July 21, 2010
This last week has left me a little confused about what I should feel or how I should act.
Albert, Nathan, and I helped lead a summer English camp for over 160 children. Sunday we rode a bus for two hours with our families so we could spend one glorious day at a swimming pool escaping from the dust. Last night we found out that a family friend, a 15-year-old boy, died because of an act of violence. And in four days we will be leaving Chimalhuacan forever.
The kid’s camp can be characterized by one word: madness. Getting 160 kids under the age of 12 to sit still and learn English (while speaking Spanish) was quite the adventure. I feel proud of what Nathan, Albert and I accomplished.
On Sunday we rode a bus for two hours with our host families so we could spend one glorious day at a swimming pool and escape the dust. It was nothing but pure joy, and I saw plenty of it in the faces of my host parents as they playfully pushed and shoved each other into the freezing water. I feel joy and thankfulness for being embraced as a beloved family member that day.
The first news I received about the young boy’s death was through the tears of my host sister, though they didn’t last long when I showed up. She was a good friend of his, and watching her experience these things and still put on a happy face for me is difficult. I very much feel sad and confused as to why such a tragedy would happen. Even more deeply, I feel sorrow for my host sister – and a loss of what to do or how to communicate that sorrow with respect and love.
I have four days left here in my new home, and that is difficult for me to think about. Daily my host family says something along the lines of, “Kelly, don’t go,” and every time I hear that I want to say that I’ll be back. But honestly, we all know that I might not, at least not for a long time. I feel incredible grief at not knowing when I’ll see my new family again, if ever.
Carrying all of these feelings at once is a hard, hard thing to do. It would be much easier to focus on one or completely check out altogether and say, “I only have to survive until Friday; then I can feel again.” But I don’t want to do that. I want to embrace these feelings, dig my teeth into every second of every day, and be brave enough to see truth in this community and in myself. I know that’s something I’m not able to do on my own, but then again I haven’t been able to do much on my own this trip. Happily, with trusting God comes a new feeling: peace. And that is one I will gladly add to the list.
July 9, 2010
The more I take time to process/think about the things I have learned and experienced on this trip, the more I feel God calling me to live out a more meaningful and abundant life.
We had the privilege of spending the weekend with a local missionary at our mid-project retreat. He led theology classes on the human purpose, explaining we were made to be in shalom with and through God. Shalom is the combination of five relationships: relationship with ourselves, God, others, environment, and systems (political, religion, economics).
Throughout the years I have been infatuated with having a stable and well paying job with some fancy corporation in the United States. I hoped to be decently well off with finances; that was my main goal.
Many people told me “God will break your expectations on this trip.” Oh indeed he has: my view of life and how to live it has completely flipped.
Previously, I couldn’t imagine a lifestyle that did not revolve around making money and being successful, and obtaining a nice suburban home with a picket fence. But now I can no longer work for each and every paycheck. I believe God is calling me to something more, more than working for money and being satisfied with success.
What good is it to live, work and make myself comfortable? I don’t know completely what profession God has planned for me. But I do know that the work I choose must benefit others more than myself.
I can confidently say that I must choose a job/career not for the income, but for the good it serves people, the kingdom of God, and all his creation. So a stable, well-paying job in a fancy corporation (accountant at Nike), or an employer who mistreats employees (sweat shop labor in Vietnam) is not worthy of my work and time. compared to a low paying job in small company/partnership (accountant at TOMS shoe company) that offers fair labor and wages to its employees, and serves people (donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every shoe purchase). This is a step closer to bringing Shalom and God´s kingdom to the earth as it is in heaven.
I believe God is asking his children to prioritize Shalom over finances. God does not ask or intend for us to be poor. He asks us to choose a work and life that will benefit the whole (people, environment, God) rather than just ourselves.
July 1, 2010
I wish there were words I could string together in such a way that whoever reads this blog could experience what I’m experiencing in this dusty new home of mine, but I’m finding that there are no words that do justice to Chimalhuacan. The words are never enough.
