Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Missionary Accomplished

Sunday I woke up early and went up to Atonement Lutheran Church, Boulder to preach twice, give a presentation on Indonesia, and enjoy the day with two friends. We visited three of my favorite places- Burnt Toast, the Shambala Center, and the Tea house. Hugging so many loved one's goodbye left me exhausted but happy. Thus ending my responsibilities as a missionary. There is still a project and an exit interview that I am working on to complete my service. For all intensive purposes, however, that's the end of that chapter of my life.

Monday I met with the super ultra not kidding nice folks at the Rocky Mountain Synod about entrance to candidacy for ordained ministry. The interview was intense but I maintained composure and they had really kind things to say when we were done. At home I sat and waited for the phone call and at around 5:10PM yesterday they called and told me that I am in fact in candidacy. I cried and thanked them for the honor. And I am thankful for this opportunity to start this new chapter in my life.

Goodbye to friends and family all this week, sent my boxes via the mail today. I am soooooo grateful for this amazing country's mail service. Having lived for six months in a place where things were lost, stolen, or destroyed when they arrived, mailing with confidence is wonderful. Where are my clothes, books, and meditation pillow going to be in 6-10 business days? Right were I sent them, in good condition, and at low cost! Yipee!

Friday night I fly out to California see Pea pod, Mr. Muftipuff, and Kate. Then moving into Berkeley in a few weeks. I can't stop thinking of Joni Mitchell song 'California', mainly because it is happy but also melancholy. The way she sings "I'm coming home, to see the folks I dig. I'll even kiss a sunset pig." is both elating and heartbreaking. For the first time, California is my home. Let the myth of dualism dissolve in the joy of reality.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gimping up Colfax on the short bus.

Things are looking up. Tonight my Aunt picked me up in the short bus (our family is so big we use a short bus to get around) to cruse up Colfax. Lucky for me, I got handi-capable seating in the bus. We (the fifteen of us) went to see Harry Potter. Yes, it was an extravagant night, indeed. After the movie we went out to the fancy restaurant, the one with paper napkins. While I ate my foil wrapped Mexican I got to thinking how wonderful it is to have a ridiculous big family. Then off to Target to wait while my young cousin got toys. My mother has six siblings, tonight it was three of her sisters, their husbands, and their children, Bevin and I. It wasn't all of us by any stretch but we were enough to fill the bus and two rows at the movie theater. Magical.

While this has been a trying time for me physically things are improving in other areas. For starters these few months at home have given me the opportunity to spend time with folks I love. Yesterday, Bevin and I went to meet young Vincent Joseph. Vinnie was born Monday to my oldest sister, Jesse and brother-in-law Brian. The baby is precious.

Also, the second surgery was successful but it still means I got to spend the week with folks in the house caring for me. A big thank you to all my highly trained nurses-Julie, Randy (and young Peter), Sharon, Sarah, Evie (and young Opal), Litty-bit, Anna and Ben. You all were great. Seriously, healing is better when there is someone there to sherpa with a positive nice-to-see-you attitude.

On the first of July, Global Mission and I made the choice not to continue with service in Indonesia. It was unclear if my visa was secure. Plus, with this second knee surgery it would be another ten weeks before I could travel so I would only be able to stay for a few months before the end of the limited stay permit. So, with sadness, we offer gratitude to our friends at the deaconess school, and close this chapter of emplyoment. However, where God closes one door he opens another.

On the second of July (yes, literally the next day) I was accepted to Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California. They sent me a housing offer and are working out financial aid. I accepted the offer and have purchased tickets to fly out and begin attending classes starting September. My middle sister Kate will assist me in moving when I go out to see them August 14th in Davis. I look forward to meeting her new son, born in February, Simon.The old left leg will not be healed so she and her husband are going to help with logistics.

On August 2nd I will be presenting at Atonement Denver at 9:30 for 45 minutes on World Hunger. Then on August 9th I will be back in Boulder to preach and teach at Atonement Boulder.

