Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Vacation Speed Bump

So one great thing about this trip, is that for once I have only been responsible for myself. With the exception of a few e-mails that I've had to keep up with, I have been able to be a tourist and a 23 year old. Not a "pastor" necissarily. At home its really hard for me to stop thinking about church and youth group and kids and responisibility, etc. Here, it has been amazing to see the sites that I want to see, and hang out with friends, and lie on the beach in my non-camp bathing suit. I've been visiting ministries and talking about ministries, but really I've just been gathering information about things interest me (mission, justice, history), and saving the application to my own life and ministry for when I get home. Emotionally, it has been so relaxing!

This vacation state of mind came to a screeching halt the other day, when a friend looked at me with excitement and asked me about my ministry. I've answered this question a million times but for whatever reason, this time I realize how tired I was before I left for my trip. This conversation forced out all of these questions that have been floating around the back of my mind, and prompted my last blog. The thing is that when you love ministry, it can consume your life very quickly, and I'm still trying to figure out how to be a 23 year old in ministry (with like... a life). I'm still learning how to be a youth pastor, and how to focus my time and energy. All of that learning gets really tiring.

Luckily, I am in the Free State now, visiting Nick, and there is absolutely nothing to rush around doing. Somehow, during the drive from Johannesburg to Kroonstad, I was able to remind myself that part of the purpose of this trip is to recharge my batteries. I hate to admit it, but I think Gavin DeGraw had something to do with my relaxing again. Normally I doing really like that One Tree Hill song, but singing it in the car was strangely therapeutic.

I've spent today just hanging out by the pool, reading and talking. There haven't been any ministry visits, and tomorrow I'm going to see Lions and then head back to Jo'burg. I've had plenty of time to process at my own leisure, and I've come to a couple conclusions. 1) I need to put more effort into my devotional times, which have been lagging. 2) I need to put more effort into being 23, and stop worrying so much about immediate self-actualization. I need more adventure in my life. Holly Morris, a writer, documentary director, and adventurer wrote, "Adventure is about the way you walk to the corner store, and the way you want the Australian Outback."

Lame Lyric of the Day:
I don't want to be
Anything other than what I've been trying to be lately
All I have to do
Is think of me and I have peace of mind
I'm tired of looking 'round rooms
Wondering what I've got to do
Or who I'm supposed to be
I don't want to be anything other than me
-Gavin DeGraw

Monday, December 25, 2006

Doing Something

Yesterday in church, we read the story in Luke, where the angel appears to Mary. I started thinking about the fact that Mary is always portrayed as sitting alone quietly when the angel appears. I turned back to the passage, and it doesn't say what she was doing... so I started wondering. She was probably doing housework or something, but I also wonder what she was thinking about at the time. Mary is always portrayed as this stoic, faithful woman who doesn't really wrestle with her destiny. That can't be the whole story. Did she have concerns about being married off to Joseph? Was she worried about the future? After the angel left, did she wonder if she imagined the whole thing? Did she ever resent God for putting her in such an... uncomfortable.... position?

I have been hoping that this trip would bring me some direction or clarity about my mission in the future. I came here excited to learn about the culture and the ministries; to see what reconciliation looks like. But as I've been experiencing all of this, even more questions have been stirred up. I am still annoyed that I'm not sure which degree to pursue and how my ministry will look in the long-term. I have all these ideas and thoughts and things that God has laid on my heart, and I'm tired of constantly wondering how the pieces will fall into place. I want to do something to figure it out.

I have been spending time with great friends from Camp. I've been seeing some of their ministries, spending time with them, and talking a bit about ministry, life, etc. As it turns out, none of them are too sure either. Kate is teaching (and loves it) but doesn't know if she can see herself doing that forever. Santie is in the midst of major 20's life decisions about ministry and how marriage will affect it. Gerhard is studying something involving many words, some of them being "electrical," "engineer," and "computer" but doesn't think he'll end up doing that as a career. Vaughn is a youth pastor, and is about to start studying theology, and then he'll get a masters in business in America... he thinks.

Thank God I'm not the only one.

The common thread in all these conversations (besides the quarter-life crisis potential) is the phrase "God has a plan..." That brings me back to Mary, because it also occurred to me that Mary didn't have to do anything to bear God's son. Whatever she was doing when the angel appeared, she wasn't doing it in anticipation of that event. Jesus's conception was the work of the Holy Spirit, and it was an interruption to whatever she was doing. So in other words, I can try all I want to plan and project, but God is going to let me in on the plan when God darn well pleases. I hate that.

I do draw some comfort from the fact that most of my friends are in the same boat, and we are able to encourage and learn from each other. And at least we are having fun and doing awesome things (like going to Africa), and serving God. And singing Camp song in the back of Vaughn's Dad's truck. (see below)

Lindahl, Me, Kate, Kyle, Vaughn, Gerhard

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Disselblom is lekker

Thank goodness some things are the same no matter where you are... like moderately popular bands who frequent college town venues. Last night I went with Santie to see a band, Disselblom, that was playing in Stellenbosch.... singing in Afrikaans. The music was good, and the nice thing was that I wasn't bothered with whether the lyrics were stupid, and I was under no obligation to laugh at the (many) jokes between the songs. The great part was that they played covers of "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" and "The Land Down Under." They sang in Afrikaans, then in English.

