Thursday, July 31, 2008

look what I did today!!

I'm the top one with the boogie board.

Above: That's me! Ridin' a wave!!

Below: Instructor Jaron and me after an afternoon of waves.

Chillin' with the Rohdes

Back in the college days, I had this friend named Joel. One weekend, Joel took me to his family's home in the metropolis of Wilton, IA. I had heard stories of this lively family, but even those couldn't have prepared me for what I was to enter into. Mark and Lisa, whom I occasionally affectionately refer to as Ma and Pa Rohde, greeted me with open arms, offered to do my laundry, and fed me extravagantly all weekend. In addition to Ma and Pa and Joel, there was Jake (a humorous, baseball-loving, high school senior), Jaron (a pig-collecting freshman), and Jase (honestly, your typical 8th grade boy that sat in the back of a van and poked me incessently). All of the boys were active in many sports which warranted the "Don't mind the nut cups, we use them as candy dishes around here" comment Lisa made within the first five minutes I was in her house. Within days I discovered this quirky family loves Jeopardy, Mario Kart, baseball, and trampolines. That weekend was only a small taste of their hospitality. Two years later, they converted their backyard into a campsite for about 20 college students!

That weekend forged a realtionship much unexpected. I've gotten to hang out around through weddings and babies and transitions. Seven years later, Mark and Lisa live in California where God has called them as advocates and caregivers for foster children. Joel married his college sweetheart, incidently so did Jake. Jaron is a committed marine, and Jase is still a somewhat annoying, but highly loveable college coed.

I can't imagine a trip to California that didn't include a trip to their house, and just as I thought, Ma Rohde has fed me extravagently, offered to do my laundry, and ordered me to relax. It's always great to spend time with family on the other side of the "world."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

the fresno leg of the journey

Both yesterday and today have been spent with the folk of Frenso Institute for Urban Leadership ( Fiful is the parent "organization" for all of IV's urban stuff going on in Fresno...the summer internship, the week long plunges, the weekend dips, and the 10 month Pink House (as well as a few other things). Fresno has the highest number of concentrated poverty in the nation, and ya know what? God is at work here! There is no way of denying it. I've not yet seen an inner city so full of non-profits, churches, and relocators that are committed to their neighbors. Committed to revitalization. Committed to the shalom of the city.

My stop here in Fresno has mostly been about listening and learning. I have a lot more processing to do which means I'm not really in a great state to write.

I will say, however, that I can't believe how much humidity really effects the way weather feels. It's been in the mid to upper 90s here (same as St. Louis). We've done a fair amount of walking, and I've yet to actually sweat. In St. Louis, I would be drenched! And they have these really cool things called "swamp coolers." Apparently they put humidity into the air and help cool down the house/building. They don't work in humid environment hence the reason I had never heard of them.

That's the short update for tonight. More to come as I process and travel on...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

from 77 to 100 degrees in 3 hours

Today was mostly uneventful. I went to church with Josh and Margie. They go to a small church located in their community in Oakland. I wouldn't say that their actual church service spoke to me, but their sense of community and they way they live it out is very attractive. Throughout my stay in Oakland, Josh and Margie would refer to community meals, invite people from the community to do various things, and even had housemates. There is just a genuine sense in the air that they need each other, and is evident in their actions.

After church, I said goodbye to the Harpers and to Oakland and headed out toward the mountains in my little rental. As I drove through them and on to the other side, I watched the thermometer in the car climb from 77 to 100 degrees, all the while wishing it were just a dream.

The dry grass transformed the mountains into sand dunes to these midwestern eyes. And I marveled at the long roads lined by tall palm trees.

I arrived at the White house in Fresno, a house and people that I had read about in books. To walk in the front door, to sit at the dinner table, to simply be felt as though I had stepped into the book; as if I were a character on the fringes.

I'm excited to see what I will learn here, to get a brief glimpse at the amazing way the Lord is working in Fresno, and to sit at the feet of a very wise couple for a short time.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

if you're going to san francisco...

