Click on the link above to see a little something I wrote up for CRM’s monthly receipting letter to all donors in May 2010. Privileged to continue figuring out how to carry this story…
Mulling over what to write about this morning (Remember, it’s all about putting something written on the page), I realized that I have several prompts that would make great posts, but no willpower, time, or mental energy to pull them together into something cohesive. Instead, here’s what’s in my current pack of gum (For the literalists out there, this is what I am chewing on):
Yesterday was a brilliantly sunny Saturday in Orange County, the kind of day where the smog has been blown out to see by the recent deluge of storms, leaving the stunning snowy mountains as a testament to God’s breathtaking beauty, and reminding us why the first settlers to this area knew exactly what they were doing in parking it here so long ago.
For 12 hours yesterday, I was (somewhat) cooped up in a house as a part of a day-long retreat kicking off a week-long orientation for new staff of CRM Empowering Leaders, the non-profit mission organization I have recently gone full-time with as Field Staff for NieuCommunities South Africa. I gathered with 27 new staff from literally all across the United States, and even the world, for an amazing day of teaching, heartfelt worship, and slowing down to consider what the Spirit is saying to us as we move forward in missional service.
During the late afternoon, we carved out 90 minutes for silent reflection, simply choosing to refrain from speaking in order to give space to the God who often whispers. (I should mention at this point that several infants had joined us throughout this retreat day, and a rotating cadre of mothers and fathers cycled out to care for hungry cries, dirty diapers, and the near-constant need for an affectionate touch. In reality, it was a beautiful sight to be reminded of how consistently helpless a newborn actually is). Shortly after we entered into silence, Nina started crying, the 3-month little girl of Chris and Anya Gandy, who are preparing to head overseas to St. Petersburg, Russia this Fall.
I had busied myself at a reflection station full of beautiful irises, ‘considering the lilies of the field’ a la Matthew 6, as irises are actually a cousin to the lily. Upon realizing just how deeply I am filled with anxiety six weeks before leaving for 2 more years in South Africa (So much money to raise! I am really doing this! My life is changing! An old life has ended! I am confident God is directing me, but aaaaahhh!), I had not moved from this spot for about 30 minutes.
Initially, her cry irritated me, as I was already quite distracted with my own anxiety, let alone the fussing of a newborn little girl. Until I heard her father gently respond to her, quieting her in love through a tender “shh.” As he sang over his daugther, tears welled in my eyes, the Spirit gently making obvious something God must see all the time: that in fact, I am that infant, fussing and crying over needs that remain undefined, wailing at times simply to hear the strength of my own lungs, all the while refusing initially the comfort of a tender Father singing a made-up song over me, rocking me back to calm with the soft ‘shh’ of His Voice.
“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
I just took the MMPI-2 test again as I am in the process of applying to CRM long-term. I’m going to be assessed by a counselor regarding my health and overall well-being, and I thought the following questions were particularly insightful and relevant to my possibilities of being accepted. Enjoy this insanity, with my sarcastic wittyness in parenthesis (All answers must be True or False):
23. At times I feel like smashing things. (Who doesn’t?).33. I have a cough most of the time. (Chronic coughing = Psychologically unhealthy?).38. I have never been in trouble because of my sex behavior (Correct, yet who would admit this?).49. I have enjoyed using marijuana (False, yet see #38).51. I am very seldom troubled by constipation (Incredibly relevant to my ability to live missionally!).69. My hands have not become clumsy or awkward (Huh?).71. I believe I am being plotted against (Don’t we all?).90. I am afraid of finding myself in a closet or small closed space (Most people’s fears involve places we hang clothes?).199. Particular odors come to me at times (Only after eating broccoli or greasy Mexican food).259. I like repairing a door latch (Umm, no).286. I am not afraid of mice (Only Mickey).
