Friday, March 21, 2014

Uganda and the Tangible Charity

Thirteen bags (meticulously weighed, re-packed, re-weighed) are ready to go to Uganda.

60 pounds X 13 bags = 780 pounds of donations.

Each member of the Uganda service vowed to take only their personal necessities in their carryon luggage. This left all the checked baggage to be filled with donations for us to take the orphanage and school.

So what does 780 pound of donations look like?

500 toothbrushes
300 tubes of toothpaste
50 pairs of shoes
100 books
nearly 1000 pencils, pens, markers, and crayons
100s (not counted) bars of soap
120 pounds worth of clothes: swim suits, kids clothes, kids underwear, shirts and ties for the teachers
20 sets of sheets
30 towels
teaching supplies for 20 teachers
a projector
30 soccer balls
2 air pumps
One entire suitcase filled with med supplies: cough drops, bandaids, antifungal cream, neosporin, gauze, surgical tape, children's vitamins, and pain medication.

Here we are folding clothes and trying to squeeze in just one more shirt!:

Just one of the 13 suitcases - this one filled with toothbrushes and toothpaste:

Through this experience I've been thinking a lot about hands. The hands that typed the emails (Madi) or drew the signs on the collection boxes (Amelia). The hand-picked items brought to school by hundreds of JIS students. The many hands it took to carry all the items to my classroom and Shana's classroom. My own hand holding the hand-written notes with well-wishes and messages from the JIS students to the children in Uganda like the one pictured below.

And I feel so grateful to hand-deliver these Africa. To shake their hands. To hold their hands. To use my hands to help with the medical clinic. To dig and weed with my hands.

And through all this - somewhere in my mind and heart I think of Christ's hands. Hands that blessed. Hands that worked. Hands that prayed. Hands that bled. And somehow, through the preparation of this Uganda experience, of holding pencils, toothbrushes, and a pair of socks, His sacrifice seems more understandable. I am a witness the service, work, and charity of others. Somehow I feel closer to my Savior to be even the smallest part of this service.

Here are a couple of the incredible people I'm traveling with: Jeska and Shana. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Thousand Lives in Three Years

Recently, a dear friend remarked that I'm living "A thousand lives in three years." How true this statement is. From travel, to culture, to heart-aching sights, to glorious beauty, from hardships to triumphs. Yes, the sheer amount and variety of my experiences seem to exceed the expanse of three years.

And now it's time to announce my newest adventure: I'm going to Uganda. In just three days I'll board a plane with nine JIS students, my dear friend (and fearless leader Shana!), and another JIS teacher to travel to Kampala, Uganda for a 10 day service trip.

This trip has been months in the making. Inspired by Shana's work in Uganda (she founded the NGO "Come Let's Dance" and lived there for 7 years), we are going to lend service at her school, orphanage, and farm.

During the ten day trip I will work on an organic farm:
I'll help with a village medical clinic, train teachers at the school, and play with the children at the orphanage. This is Winston - he's a student at the Come Let's Dance school - I can't wait to meet him!

Part of the trip preparation has included collecting donations from our JIS school population and our church. Madi and Elise spearheaded an effort to collect toothbrushes and toothpaste. The JIS middle school alone donated over 500 toothbrushes and toothpaste (enough for the school, orphanage, and an additional entire village!)

Last Sunday the bishop and his wife brought bags and bags of school supplies and hygiene products to church. It filled the back of my car. I had only anticipated they would bring a couple ziplock bags of items, so witnessing their generosity was overwhelming. Then a few sisters, who are less economically blessed, unexpectedly brought in donations (my own personal lesson of the widow's mite). Seeing the piles of donations grow - charity in a very tangible/visible form - has been life-changing. Here is Charlotte on Sunday surrounded donated items:

I confess I feel a bit apprehensive about a few parts of the trip (though probably not as much as my mom). I'm worried about not being able to sleep (no AC - I know it's pathetic how I whine!), and I'm worried about getting sick (I'll be on Malaria meds and don't want to pick up any internal bugs). But the pros outweigh all the cons. I'm ready - ready to see hard things, ready to see beautiful people and places, ready to work hard, ready to learn and grow, and ready to be exhausted in well-doing. Hopefully, as part of my thousand lives experience, I will be changed again. More grateful. More aware. More willing to do good things even when it's hard.  

Plus - I get to travel with this amazing group of kids. They may look goofy in the picture below - but their energy and optimism is contagious. I'm sure I'll be changed by them too.

Another chapter: Uganda. Here I come!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Liminal Space

Okay, the panic dreams have begun. Last night it was a panic dream about buying a car in Utah - the car was big, black, and expensive, and I didn't have enough money to buy it. While I'm sure a psychologist would love to do a dream analysis, I know where the panic is coming from. It is fuelled mostly by the upcoming changes (aka leaving Jakarta). But more specifically, the panic stems from all the UNKNOWNS which currently include the following:

1) No exit date yet.
2) No packing date yet.
3) No office/job assignment for Owen yet.
4) No flights yet.
5) No summer plans yet.
6) No temporary housing lined up yet.
7) No permanent housing lined up yet.
8) A house that needs to be sold this spring but still needs a kitchen remodel, yard work, and staging.
9) Kids are not registered for school yet.
10) No job lined up for me yet.