I awoke to the sun in my eyes this morning, like a small child standing at your bedside begging for attention. It took me a moment to remember where I was…oh yeah, in West Oakland in a house owned by World Impact with another of the IV teams. I had arrived the night before and spent some time learning about what their project site is all about before delving into a riveting game of Outburst Junior. Although this team was not as eager to share or ask questions, I did learn that they spend their days with kids and participate in many of the community events and happenings that World Impact sponsors; one of those being a community breakfast which I attended this morning.

When we arrived at the World Impact building, we were greeted enthusiastically by Hendrick. The stories of this man, shared the night before, had left me thinking of him as a bit insane, in a non-threatening way of course. Meeting him in person did nothing to dispel those thoughts. When he spotted the IV team coming up the sidewalk, Hendrick threw open the door and then his arms, spouting off rapid little hellos as each intern passed through. Without saying anything, he grabbed my hand and did a version of a secret handshake as if I were to know it. It wasn’t until another moment in the morning that we actually exchanged words, the gist of them being “Oakland needs me.”

We worked our way out back to the patio/playground where about 20 people, many homeless, were waiting to be let in the gate. Hendrick unlocked it, greeted everyone, said a prayer, and stepped back as they did a half run half walk to get to the line. Hendrick remained at the gate, attempting to greet them as they flew by in eagerness for the meal. I was not able to stay long, but just long enough to find out that Hendrick had started cooking the breakfast at midnight, and that one of the volunteers had come to Berkley for graduate school from West Frankfort, Illinois, a small town outside of St. Louis.

I saw San Francisco today. Josh and I started at Twin Peaks, the highest point in the city. The view from the top was an essential introduction to the city as you could see from ocean to bay. After driving the streets, we stopped at The Painted Lady houses, a television icon for my generation. Golden Gate park shined as the home of the botanical gardens, two art museums, a Chihuly exhibit, and a plethora of tall palm trees. The path through the park led us to the ocean—one of only a handful of times I’ve seen the clear water. We fought the hordes of tourists, cyclists, and joggers at the Golden Gate Bridge to find ourselves at the center of the rusty red structure discussing people who commit suicide in its arms. God redeemed that conversation by showing us a dolphin, a rare sighting in the area. The last leg of our journey was through the Haight-Ashbury District and down Lombard: the Crookedest Street in the World.

Josh left me at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 where I discovered WWII vessels including a submarine and a ship built by women, clam chowder, sea lions, and the bushman. I hopped over to Ghiradelli Square, and then walked to Chinatown and Union Square. After exploring the 4-story Old Navy, I rode the bart (UNDER THE BAY!!!) back to my 24 hour home in West Oakland.

The team I am bunking with had gathered around the table for dinner. Though I wasn’t hungry, the opportunity to sit and for fresh water was most welcome. We discussed our days and chocolate before the team members scattered. I was not a quick to move and soon found myself at the table with the two team leaders processing some of the heavier team dynamic issues that are often brought up during the last weeks of an urban project.

I am ending the day completely exhausted, yet satisfied on a mattress at Josh and Margie’s house in the heart of Oakland.

Tomorrow it’s on to Fresno.

Friday, July 25, 2008

day two and risk one

Day Two in Oakland. I awoke to the most gorgeous weather in the world (I think??). Who knew that the Bay Area was actually 60s-70s most of the time in the summer? I sure didn’t, and have been delightfully surprised. Josh gave me the tour of Oakland today. We drove up what I think was part of a mountain…or maybe a really large hill…to an incredible view of the city, from West Oakland, downtown, and East Oakland out to the bay and the islands beyond.

We had lunch with one of the IV teams at a homeless shelter/residential rehab program. The interns actually live in the building with the residents. They help with the shelter for the homeless in the evenings, work in the learning center during the day, attend AA meetings, and all sorts of other pretty amazing things. I love the unique way these students become meshed with the ministry they are working with. They don’t go home when their day is over. They minister IN their home. I imagine it can be challenging and overwhelming at times, but what a way to form trust and community. To say, yes, I’m going to live right here with you. I’m going to attend AA meetings with you, even though I have no idea what it is like to have an addiction. What an amazing testimony to God’s sovereignty when a black man off the street confides in a white college teenager, and the white college teenager can put his around the black man from the streets as a sign of commitment to relationship.