Pray for me on August 10th when I have my Entrance interview to candidacy for the Rocky Mountain Synod. Hooray road of discernment! We'll see if God has been calling me to ordained ministry in the Church.

Here's what I get from this whole double surgery, right leg reconstruction, left leg reconstruction situation. Pain is easily forgotten. Faith grows in convalescence. Friends make things funnier and laughter heals all kinds of aches. And only in my family do you get to bring the short bus to the movies, gimped out on Colfax, cruising, with my best-friend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Recovery and Reconstruction

On Easter Sunday I took a spill in the national forest looking on Northern Sumatra. During the fall my knee cap came all the way off and went around my knee ending up in the back knee pit. I cried out in fear and pain the guides and friends turned me on my back, I said 'put it back' and I fainted. They put things back together and gave me pain meds. Yes, I walked out of the jungle and even in the week and a half before the surgery. It didn't swell terribly bad or really bruise but things were not looking good. The ELCA decided to bring me back to the United States for reconstruction surgery on my right knee. The experience has been not unlike being whisked away by aliens and probed, I imagine. The surgery was intense.

I arrived in Denver on Wednesday April 22 (I don't remember much of the 30 hour plane ride because I think my psyche just blocked it) and went to the doctor April 23. He said basically the same thing the doctor in Medan said (torn MCL, recurrent dislocation) and added the twists cartilage damage, ACL partial tear, and arthritis.

BUT MANY MANY MANY PEOPLE ARE HERE WITH ME HELPING ME IN SPIRIT AND ON PRACTICAL MATTERS. Thanks to you saints who have loved me so much you pray for me, write letters, clean dog poop out of the back yard, bring by food, bring flowers, sit with me, loan movies, clean the house, call me, massage me, Sherpa stuff around, give medication, confront doctors, throw parties, pick me up for coffee, tell me you love me, bring by medical equipment, have me over for dinner, eat the food I prepare, clean up after, complement me and hear my tiny complaints, leaving me alone when needed, give me money, confront insurance folks, keep up on my mail, laugh with me, and generally encourage me. There are things that were done that I don't know about or can't remember. I am sure conversations of concern and decisions I don't know about that have made this experience generally a positive one. I thank everyone I know and everyone who has acted in my best interest.

Went into surgery May 1st and he took part of my hip tendon and made a new MCL and strengthened the ACL. He shaved the cartilage and removed the arthritis. Then for fun he moved a major tendon below the patella and put two screws on my calf to hold it. On my femur he ground a new holding place for the patella. While in surgery he found an 'extra bit' that he decided to have a closer look at- thank God it was a benign cyst called a Baker cyst. Gross.

Anyway, I am not allowed to put any weight on my knee at all until after the go ahead x-rays scheduled June 15th. Then I begin at least 8 weeks of intense rehabilitation. There are still some outstanding visa issues (if/when/where/why the mysterious IMTA). I have so much more empathy for immigrants in our country. I join folks on both sides of the political spectrum in calling for sane reform. In the meantime I am working on writing a curriculum for the school.

Things in a wheelchair and on crutches are NOT awesome. I have more empathy for folks who live their lives without walking than I ever could have imagined. Yesterday Bevin and I went to buy just a few clothes I gave nearly everything away before I left for Indonesia, brought only sweats home with me and needed something for church. Trying on pants, suits, and skirts was exhausting. Having come out of a three weeks on narcotics, my memory is poor. Sometimes, I get confused.

She was a saint of patience and compassion but shopping is not something I enjoy fully able bodied and sharp minded. We both ended up too tired so when we came home collapsed on our beds. I did end up with a well fitting pin stripe three piece suit (jacket, skirt, and pants) to mix and match with tops, a good start. I was reading my secret favorite magazine (Vogue) and saw a similar cut and cloth on a 'top model' in a spread about models and their boy friends. Mild dignity achieved.

