Wednesday, September 29, 2004
I went to my final Nightshelter team meeting this morning. They wanted me to come so they could "pray me out." Last Wednesday we had our King's Arms Project team training and they prayed me out there as well. AND at church on Sunday they announced that I was leaving and prayed for me at the end of the service. So I'm leaving Bedford well prayed up and ready for whatever is coming my way.
But I'm still a snot face. I've been holding up well, but I almost cried last night as I said goodbye to the residents. I definitely cried this morning as they prayed for me and later as I hugged everyone goodbye. This probably means I'll be a wreck on the plane ride back. Great. The people sitting next to me will think I'm a weirdo.
Things left to do:
*pack - YIKES!
*visit the hostel one last time
*visit the Project administrator, PK, and his family to take pics of their baby for our Waco friends
*meet my friend Sarah for our final farewell ritual
*go to dinner with all my married friends (Dave & Hannah, Jez & Justyna, Sarah & Richard, but I don't think Richie is coming) Is it weird that my closest friends here are all married? I think it is!
*mail the 20 postcards that have accumulated over the past three months because I'm too lazy go to the post office and mail them
Well, I better get started, considering it's already 3. Yikes!
I wanted to post a gloomy goodbye poem to fit my mood, but I can't seem to think of one and can't be bothered to look for one. Does anyone out there have any suggestions?
Monday, September 27, 2004
I decided to go with a Texas theme - since that's where I'm going. And I planned to make Tex-Mex food - salsa, guacamole, 7-layer dip, quesadillas, nachos. And I thought I'd top it off with a few Caronas and limes. Well, when we went shopping on Saturday Dave told me to fill up a trolley with all the food and he'll fill up a trolley with all the drinks. Drinking is widely accepted in this culture, so Christians have no problem going to a pub and having a pint or throwing back a few beers with friends. Dave especially. So he bought a case of Stella Artois lager along with six bottles of wine plus eight Sols (since they didn't have Carona). For the non-drinkers he bought one liter of Coke and one liter of Diet Coke. I couldn't help but laugh and shake my head.
My stress over the party was magnified considering I had to have it the night I finished my three waking nights at the Nightshelter. I also wanted to go to church since it was my last Sunday in Bedford. So yesterday morning I finished work at 9:30 a.m., I walked home, took a shower, got dressed, and went straight to church. When I got home from church I took a nap because I knew I would be shattered by the time 7:30 rolled around and guests started arriving. Unfortunately, a three hour nap didn't add up to much. But I got up anyway and I started cooking at 4:30 and finished around 8. Dave and Hannah were amazing because they had cleaned the house and re-arranged the lounge while I was sleeping!
People came to my party! And they ate the food and loved it! All but four people didn't know what the quesadillas were (my American friend Sarah makes quesadillas for her British husband, Richard, and I had made some for Dave and Hannah a few weeks before), but they ate them anyway, calling them "yummy pancake things." It was very hard for me not to shake my head in disgust at their ignorance. Much to Dave's delight, many people partook in his drinks. And despite Richard's comments about the drunk Americans, Sarah and I were most definitely NOT drunk (although Sarah's clumsy nature didn't help her cause, nor did me telling people there was more wine in the "rine wack").
My party was a success and I am overwhelmed by the friendships I have developed here in just a few short weeks. I was also blessed with gifts of chocolates and goodbye cards. So I must thank Dave and Hannah for pushing me to have my party, although it did make leaving all the more real and hard. *sigh* I can say with confidence: "My cup runneth over."
Friday, September 24, 2004
1.) MY CAR!!! God only knows how much I miss my car! Although Bedford is a small town it's still a pain to have to walk everywhere. Especially to the store. I can't wait to get my car back and load it down with groceries. Granted, I'll need money first, so I may not have a shopping spree for a few more months. But at least I'll have my car! And hopefully can scrounge up some money for gasoline...
2.) A tumble drier. I don't particularly mind having to air dry my clothes. It's times like today that I wish I had a tumble drier. Wait, let me specify that: It's times like today that I wish I had a hot-air tumble drier.
My hosts, Dave and Hannah, inherited a tumble drier from some friends but it's a cold-air drier. What idiot invited that, I don't know. I stuck two shirts - only TWO shirts - in it for two-and-a-half hours and the darn things were still damp! I then spent fifteen minutes drying one of the shirts with my hairdryer. That's right folks, I used my hairdryer to dry a shirt so I can wear it tonight because this country starts to get pretty darn cold come September.