Is there anything we know for sure about this big change? Yes, we're moving. Period. That's just about the only thing I know.

The panic has also bled into my waking hours. On Wednesday, I had as close to a panic attack as I've ever had. The following is an exchange I had with Gina, my friend in the English dept, on Wednesday morning between classes:    

“I had a panic attack this morning,” I blurt out in the middle of the teacher’s lounge. Thankfully, only Gina hears me.

“Literal or figurative?” she asks.

“Literal," I say. "While I was running this morning, my heart started beating really hard and I couldn’t breath. I had been thinking about everything that’s going to happen in the next four months and just panicked. I stopped running and started to cry. I cut my run short and came home.”

Gina beckons me into her classroom where we’ll have a bit more privacy.

“Tell me more,” she says.

It feels so good to have someone listen to my inner chaos. So I let it pour out in one long rant: “I think it’s stress. I’m trying to be positive and I know there are tons of blessings, but we just don’t have anything concrete yet. No job assignment. No exit date. No plane tickets. No summer plans. No contract for a house when we return. We’re making progress but everything is taking longer than expected. Looks like we’re going to be living in temporary housing for six months. It will all be worth it, but I’m struggling.”

“Stress,” she nods knowingly. “I’m suffering too.” Now it’s her turn. She explains how she took on too much. Signed up for some extra work to make a little more money. And instead of just getting one thing, she got all three: two IB grading sessions and summer teaching at JIS Academy. Family visitors during inconvenient times. And an upcoming surgery for her daughter during spring break.

I realize I’m not alone.

She continues, “At least your breakdown happened in the cloak of early morning. I broke down this week in front of Mr. Clark (our principal) in his office.“

Yep. It could be worse.

I continue, “I just wish I could plan something. Control something. But everything is so undecided.”

“Liminal space,” Gina muses.

“Liminal? That’s a new word for me,” I confess. “What does it mean?”

“It’s a literary device to describe the blurry boundary period between two knowns. In latin it literally means threshold." (Yep, I get to hang with people who are smart like this!!) 

For the rest of the day I think about liminal spaces: In between. Unknonwns. Blurry. Undefined. Threshold. Holding-pattern (airplane jargon). Scary.

Somehow I find peace in the labels. And I find peace in the fact that I'm not alone - I have family and friends to help me through. 

Liminal space...I'm in the middle of it. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Family Moments

In all our comings and goings, our car rides to and from school, the mad dashes out the front door, and the collapses at the end of the night, good things are happening. Here are some moments I don't want to forget:

...Charlotte visits me in my classroom on Monday. She gets out the car wearing long jeans (not her normal choice). "I'm wearing big girl pants," she explains. "So I'll look like one of the big kids." I smile as we walk through the maze of high schoolers. Charlotte barely comes up to their hips. But she walks confidently, assured she's blending right in. We color pictures and play games of tic-tac-toe on the desks in my classroom. She jumps from my cupboard in the corner to the pile of over-sized, batik pillows on the floor. I have to "shush" her a few times because she's squealing with loud laughter. Before she leaves she draws a picture on my white board. It is a large square present with the following label: "To Mom, from Charlotte. I love you." As she adds decorations - small red and blue polka dots - she says, "This is so you can have a party in your classroom every day."

...Amelia and I play basketball on the black cal-de-sac in front of our house before dinner. She dribbles with her right and left hand interchangeably. The motorcycles parked near the basket make for difficult obstacles. We cringe each time we miss a basket, and it hits the motorcycle seat. We tie at PIG. Our hands are smudged with black from the pavement.

....Soccer games at JIS: A flash of blond hair across the field as Madi sprints toward the goal. Charlotte soaks herself in the misting tent. Paper kites dart and dodge in the sky above the campoon behind the JIS field. Elise is the tallest on her team - easily spotted on the field. The coach has her play forward during the last quarter where she scores another goal for her team. 

...Night time chapter book reading with the kids crowded in my bed. Bathed-wet hair on my pillows. The plea, "One more chapter pleeeeease!" And a standing ovation when we finish the book "Wonder."

...One school night we sit around the living room and realize with surprise: "We're all home AT THE SAME TIME!" Great cause for celebration. We play a spontaneous game of "Wolf" (a keep-away game done with a stuffed animal while crawling crab-style). My wrists and palms hurt with the pounding on the marble floor. So I sit back and watch the lovely chaos.

...I join Truman with his daily workout (his cub scout goal). Push ups (I do girl pushups), pull ups, squats, situps, and plank work. We tip over Harry Potter lego figures to mark our progress through the five rounds.

...Charlotte and I cuddle under the sheets strung between chairs. Pillows and blankets snatched from beds cushion us. The flashlight bobs over the words of the book, "I will not eat them in a box, I will not eat them with a fox. I do not like green eggs and ham." Then together in chorus: "I don't not like them Sam-I-Am."

....Poor Santa! The Indonesian Santa statue on Taragong Raya took a spill a few weeks ago, yet no one has come to his rescue. Day after day we pass him: he is one-legged and perilously upside down. We sing Christmas Carols, especially "Hey Santa," to keep up his spirits. Madi and Elise laugh from the back seat of the car.

Just small moments. But the kind of moments that fill me with joy and remind me just how good life is.