabbed the rolls with a fork!?!? So funny! It makes up for the time they took me to the noodle place and I couldn't eat my noodles with chop sticks. Noodles are the most difficult thing to eat with chop sticks I think. After eating we went to an underground roller skating rink. It was kickin'. I had the time of my life. Those kids are so crazy and so much fun. I wish we could have bonded more quickly but I am glad we were able to enjoy each other to the very last day. So I was thinking while I was showering tonight and decided that it is a very terrifying thing to go to a place that you do not speak the language. I have just now started to recognize some of the words I hear frequently, even though I do not know what some things mean. And today I understood a whole sentence one of my students said. She said "I do not want you to go (in Chinese)" and I replied, "I wish I could stay longer (in English)." I didn't know she didn't say it in English but when I answered back all my students stared at me and were like, "Since when do you understand Chinese?" I guess I just picked up on the tones and emotions, which is what I rely on most of the time because I usually have no idea what is going on. But I felt really special for understanding the Chinese. But what I decided was even more terrifying then being in a place you don't know the language is for me to come home and never hear my name spoken again by a Chinese student. Every time I hear them calling my name I melt. Just the thought of one of my students really wanting to talk to me fills me with joy because talking with the foreigner is difficult and they are all so shy. But for some reason they love me and say I'm very kind and cannot stop asking me questions. I love them all very much and tomorrow is going to be a very difficult day for all of us. And Monday is going to be another very difficult day because that is when the team splits up. We don't know if we will ever see each other again but we have invested so much in each others lives that I imagine we will keep in touch for a long time.

Xia zhen (good-bye)

Ming Yu

The actual "moment of conversion" that I wanted to discuss came the begining of the third week of teaching. It was Monday, my least favorite day, and I didn't want to be teaching that day. Getting started was always the hardest part. So I passed out all the materials for the day and greeted all my students then I was standing at the back of the room saying a silent prayer trying to muster some strength to get going again and I looked up and saw that my students had come to class early to transform my chalkboard into a mural of love. They drew me as an aneme character and wrote "I love you Jen" in english and chinese and had some other things that we enjoyed together on the board. That was the best gift I have ever recieved. After taking that all in and my students were getting back to working in their books I sat under the board, on the floor (a taboo in China) and my heart hurt for my students. Because if all I have ever learned in the church is true, there is little hope for them. They were all going to perish. Sure, I was trying to sow seeks and hopefully others would come into their lives as well but what if that didn't happen? And I hurt for my precious little friends. Then a couple of them asked me why I sat of the floor and they joined me. They sat on the floor, maybe for the first time since being inculturated into their culture, because they wanted to be like me. wow. I'm rambling now but maybe you see what an impact these small things had on me. I love my students and sometimes I still get email or MSN live conversations with them. That's always pretty awsome.
As always, thanks for reading. I like to hear your thoughts and questions in the comment form.
-ming yu

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Moments of Conversion: Part 4

Moments of Conversion: Part 4
Sarah's Wreck and the Essay

This must sound like a strange title for sure but get ready this is a really long one because I fully intend to post the entire essay I wrote during this experience at the end of the blog.

20 March 2005 (Last Sunday of Spring Break)

Just got out of night church, riding around with my buddy Lauren trying to find some trouble to get involved with because no coffee shops are ever open on Sunday night in this silly town. We ended up at a grocery store buying sugar-free icecream and as we are checking out I get a call from Sarah's dad's number. When I answer he says something about Sarah was just in an accident and didn't want to go into sugary without telling me. Then he doesn't leave any time for questions and I hear Sarah saying my name and telling me how much it hurts and she can't hear me at all. (BTW: I'm really freaking out!!!) The conversation is really short then Lyn gets back on the line and says they just took Sarah back. I'm asking what happened, is she okay, where can I meet up with them? And probably a string of other questions. The answers are short, the story will come later, again and again.