This last bit leads me to reason number three...
3.) A more extensive wardrobe and not having to live out of a suitcase. Like any girl, I like clothes. Now, I try to keep a level head and not to get too obsessed. However, when I came to Bedford, I only planned on coming for seven weeks. And since I knew most of my time would be spent in a homeless shelter I didn't bring the greatest of clothes. But seven weeks turned into three months (that's a quarter of a year!) and I found myself sorely missing all the clothes I have back home. I somehow convinced my mom to send me a package and she included some nice summer clothes, which I desperately needed since people don't have air conditioners here (another thing I miss but am not desperate for since it's cold now). It's amazing how much variety four extra articles of clothing can add! But summer here lasted a whole three weeks and it's progressively getting colder. So that only leaves me with the two long-sleeved tops I so desperately tried to dry today.
4.) Mexican food. Sure, I can make it (and have made it numerous times) but it's just not the same. Besides, what I make isn't as good as it should be because they only have Old El Paso ingredients. Yuck! I don't even use Old El Paso back home! I miss being able to go into a taqueria and ordering whatever I fancy, especially menudo. Mmm...menudo...I think I know what my first Texas meal will be.
5.) Bar-b-que. That's going to be my second Texas meal.
6.) My family, especially Nathan, Daniel, and Abigail (my nephews and niece). I can't wait to see those little monkeys! And I love that they're still too young to realize that I've been out of the country, therefore I don't feel obligated to bring them back anything beyond candy. (I know that sounds cheap, but if you saw my bank account statement than you'd understand where I'm coming from - I haven't worked in four months!)
7.) Coffee shops that are open late into the night. They have nice cafes here, but everything seems to close by five. Seriously. The town just dies. Of course the pubs are still open, but you can't go to a pub with a friend and chat and read and drink coffee. You go to pubs to laugh and drink and be stupid. (But I'm sure the pubs will be something I miss when I'm back home.)
8.) Education. This is the first time in six years I'm not being challenged to think. Granted, I'm not going back to university once this trip is over, but it's still something from back home that I miss.
9.) My church. Another sad one because I'm moving to Houston when I get back to Texas, so my church will no longer be my church. I'll need to find a new church. *sigh* But I miss going to church and meeting up with my friends and worshipping together.
10.) Having my own space. I love where I'm staying. Dave and Hannah are amazing and so much fun AND a huge blessing since they're not charging me anything to live with them! And even though I feel comfortable with them (Dave is literally like one of my brothers) I am still aware that it's their home and I worry about being in their way. They say it's rubbish and I know they mean it. But still. I miss having my apartment and my room decorated my way. Hmm..that's something I may not even have back home because I still don't know where I'm living. Praise the Lord!
Anywho, sorry this has turned into such a long post. I just need to pump myself up about going home in six days. Yay, home!
Thursday, September 23, 2004
by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
The sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the hills and the plains
Are not these, O Soul, the Vision of Him who reigns?
Is not the Vision He? tho' He be not that which he seems?
Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?
Earth, these solid stars, this weight of body and limb,
Are they not sign and symbol of thy division from Him?
Dark is the world to thee: thyself art the reason why;
For is He not all but that which has power to feel "I am I"?
Glory about thee, without thee; and thou fulfillest thy doom
Making him broken gleams, and a stifled splendour and gloom.
Speak to Him thou for He hears, and Spirit with Spirit can meet
Closer is he than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.
God is law, say the wise; O Soul, and let us rejoice,
For if he is thunder by law the thunder is yet his voice.
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower - but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
Hallowed be thy name - Halleluiah!
Hallowed be thy name - Halleluiah!
We feel we are nothing - for all is Thou and in Thee;
We feel we are something - that also has come from thee;
We know we are nothing - but Thou wilt help us to be.
Hallowed be thy name - Halleluiah!
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Sitting outside a cafe drinking coffee.
Sitting along the Thames River; Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament across the riverbank.
The sun peaking out from the swiftly-moving clouds as it sets behind the historic buildings.
The wind whipping my hair beneath my pink knit cap (well, the cap actually belongs to my friend Sarah, not me, but she let me wear it all day).