The band sounded kind of like BareNakedLadies, but with a girl who plays the keyboard and sings too. They had the stocky bald lead singer, with chunky glasses and stocky bald humor (lots of jokes about his lack of talent and cracks on his band mates). The lead guitar/singer looked like a taller friendlier Dr. McSteamy. Seriously. He was a really good singer, and sang a song in English. The chick singer was sort of an un-Goth Amy Lee, and she was pretty good too. The bass player looked like a less scary Freddie Krueger so that was kind of weird. The drummer really actually reminded me of what Garth from Wayne's World would look like, if he ever grew up, buzzed his hair, got a clean t-shirt and smart glasses. He went into this awesome drum solo, and his expression was soooo Garth. I wanted him to end with "I like to play."

After the show was over, Santie decided that I needed to meet the band because I came all the way from America (and she wanted to meet them). So we went back to where they were hanging out, and Santie introduced me and asked if we could take a picture. The girl singer called them all over, and they were like "What's going on?" I told them "Hi, I'm from America and I don't speak Afrikaans, but I liked your music!" They were all really nice and we took a group picture and it was awesome. Shame, McSteamy is married.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cape Town

After four nights of not really sleeping, I got on the plane to Cape Town on Thursday. I was tired and my excitement to see my friends turned to worries that I was going to inconvenience them. Then, as I was walking to the baggage claim, I caught a glimpse of Kate, Santie and Vaughn through the doorway, and when they saw me they started waving and jumping up and down. I waited for 10 excruciating minutes for my bag, and then got to go hug them!!! Finally!

I've been staying with Kate, and she's house-sitting at this nice house in Rondebosch, which is a suburb of Cape Town. So far, I have been to 2 churches, 2 camps, an AIDS hospice, and a Christmas Party for AIDS orphans. I've decided that I am a church tourist. I also got to see Cape Town a bit, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, several wine farms (including the first Fair Trade wine farm in SA!, a flea market, informal settlements (squatter camps), some cool parks, lots of beaches, mountains, penguins, a Huuuuuge seal, and some other wildlife. No lions yet.

One of the coolest things was playing with the orphans at the Christmas party. I started talking to them and they couldn't understand my accent, so I had to pretend to have a South African accent. That was fun. They called me "lady" and asked me to take pictures of them. Then they crowded around to see the picture on the screen. I got roped into helping with a skit for them, and we handed out food, and then gave out presents to each kid. They were so excited, and it was awesome to see the 3 and 4 year olds riding around on little plastic motorbikes that they were given. Many of these kids were from a squatter camp called Imizamo Yethu, which we drove through on the way. Seeing the conditions that these kids lived in was just so crazy... I'll post pictures when I can get a wireless connection.

Its so interesting to see how South Africa is dealing with its past. The government is dealing with squatter camps by building some housing (small generic looking houses, many smaller than an American garage), but then again they are putting millions on dollars into a new stadium for the 2010 Soccar World Cup. Its hard to judge, because even though the millions could rather feed a lot of people, the tourism and economic growth would really help the country to start competing with other countries. I think for people outside the country, the responsibility boils down to what we are willing to put our money into. Most of the people coming here in 2010 won't be concerned with whether or not the souveniers and tshirts they are buying were made in sweatshops. They won't think about whether their hotel workers are paid a fair wage. They won't see the squatter camps, because the government is putting up walls so that you can't see them from the highway.

We can judge this, because overall, we are content to do the same thing. We don't know who grew our food or made our shoes. We tune out homeless people when we walk by. It amazes me that South Africa has seen so much reconciliation in the few years since Apartheid fell. There are so many community based groups addressing poverty and AIDS, and they really do appreciate the support of the rest of the rest of the world. There is a small but growing Fair Trade tourism movement, and craft vendors that cater to tourists, but offer fairly made goods.

Thandi, a wine farm I visited was amazing. I read about this in the Lonely Planet guide to South Africa, so we stopped, and it was really encouraging. A few years ago the land was used for logging, but when the logging companies pulled out, people were left without jobs. So these people started a wine farm to create jobs. They ended up being the first Fair Trade Wine Company in South Africa, and their wines are winning awards. They are only this year starting to turn a profit. Their name is a Xhosa word for "nurturing love" and their motto is "With love we grow together." This shows that when people are willing to take an economic risk and others are willing to spend money with a conscience, it can change things.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm in South Africa!!!

I made it to Johannesburg in one piece. Now I just have to get to the airport tomorrow morning and get to Cape Town, and then I’ll be with people I know.