What a great picture of the gospel at work.

Josh has been trying to get his neighbor kids (who absolutely ADORE him) connected with the summer day camp that one of the UP sites is doing. Today, the camp took the kids to the beach, so Josh and I took his neighbor kids to the beach with them. It was fun to watch the faces of Diana, Lupita, Christopher, and Noe as they raced to the water’s edge and allowed the waves to lick at them! The beach was a fun experience for me as well as I have only been to one swimming in the ocean beach in my life. It was too cold to get in, but just dipping my toes was enough to satisfy my heart for this round of the trip.

I took my first out-of-the-ordinary risk tonight. Josh thought it would be fun to take a sunset bike ride. Josh happens to be a maniac cyclist…ya know, rides up mountains and such. After informing him of my fear of being hit by a car in the city streets and the fact I haven’t ridden my bike in over 3 years (not surprisingly due to the fact that I have a fear of city drivers), I made him promise to go slow and agreed to go. Josh rounded up some folk from him church and off we went. The first part of the trip was great. Side streets. Flat land. A beautiful lake in the city’s center. However, about halfway around the lake, I got stuck behind another bicyclist and eventually lost Josh and his companions. I happen to be good with directions so I wasn’t worried about being lost, but I was kind of surprised that they hadn’t looked out for me since I was the non-local. Just about the time that I was questioning what direction to go, Josh appeared and brought me back on board. Now I’d like to say that the rest of the ride was smooth sailing, but I can’t. While Oakland is not a hill-infested as San Francisco, it still has its share of hills, and I think Josh found a way to hit as many of those as he could. I really thought I was going to die.

It was all worth it though. I got to see a very beautiful sunset, take a peek at different parts of the city, and step towards conquering the fear of cars.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

landing elsewhere and taking risks

Today was the day. Six months of anticipation. Six weeks of gearing up, thinking ahead, moving, unpacking, packing, training new staff to fill in. Six hours of sleep last night. Six hours on a plane today.

I boarded bound for Oakland, and surprisingly landed in Los Angeles. There was nothing mentioned on my itinerary about LA, and I only had one boarding pass which I gave up when I walked the plank to the plane. Luckily, they do this really cool thing where they land in a city that you had no idea you were landing in and if you were actually going somewhere else on the same plane, you don’t have to get off. You get to experience the cleaning of the plane (which is actually kind of neat), walk around the plane, and pick a different seat!! (only on those airlines where you pick your seat to start out with). Before I knew it I was landing on what looked like the ocean, but quickly became land as the wheels hit the surface (yes, the run-way butts right up to the ocean…maybe a little scary?)

My goal for the next few days is to spend some time with Cap’n Josh and the folk of the Bay Area Urban Project. To learn. To experience. Experience, I will. I just spent some time (and will spend the night) with one of the BayUP teams in the heart of East Oakland where the neighborhood is a good blend of Latino and Cambodian. The team is living 8 in a two bedroom apartment. Two women (and myself tonight) sleep in the living room. Most of them work with kids programs during the day. They take turns cooking, spending time in community, and are hopefully getting a new picture of God’s heart for what the world deems as “the least of these.”

Good stuff.

I recently had my year end review for InterVarsity which included processing some of my personal life. I think the past 5 months or so have been about discipline and pursuing things that I wouldn’t normally do…taking some risks. I’m not a natural risk-taker. I stray from danger and pain, and cling to the straight road, sometimes sacrificing thrill, new experiences, and fun. I sense this changing in some respects. I did run a 5K (and there was plenty of pain to go along with it). I’ve lost 27 up some things I used to depend on. I’m leaving the life of independent living, and moving into a house with a friend.

In light of all of this processing, I’ve decided to make these three weeks in California risk taking weeks. To not think through things so deeply. To relax and enjoy. To experience that which I wouldn’t normally choose to engage in.

