Saturday, February 28, 2015

Where did the story go?

Hello friends!

It's Lent again, exactly one year since I started attempting to write this story in earnest. Thank you for your many words of encouragement along the way. Did I leave you hanging having just met Dave? Well, I simply wanted to let you know I have not stopped writing it. In fact, I am working hard on the story, in hopes that it could become book material. I've written about 40,000 words so far and have been editing rigorously. I'd say I'm not quite halfway there. So, while posting bits of it on this blog isn't high priority for me right now, it might be someday! If so, I'll let you know. Oooooor, I'll send you a link to a published book. Ha!

Here's hoping,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Part 15 - Formal Meal

It was nearly 1 pm: lunchtime at L'Abri.

A handful of us walked casually down the long road stretching east out of the village of Huemoz towards the woods. With every head hatted, every coat zipped to chin, we grasped hands to form a human chain as we veered from the road and down a steep field path. The slant and snow and fearful giggling all made me feel like Anne, traipsing through the deep winters of Prince Edward Island.

We made our way around the back of a dark chalet named Minchuletta, until we came to a side entrance. Wet things removed and stacked on the wooden bench outside, we tiptoed across a tile-floored foyer and into a wide open room. The top level of this 2-tiered room was a dining area into which we were welcomed. One long table stretched across the middle and a pedestal table fit in on the side. Seventeen of us scrunched behind our plates of choice, each set to simple perfection on matching tablecloths. Spotless windows lined the opposite wall, exposing the snowiest view I had ever seen.

The meal began with a brief silence before the prayer.

"Bon Appetit!"

Then, eyes darted; awkward clinking of forks to plates and nervous gulps taken from small glasses,

Our formal meal began.

Two weeks into my ten-week stay, I now knew what to expect at one of these formal meals. Not fragile china or mandatory pantyhose, the formality of this daily L'Abri tradition was in the conversation.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Part 14

I talked on.
In fact, I couldn't find my "off."
He sat opposite me and did not flinch. The light showering from his balcony faded and turned to shadow. He switched on a lamp nearby to encourage me to go on.

"The entire time I was in Kenya- and I mean every waking moment- I was terrified or guilt-ridden or a blinding mixture of both. The fixed predatory gaze pointed at me from most of the men; the total lack of apparent traffic laws while we traveled all over the city in vans (called matatus) packed beyond capacity with sweaty bodies and sneaky hands (we were warned to keep any cash in our shoes as people can less easily find their way into your SHOES than your bag or your pockets); the half-naked little ones without a loving adult to hold their hand or at least mourn over their swollen bellies...The threat of thieves seemed ever-present and non-navigable: from the blitzed out glue-sniffing boys reaching their scarred arms into the vehicle if you happen to stop, to the very pastors and teachers we were meant to be learning from. The pastor that we lived with was the one exception. He and his wife sheltered us as best they could. But the sly requests from almost every other authority figure- for a little cash on the side so they could pay for matatu fare or feed their children or buy Bibles- confused me profoundly. My trust could not land anywhere.

And even though the organization I represented had grossly miscalculated my costs for this internship, I did not have enough to go around.
I didn't have enough granola bars to hand out.
I didn't have enough shoes to give away.
I didn't have enough training to offer any real help.
I didn't have enough cultural understanding to steer clear of offending.
I didn't have enough energy.
I didn't have gracious enough tastebuds.
I didn't have enough kindness toward my fellow intern.
I didn't even have the categories to try and name the level of poverty and abuse I witnessed daily.
And I don't have enough courage to admit to everyone back home that I was and am a total failure..."

My face and hands were wet with articulated grief.

I pressed my palm against my forehead, sniffed unapologetically, and forced my head up to look at Dave. He raised his eyebrows just slightly and half-smiled. He wasn't mocking me - he had heard.

