Sunday, April 25, 2010

do not hesitate to leave your old ways behind

do not hesitate to leave your old ways behind -
fear, silence, submission

do not hesitate to leave your old ways behind

how many "ways" - traditions, customs, practices, relationships - did i leave behind for this journey? i definitely left my old ways behind when it came to traditions and celebrations. though i hung onto some (getting up before the sun on easter morning), regardless of if they are practiced here or not, i left many traditions behind.

my birthday was celebrated, not with a party, but with birthday corn :) at a kfc in budapest. christmas had more church services than ever before, and time with family, blessing each other and sharing bread (and later dinner). easter involved singing with the rodinky in front of the church and getting doused with water the next day. the traditions have been left behind, but more than that, i have done my best to leave behind:

fear, silence, submission

fear- fear has by and large not been a part of this journey. from the start, there was a peace to the decisions to do yagm and to come to slovakia. even traveling and arriving in vienna (not speaking any german and very little slovak), i was not afraid (granted, sepp and lisa both new a lot and some german and slovak). i knew this was where god wanted me. god was placing me here and god would be with me here. so fear was left behind all the way back in february/march (of 2009) when the journey really got going.

silence- silence is a powerful thing. i have been silenced in my life and i have chosen to silence myself in solidarity with those who are forced into silence (including standing in solidarity with myself). at first it's hard to leave silence behind. when you don't really know the language, what else can you do, except be silent and listen? luckily i had help communicating in both slovak and english. i learned a lot quietly (though not silently), and my voice has been growing in this time. as i come to know my voice, my self, my ideas, my faith more, my voice grows from silence, to barely a whisper, and eventually, i am confident that it will be a voice with which i can boldly speak. sometimes i still have times of silence, but i am working on not letting the silence win.

submission- submission is different from service. submission is being placed under someone more powerful. being forced to comply with the other's every wish or desire. service is placing oneself under someone else. coming to people from a point of learning. i did not come here to silently submit. i came here to serve. occasionally, i do end up in a state of submission, but for the most part, i am here in the spirit of god for service.

i have peace in my place here, as i continue to find my voice in service, but not submission. i am leaving my old ways behind and looking ahead to the new ways to come.

do not hesitate to leave your old ways behind -
fear, silence, submission

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

my weekend with mládež in veľky slavkov

this weekend our mládež (youth group) went to veľky slavkov for a service weekend. while we were there, we stayed at the church.

we spent saturday helping with spring cleaning and other work. it involved a lot of wood. we spread woodchips for new and growing trees, moved wood to be used to heat the place, cut wood (with axes and chainsaws), cleaned up the yard (including rusted pieces of machinery), built benches, spread dirt, mad a stone patio-type thing. basically we did a lot of manual labor for the church.

here you have some (emphasis on some, as in not nearly all) of the wood we cut and moved, and the clean yard :)

friday and saturday nights were spent relaxing and playing, having a good time together. saturday we had a tema (topic/bible study) about service. the pastor who was talking to us talked about how as christians we are called into relationship with god, so that we can then be sent into the world for service. i have been reading a variety of books this year, but some of them (the ones my fellow yagm, lisa, was sent from her pastor) have been talking about a new kind of church that is in the works. this idea that this pastor was talking about is just that kind of church! it is a church where people gather together in relationship with each other and with god so that we all might go out into the world as servants.

it is through our service that we can preach the good news of a god of love. afterall, james 2:17, 18b states "so faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. ... show me your faith apart from your works, and i by my works will show you my faith." this is not to say that works are necessary, but instead that because of my faith, because of the love i experience from god, i am compelled to spread that love, to do good works in the world. it is in our commitment to bringing god's reign on earth as it is in heaven (as we pray in the lord's prayer), that we truly experience god's love. if god's love comes to us and stops with us and we don't pass it on, then we do not get the full experience of god's love. god's love is made full in relationships of mutual service in the world.

so, we went to veľky slavkov and that is what i came away with. it was fun, it was physical, it was spiritual, and it was god-filled :) oh, and did i mention there was a pretty good view?