Bag pipes softly playing in the distance.
London. It's like a dream, but it's my reality for the day.
Out of breath.
Hair flailing as we run through the tube station.
Sarah and I hold hands so we're not separated in the sea of cloned business men and women.
Although the tranquility of the day is shattered, we didn't miss the train and made it home to Bedford!
Saturday, September 18, 2004
by Linda Pastan
Pierre Bonnard would enter
the museum with a tube of paint
in his pocket and a sable brush.
Then violating the sanctity
of one of his own frames
he'd add a stroke of vermilion
to the skin of a flower.
Just so I stopped you
at the door this morning
and licking my index finger, removed
an invisible crumb
from your vermilion mouth. As if
at the ritual moment of departure
I had to show you still belonged to me.
As if revision were
the purest form of love.
Friday, September 17, 2004
So, what's your animal personality???
You are an orang-utan!
You are initially cautious about making friends,
appearing quite reserved, with an air of solemnity about you. However, once
people get to know you, your true character emerges. You may remain somewhat
aloof, but your sense of humour, although dry, is contagious, and you are
loyal to your small circle of friends and family.
Prince Charles and Avril Lavigne
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Some days it feels like I've been living here for years. Other days the time seemed to have flown by. No matter what I feel like, I know that I've been doing what the Lord has called me to do, so I find satisfaction in that fact. I'll miss Bedford and the Nightshelter and all my new friends, but I know my time here is over. I'm ready to go home. Oh, I'll probably still grieve when I say goodbye to people and I'll probably cry the whole plane ride, but I know it's time to move on. I still don't know exactly what I'm moving on to. Hmm...whatever it is, it'll have to be a job; or a rich husband, but the job is more probable. School loans. Yuck!
I came to the King's Arms to find out if working with the poor is something I could commit to doing full-time for at least a year. My seven weeks turned into three months, and I'm fairly confident this is something God is calling me to do again. I'm praying that I will be able to return for a longer period next year. I'm also praying for the financial miracle that will make that possible. As long as God is in control I don't have to worry about it. Praise the Lord!
The King's Arms Project manager, Mike, says that we're all called to take care of the poor. Whether you make loving and serving the poor your life or not, we should all make some room for them in our hearts and lives. I just pray that I will incorporate the lessons I learned here into my life in America, and I pray that I will learn and experience more in these last two weeks than I have all summer.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
How he got through the staff members on gate and at the door without being told to go up to his room, I don't know, but I found myself trying to dish out sweet and sour chicken to ten hungry and impatient residents while keeping an eye on a staggering Phil. I told him he needed to go up to his room but was unable physically do anything at the moment. One resident offered to carry his coffee after its contents were nearly spilled all over the counter and floor. Another resident, Phil's closest friend, encouraged him to go on upstairs. Within minutes, I successfully filled plates for all the other residents and served one final one for Phil. We then managed to transport Phil, his coffee, and his food up to his room without any problems. I figured he just needed to sleep off the drink, but unfortunately it was more than just alcohol in Phil's system.
Phil is one of my favorite residents. He has such a kind and gentle spirit. And he desperately wants to know God. He loves going to church and hates that other residents go just to laugh at people and to get free coffee and doughnuts. He wakes up every night around one and comes downstairs for coffee, a cigarette, and to read his daily devotional. I don't know much about Phil's past, just that depression and hopelessness drove him to escape life through heroin and alcohol. He wants more than anything to be free.
After all the steps Phil has taken forward over the last few months, it was heartbreaking to see him slip backwards in just one day. Not only did he drink himself silly, he took heroin along with his daily dose of methodone and a third unknown drug. It's always scary when a resident overdoses, especially when it's someone you're close to. Phil is okay now, although he was rather upset to wake up in the hospital and promptly discharged himself very early this morning. Please join with me in praying for Phil. Pray that there would be no condemnation after his overdose, but that he would experience God's mercy and grace. Pray that he would find freedom from addiction as well as from depression. And pray that he would experience deep intimacy with Christ and know just how much his Daddy loves him.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Friday, September 10, 2004
My first month working in the Nightshelter was spent in the kitchen serving dinner, washing dishes, and disinfecting surfaces. I gradually moved out of the kitchen into the hallway, answering the door when the guys started arriving. Then I was given the daunting task of "being on gate." At 7 the guys start lining up at the gate and we check to see if they are on the list as having stayed the night before. We also see if they've been drinking because if so, they'll have to go to their room until they sober up a bit. The final question we ask before clearing them to go to the door is, "Do you have any drugs, alcohol, weapons, or solvents?" Only once have I had a guy say "yes" and pull a pint of lager out of his bag, which he promptly chucked in the bin.