I can hear some of you cheering for me already! :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

smells, boxes, and strange animal sitings

This may seem a little gross to some, but it was a memory trigger for me so I'm going to share it with the world...or at least all 5 of you that read this blog.

I went for a run this afternoon during which I sweat through the back of my shirt. It's funny, the more times I run, the more I seem to sweat. I definately did not sweat as much when I ran the 5K (granted it WAS only 36 degrees that morning). Anyway, as the sun was setting (several hours after my run) I found myself adjusting the dirt around the base of the trees at my new house. As I was perfecting the mound, I caught a whiff of dry sweat caught in the fabrics of my clothes and before I could stop, my mind had me back on the sidelines of a Friday night high school football game. Mr. Defenbaugh at my side, yelling out numbers. Nate wheeling the ball down the field with perfect form thanks to the block Paul set. High fives, cheers, the smell of popcorn and sweat in the air. There's nothing like a small town Friday night football game...nothing.

Only two days until my move. I think everything but my toothbrush and computer are in a box. I worked really hard this weekend to finish packing all of the random things that are just laying around. This I did accomplish, but as I laid down for sleep, I felt surprisingly sad.

On a little more of a random note....they found a black bear up by my parents' house. It's a big deal as those kind of bears don't appear in that area. AND they caught a 6 foot long alligator in Lake of the Ozarks! Makes me rethink the swimming I do there!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

july prayer requests

Okay so I'm a bit behind as the first week of July has come and gone.

The interns are in their final two weeks at their sites. Pray that they will continue to engage with those around them and with each other despite the looming end. Pray that the Lord will use these last two weeks to make grace, mercy, and His heart for justice known in a very real way. Pray that as they go home, there will be at least one person who will want to know and understand their experience this summer. It can be a very lonely place to return to families and a campus that brush off what is most likely a life-changing experience.

InterVarsity Central Region
Our new to Kansas City team has just moved. Pray that they are able to make connections and establish homes.

I'm in the midst of big transition...moving to my new house...and then 9 days later leaving for CA for 19 days. While change doesn't bother me, having everything I own packed up in boxes that are just stacked around my house does. Pray that I can find rest among the chaos of my apartment and that the moving goes smoothly.

Also, I am about to relinquish my reign as the Queen of Part Time Jobs! September 1st is the official date that I will go full time with IV, however once I leave for vacation, my job that is busiest in the summer will be basically over. I'm getting antsy with anticipation of being able to focus on one area! Moreso, I'm looking forward to slowing down some. Please pray that in my desire to look ahead, I will see what is "now" and continue to do my current job well through the end.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I've been thinking a lot lately about the goodness of God. I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago about where God is in suffering and what our response to suffering should be. Suffering is something that my family knows well as it seems we have had more than our fair share of it. In writing that talk, I had a chance to look again at how good God has been to us.

I'm learning that He doesn't cause suffering, and He sure doesn't need suffering to make his purposes known, but that He uses these instances to push us. To give us a chance to experience the pain of growing to be more like Him. And in that process to come to know the freedom of His grace.

I think the most amazing thing about all of the suffering we've endured as a family: we still exist. It hasn't killed us. Sure, we each have our issues as the messiness effects each of us in a different way, but we are all still here...working through the crap...and mostly clinging to Jesus.

Psalms 119:50 says "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise perserves my life."

In the midst of the brokenness, the crap, I often feel like I'm not going to make it. I wonder where God is and why he is once again allowing this type of experience into our lives. The cool thing? I can look back on past situations and see that God HAS perserved me. HAS protected my family. And in cool, often small, ways has redeemed us, healed us, showed us some of his grace.

I have this awesome, little nephew --okay he's not so little--that I believe to be one of those little gifts that has brought healing to our family. He entered this world in a fashion that resembled suffering, but as his story goes, God protected him so that he could bring reconciliation, a true understanding of love, healing to certain areas of our family. He's only three, and he's already changing the world. The goodness of God? I think so!

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