the sunset from our rooms

the view waiting for the električka to take us to the train station then home

Sunday, April 18, 2010

don't wait for the bread to rise

don't wait for the bread to rise.
take nourishment for the journey, but eat standing.
be ready to move at a moment's notice.

don't wait for the bread to rise.

the story goes that the israelites used unleavened bread on the first passover because they didn't have time to let the bread rise and to knead it and "properly" prepare it. since then, the time around passover is the "feast of unleavened bread." yeast is eradicated from the house, because if even one bit of yeast gets in the dough, it can infect the whole thing. my decision to come to slovakia was (for me) an easy one. before i even knew it was for sure slovakia, my answer was YES! i didn't wait to wonder or question myself. i felt the holy spirit calling in that still, small voice. i felt it, i listened and i responded with joy. i answered my call before any yeast - any doubt, any discouragement - could infect the dough. god called me to a journey that was unknown by paths i had not trodden, and i took a step forward in good faith.

take nourishment for the journey, but eat standing.

i remember throughout last summer trying to think of all the foods i would miss. both of my parents made a variety of their specialties throughout the summer, as i did my best to get all the foods in that i would miss for the next year. many of the meals i had were packed in to a full schedule of saying good-byes, running from meeting, to packing, to food, to packing, to meeting, to cleaning, to food, to packing, to sleeping. did i mention packing? it was a rush (and would have been no matter how much time i would've had), but i got the nourishment i needed to leave home.

in chicago, we got a whole different kind of nourishment for our journeys. we met, as all of the yagms together, in chicago for a week of orientation, a week of spiritual nourishment. we learned logistical stuff, of course, but we were nourished with practices that would keep us together and focused throughout our years. perhaps one of the best "nourishments" i got, was learning how to be. yes, that's right. be. i am a doer by nature, but throughout my life i have been learning as well how to be. being in slovakia involves doing (i read with the kids, i teach kids about jesus and the bible, i give kids math problems, etc.), but it involves a whole lot of being, too. being in the youth group, being with people, being in the family. it is a lot of spending time with people, and knowing that and how to be it, is the greatest spiritual nourishment i could have here.

be ready to move at a moment's notice.

throughout this year, i have had a variety of experiences traveling. many of the experiences have involved at least two weeks notice (such as the service trip i just got back from in velky slavkov with our youth group). some have been changes to an itinerary once the trip had begun (such as visiting a fellow yagm, kristy, in her village in hungary while we were already there for another seminar-just tacking on a couple of days). and some involved deciding the day of (such as stef's and my day trip to terezín while we were in prague). no matter the notice (and whether or not i actually was given notice earlier and just didn't understand what they were saying is beside the point), i have done my best to be ready. in my effort to experience and know as much of slovakia (and central europe) as possible, when an opportunity arrises, if possible, i grab it as it flies by and go for the ride. so far, my willingness and eagerness to go with others has led to many memorable and meaningful experiences.

don't wait for the bread to rise.
take nourishment for the journey, but eat standing.
be ready to move at a moment's notice.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

pack nothing.

pack nothing.
bring only your determination to serve
and your willingness to be free.

pack nothing.

i clearly failed in the physical meaning of that. i packed a lot, all things that i actually have used (except for a couple of emergency items, which i am glad to not have used). i was proud of my packing ability. keeping within the weight limit and not packing more than i could handle (albeit, slowly). but, upon further examination, maybe pack nothing doesn't have to do so much with the physical things i packed in my suitcase, but my expectations.

i did my best in preparing for slovakia to not have expectations. i tried not to get my hopes up, but to be realistic that 1-i didn't know what i'd be doing and 2-life (especially abroad) is not always positive. once i was at our orientation in bratislava, i did take a day to write down (after having met my host family briefly) some of my expectations. they were mainly general things: expecting to get along pretty well with my family, to experience love (not the romantic kind), to share, create, and learn stories; to have work connected to roma and not explicitly connected to roma, to feel lonely at some point, to learn, to find god and deepen my relationship with god, and, of course, to go through every emotion imaginable. so, while i packed some things, they were general and i was intentional about not packing a lot of expectations.