Lauren and I call a couple people, they already know, and we go to the hospital together. We went to her boyfriend's room first because he was conscious and wanted comfort. Just about all of the core Youth and Family ministry department was crowded around his bed. He was partially broken with a broken ankle and collar bone and a couple ribs or something like that. He recounted the story to us to the best of his memory which had already dotted out the traumatic parts. They were just headed out of town to go preach at a small church in New Mexico just about 2 and a half hours away. The highway was under construction and reduced to two lanes. A ford explorer sportrak was coming in the opposite direction and veered into their lane and hit them head-on, 50mph. Aaron didn't remember the hit or the rolling but when he came to he remembered Sarah crying out in pain and started singing Elvira to her because she hated the song and did the tiniest bit to distract her from the physical misery. He sang all the way to the hospital and in the ER all the way until the doctors separated them, Aaron to his own room and Sarah to the OR. The pain killers were really making him talk a lot and that was good because the YFM cult were very interested in hearing the details. I on the other hand was ready to see Sarah's family and find out about her condition.

So we went to the OR waiting area. There was the rest of the church. Truly, I remember feeling so grateful for both the school (responsible for Aarons many friends) and the church (for supporting the Meter family in this hard time). The room was a bustle, food was being brought up, Maegan and Chris had just gotten back from the break where they had just gotten engaged and so that bit of rejoicing was blended with the terrible condition of my friend. She was really broken and none of really knew to what extent. After many hours I got breakfast orders from her parents and promised to be back as soon as I got out of class. And for the next week and some I lived every moment at that hospital. I spent many nights there, and many days. If I wasn't at work or in class I was sitting with Lyn and Margaret.

Monday after the wreck, I got a call really early one morning asking if I would bring No Tangles spray with me when I got out of class because the doctors were saying if we couldn't brush her hair out and get the blood out of it they would have to shave all her hair off. I wasn't going to let any stupid doctor shave my Sarah's beautiful hair off that was for dang sure. So I was up at 7am driving all over town trying to find that stuff and some combs. I got to class late but it was just a missions class with that super cool professor (who by the way was very sympathetic to the situation and gave me as a student tons of grace on getting stuff in and graded my work in light of what I expressed my priorities were). This part of the story is the part that still moves me to tears when I think much about it. When I hear the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet and then turning around and dyeing for them even though they didn't really understand what he meant and what he was doing, I remember combing Sarah's hair. Her arms didn't work and she could just walk to the mirror and check out what a mess she was so she didn't really understand the gravity of the situation, which was really a good thing. She didn't know how serious the doctors were about shaving her head or what the day old blood manging her hair was like. But three of us set to careful work of brushing it out. We couldn't brush hard so it was slow going. But we made her beautiful again. This was a humbling experience. This is the most meaningful way I feel I have ever been able to serve anyone. I can't adequately express the full implications of this event but I will never be the same having cared from her from the threshold of death.

My friend did fully recover given enough time. We even got her to go camping that summer (she drove) and horse riding (check out my facebook for some of those pictures). She's as good as new (I haven't convinced her to try running again yet).

Okay, time for the essay. Here was the assignment: spend a day with someone who lives in what either they perceive or I perceive to be a "living hell" and write a paper on my experiences or reflections (something like that I don't remember the particulars). It was for the ethical Christian living class I believe and luckily it was being taught by the cool professor.