How can I transfer onto a page the smell of the neighbor’s yard that’s filled with donkeys, ducks, and guinea pigs, or the taste of onions grilled at the corner taco stand, or the grittiness of the dust as it rushes behind my contacts even when it’s not windy? How can I explain how proud I was when my host-dad not only understood my joke but laughed as well, or the helplessness I felt when I wanted to ask my host-sister how her day was but didn’t know how, or the elation I felt when I finally beat my eight-year-old host-brother in Mortal Combat? I can’t. These experiences step beyond the limits of words.
Then again, I’ve been very limited with words lately, limited to the stacks of Spanish vocabulary sitting somewhere around the “High School Memories” section of my brain. I’ve had to express more with smiles and gestures, content in the awkward silences, realizing that being is more important than saying. This hasn’t been a comfortable or easy lesson to learn, and it’s spilled over into my understanding of God as well.
When God and I spend time together these days, we’re quiet. Sometimes the silence is awkward, sometimes I fall asleep in the middle of them. Still, no matter the interaction we have, I understand that he is with me. That’s the greatest comfort, because I’m beginning to learn that the life of a foreigner can be a lonely one, and that I need to depend solely on him to satisfy my needs of love and friendship. And I’ve seen that whether through his presence or through other people, he provides.
My teammate Nathan wrote this poem last night, and it expresses perfectly how this lack of words can be difficult, powerful, and life changing all at once. The fact that I have learned and experienced this truth, and for many other reasons I cannot express, I am grateful and happy to be here.
“We played soccer tonight, Albert, a host sister and I. The night was cool as we crunched gravel underfoot, following the evening lights at the sports complex. We kicked the ball around for a bit, footing about on the basketball court. Eventually our movements attracted the attentions of three local kids. They wanted to join. I never really saw their faces, and they never really saw mine. In shadowy anonymity we chased after, passed, and shot the ball. Soundless, save the scuffling of feet on cement and the occasional exclamation of exuberance or dismay, we ran. They did not know us, and we did not know them. But we all knew the game. I have been waiting for this evening ever since we arrived.”
June 28, 2010 - Healthy Homesick
I have been in Mexico City for approximately two weeks, and I have been blessed.
While serving the community in Lomas, most of my time has been spent building relationships with my host family and teaching English classes at the local schools. It’s been great: God is giving me the experience of living selflessly.
Each and every day that I wake up here in Mexico City, there is nothing to do but serve and be with the people here. God is really putting Philippians 2:3-4 in my life and allowing me to apply it. The verse says to do nothing out of selfishness and always think of others before yourself. So only being able to serve brings God and his kingdom glory.
Even though the Trek has so far been a good experience, God has taken me out of my comfort zone. I have been struggling the past several days, knowing that I am completely away my loved ones. The distance and lack of communication has brought a new understanding of how much I love and care for people back home.
Each day this week, I’ve been working with Amextra (our partnering organization) and teaching at the local schools. But each night when I come back from a day full of work, I sit down and think about home. I am beginning to carry a burden in my heart for people at home; I even began to tear up recently, as I wondered if they were healthy, sleeping well, eating well, stress-free or having down time (I tend to worry too much for my own good). I realized how much I miss home and care for the people there.
This realization is typical and probably a little healthy. But I am beginning to wonder if I am following Jesus with everything. In Mark 1: 16-20 Jesus asked Simon and Andrew to drop everything – including their work and father – to become his followers. Their work and family was everything and they gave it up to follow Jesus.
My family and loved ones are the equivalent; they are my everything and what I hold dearest to my heart. I’m not saying God is asking me to leave all the people I love; but he is asking me to always keep Jesus as first priority and the center of my life. To truly carry this homesickness is a huge struggle for me as I am not being in the present. God has put me here for a reason, so I must continue and finish strong serving Him.
As I continue my journey here in Mexico City, I ask that you continue to pray for me, that I will always keep Jesus dear to my heart, the first priority and the center of my life. Life has no meaning but to serve and bless God and his kingdom.