Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"WOW" Week & Union exchange group

The week started with a "bang" so to speak as the exchange group from Union Univ. decorated my apartment in real red, white and blue along with dozens of flags and such-- here is the winning team for the "States Quiz" (Ben, one of the hosts; Mike, a new student from Minnesota we just met; David, engineering students, & Kris, far right, on our staff, who really does have a lot of trivia knowledge!).Just an overview shot of my living room... :-)
Wednesday we had pasta parties in 3 locations with over 40 total! I attended the one in the Schunter dormitory, where our host was Toni.
Bowling night was tons of fun! Afterwards several students tried their hand at mechanical "bull riding." Here I am with Mike, Alessandro (from Italy), Jan, Peter (whom we met 1 year ago with the Union group), Kris and Zach (from Union).
One of our contact table days, here at Mensa 2 (student cafeteria).
Thanks for all those who send words of encouragement during this crazy- packed week! It was all worth it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

vision for the next generation

Some of you were praying for our "vision trip" last week to Colorado Springs! And a few of you (so far) have given funds to make it possible. THANKS so much! It was literally mind- blowing and revolutionary to be at the Life Impact conference, and walk around with some really godly people!
4 of our staff from Germany and Spain flew over for various lengths of trips, to visit churches and share the vision of what we're doing with Connexxion. Above are: Jake (former exchange student in Sevilla & active in Connexxion there for 1 year; from Wyoming), Abraham (staff, Sevilla), Charlie Anne (she runs the Student Work Development Foundation office in Norman, OK, where people invest in our ministry), and Maggie & Hendrik (staff leaders, Sevilla).
We spent times during our meals and such with great leaders, such as the "kingpin" of the whole Life Impact conference idea, Max Barnett. He and Sandra have touched so many lives with their ministry for over 35 years in Oklahoma with collegiates, and he's now leading campus ministry for Colorado.
Dad was one of the teachers for a main session. There were about 340 students and campus leaders attending this week. They had to create 2 overflow rooms because of the demand.
What do you know?! Sort of a metaphor for life-- we're sitting on the "balancing rock" at Garden of the Gods, just a stone's throw from Glen Eyrie, where the conference was held.
What an amazing team I'm privileged to work with in Europe. (above, Birthe, on staff with Connexxion in Braunschweig; me, Hendrik, Maggie, Abraham, & Jake). Jake studies at Moody in Chicago but took extra time to drive Abe up to Wyoming where he shared with 3 churches about Connexxion. Now Maggie and Hendrik have gone out to California and then to Jacksonville, FL, where they're speaking in churches literally "coast to coast" about reaching post-modern students in Europe with the Good News.


I have a new theme word in my life. It's "home." It came to me during an intense and revealing conversation I had over Christmas break (for those of you wondering, I still talk like a college student, with stuff like Christmas "break," because I work with university students!)...

This song about feeling like you're a "Stranger" by Mandi Mapes has such a great folksy, "unplugged" sound to it, and I can listen to her sing over and over ... the words sort of fit with this theme.

I believe living in 4 different countries (and 3 USA states) over time has given me a fresh perspective about what it feels like to BE home. It's more about familiarity, but also involves creating comfortable things in newer surroundings. Such as a routine habit or place (e.g., using the same hair salon or learning the name of the man, Antonio, at the kiosk where you buy your bus tickets). Or food (salsa and tortilla chips). Or using an old, favorite object (such as an April Cornell tablecloth I got in Boston or a happy photo) to make a new place seem more like a reminder than a shock.

Sometimes (well, often!) a part of me must change and adapt, so that I become like the surrounding culture, and thus, make things more familiar for me (the result is that going back to that "other home" starts to feel somewhat strange!). It may be a change in accent or drawl, or even language. Or learning to enjoy advantages in the new times to eat my meals. Or how to handle recycling. Or something more drastic, like what is considered polite versus rude or too frank!

There's BEING at home, and I also practice how to TRAVEL "home." While in college, I determined that wherever I went over Christmas or in the summer -- whether towards my family in another state, or back to my dorm room, that Texas drawl and those red brick campus buildings-- I was always "going home."

To OFFER a "home," such as when people have come over regularly for hanging out, or a meal or Bible study. I love the idea of fellowship and being together & that my apartment isn't mine (it had to grow on me, sometimes), but belongs to Jesus. So if something breaks, or gets worn out, or if my place is needed by someone even when I'm out of town-- hey, that's what it's there for. Not a showcase or museum, but a life- giving haven to be inviting and used (-up). Cozy! When Mom wanted to give me her silver, I "warned" her that it was too precious to be saved for a couple times a year, so I was going to enjoy this treasure daily, but would that be all right. And I believe Jesus wants to provide a sense of belonging to all who enter our flats or condos or trailers. I'll never forget what my buddy Derek in Vancouver once said. He said that entering the home of a church planter, Randy, was like walking into "jello love"-- and that that type of love convinced him these people (and God) were real. Never forgotten that image-- Jello love! :-)

But of course the main thing about LIVING OUT "home" involves people. Family-- definitely! But since I don't see family that often, finding people whom I care about is crucial and life- sustaining to my soul. As well as finding those who care about me... even if I have to maintain that friendship over the miles (too often the case, I'm afraid). The problem is-- relationships are messy. And I am far, far from perfect. So without any "definitive" ties to friends, you can just let them go. Or you give up. Either because of distance and time or you're lazy. Or from conflicts or the weariness of "doing life together" -- these friendships can slip away from you, and thus, a part of "home" is now lacking. Here are some verses I came across while doing Beth Moore's Bible study, "Stepping Up."

Psalm 126:6 - "He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him."

Psalm 127:1 - "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."
Do you know the tears that come, not only from not getting what you want from life or friendships or family, or from your "sowing" in God's Kingdom, but from missing that sense of home? I feel that I'm learning to trust God in even greater ways, to stick with people. To sense what God is telling me, see with His eyes, and not give up. But also to realize, in some sense, that nothing I can do can make a "home" (house), but only God can build it. Whether that be a literal house (getting a new mortgage rate, or having kids), or figurative (creating a space or relationships, for you, to be YOU).

That must come as a gift from God. I guess that's what I wish for in this new year.
(P.S. Above is a photo of mom, her last Christmas when she was well. That's a big piece of "home" that I miss this time of year, and around the calendar, too. She passed away January 6, 2010).

What is "home" for you? In what way have you chosen to embrace a lifestyle or path that rejects this world as being your home?