Jennifer Paré
12 April 2005
A Look At Reality
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” John 10:10.
What is a living hell? Beyond the gaze of my laptop screen is a small fish aquarium. My fish, Rachel, is frantically swimming against the plastic wall. I guess she wants in my bed because that is all that is on the other side of her tank. What she does not know is that on the other side of the tank is also air, not water. This means certain death to a fish. To a person this is prison with slim chance of escape, and all escape becomes is certain death. There is life in the tank, but not a life worth living. Rachel did have the companionship of Michelle, but she died last night, so Rachel is alone for the first time in three months. She is alone and trapped. I think she is hungry. I will feed her….
A long hard look at reality made me realize that all people are impoverished in some way and all people are blessed in some way as well. The course guidelines suggested looking for those whom are homeless, oppressed, or overlooked by society. I, however, not being one compelled to follow guidelines, looked around and saw despair, anguish, and great poverty in the lives of people in my realm of friends, family and even in myself. As I was trying to decide who was going to be the focus for my assignment I got a call from one of my fathers, Lyn Meter, saying my best friend, my sister, my Jonathan was in a terrible accident and needed to talk to me as she went into surgery. I watched her struggle through pain, surgery, pain, disorientation, pain, frustration, pain, and loneliness. I look at her life and see a living hell. But a closer look would quickly change my perception.
March 20, 2005, 9 pm, Room 341.
I arrived to see the “YFM cult,” as David Fraze affectionately referred to them as, gathered around an aching Aaron Scott’s bed making jokes and trying to ease the worry for Sarah. After taking in this warm scene, I found my way to the ER waiting area. I was greeted with a warm hug from Momma and Papa Meter along with so many of my other parents from Church. The whole community of believers that helped raise Sarah, myself, and several of our closest friends were all there to support and make the Meter family as comfortable as possible. Over the next week many more people flowed through the ICU waiting room to show their love and support. When I was permitted to see Sarah, her attitude was the biggest surprise, not her physical appearance. I expected her to be bruised and broken and I expected her attitude to be similar. I expected to see her mad or at least upset but the love from the waiting room had evidently penetrated into ICU curtain 19. She lay awake at night in pain counting her many blessings. Almost every night we had family bible story reading. Being amongst these people, these Christians, in crisis I felt like Jesus was physically sitting beside me or walking around with Lyn handing out food to others trapped in our humble waiting room.
Some Stories: Monday morning, March 21, I called Margaret and got her breakfast request and she requested a comb and No Tangles spray. We had to comb Sarah’s hair out or else they would have to shave her head. My thoughts were racing. Nobody was going to cut my Sarah’s hair off. I went to the store before my eight AM class and raced as soon as class was over to the hospital SICU. Combing her hair humbled me to a level of brokenness like that of Mary when she poured oil on Jesus feet and wiped them with her hair (John 12:1-8). What I did was not planned and only cost me the price of a comb and tangle spray. But beyond that it cost me heartache and tears that still flow when I remember my hands covered with the blood that was matted in her hair. I did not cry because of her immense pain, and if I were it would not have been wrong, but instead I was crying because I felt so blessed to be able to serve her in such an intimate way.
Next Story: Sarah was moved to the Burn ICU Saturday, March 26. The next morning, Easter she told me she was expected to move to a private room later that day and requested we watch Napoleon Dynamite. So it was, when I returned that afternoon she had her own room and with many visitors we enjoyed Napoleon. Unfortunately, about halfway through the movie she gave out. She lost all energy and was miserable in pain and fatigue. We read Ruth and after that I was miserable for her. She needed quiet time and no people to entertain so we disappeared.
Regrettably it has been like this and getting progressively worse every night since then. Monday night I did a Patch Adams routine trying to cheer her to no avail. The other nights we have just watched her slip into increasing pain as the night neared. By nine it appears almost unbearable and that is when we typically leave.
It was so amazing to see her get off a bed and wheeled out of her room, prison, for the first time in a week and a half. She sat in front of a window and watched the clouds and felt the sun for the first time in what felt to her like an eternity. She described her actions like that of a little kid. She was entertained with simple pleasures for about three hours I was told.
When asked what the worst part about her hospital experience, Sarah expressed how concerned and attentive all the hospital staff as been to her (already four nurses have passed by and all know her by name and are asking how she’s feeling today). “That is not what I asked,” I tell her. Then she explained to me the monotony of having to lie all day for days with no change of scenery and without the ability to do anything. She would get restless and could do nothing but endure it and watch time tick slowly by. The worst experience was Sunday, March 27th. It was her first night in her own room. She was beginning to be able to move more but still unable to do anything alone. She awoke around four in the morning, from a very vivid dream. In the dream she had gone home and she was so happy to be home. She woke disoriented and no doubt very upset and alone. This was the worst. This made the hospital a prison.
I do not know what Sarah would define living hell as, but I know I cannot lie in a bed even ten minutes without wanting to roll or move in some way. Sarah has to lay for days with only minimal movement with the assistance of others. She cannot go for a jog with me, shop with other girl friends, or even hug those who come visit her. She has not seen her boyfriend in a week and has only spent a few minutes a day on the phone with him during this time. Sarah would probably agree that her hospital room 323 is a lot like a small fish tank with a synthetic plant (the plant is analogous to her mechanically altered diet). One of the days she was in SICU, she complained to her dad that she was frustrated at not being able to do ANYTHING for herself, not even breathe. And I could not think of anything she did entirely by herself.
Who is to say if Sarah is trapped in a living hell or not, aside from Sarah herself and I believe she would spurt off her many blessings in denial of anything inconveniencing her. She would compliment the nursing staff or persistently thank the masses for visiting. She would be grateful for caring professors working out ways to complete classes this summer and overjoyed to recount her earlier excursion through the hospital through it causes overwhelming pain.
I look at Sarah and can only imagine the pain she is experiencing. But she exhibits such an encouraging determined attitude that I cannot help but praise God every time I see her struggle. Coming away from the hospital, I would not describe her situation as a living hell, instead as living. A long hard look at reality made me realize that all people are impoverished in some way and all people are blessed in some way as well. I looked at her life and saw a living hell. But a closer look quickly changed my perception. I praise God for both sparing her life, for our friendship, and mostly the opportunity to serve someone I love. She praises God for all the wonderful things I take for granted, the sun, clouds, hospital staff, church family, and morphine.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” 1 Peter 4:12-13.
I think Sarah realized that Christ’s glory is being revealed now, through her suffering, because of her suffering, and in spite of her suffering. If she had made it to Hobbs for the internship, God would have been glorified. The family of believers has come together to reveal the glory of God. And Sarah glorifies God for sparing her life, for her Christian family, and for a million blessings revealed through this tragedy. There are many hellish aspects amid Sarah’s suffering and struggles, but she has decided that it is not a hell. To the outsider looking in, it may appear to be so. But a closer look would quickly change their perception.

