Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Bread for the Journey"

Many people during orientation have given us ideas, tidbits, and advice about this endeavor. I am taking the opportunity to record them here, for continued contemplation and hope, as we need it in the days to come.

• Receive grace freely
• Use moderation in all things, including moderation
• Allow yourself to experiment-humbly, thoughtfully, and with regard to your interactive style.
• Practice centering prayer
• Remember, everyone who goes overseas fails at something.
• Learn local sensitivities-find a cultural gatekeeper to help you make interpretations
• Others will be ready to listen after, and only after they have been heard and understood.
• Connect with and delight with people.
• Want less
• Practice gratitude
• Schedule times of listening and learning, and cultivate a disposition of inquiry.
• Integrate yourself in heart, mind, body, and soul.
• Beware of little flowers (perhaps you had to be there)
• If you can do nothing else, take care of your body.
• Put your agenda on hold so there is space for the other person or the larger community to work on their agenda, their attachments, their transitions, their evolving treasured objects.
• Draw on the wisdom of local people.
• Know what you need.
• Listen loosely to words and tightly to meaning.
• Understand that listening is about respect, not agreement.
• Seek out stories of hope and perserverance.
• Be intentional about what it means to be a servant.
• Don’t just go through rituals, let them transform you.
• Be aware of subtle power.
• Write down stories and memories while they are given to you.
• Trust your instincts.
• Engage your heart.
• First, do no harm.
• Understand both the gift of listening and the gift of speaking.
• Remember the voices of blessing that sent you.
• Save away some money for a family get away.
• When you get there, write down all that you hear, see, smell, feel, and taste. Refer to it later.
• It’s OK to laugh in the midst of sorrow.
• Set aside some intentional time for your family to speak Spanish (one meal a day, one day a week, whatever).
• Make sure you get enough language study.
• Help your children stay connected to friends and relatives.
• Immerse yourself in school connections and the families of your children’s friends.
• Snuggle with your kids.
• When you are so overwhelmed it seems to hurt, sleep, be gentle with yourself and with those you love around you.
• Each day, write down three blessings. For each one, think about how you made them happen.
• Gratitude dissolves depression.

So, thank you Urbane, Michelle, Titus, Nancy, Linda, Amy, Kathy, Karl, fellow orientees, and all the others who contributed this wisdom. What advice do the blog readers out there have for us? (Leave a comment)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Prayer for Equity

God, Creator of all things
we come with a broken heart
that has been torn
like Jesus on the cross,
the cross that draws together
your children of many colors.

You know our suffering.
We ask in Jesus'name that
you heal your people.

Where there has been unearned
advantage because of the
color of our skin,
give us courage to repent
and to fight the injustice
and sin of racism.

Holy God, who created all colors
of people, allow us to honor
your light in every soul.

Help us to see you
in one another,
to hear your voice in all people,
and to work to end racism in
our churches and our communities,
and the world.


Anti-racism Team, 2005. The Episcopal Diocese of Alaska

Sunday, July 12, 2009

MCC Welcome Center

For the past week we have been staying at the MCC Welcome Center in Akron, PA. It is a beautiful conglomerate of buildings centered around a very nice green space. We are within a short walk from a terrific park. The weather has been beautifully sunny and mild, reminding us of what Bogota might bring. There is a fantastic cook here, so we are relishing in the luxury of no cooking and very minimal cleaning up, as well as a loaded salad bar daily. The kids are adjusting to their orientation, and we are meeting phenomenal people, all called to service in different and interesting ways. While there is a lot of work still with logistics, we are beginning a phase of contemplation that will (hopefully) sustain us in the coming weeks.

Lake Huron

From Chicago we drove up north to my parent's cabin on the Les Cheaneax Islands of Lake Huron. This has become a very special place for us, and we had a cozy time with Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents and Cousins sipping tea and wine by the fire, sleeping in, exploring our way to rock island, and laughing late into the evening. I am perpetually grateful to my parents for creating space that nurtures us as a family, and allows us each year to renew connections with one another. We will try to take the memory of the coziness we felt there, and wrap it up to take along on our journey.

Monday, July 6, 2009


We had to change our plans and go to Chicago on the way to the cabin this year. It was required that we all be present to obtain our Colombian visas. We were very prepared for the visa process (thanks to MCC) and had a lovely time in Chicago.

We visited the Museum of Science and Industry

We tried to fit in with our ipods at a bus stop.

We saw the world premier of the Harry Potter Exhibit, including Hermione's gown from the Yule ball, each intricate original wand used in the movies, Hagred's chair, and Doby himself.

And we gazed at the skyscrapers, which will soon feel like home to us.

It was a nice time as a family, though the absence of our dear friends in Kansas was a looming reality, and there was a sense of sadness close by.

All tucked in

After some lovely, tender BBQ ribs (and goodbyes), our house is all tucked in, and we are ready to head off. We were all pretty exhausted from the emotions involved, as well as the energy spent getting to this point in our journey.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Processing Decisions

Jen and I have often discussed how we each make decisions. That topic has come up regularly during the past 6 months as we have engaged in conversations with others about our decision to participate in an MCC term of service. Currently we are beginning our two weeks of MCC orientation and it seems this topic may surface yet again. Jen is busy completing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator survey, which we will all review during our orientation at some point.

Much of our processing this decision has been about exactly that, how we process decisions. Typically, I am fairly reactionary and have a tendency to do what feels good. I am inclined to process decisions internally and engage in the process of deciding actively. By that I mean, I often go with my gut and prefer to figure things out as I go.

Jen's style, however, is quite different. She much prefers to gather information, discuss a variety of options with a variety of different sources and be sure she is doing the "right" thing. Consequently, her decisions are often well informed and thought through and it can take her long to arrive at a conclusion. In fact, after the decision is reached there is usually more for her to consider.

Obviously, both styles have their benefits and drawbacks. The trick is how to make them work together. That has certainly been an interesting experience for us.

I would have set off on an MCC term many years ago by now. However, I really wasn't interested in going without my family. So, it became important for me to take some very big steps back and approach the idea from Jen's point of view. This was necessary for Jen and a great experience for me as well. We participated in a Quaker model of discernment called a Clearness Committee, which allowed many of our well respected friends and acquaintances the opportunity of asking us challenging and important questions to help us reflect on the MCC opportunity. The committee also set up an environment that provided great opportunity for us to really hear each other.

Interestingly, I discovered through this process a couple of new things about Jen and myself. I have come to appreciate the ability Jen has to articulate her thought process as it occurs (something which is difficult for me to do personally). In addition, I see tremendous value in her approach to family and how that informs her decision making process...I have personally received great benefit from that over the years. I have also come to understand that I don't necessarily fly by the seat of my pants. It may appear that way at times, especially when I don't take the time to let people in on what I am thinking. I process thoughts and ideas much more internally than I realized before Jen and I began this process. So, when I first verbalize a significant idea or thought, it has usually surfaced from much internal processing and has been informed by a variety of areas of input.

These dynamics will continue to be interesting to me as we begin to navigate our way in a different culture, while sharing a position.