I just emailed a version of this to my family, friends, and donor base, and thought I should share it here as well…
We are in the middle of the Life Compass part of our apprenticeship year, which is the tool that CRM uses across its organization to help a person discern who they have been, currently are, and where they are headed leading into their future. It is comprehensive, intense, and incredible. Our NieuCommunities director comes to visit in 2 weeks and that will lead to a series of conversations that will likely determine where I am with CRM in the future. Tons of thoughts flying around, but I know for certain at this point that I will be with CRM for awhile, am going to be moving into some sort of full-time staff role with them, and likely that will start here or possibly in London.
Benefits of South Africa: Seeing where this new relationship with Maxie goes (it’s going well, I like her!), established relational connections that can lead to sweet missional/partnership opporunities (continuing, deepening, and coming alongside the incarnational ministry among the poor out in Soshanguve that I have been working with all year long, particularly the NGO of health care workers that I provide spiritual direction/group therapy, etc with (there is a HUGE plot of land that could be developed to radically benefit multiple neighborhoods in Soshanguve), moving into a deeper teaching/spiritual direction/pastoral counseling role with Afrikaners through 3rd Place, and beginning to work alongside Maxie and her crew, who run a sweet service/justice ministry called Pure Hope that apprentices students in their gap year pre-university. Seems like a possible ‘next step’ for me along the road, although maybe for an Interim period (at least 2010, maybe a few years?!?).
Benefits of London: Unknown at this point, as the ministry and community that I would join is not even established yet. I am excited about this as a possibility down the road however, and for the first time in my life, felt a distinct sense of call and being drawn to a ‘place’ in the world upon passing through there in mid-January on the way down to Pretoria. But there is TREMENDOUS upside to London within wider worldwide work at CRM down the road (and a larger role within the organization), the area in East London (Shoreditch) they would move into I LOVE (the intersection of the young cultural creatives that drive culture in the city, the rich financial district, and a HUGELY VARIED ethnic population including tens of thousands of Bengali Muslims, who are the least ‘reached’ (don’t like that word in some senses) population with the Gospel in the world at this moment, according to the Joshua Project (Google this, fascinating). It’s the world’s capital, the 2012 Summer Olympics are there and so a huge renovation/restoration is taking place in that area of London, and it is one of the world’s university towns. Plus it’d be a 2 hour flight to southern Spain where a concentration of spiritual directors/counselors are beginning to form to care for + resource CRM (and other) staff throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Benefits of Home: My established communities and families are here…I could begin some teaching within the Christian Education department at Biola (probably in the area of Spiritual Formation), I know this place…yet it feels like a sideways step for me at this point. I would LOVE to pursue teaching opportunities at the university/seminary level, but maybe on the side at this point or during summers/interterms when I could fly in for awhile?!? Obviously, people are the benefit (plus Southern California is the home base of CRM), the waves are incredible, etc….YET….
EXCITING: I am home in less than 2 months, which is crazy. I will be home the week of Thanksgiving, and down in Southern California for awhile in early December. I’ll spend most of December making the rounds to donors and friends/family just catching up on life, thanking people for my year spent in Pretoria, and beginning to cast vision for where my future is headed. Post-Christmas CRM has invited me to represent them with a team at Urbana (the largest student-run missions conference in the world, held in St. Louis every 3 years), and then I’ll take a group of Eastside seniors/alumni to Passion 2010, the 4th time I’ve hosted students at the most incredible conference gathering I’ve ever been too (and a direct influence on why I am typing this email from the bottom of the world in South Africa). I’ll help officiate a wedding for some of my old students (!!) in early January, then likely be a part of New Staff Orientation with CRM during mid/late January. I’ll spend some of those months in further discernment of my next steps, clarifying the future, and solidifying a more permanent team of partners/donors who will support my next steps. When/where/how/for how long/in what capacity I’ll go are still all tentative things right now…but this is likely where I’m headed.
I would LOVE prayer for this process, particularly relationally with Maxie. Everything feels fast-forwarded due to my leave date, plus the crazy fact that with her ministry, she is taking her crew of students to Uganda to do work there for a month just before I leave. We are trying to not run ahead of this process, but it is truly hard. I’m just trying to enjoy dating an African girl (!!!).