thanks for reading my long sad story. That's crazy loving or morbid of you to actually read that whole story.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Moments of Conversion: Part 3

Moments of Conversion: Part 3
Riding with Daniel Through the Mountains

Location: Logging roads over the pass between Cloudcroft, NM and Sacramento, NM. July 2004, the last week of being a Christian Summer Camp counselor at a quaint place called Pine Springs.

As a Jr. High students, I wanted to know what peace was. That's a strange thing to not know about and want to understand at that age possibly but it plagued me. I needed to understand and I wasn't quite able to wrap my mind around the concept of peace, primarily inward peace.

On this day, riding with a young man who drove his tank of a truck like a bat outta hell, I realized I finally knew peace.

The summer had been a long hard one. I was there as the compromise with my folks to going to China, but I had fully embraced the opportunity to learn how to do ministry state-side. The other counselors and I had become our own family up in the mountains. We didn't have phone but maybe an hour a week if we were lucky. We had no internet, no McDonald's (or any other outside fast food for that matter), no friends but us. It was strange to be so isolated to the outside world when we were really only about 5 hours from home by car, 3 sometimes by Daniel's truck.

I don't really know what I learned that summer besides, I like Jr. High girls. I loved the weeks when I got to have 18 bubbly girls all over my bed never wanting to go to sleep because they just might miss a minute joking with their buddy. I also learned that some fifth grade girls don't need to be sent off to camp just yet, OR should have been sent out much earlier so they didn't get so attatched to home. Jr. High and I, we did well together. I'm still in touch with that mentality.

At the end of the summer, I didn't have many tangible remains from all the labor of love that went into each and every long difficult day. All my pictures from that summer have now mysteriously disappeared, I have a sweatshirt with the camp's name on it, and more than anything the memories both good and bad.