"Yes, that's true," he said.
"What's true?"
"The part about you not having enough. The part about you being a failure."
"Wait, WHAT?" I changed my tune.
"What do you mean by THAT? I tried my best, OK? I mean, I'm not perfect, but it was risky to go on that internship and I gave everything I could. I sacrified an awful lot..."

My jaw jutted out to one side as I finally heard how bizarre I sounded. How schizo.

It was quiet then.

We shifted in our well-designed chairs.
We looked at our watches and mentioned how dinner had come and gone.
I said I should probably go and he said OK.

As I stood, he remained seated.

"Anna, why does God love you?"


"Why does God forgive you, Anna?"


Friday, October 3, 2014

Part 13 - The beginning of Honesty

        "...I just want God to be proud of me.

...I thought he clearly told me what to do and so...I did it.

Ever since I first gave my heart to Jesus- in the kitchen with my mom when I was very young- I have also been convinced that I should be a missionary. Like on the banks of the Amazon, in a hut built with my own hands, translating the Bible for the first time into the language of a previously unknown people group. I felt His smile whenever I imagined it. 

Hudson Taylor's 2,000 page story of pioneering  missionary work has been my guide...
I love traveling.
I love different cultures and languages. 
I've always wanted to work with kids, like as a teacher...
I like adventure and taking risks and...
I love Jesus! I want other people to know him, I really do! 
...Doesn't all this add up to a "calling?"

Add to that: the majority of trustworthy adults in my life have confirmed that they, too, think I should pursue full-time overseas missions! When other pre-teens were entranced with the American Girl catalogue, I read descriptions of short-term mission trips in Teen Missions International's annual magazine. If something was in North America or Europe- I mean, come on, you call that a mission trip? I was looking for hard-core.
For awe-inspiring.
Maybe even terrifying.
and definitely braggable.
...Just drop a little "Yeah, I'm not gonna see you at the beach this summer, actually, because uh, I'm gonna be backpacking the GOSPEL into obscure villages on a tiny island in the Philippines."

Clouded by naivety and pregnant with energy, I set out to save the world. My best friend would tease me that surely I would "Climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest ocean, preach to millions!" She's the one I told you about, the one marrying my brother.

Did I mention, Dave, that my Dad is a pastor and a pretty zealous one at that? I've always known that the Good News matters. It's worth sweat. Blood. Tears. Martyrdom!

But then, after all this, after feeling like I couldn't choose a course of study for University without really spending some time on the field and figuring out what I should be trained in (nursing? teaching? linguistics?), after delaying college in a family that does NOT delay higher education, after raising over $8,000, I kissed my boyfriend good-bye (oh, did I fail to mention I have a boyfriend? Well, I do and it's serious.) ...and set off for Nairobi, Kenya. 

I had three days of training prior to the 4-month internship. 
Three days of very broad training with other short-termers who were heading off to Europe (ha), the Caribbean, or elsewhere in Africa. 

I knew I couldn't wear pants- skirts were still the only modest attire for women in Kenya-
I knew not to drink water straight from the tap.

I knew God was proud of me.

I was 18 years old."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Part 12 - Tutorial

The room felt like a perfect square: a corner bench filled out one right angle, a catty-cornered TV in the opposite, and two cheap IKEA chairs faced each other. The decor was minimal, but not empty, because of the walls made of wood.
Clutching my black leather-bound journal, I sat in the chair nearest the door.

I began to talk.