bring only your determination to serve

done. definitely got that one down. i brought that. why was i coming here if it was not to serve? i came to serve, not to be served. in being here, however, i have been served. i have come to know god more deeply through the service of others. by coming here to serve and to learn, i came here without assumptions of superiority. i did not come as "the american missionary," i came as emily, young adult in a global mission of service. it has taught me more than i ever could have learned if i had come here to teach. and it has brought me to a place of mutual service with those around me, those i work with. we all serve each other in a variety of ways. each different, but all meaningful.

and your willingness to be free

what could that mean? am i free? my willingness to be free to love? free from sin? free for service? i am willing and determined to be free to share in god's love with all of god's precious and beloved children. my freedom cannot happen alone. i cannot be free if others are not. perhaps that is the "free" of which we are speaking.

archbishop desmond tutu articulates (quite well) a concept called "ubuntu." he defines ubuntu as the understanding that "my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours." if we take this understanding of ubuntu and apply it to freedom. then my freedom is caught up, is inseparably connected and dependent upon your freedom. and so, my willingness to be free, requires that all are free. we cannot free others, but we can, together, work for our freedom as children of a god who loves greater and more fully than any of us could ever imagine. my willingness to be free must also be my willingness for the world to be free. free to love, free to serve, free to live.

pack nothing.
bring only your determination to serve
and your willingness to be free.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

passover remembered recalled

allelujah!! christ is risen!!!

last night, monika (pastor, host mom, etc) and i put on a seder meal, or passover, for the mládež. there are pictures and the story to come, but in the meantime it got me thinking about the poem passover remembered. this poem has been extremely meaningful to me since i first heard it at our orientation/training in chicago before we headed out to our countries. so, i've decided to do a weekly reflection on the poem. reflecting on each stanza-ish. i definitely do not promise that any of these will be very meaningful to you, or deep, or profound, or anything. but they will be mine and you can take what you would like from them :) so, for now, here is the poem in its entirety:

"Passover Remembered"
By Alla Bozarth-Campbell

Pack nothing.
Bring only your determination to serve
and your willingness to be free.

Don't wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey, but eat standing.
Be ready to move at a moment's notice.

Do not hesitate to leave you old ways behind -
fear, silence, submission.
Only surrender to the need of the time -
love justice and walk humbly with your God.

Do not take time to explain to the neighbors.
Tell only a few trusted friends and family members.
Then begin quickly, before you have had time
to sink back into old slavery.

Set out in the dark.
I will send fire to warm and encourage you.
I will be with you in the fire, and I will be with you in the cloud.

You will learn to eat new food
and find refuge in new places.
I will give you dreams in the desert
to guide you safely to that place you have not yet seen.
The stories you tell one another around the fires in the dark
will make you strong and wise.

Outsiders will attack you, and some follow you
and at times you will get weary and turn on each other
from fear, fatigue and blind forgetfulness.

You have been preparing for this
for hundreds of years.

I am sending you into the wilderness to make a new way
and to learn my ways more deeply.

Some of you will be so changed by weathers and wanderings
that even your closest friends will have to learn your features
as though for the first time.

Some of you will not change at all.

Some will be abandoned by your dearest loves
and misunderstood by those who have known you since birth
who feel abandoned by you.

Some will find new friendships in unlikely faces,
and old true friends as faithful and true
as the pillar of God's flame.

Sing songs as you go,
and hold close together.
You may at times grow confused
and lose your way.

Continue to call each other by the names I've given you
to help remember who you are.
Touch each other,
and keep telling the stories.

Make maps as you go,
remembering the way back from before you were born.
So you will be only the first of many waves
of deliverance on the desert seas.
It is the first of many beginnings -
your Paschaltide.

Remain true to the mystery.
Pass on the whole story.
Do not go back.
I am with you now and I am waiting for you.