But what I realized during that fateful drive was that, finally I felt at peace with myself. That finally I had invested myself appropriately, to a task greater than myself, something that would have eternal implications. Lindsey and Daniel were in the front seat (one of the camp flings) while I was alone in the back being tossed violently from side to side missing my own camp fling but able to put that aside to contemplate the moment. This was a heavy moment for all of us. We (Lindsey and I) at one point told Daniel that it would be okay if we died from his driving because we felt like we had truly lived for something. We had just lived completely self-sacrificially for the past three months (24/7) investing ourselves into the lives of hundreds of young people, imparting upon them our passion and what little we understood about the God who loves us more then we could love him back.

And the world was still.
And I understood peace, finally.
It's about investing yourself in others, being self-sacrificial, in hopes that those you have poured into will realize the goal of restoring life and continue the task as in the passing of a baton.

We knew that what had taken place was bigger than ourselves and bigger than we would be able to know this side of eternity but we thanked God for allowing us to be a part of his work that summer.

The conversion part of this story is, this summer was when I experientially realized that I was never going to be able to live the American life of work and family and vacation and suburbia and all that comes with that package. It sounded great but I knew that God didn't create me in a what that would ever find fulfillment in that kind of life. I instead was given the gift of frustration, a wondering spirit, and dissatisfaction. I came to terms with the fact that the only place I'm going to find fulfillment and pleasure is in living on the edge in service to my Lord. I realize that anytime I'm not actively involved in this type of lifestyle I become depressed like I was for so many of my years growing up and begin to hate myself, second guess what I'm doing and my value and completely loose sight of my value in Christ. This summer I realized that I was called to ministry and I couldn't back down from that unless I wanted to suffer in my own psychological prison.

*Some of you may be asking about that boy I mentioned in passing above. Well that's a story for another time, I learned a lot from that one too. He became my first serious boyfriend but it ended badly so like I said, wait for it. I don't feel like going there today.
*Thanks for reading. Leave a comment if you did get this far. Merry Christmas to you all. I'm going home Thursday! (I should be studying now for my test in half and hour)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Moments of Conversion: Part 2

Moments of Conversion: Part 2 Intro to Missions Class

This next part of my story is much less dramatic, it came more as a subtle realization of what God was bringing me into. This became much more than one class for me. I was almost instantly hooked to the laid back atmosphere of the missions department and the genuineness of the professors. Especially one of them who had quite a story to tell. He became one of my spiritual mentors for his passion, his story, his experience, his prophetic wisdom, and his concern for his students. This man had been called out of the crack house to Christ. Then from the oil fields to wherever the roughest mission field would be. His journey led him to a get a missions degree where he met his team mates and his wife. He spent the next 10 years in Kenya. Now he's one of the founding pastors of an inner-city fellowship for primarily the homeless and prostitutes. He's been doing that for 10 years now also. He has a master's degree because they made him in order to be a professor, but he knows that there are more important things than degrees and formal training.

All that to say, I had the privilege to sit at this man's feet for almost 3 years. When I went home for fall break he made the time to spend nearly four hours on a Monday morning in conversation with me. He is phenomenal, not perfect but he has truly inspired me in many ways. Someday soon he's going to get fed-up with the institutional system and quit teaching. At that time he has a list of some of his students who would be willing to drop everything and peruse our passion to serve together. Sometimes I pray for this day to come sooner.

One of the first things that I remember learning in his class was that if I want to be effective as a missionary I've got to be committed. There should be none of this less then 5 years business. By then I should be just starting to feel like I have a clue as to how the culture works and how to contextualize the gospel and maybe have a few converts. But at that point leaving would be premature and undo all that had been done. So it was in his classes that I committed my life in my heart to God's service. I let go of any dreams or desires to ever return to the states and get a normal job and live like the model I had seen from everyone else I knew. I committed myself to God's wisdom to lead me into the dark places that I hadn't seen anyone go before.

Other things I learned were about loving all people. I can't believe this struck me as such a challenging thing. I was sheltered in my nice grid neighborhood. I wouldn't have known where to find the homeless, prostitutes, and drug-addicts if it hadn't been for this man's influence. Now I know the names of the homeless men I spent many cold Friday mornings drinking coffee with and eating homemade muffins. I also learned how to write amazing personal reflection papers in this class reflecting on such strange topics and my dead goldfish. And another wonderful feat was I learned how to tell stories and enjoy making speeches in a class on story-telling called "communicating Christ today." It was my favorite class I took in undergrad.