I was fairly confident being out on gate last Thursday night. But then ten guys walked up at the same time and they were all tired, hot, and hungry. Only two were a little tipsy. The last guy to walk up, Steve M, was clearly angry and a bit drunk. Now, the thing about Steve is he is probably the most hostile man I have ever met. I never know what to say because everything I say is wrong. So when he walked up cussing, saying someone had just put a knife to his throat and took his mobile and money, I didn't know how to respond other than saying I was sorry it happened to him. He even had red marks on his neck where the knife had been shoved into his skin. Seeing he had had a traumatic experience I cleared him to go inside even though I suspected he had been drinking. But Nilesh, the Nightshelter manager, asked him to go to his room. When he refused and grew more verbally threatening, he was asked to leave. He tore into Nilesh and when he went inside to get Steve's belongings, I was left alone with an angry, swearing man who was basically calling down curses on Nilesh and the Nightshelter. Again, Debbie doesn't know what to do in these situations. Anything I say, anything, will be misconstrued or fall on deaf ears.
Ten minutes later Micha, another staff member who has a good relationship with Steve, came outside. She tried talking to him and he got started again on how he was robbed and then came to the Nightshelter only to be sent away because he didn't want to be sent to bed like a child. He also had some nasty things to say about Nilesh and the staff. He was livid. Then, he started talking about all his illnesses - he has hepatitis as well as cancer and various other health problems. He said how he should just kill himself and get it over with, that way his death isn't drawn out and the pain would be over. He talked incoherently for a few more minutes, and then the next thing I knew, his head was in his arms and he was leaning against the gate weeping. Steve was weeping. This hardened, hostile man who is virtually impossible to love let out gut-wrenching sobs that tore at my heart. It only lasted mere minutes, but it was long enough for me to see that he was a broken man.
Brokenness is all around the Nightshelter. Broken lives. Broken hearts. Broken spirits. Broken wills. Broken bodies. Broken relationships. The residents' brokenness is sometimes visible in their facial expressions, in the way they converse with people, in their posture. Others hide it beneath a thin mask of mirth and happiness. Then those like Steve, bury it deeply beneath anger, resentment, and bitterness. Some use drugs to deaden the pain. Others alcohol. Some can't cope and block it out completely. A few turn to God, and sadly, even fewer seem to make it to the other side.
How can you reach these broken men and women? How can I reach these broken men and women? Me, who has never been addicted to drugs or alcohol, who has loving and supportive friends and family, and who has never been hurt the way these guys have been. When compared to theirs, they would scoff at my brokenness. But even though my brokenness has a different face, I'm just as broken as all these men and women. But I can't seek a method for deadening my pain. However, I have a hope: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." And I can only pray that Steve and all the other men and women who come through the Nightshelter will open their hearts to this hope and truth.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
2.) I'm bored with my long, straight hair. It's been the same my whole life. I've been looking through magazines for a new look, but I didn't want to spend £35 on a haircut (that's $70 folks!). So as an afterthought I asked God to maybe provide the money for a nice cut. It was one of those prayers I didn't think He would take seriously. Now I know you're thinking the $210 can be used towards that, but an amazing thing happened before the money even existed in my account. I met one of the new Nightshelter staff members and she's a HAIRDRESSER! Isn't that awesome?! He didn't provide money for a new hairdo, He provided an actual hairdresser!
God is so cool!
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
For those of you wondering about my connection to The Thinklings, Thinkling Bird is my older brother, Honorary Thinkling Sha my oldest brother, and Thinkling Blo my uncle. So it's really a family connection and not that I have a wonderfully witty and insightful blog. My apologies for any disappointment this may cause.
Anywho, it's bedtime here in Bedford, England. 11 p.m. Lucky me gets to do a split shift tomorrow: 830-1130 a.m. and 530-1030 p.m. I hope to get some blog time during my break, so until then . . . 'nite!