Friday, June 18, 2010

The Thrill of Daily Life

"We are meant to see ourselves as part of something so much bigger than we are. Something vital. Something incredibly thrilling." - Beth Moore

I'm settling in here in Ft. Wayne. I realized that today, on my day off, when I didn't feel the need to rise with the sun but I did feel the need to do laundry, when I didn't want to buy souveneirs at the mall but instead buy veggies at Walmart. I'm over the initial "mission trip" high, and am beginning to see that this is my life now, rich in culture and relationship and learning. Life is not settling down - it continues to careen forward at a breath-taking pace, but I think I'm learning how to crank up my speed dial to keep up.

Daily life here is different - it can't help but be different. This morning I had French toast and a homemade 10-fruit smoothie, then I read my Bible, studied my Zo language notes, planned ESL and Bible lessons for next week, and studied a current African map so I won't embarrass myself anymore with geographical ignorance. My evenings are spent teaching English and Bible, learning to speak Zo, eating ethnic meals, learning about Ethiopian and Malaysian society, and being entertained by the kids in the house who will grow up to be fully bilingual and bicultural.

I want to learn, I want to serve, I want to give... I just want to live and be a part of something bigger than myself. I want to remember that as far as the population of the world goes, I am not a majority. I am not even a majority in my own big, beautiful house. And I love that! I love knowing that there is so much I don't yet know, so much I can gain from people who are different from me.

I was sad this morning when I was reminded that there are so many people who fear those who look and sound different from them, as though relationship across races, ethnicities and cultures is harmful or damaging. What I am finding here is that as God brings his people together from every tribe, tongue, and nation, life becomes what it was intended to be - a colorful, beautiful community of love that brings glory to his name.

Last night my ESL class studied Psalm 1, and we talked about what it means to be a "tree planted by streams of water." One by one, believers from Mexico and Burma said slowly and carefully, in broken English: "I am a planted tree because I trust Jesus... because I know God loves me... because God has protected me and my family... because my grandfather taught me to read and follow the Bible... God is so good..." Tears came to my eyes and many "Amens" came to my lips. What a sacred time of sharing - what a blessing! Praise the Lord for the "trees" he has planted in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, South and Central America, Europe, Australia, and here in America.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Residential Tour of Chicago

As Friday is my one real "day off," last week Leigh Ann and I decided on a whim to give ourselves a tour of the greater Chicago area. Little did we know that...

a) The day we chose to go on our adventure was the same day the Chicago Blackhawks decided to display their manly northern power by winning the Stanley Cup. Every hockey fan in the tri-state, Lake Michigan area was shirtless and screaming in the streets, blocking off entire streets and making the already-complex challenge of traffic navigation even more so with their celebratory ruckus.

b) The streets of Chicago are not exactly in a neat, orderly grid pattern. Ergo, three lefts do not necessarily make a right. Nor does walking down one street mean that you continue to be parallel with the next street twelve blocks later.

c) Franchesca, our trusty Ethiopian GPS (gifted to us by kind strangers who care for the directionally challenged) was faithful and helpful until we needed her the most. When that time came, the poor dear confusingly repeated, "Recalculating... recalculating..." A real person - in this case, a true Chicagoan - is preferable in times of directional crisis.

d) When trying to navigate a new city, if you find yourself walking past a neighborhood school and then a row of apartments, and then less manicured lawns, and then warning signs about feeding the rats, you may not be getting closer to popular tourist areas, and your best options are to turn back around or ask a Salvation Army employee BEFORE you walk three more miles.

e) If you must take a bus back through the five miles of residential area you just walked before finding said Salvation Army employee, make sure to carry exact change - as in, not just $5s and $20s. The bus driver will keep the change as "tip" without mercy. Even if you are handicapped.

Once we learned these valuable and surprisingly crucial travel tips, we did enjoy a $4 Dove ice cream bar, a photo shoot at "The Bean," an authentic deep-dish Chicago-style pizza, a stroll through a garden, an awed gaze from the foot of the Sears tower, and the company of a good friend and Chicago city-dweller. It was a beautiful day, and was as windy as I imagined it would be. Thankfully, our residential romp was in the west loop, so more safe and clean end of town. Getting out of the city was much easier and faster than getting in. Overall, successful adventure - many lessons learned, many sights seen... and now I can say I've been to Chicago!