This man also introduced Brian McLaren to me. We read "A New Kind of Christian" in ethical Christian living class then he recommended "The Last Word and the Word After That" to me after I started talking about starting a small life discussion/hang-out/safe place to ponder faith/type group. I don't remember the connection now as to why he recommended the book. I just remember getting really confused about the whole heaven/hell issue that wasn't even the point of the book.

So I guess the main thing I learned from this man was that we are called to be like Jesus. In striving to be like Jesus I realize that we are to love like Jesus, heal like Jesus, connect like Jesus, restore like Jesus, revolutionize like Jesus. I'm not going to be perfect in these attempts but that's where my heart will be. And wherever God eventually sends me it's going to be a lifetime commitment of service. I've done my time with the short-term enough to realize that serving God is the only place I find fulfillment and purpose.

and that's a wrap.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Moments of Conversion: Part 1

Disclaimer: by conversion I mean something that has been transformational not the traditional view of Christian conversion.

Moments of Conversion: Part 1 Called to China
Fall of 2003, first semester at Lubbock Christian University, roommate: Sarah, Midnight, week before spring registration.

Sarah is my best friend. At the time of this conversation she was having rocky times with a boy and I was just not finding my nitch in college. We wanted to find purpose and fulfillment in the things we were doing. We wanted to know what was going to make life "worth it." In conversation somehow she suggested that we take a class by this crazy old marathon running ex-missionary to Kenya professor named Jim. We found that the intro to missions class would fit nicely into our schedules (she was more then willing to drop a math class to take it or something like that). But I'm an extremist and somehow I felt that just deciding to take a class wasn't going to do anything to solve the current states of unfulfillment. So we continued to discuss and then I just laid on my bed starring at the ceiling asking God what he wanted me to do. Then this crazy idea came to me that I wanted to begin praying that God would give me the opportunity to do a short-term assignment in the far East. I was thinking either China or Japan but the catch was that I had never heard of anyone going to either of those places for missions work (so secretly I felt pretty safe in praying for this).
Sarah and I talked a little longer, prayed, and went to sleep. The next day came sooner then we wanted and dragged ourselves across campus to chapel. We sat in the traditional sorority section where we belonged and got ready for a thirty-minute nap. However, my life was about to change. A man named Larry got on the stage and shared a video of Camp China with the student body. I was probably shaking thinking God doesn't intervene this radically. I don't know if I'm comfortable with this. But at the same time I was also totally stoked knowing that God was in control and was sending me to China. Chapel ended soon enough and we walked to our Kinesiology class just talking about how cool it would be to really to "that." After class I rushed to the SUB to talk with Larry and see if I could qualify for the program. In a matter of just a couple weeks I registered, interviewed, told everyone I knew, and had some major discussions with the parents. They were not keen on the idea. Eventually the tough decision was made to accept a possition as a camp counselor in New Mexico that summer (a dream I had since 6th grade) and then my parents agreed not to make any more of my decisions. I was still 17 so they felt they had just one year left to control me even though I no longer lived at home and all they paid for was my health insurance. This was the first compromise I remember making with my parents that has really ended up well. I'm not saying they made the right decision in grounding me to the states but because the final decision was made in regards to our mutual respect and love for each other we grew to respect each others decisions which is now a huge blessing.
Looking back, I really miss the feeling of a sure "calling." What do I mean? I miss knowing where God wants me and what he wants me to be doing. When people ask me if I feel like I am where I'm suppose to be, I don't usually know what to respond. I'm in Wheaton because I chickened out of going long-term in China but I don't think that teaching English is really where I would have been most gifted and effective. When I get where I'm going I'm confident that God will supply where I lack but I also know that I have been blessed with an abundance of gifts and I need to make the most of them and go where I'll be most effective. I still have a heart for China and have been deeply impacted by that experience. But the call is still certain and I'm still going, just not real sure where or when just yet.