Today, marks day three free of pain meds. (Not free of pain- but prayer works.) And tonight I get to talk with Mary Johnson about what the next weeks hold for God's ministry. The whole last month might have been one of the most challenging of my life- the lack of dignity in needing help showering, vomiting, digestion wows, not being able to even dress myself for a week, etc. I am reminded of a story a friend told me:

A women lost most of her foot to diabetes. She was able to get around, but not without difficulty. One day, she looked at my friend and said "I am glad I didn't loose all my foot, because I can still get around and live my life." Compare this with what she might have said: "I am sad/angry/etc that I lost any mobility or part of my foot."

So I am trying to look on the positive side. Things are getting better. I am stronger everyday. Now, thanks to Bevin, I have a super cute suit. I am alive after major surgery. My leg looks great and will heal so I can still dance, hike, ride my bike, walk, and other foolishness I love, someday. And I am home with my friends and family. But the biggest blessing of all, I am still in God's loving embrace.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Coming home for treatment!

After I saw many incredible and beautiful orang hutans in wild... I fell and twisted the crumb out of my right knee. This week has been a whirlwind of hospital, internet cafe, and texting. The ELCA and I decided to ship me home for treatment. Then perhaps back to Indonesia for more service. In the meantime I am taking visiting appointments and would LOVE to see all folks who are in Colorado during the next three weeks. You can reach me at Bevins', of course. And I will update if/when surgery is scheduled.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Penang, Malaysia

Arrived in Penang on Thursday morning waiting for a letter from a person (name withheld) for visa purposes that would arrive Friday afternoon. Originally it was to be picked up on my way here but no such luck. WAITING WAITING WAITING. Nothing, finally last night (Friday) well after the Indonesian consulate closed I got the letter. SO frustrating.

But the food is good. I will go to the consulate with this magic letter Monday and maybe they will give me a work visa. If not I will apply for another social/cultural visa and come home in May. Really, either way I am fine. And today I went for a walk in the unbelievable Paneng Botanic Gardens. There was no one on my path and it was absolutely alive with bugs and birds and vines. I was able for a moment to GET OUT OF MY HEAD. And just love the physical sensation of walking in the density of life that is tropical rainforest. Pictures to come later.

Yesterday I after I finally found a new SIM card for my phone and was able to contact the folks in Chicago and Indonesia I had a few hours to kill. (I think the things you choose in a different place than home alone reveal a lot about you. Am I a religous nut case???) I found myself in a Chinese sea temple, then in a Hindu temple to the Elephant-headed God, and then in a Budhist temple. In all three places my heart rate slowed and I just wondred and found myself repeating my favorite Christian prayers in my head. These stunning places and the wonderful people who choose to spend there time there (volunteers and monks) welcomed me and made my vocation clear. I am frustrated with the visa process but excited to apply to PLTS seminary. My cultural understanding of these different religions is truely poor. I asked a lot of questions and everyone was willing to talk with me. Then I was asked to explain my own belief, but only in terms of action. What are you doing? Why are you here? Who do you love? I love when belief is translated into action with verbs.

I love Jesus. So I came to Indonesia. To work with the poor.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Yesterday about twenty deaconess students, Sister Beatrice, several people from staff and I went to do ministry in rural areas. We went to a place called Loumobangulu where I went to a village called Hutanamora. Sister Merile did the sermon, students offered information about nutrition and herbal/traditional medicine. I gave a short informational speech about not burning plastics. The people offered us a meal after the service. Some students and I got to walk around for sometime before the service.

On our walk along the hills we found a grove of tiny tangerine trees. I was as tall as the tallest tree in the grove. The tangerines were the size of walnuts. They were more delicious than walnuts, though. Each perfect little fruit was like God rubbing my tummy. When Sister Dewi walked right in to the grove and started to pick the fruit and eat I became nervous. Hey, you can’t do that. Then I remembered watching young Claire stand on the sidewalk of Davis casually eating kumquats from someone’s hedge while Kate chatted with neighbors. Okay. I guess you can do that in California and in Indonesia but not in Haiti or Mexico or Canada or Colorado. The students called out and soon a women came and helped us gather some fruits to take back to Balige with us. She asked 3,000 rupiahs for a kilo. That’s about 30 cents for roughly two pounds. Or 15 cents for a pound. Seriously, they were so good I literally had to sit down to concentrate on the deliciousness that was each tiny section. I also had to sit down because I had twisted my ankle slightly while chasing this huge toad around the trees. He was so cool. I will post/add a picture.