It was Tuesday. This was what they termed my "tutorial." A young man, not more than 25, surely, sat opposite me. We met downstairs a few minutes before, as we had planned, in the second floor hallway where my bedroom was situated. His curly brown hair bounced and waved at me as he led the way. I hadn't realized there was even a door at the end of the hall, until Dave opened it. Each stair creaked a fresh tone as I followed him up two short flights of stairs and into his apartment's living room. What was with his shoes? He seemed about my height, but with the feet of a pro-basketball player. He reminded me of a capital "L."
The electric overhead light wasn't bright enough, but that didn't matter. The door out onto his balcony, tucked between two large windows, lit up our meeting with possibility. His manner was altogether gentle and welcoming as if to say, "It's safe here." So, nestled in his kind demeanor, I spoke of Kenya.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Part 11 - Dave

"I definitely wouldn't call myself a 'Christian,'"

she said across the room as the rhythm of our mutual mopping fell into sync. We'd been cleaning together for nearly 3 hours. Our stories and mostly our grievances we aired freely. It was clear that she did not want to park in the vicinity of her spiritual heritage. She was a pastor's kid just like me, only a few years my senior. Her brown hair fell all around her shoulders. We made little eye contact.

I could feel my face growing hot and my hands grip the mop I held that much tighter as she went on. The missional vengeance with which I customarily approached people reared and roared. She was so matter-of-fact. She didn't seem out of her mind. That title, 'Christian,' that book, the Bible, maybe even any religious establishment- she wanted nothing to do with it. How could she say this stuff?

Confused by both her air of nonchalance and my own inability to come up with something in my raging thoughts that would change her mind - that would set her straight - I finished the rest of my tasks in silence. Our cordial final remarks were insincere, and I resolved to talk with her again. By then I'd know what she needed to hear.

The rest of the day passed.

My afternoon study period was spent perusing Farel House - the library below the chapel, just down the mountain from the other L'Abri chalets. It was here that students, just like me, through the 1950's, '60's, '70's, '80's (when I was born!), '90's and all the way up to the present, followed an individualized course of study. The homemade desk-nooks fit snug around the edges of the library and cushiony chairs offered a different course - in sleep - (I witnessed at least 2 curled up students profoundly unaware of the books that had fallen out of their hands and into their blanketed laps).

The shelves smooshed full of mesmerizing titles and an enormous tape library: recorded lectures from the likes of Francis Schaeffer himself, Os Guinness, and James K.A. Smith threatened to undo any commitment I had to any particular topic. My eyes paused the longest on the bindings with words like A Christian Critique of Capitalism. Having just spent a semester in the extreme poverty of Nairobi, Kenya (resulting in a pile of questions too frightening to name and too ugly to pick through), I thought the sterile world of economics would satisfy my deep unrest.

At 6 pm, we were free to make our way back up the winding path to Bellevue. Dinner was lively and full of laughter. As the conversation I was a part of died down, I got up and walked down the hall toward the stairs. A young man gripping both sides of the frame on the door to the kitchen leaned out towards me as I walked by. His jeans were ripped and his shoes looked a few sizes too big.

"Do you want to get together next Tuesday, in the afternoon?"


While I had seen this student around, and we had exchanged a few words, asking me to do something with just him seemed presumptuous in the extreme. I bumbled and awkwardly forgot how to use my own arms when he, noticing my obvious discomfort, added:

"I'm your tutor. I'm Dave. My name is Dave and I'm supposed to be your tutor."

"Oh!! Wow, OK. You work here?"

"Yes. Oh man, sorry. I didn't mean to confuse you."

"No, no. It's alright. It's fine. So Tuesday afternoon? Sounds good."


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Pause in the Story

Hello friends who may be reading my L'Abri story,

First off - Thank you! It is such a delight to receive comments from you and know that you are enjoying this little project of mine.

In case you hadn't noticed, I am taking a break from this storytelling for a few weeks. Our winter L'Abri term has ended and we are on a brief holiday in Paris!

That's our Son, Adam, who told us "The Eiffel Tower is the only reason I came to Paris!" He climbed up to the second look-out and came back down ecstatic. Yesterday we toured the Musee d'Orsay - amazing! My favorite Renoir was not there, but still, to see original Van Gogh, Monet, Dore- what a pleasure.

I hope to resume the L'Abri tale when we return. So look for Part 11 (which includes the introduction of a particularly important character) next week. 

And thanks again for reading!

From the city of Love,