i would get these days most weeks working at camp a bunch; you know those times when the days last like weeks themselves, when every hour seems so full of everything and anything, when a day is almost endless, when an hour has unlimited possibilities for productivity. these have been my weeks. two weeks ago steph and i completed our time at our respective places of employment and then spent the next two days in non-stop packing and cleaning. our small group and others came over that last saturday and loaded up the moving truck in about an hour. we turned in the keys, went to lunch with our friends, and then drove north. we unloaded the truck into steph’s grandparent’s basement (our material lives in a pile of boxes), saving what we needed to live on. a day with the family and then off to training at international teams headquarters, where we have lived for the last week, sitting everyday from 8.30 to 5 in classes made to prepare us for this life ahead in some distant land.
it is strange to say goodbye to a place at which you have worked for just about two years. i remember hanging out with josh in the early days of my return from rome, and now i recall turning out the lights the final time, letting the last song on my well over-played playlist fade to a close. and then riding my bike home. there was room in those two years to leave now with a lot of bitterness, but whatever could be improved upon or made better and may have caused any frustration was overshadowed, gracefully, by the relationships made, by ending on a good note. i learned a lot about myself in the last several months being the boss in the warehouse. i saw in me leadership abilities i didn’t believe were there. my eyes have been opened to new possibilities for my own life, especially in the new world ahead of us. so sometimes the politics of the non-profit world are ridiculous, but i don’t care at this point. i could forget all that to be with good people and grow and learn. so part of me is very glad that my time at salt and light is over. and another part is sad for the ending. but either way, i recognize that these two years there have served a very important purpose in my life and i do not regret it.
as i drove the big truck north, steph following behind in the car, i thought about how we’d still be around in the area for a couple months probably. we’d see many of these friends again. we’ll cross the other, long-term bridge of good-byes when we come to it. the steps ahead are hazy ones. training ends in another two weeks. we will be back down in champaign on march 24th for a african themed sunday at windsor road in which we will take some part. but that, as of right now, is our last illinois engagement. between training’s end and the windsor thing, we will take advantage of the swick family hospitality. we’ll travel west then, seeing friends and family; colorado, arizona, california, oregon, and finally to washington to spend time in my parent’s spare rooms, fundraising along the way. or rather, asking people to mesh part of their stories with the larger story of the gospel in rwanda. but that’s a paradigm shift for another day. the tentative departure date depends on the funds; they don’t let us buy tickets to go until 100% is raised. we have budget meetings later this week. if we are at that goal by early summer at the latest, we’ll peace out, start a new chapter. and then come back in october so that steph can be maid of honor in her best friend’s wedding. then go back. if the funds aren’t in, we will hang out in america until the wedding and leave hopefully soon after. but we want to make sure if we go early that we have enough time in rwanda for that to make sense. so that’s the plan.
training is this: sitting in chairs in the same room five days a week, from 8.30am to 5pm with occasional breaks. sound fun? it is. the things we are learning and the people we are meeting and the stories we are hearing make it. even the finance and insurance sections were great. i kid you not i enjoyed them! because i am learning something from them, murky ideas are becoming much clearer, and even the ‘boring’ parts are all a piece of the larger picture of us living out this dream we’ve had. we are being prepared for that time. and we are building on some excellent relationships. we are rooming with a couple from indiana that we met (and roomed with) this summer at orientation. they have been in nicaragua since september learning spanish and meeting people in the area where they will live in the coming years. and there are others, headed to zambia, ecuador, spain. what stories are being passed around; what stories will be added!
international teams itself grows and changes in bits and pieces during all this. they are refining the design and implementation of what they call the ‘2020 vision,’ of seeing fifty communities start up around the globe by 2020 where no one is invisible and everyone has access to food, freedom and forgiveness. and that is just the very simple way of putting it. but the vision is impressive, Christ-centered, gospel-powered, biblical, moving, inspiring, i could go on. but it’s not just this vision that i like, that it sounds cool, and would do good. i like more the fact that there are great verses to back it up, that in my studies of the gospels and the acts of the apostles i have seen this kind of vision played out and/or alluded to. and maybe we can be some part of the Jesus-following world, embracing new and brilliant ways of sharing His life and love, not only preaching, and not only handing out food, but an integration of the two, always working alongside, with, the people anywhere, everywhere. two staff members teared up at one meeting today, when talking about the acts chapter 2 church, and the fact that we are players in this majestic, beautiful story of redemption. God’s story. are we so blessed to be included? what is man that He should be mindful of us? i get the watery eyes too with this stuff. if you haven’t yet checked out the website, i strongly encourage it: http://www.iteams.us. check out the 2020 stuff at the top.
at the close of the first week of training the president and ceo of international teams, scott olson, had us all gather in the chapel and spoke to us about this interesting thing called God’s calling. do people get a spiritual voice or prophecy? sometimes. but not always. and that’s part of the point. because a new wave, scott has noticed, of ministry workers has been growing up and has been signing up to serve overseas because they are trying to follow a life of the Kingdom and such a move makes sense. his beef was with the old guys of the organization asking about this ‘calling’ over any other qualifications. do we have a ‘calling’, or are we moved by compassion and love? is that not a calling in itself? is there a right way or a wrong way? probably not, as long as favoring one way doesn’t exclude the other. are steph and i less ‘spiritual’ because our lives took us here and we stepped out in faith and God met us, even without a flash of light or a heavenly voice? probably not. we’re just how God made us. and we stepped out in faith. for us this is a key component of the whole process, that we had to be faithful to the desires that we believe God had placed inside of us, even when it felt weird to do so. but it was us being faithful, and through all the doubt that often grew up in our way, we kept taking the steps placed before us because we felt and feel still that perhaps our lives don’t make sense unless lived for His Kingdom.
just over two years ago i wrote the following in a blog post just before leaving rome after three months of working with african and middle eastern refugees. i think it is still very true for me today:
‘i just feel in awe today. shaken. humbled. amazed. blessed to a overwhelming degree. like the feeling i get when i am given a car, or when people fix said car when it has broken, or give me a guitar, or bless me with oil changes or plane tickets to europe, or money in general to do what i want to do and feel called to do in this world. i mean, here it is! i am engaging with a very high number of other cultures and people groups; i am learning languages and bits of languages; i am having spiritual conversations where i get to tell people about the great love of God; i am building amazing friendships. and this is exactly the sort of thing that i want to do! i want to talk about Jesus, and live on miracles, and learn and grow and experience life with people from all around the world….. i am waiting for a day when God will make all things new. but until then, how can i not do His work?’