If you ever want to check out the windy city, I actually recommend that you go with someone who is just as clueless about the town as you are - the adventure is sure to be much more exciting and amusing... the next day. :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ethiopian Tea

"Can I make you
some Ethiopian tea?"
she asked, and I smiled
at the way the word "Ethiopian"
rolled off her tongue.

Mint leaves in water
steep on the stove
filling the house
with peace and rest.
Cinnamon bark
whole cloves
black leaves
stuffed into a little ball
with other ingredients from
Far-away Africa.

Aromas cool and spicy
sweet and earthy
blend and rise
in mystic steam
expanding the love of home
to reach across the world
to a place where
"Family" is all who enter your kitchen and
"Tea" is an event to be shared.

She pours out the brown liquid
and we sip together
toasting this occasion
of two cultures embracing
in organic, raw materials.

As ingredients melt and brew together
to create something new, unique, beautiful,
So we relax and commune together
in the grace of our God
that has the power
to do the same in us.

~C.L. Chandler

Monday, June 14, 2010


"Oh, there you are! I've been looking for you!" Roshni gushed with delight as she swung open the front door and saw Leigh Ann and I there on the front porch of our house. We'd only been gone for a couple hours, but apparently it had been an eternity for our six-year-old little sister.

I like to call Roshni my little sister, because I've always wanted a little sister just like her. She watches in reverent awe as I apply my make-up in the mornings, she wants to taste anything I'm eating or drinking, she giggles incessently, and she hops up on my bed and sprawls out on my afghan for "girl talk" when we're all in our pajamas. She has this pure, dreamy princess air about her, from the way she carefully colors in her fairytale coloring book to the way she "matches" her own clothes by wearing as many sparkly shades of pink as possible.

She isn't an angel... she doesn't always mind her Mommy as she should, and sometimes she exhausts me with the attention she demands. But she has a beautiful smile and even more beautiful heart. She cares for and loves everyone who comes to her door, and baby Michael is somewhat safe in her young and eager arms. She's adopted me as part of her family. She watches me, listens to me, and imitates me, and that makes me want to be the best example to her that I can be.

Pray that little Roshni will grow up to love, honor, follow, and serve the Lord. Pray that he will cultivate her sweet, joyful attitude and he will use it to his glory, that she will be a Light and a Blessing to others.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A taste of Ft. Wayne

World travellers that we are, Leigh Ann and I decided to spend some of our free time this week exploring the culture and sights of Ft. Wayne. There is this big park downtown called Headwaters Park, with lots of paths and greenery, and an occasional hidden statue. We learned about the railroad system, three women who wanted to change Ft. Wayne society for the better (which they did), and an Indian chief who worked hard to preserve the land from pesky colonial settlers (which he didn't). We crossed several bridges over water and tried to figure out what river we kept encountering, but then we realized that we actually were crossing three rivers. Here is a picture of where the rivers converge... the confluence, if you will, of St. Joseph, St. Mary, and Maumee Rivers.

Then we went to Fort Wayne. Yes, there is an actual fort. Not as old as the stuff in Winston-Salem, but it's still authentically antique, huge, and very cool.

After seeing the sights and having extensive lessons in history and geography, we decided that every good missionary samples the delicacies that are specific to the culture and location you serve in. Which is why we stopped in at De Brand's gormet chocolatier shoppe and got some samples... for pure missionary experience. We got a sampler of PB&J, buttercream, orange cream, and mocha (which is the one with the face). All I can say is.... mmmmmm....

There is a local baseball team called the "Tincaps," in honor of Johnny Appleseed, who is buried here. We've also checked out the local library, and in the summer they have live music outside of the library on the lawn on Saturday nights. There's also a children's science museum downtown that is in an old factory with rainbow painted smoke stacks. And everyone keeps telling us we HAVE to go to Jefferson Point Mall, which is a huge outdoor mall... which is a weird and questionable thing to find this far north. We're finding our way around the city, and feeling much more immersed in local culture.