Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mountians and Valleys

Hello everyone, I am sorry that my time is so limited when I have Internet access. Last week I was hopeful to write and visited an Internet cafe, but the connection was so poor that it took me 45 minutes to bring up only three pages and I did not have time to write. But here I am and I am thankful to have a few minutes to connect.

The reality of 26 different cultures and backgrounds living together is beginning to set in. The group still enjoys each other, but I think we are having a harder time setting ourselves aside for the other person. We become irritated with each other more easily, but the challenge is good and shaping.

I have not written about our mountain adventures yet. During the course of our training we are exposed to 5-6 wilderness training activities that incorporate spiritual and physical disciplining with teamwork and community building.

7/27/07---Our first day together before the sun rose, we climbed into "combies" (mini vans), wearing the warmest clothing we had and drove in the rain almost 3 hours to a place we did not know. There we were dropped off in a field in front of what look to be an old church building and were told to get into teams. We did not know each other, we were all from different nations and many people on my team did not speak English well. We were given two poles of bamboo, one rope and trash bags for raincoats. Our instructions were to create a structure with the poles and the rope so that, as a team, we could carry one man. We were given a small map and told that we must carry one man over the mountain and he could not touch the ground. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but I learned so much about myself and the others on my team. I felt like the true self in each one of us was pushed to the surface as we struggled, bled and hurt together. These people who had been strangers to me became a part of my heart in 6 hours time.

This passed Friday was our second "adventure" we were told to wear warm clothing and left for the mountain. We began climbing in two teams of 12 at 6:30 pm. We were told that the trail was very dangerous because of how sheer the drop was, how narrow that path was and how strong the wind would be. Each team was tied on to a rope together. The rope between myself and the person in front of me was too long, so in addition to the loop around my waist, I had the rope wrapped twice around my chest and once around my stomach. This was done so that if one person fell they would not be lost down the mountain, but the others could pull them up again. We didn't know how far we would go, but we knew that we would not be back until the following morning. The sun set as we hiked and meditated . We had small wind up flashlights in addition the moon. We rested for ten minutes every hour and continued to to top of the mountain as a team. When we reached the top at approximately 2 am, it was explained that we would have 20 minutes to rest and then travel down again. It was an amazing view even in the dark. Large water falls, thick vegetation, enormous rock faces, slowly creeping mist and incredible stars. We arrived, utterly exhausted, at the trail head again around 9:30 am. We had been angry, tired, excited, encouraged and many of us injured (I re-injured my right ankle), but we had done all of this before God, together.

I learned enormous lessons here about community, God's connection with me, asking for help, loving others, taking risks, changing my understanding of pain and the power of bonds for good and for evil. I am still sorting through and processing the experience. The trail was so narrow and the drop was absolutely terrifying, there is really no other way to describe it, nearly straight down for what looked like a mile. I was thankful for the dark because it forced me to stay focused on the path, if someone slipped with just a potion of his foot sliding on some wet plants, it would be over if he did not have others to pull him up by the rope. I am thankful for that night, the lessons and for my sore muscles today.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Continuing to Learn and Connecting with Friends

Hello everyone,

It was good to hear from a few of you over email or here in the comments. I am still amazed everyday with the learning and relationships I been given here. We have had lecture on all types of topics relevant to Biblically based Community Development. This week we studied short-term project planning and assessing the needs of different subsets in a community. We were also able to develop project plans in a team and later in the course we will be implementing a project in the community. The team I worked with included 7 people; men from Uganda, Benin, Liberia, Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba and one woman from Egypt.

Last night I was able to see Kayamandi for the first time and this morning we are walking threw the township to quietly pray for the needs there. I am really excited to see my new home up close and on foot.

I was also able to meet up with the team here from NCCC and work with them last night as they began a marriage conference/retreat for Pastors and their wives leading churches in Kayamandi. It was such a privilege to meet them and to talk with them about the most difficult issues they feel the community is facing. Has also been great to have some familiar faces here with me and share my excitement about ALICT with them firsthand. Jan, Singrid and PJ took a tour of the facility and cabins we are in yesterday and were able to meet some of my close friends. It has been special for me to be able share so much of my life here with people from home.

I love all of you, please write and let me know how you are. I would love to hear from you : )

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Learning with a Community of Leaders From More Than 20 Nations

Hello everyone! If you did not hear from my parents, I have made it safely to South Africa and have begun my training program. I apologize for not being able to write earlier this is the first opportunity I have had to get to an Internet cafe. They have given us only ten minutes each and so I will have to be brief. I am hoping that we will have Internet access at the school facility soon.

There are 26 individuals here in the program with me from some of the following countries: Cuba, El Salvador, Uruguay, Togo, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Congo, Benin, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Madagascar, Egypt and Burundi.

We are living and learning together. It has been and I believe will continue to be the single most amazing experience of my life. These people have been have been orphaned by genocide, beaten, seen family killed right in from of them, they work with rulers of nations and have perspective and understanding like I have never been exposed to. They are leaders in their nation doing amazing things to serve the people. I am honestly overwhelmed to have been given this opportunity and am treasuring every meal, conversation and assignment we are able to have together.

The teaching is also blowing my mind. I have to go and wish I could say more, but it is challenging me, the whole of my person, more than any other studying I have done before. For the most part, our sessions run 6 days a week from 8:45am-8:45pm, with meal and tea breaks. I will write more as soon as I can. I love you all.