In the church during a service I noticed a bat hanging in the rafters asleep. In Indonesia small bats are called kilalawar. I can’t remember how to ask for more water, but I can point out the small bats and kittens. The Sisters here think I am an idiot savant because of my bizarre and often unpredictable ability to remember words in Indonesian.

It seems I need to go to Malaysia for a new tourist visa next week. Sister Serepina will not go with me so I am working to find someone to accompany me. A single women traveling alone on a ferry is not safe or advised. I will e-mail a friend and see if he can help me out from Kuala Lumpur. I have not yet heard anything about my year and a half work visa. Maybe I will know more a week or two. A guy has travelled to Jakarta on my behalf from Nommenssen University and the HKBP. He should get back with us soon. April 1st is the latest I will wait, otherwise, if I don’t hear anything I will plan to go home in May because the waiting has become absurdly stressful. Spending time ‘registering’ at the police station is frustrating and I would like to feel like when I go to work every morning I am not breaking the law. You know the wonderful feeling of doing a good job for a good cause and staying within the local and national laws? I want that feeling again.

I love teaching and am encouraged by my advisor suggesting last week that I should teach as a vocation. She describes me as ‘gifted’ in the classroom. There was this funny moment two weeks ago we were practicing our English with a play of the story the ‘Great Banquet” from the new testament, I am sure you know it. The story is that this really rich guy prepares a huge party but none of the big-shot guests that he invited come and instead giving stupid excuses. So the rich guy sends his messengers out into the city streets and they invite everyone they see- beggars, cripples, widows, street children- and everyone has a wonderful time at the party except the lame rich people who aren’t there. Someone in our class had to play Jesus. Which is funny since I think we are all Jesus, and none of us at the same time. But that’s hard to explain to students in a foreign language so we just went with the literal- someone would play Jesus. There are pastors, regents of the church, AIDS health workers, and deaconesses in the class. The students decided that the good doctor should be Jesus in the play. Just before it was time to preform the doctor got a cell phone call. Normally, I wouldn’t allow cell phones in my classes but these students are literally dealing with life, life after death and death. The doctor stepped out to talk on the phone so we waited for him to come back. Then as he came up the stairs the students who were sitting near the window, light was streaming in and giving them a halo effect, looked out and three of them turned, wide eyed to me and smiling said in unison “JESUS IS COMING!” I fell out of my chair laughing. I don’t think they understand how hilarious the moment was. But really sooooooooo funny.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Where things are okay!

These last few weeks have been busy! But things are good. I have been spending insane amounts of time in the classroom. It is hard work! Teaching! Who, knew? Well just about every teacher I know says it's hard work. But I never believed them. They are all right. This is tough. Tomorrow Mary Johnson and Richard Sarkar will arrive in Balige for a visit. Which could not be better timed. I need some support of fluent English friends to talk about my visa. I was rejected for the long term work visa through Nommenssen University Department of Education and am watching hopes of staying for two years fade. But we are all praying and working to get a work visa through the Religious Department. It now seems likely that I will return to the U.S. in the middle of a major economic slump, with college loans, and no health insurance just as millions of other graduates flood the market- May/June. God said HA! But I know things will work out. I continue to believe miracles will happen and I will be staying for my whole term-two years. So realistically I am preparing to leave soon, and idealistically I am settling in to two years of teaching. What fun!

We celebrated valentines day by watching Audrey Hepburn and hanging out with chocolate. Sumatra has some of the world's best chocolate. Really superb. And the students and I had a lot of fun.

Today I went to the hair stylist alone. My Indonesian is good enough for me to explain not too short. But shorter for neatness sake. And I love my 'drunken Lutheran' the title of the hair cut Olga originally gave me while drunk many years ago. Some things never go out of style- Thanks Olga.