I got to Newark Airport and checked in and found that I was flying through Dakar. Where’s Dakar??? I found out that it is in Senegal. So, I flew to Atlanta, where I waited for four hours and saw…. A Qdoba!!! So now I know what one is. Obviously I took a picture. Just as I was sitting down on the plane in Atlanta, I got a call from Jess Howie, who just wanted to wish me a happy trip. That made me happy. I had cast on a new sock, so I started working on that and let me tell you, this new yarn I have knits up really fast. I had been pretty calm so far (about once every hour and a half, I would say to myself, “what am I doing going to South Africa alone?”), but when we started pulling away from the gate, I finally got excited. My heart started racing a little. Then we sat for another twenty minutes before take-off, so I went back to my knitting.

7 Hours later, we landed in Senegal, but weren’t allowed to get off the plane. We had to stay in our seats while they brought more food on, but they we got to stand up while they searched the entire plane (evidentially this is normal). I’m talking, under every cushion, in every pocket, etc. I spent some time listening to conversations around me. There were a dozen my age-ish Mormon guys, all in suits, on their way to do a two year stint of mission work in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana. In front of me, there was a couple who are from a church in Port Elizabeth, and were in the States because there church wants to help out in New Orleans. Wow.
After about an hour, we left Dakar. When we landed it had been dark so it wasn’t very exciting, but when we took off, Dawn was just breaking and by the time we were in the air, I could see that coast. It dawned on me that I was at the edge of Africa. I slept for a lot of that flight (which was 8 hours), but I also knitted a lot. By the time we landed, I had finished turning the heel and so now I just have to knit the foot, and then the toe.

When we landed in South Africa I was excited but also anxious. I kept thinking about Jen telling me that she threw up as soon as her plane landed in Italy. I managed to get through the airport, and to the shuttle without being kidnapped. Just as JuJu said, lots of guys told me they were taxi drivers, and the guy that pushed my luggage cart asked for “reds.” I followed JuJu’s advice and went with the green Rands. It freaked me out when I got in the shuttle, because I forgot that the drivers sit on the right side here.

Anyway, I’m at the hotel, where they have literally 7 sport channels, at least 5 news channels, an E-like channel, a movie channel, and cartoon network. I’m going to go eat soon, and then go to sleep.

I’ll be in Cape Town tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Another college tradition revived... Saturday was the one day I could have actually studied all day... and I went shopping in Georgetown with my friends from college (what we always did on Study Day). Then again, I spent the afternoon with two Catholics and an apostate Catholic, and we tend to talk about church and Bible stuff a fair bit. I'm really glad I went, though. It was so great to go out to a nice restaurant, and hang out with people my age, and have everyone get carded, and talk. After dinner at Zaytinya (featured on Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels), we walked over to the National Christmas Tree and looked at all the little trees.

I love the conversations we have...

Marti said something about the pope, and someone asked what we thought about him.
Me: He kind of scares me...
Marti: Yeah, he's not Pope John Paul II.
Me: and he seems down on the Muslims
Jen: Yeah, I'm not a fan either
Me: of Muslims? or the Pope?
Jen: The Pope.
Me: (loudly) Yeah, that guy creeps me out!!!
Random doorman in top hat, who we had just passed: ME???
All: No, the Pope!

And then when we were looking at the Christmas trees (after reading that Yule Logs were actually a tribute to Thor), we found a lighted Nativity scene of the plastic variety. And lo... there was a real blond haired, blue eyed Baby Jesus. We were amused to no end, and kind of obnoxious.

Me: Oh my gosh, its a real live blond baby Jesus!
Marti: and baby lambs!
Me: Can we get our picture taken with Jesus?
Jen: Sure! Everybody get together...
Me: I wasn't serious, but ok. This seems wrong, partly because we just ate like four baby lambs (at dinner)

Me: You know, baby Jesus kind of looks scared.
Rich: Of course he is, he's the only white man in the Middle East.
Me: So that's how they knew he was the Messiah...

Anyway, exam is over... think it went ok. I'm packing now... I leave the house in 3 hours. I didn't realize Newark Airport was so far away. I'm going to be traveling for 2 days before I get to Cape Town.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In the spirit of finals....

I only have one final, but I'm feeling very nostalgic for college, because I have so much to do before my final and I'm leaving the day after (not for home, for South Africa!!!). So, in the spirit of feeling like I'm back in college, I just checked facebook for the millionth time, I read Laura's latest blog post, and now I'm going to make a end of semester list.

Before South Africa:
  • One final
  • One week
  • No more oral typhoid vaccine pills (last one was today)
  • Finish study guide
  • Charge Conference
  • Staff Lunch (make a salad to take...)
  • Holiday Dinner in DC with College Park friends
  • Assemble/send care packages for college students from my church
  • Finalize Conference Youth Rally plans
  • Covered Dish Dinner @ Town Point
  • Put together advent reflection stations for the Covered Dish @ Town Point
  • Have a Youth Rally Info Meeting after Covered Dish @ Town Point
  • .....pack
  • Get my malaria medicine
  • Buy pressies for friends in South Africa
  • Call credit card company to alert them that I'm going to SA
  • Send-off and Closing for Chrysalis
  • I think there's more....