Saturday, May 26, 2007

Movie Memories

This afternoon, a bunch of us went to see the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie. As the movie ended and the credits came up on the screen, the closing music suddenly brought back memories of when I watched the first Pirates movie in the theater. I started thinking back on where I've been when I've seen each of the three movies in the series. (Ok, this sounds a little cheesy, but just go with me.)

Pirates 1:
July, 2003. Denver, Colorado. I went to see it with four girls who'd become my good friends during a program in publishing at the University of Denver. I was just finishing up the program and anticipating the beginning of my career in the publishing industry. I had no idea where the next few months and years would lead. They ended up leading to a job in the Bay area, where I was for the second Pirates movie...

Pirates 2:
June, 2006. Palo Alto, California. I went to see it with my roommate Joyce and some of her friends. I was questioning career decisions in the midst of changes at work, and rethinking life direction in general. I was also in the middle of the application process for NieuCommunities, which led to me coming to South Africa for ten months, where I am now for the third Pirates movie...

Pirates 3:
May, 2007. Pretoria, South Africa. I went to see the movie today with apprentices, staff, kids, and friends--to celebrate the birthday of Kyle, one of the staff kids. I'm in the middle of this year of exploring a calling to mission, and again have no idea where the coming months and years will lead.

I've always had a thing for looking back. I'll often pull out old journals and look back at "a year ago today," to see where I was, what I was doing, what I was thinking about, what God was doing in my life. Well, a year ago at this time, I was right here in South Africa. I came here for two weeks on a "Road Trip," hoping to further explore a calling to mission and to see if this place and this organization was something God might be calling me to.

Coming full circle--on Monday, five Road Trippers will arrive here at Pangani, for a 2-week experience of their own. The next two weeks are going to be really, really busy, since we're keeping up with all our usual community and ministry activities. Sometimes we'll join in with the Road Trip activities, sometimes they'll join in with our ministries and apprenticeship learning conversations. And sometimes both will be going on simultaneously. I'm looking forward to this time--to seeing the ways God will work in the lives of the those who will be here for the Road Trip. At the same time, I'm looking back at my time here last year, thinking back on all that God did in my heart and life during that time, all the things that added up to bring me back here, to where I am now.

A common question among the apprentices in the past few weeks has been: "What do you think you'll do at the end of the year?" Pretty much universally, the answer for all of us has been: "I have no idea." Ok, we have some ideas. But none of us know for sure. That kind of unknown quantity always unsettles me. But this week, I've been surprisingly contented with, and even excited about the unknown.

I think one reason I like looking back so much is that it helps me to see glimpses of how things fit together. When I reflect on all of the pieces God has put together so far in order to bring me here, it gives me hope in the moving forward. I know that where I'll be a year from now is in His hands and that He's drawing me there even now, though I can't yet see exactly what or where "there" is.

And I wonder: will there be a fourth Pirates movie? Where will I be then?!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Inviting and Being Invited

This is the first week of our inviting posture, so one of the things we've been talking about is inviting as a way of moving deeper in relationships here. We're planning an event we're calling a "Global Awareness Experience"--it's designed to help those who attend gain a better awareness of different levels of poverty in the world. We were challenged on Tuesday morning to start inviting people to this event--people already connected with our NC community, people we work with in ministry, and others we've met in the area. I'd decided to invite some of the women from Granny's family, and was hoping to talk with them in person on Wednesday. But instead, we were challenged to do the inviting on Tuesday afternoon, mostly so we could talk about the process in our conversation on Wednesday morning. This meant I needed to do my inviting over the phone.

1. I really don't like talking on the phone, unless it's someone I know really well.
2. Making a phone call myself is even higher on the list of things I don't like to do.
3. Communicating over the phone is even harder when there's a language/accent barrier.
4. There are some aspects of this dinner/event that are better experienced than explained beforehand, so giving details was going to be complicated already.
5. Sigh.

It was late afternoon on Tuesday before I talked myself into picking up the phone and making some calls. I called Emily's cell phone, and invited her and her husband Solomon to come to the event, trying to explain what we would be doing without explaining too much. When I asked if she thought they'd be able to come, she said "I will try my best!" I asked her to talk about it with Solomon and let me know on Wednesday what they thought about coming, and she said, "I have no problems!" =)

The next afternoon, I was out at Granny's as usual, and when Emily had to leave a little early, she asked me to walk with her to the corner. She asked about the event, saying she couldn't understand me very well on the phone the day before. I explained things a little more, and she said she would like to come. On the walk back to Granny's, I invited Anna (who I'd tried to get hold of on the phone the day before, with no success). She also said she'd like to come, and we decided that she'd maybe bring her sister Christinah as well, come by taxi, and that I'd drive them home afterwards.

We ended up not doing the usual Bible study on Wednesday, since we'd gotten there later than normal. Since we were just hanging out, I had more time to talk one-on-one with several of the women that I've been getting to know. Sarah and I were talking with Sophia, one of Anna's daughters, when Sophia said to me, "I heard that you are looking for women to study the Bible with." Doug usually meets with several of the guys on Fridays to read the Bible together, and I've been talking with him about doing a Bible study or just meeting with the women in the family at the same time on Fridays. I'd also mentioned something to Emily and Anna about this earlier in the evening, saying we'd have to talk about what we could do together while Doug was off with the guys. I guess word travels fast. =) Sophia pointed to herself and said, "Me and Champagne. We want to read the Bible with you." (Champagne is another of Granny's older granddaughters.) Then a little later, Anna called me aside and said that Sophia and Champagne wanted to come to the Global Awareness event as well--would it be ok if they came, too? I told her of course!

As I left Granny's that evening, I realized that in this first week focused on inviting, I ended up being the recipient of invitations, far more than being the one doing the inviting. I'm often reticent in extending invitations, wondering whether my invitation is wanted or welcomed. I've started to see the other side of it--I know how welcomed it makes me feel when others invite me into their lives, and I want to make others feel welcomed in this way, too. God's been teaching me this in many ways, but this week especially I've seen these tentative invitations of mine be warmly accepted by Granny's family as they embrace me and invite me into their lives as well.