30 June 2005

Un-Fairly Innocuous

Yet another example of how being a missionary is kind of like being a spy (for those of you still unable to decide):

Yesterday I paid a visit to the county clinic for a series of immunizations. They've got their racket figured pretty well, which is to say they're sneaky. I was graciously offered a less-than-comfortable seat in the interroga--er--examination room. To my left, a woman began to ask me questions. At this point, I can't replay our dialogue without mentally adding an Eastern European accent. In my peripheral vision to the right, a nurse made preparations wordlessly. I hardly paid any attention as the woman to my left kept me talking.

Ahead of me sat the little bottles of disease (or truth serum), each with an accompanying needle. I've never been too hung up on needles. Let's be real, though: I knew I was about to get stabbed in the arm about nine times. Staring at them, I began to let my mind wander. I started to think about how it was possible for people to get physically sick at the sight of needles and even tried to induce a little "sympathy nausea". To no avail. Let them do what they want to me; I have nerves of steel.

Did she say "Tetanus" or "Belarus"? The woman to my left was asking me questions again. She actually raised an eyebrow at my tentative answer, and almost simultaneously I sensed a tiny little prick on my right shoulder. I didn't even know the nurse was still in the room.

"My last tetanus shot must have been about five years ago, when I went on exchange to Germany! I was eighteen!" I blurted. Man, that stuff works fast!

"Most of Europe does not require extra tetanus immunization," she deapanned. Another shot. "Do you have record?"

"What? No, I--" (shot) "--I mean yes!" At this point I began losing sensation in my hands. The training in St. Paul had not prepared me for this.

"Let's have look, yes?" She made eye contact only with the nurse, who, at this point, must have been standing behind me.

"I left my immunization record at home, on accident but once when I was in sixth grade I put a rusty nail through my foot running through the forest in a game of capture the flag at outdoor school and I had a crush on the boy who was chasing me and he had to carry me back to base camp because I couldn't walk and I'm sure I got a tetanus shot after that!"

That was the last I can remember before waking up to see the nurse peeling off gloves and telling me I could expect to get a mild fever in about a week, and the Belarusian handing me a piece of paper and reminding me to come back for the second series of Hep A and B. Since then I've been feeling a little dizzy and find my arms too feeble to lift a wine bottle and I absolutely blame it all on those shots. Just goes to show, you've got to have your finger on the trigger all the time!

26 June 2005

The Work of the Spirit and How it Concerns Lutherans

Today I sat in my pew at my home church again (What-what, Saint Peter!) and whilst I admired the lovely new stained glass windows a passage of scripture that had recently become mysteriously familiar seemed to float through them on the sunbeams. Get your bibles out, it's Matthew 10:24-33. Focus on verse 27:

What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the rooftops!

Right then I couldn't go a minute longer without sharing my experiences from the past two weeks. I had not been very vocal about my plans with many members of the church yet, so after the service I asked my father (who I thought led Sunday morning bible study) for a couple minutes to speak about the amazing things the Lord has done. He said, "The pastor leads the bible study and is not back from a trip yet and there's no one to do it; you can talk for an hour!"

Suddenly everyone started asking me, "Anne, are you going to lead bible study?" As the room filled I prayed to the Holy Spirit for words. Anyone who knows me has heard me trip over my words and say things that sound awkward. Funny, but awkward. This was not the schtick I was going for. I've been known in the classroom to not always speak with confidence, but don't let that factoid make its way onto a resume. I feared that without a prepared outline, my message would ramble all over the place but no, the Lord used the time to communicate to the people what he is doing in the lives of missionaries going all over the world and also what I will be doing specifically in Taiwan! And lo! The people responded with all types of questions and support and brother Harold stood up and started talking about his plans to reformat how our church supports missions...Shoot, the only thing missing was the tent and the snakes!

Course, and this is changing the subject a little, Lutherans don't do those things. When Lutherans are excited about something the Lord is doing, they stand around and talk. Coffee is the beverage of choice for talk. Under normal circumstances, Lutherans get around to parting ways through several stages of departure. It usually takes a couple of Lutherans an average of five or six reiterations of a parting message (i.e., Got to be getting on home now; Sally's probably waiting for me; It's been good talking to you, etc.) to actually bid a final farewell. And don't get me started on the body language involved. Anyway, when we're excited about things spiritual, we tack on a couple more stages of departure. Oh, how badly we want to be in community with one another! To be neck deep in the concerns of our brothers and sisters! But we wait until the threshold of goodbye, content always to blame our German heritage for our hesitancy to welcome one another at the front door.

Hey, I digress. And Prairie Home Companion is on. Give Glory to God.

25 June 2005

Real World: WorldMish Training 2005

I'm proud to be the first to introduce to you...Team Taiwan! This fetching portait of the nine of us plus our fearless coordinator was taken after our satisfying meal together at the Grand Shanghai Restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Team Taiwan is a collection of committed folk from around the country. The team will travel to ChiaYi, Taiwan, where we will teach English to students at Concordia Academy or Middle School and more importantly, tell the message about Jesus. This, as we learned over the past two weeks, is no light task. It will require reliance on the Almighty, a willingness to make an utter fool of oneself, and a little hand-eye coordination.

As LCMS World Mission (hereafter referred to simply as World Mish) knew we'd need a little help with all three of the previous initiatives, they invited all of us along with the rest of the new missionaries out to St. Paul for 2 weeks in an attempt to help us develop some mad skills. Because skills are important.

Together, the assembly of 55 soon-to-be intrepid polytopians plumbed the depths of every corner of missiology, from Sharing the Gospel Naturally (thank you Jim Found) to Spiritual Warfare; from Culture Shock to Teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Little did we know that the sessions of this orientation would play a minor role in our spiritual formation throughout the week. (Cue music). It's written in Ecclesiastes that the Lord had written eternity in the hearts of men and it's true that most of the time we scamper about on the face of this planet in total ignorance of this "eternity". However, when the Lord gathered that group of 55 missionaries in St. Paul, he knew that through the work of the Holy Spirit, we'd each get a taste of what it'll be like to celebrate with an eternal, heavenly family.

Though we didn't know it was happening while we were praying or singing, while we were sharing a meal or a game of ultimate frisbee, while we were caring for one of us unexpectedly hospitalized or staying up late to figure out the meaning of life, our Counselor was making very tender stitches. Now, as we can look back at what He's woven, we see the moments and hours as thousands of blessings. I myself have no guarantee that I'll see all of these "new" brothers and sisters again in earthly life as they cover the ends of the earth, but the mystery of the union alone moves my heart to give glory to God. If the Lord in his awesome power can create a memorable bond between his children in just two weeks, imagine the tapestry he can weave between, for instance, myself and a Taiwanese child who doesn't know him yet, or more importantly, himself and one of his children.

Suddenly finding myself "back in the real world" after all this, sitting by myself at the airport and sorting through the blessings, I faced a whole new world of people ignorant to the incredible blessing of "eternity". I rejoiced to remember that as much as the Lord had sought me, called me, and walked with me, he also seeks every "lost sheep" with undying tenacity. Even now, as I revel in a whole new perspective of the breadth and width of the Lord's kingdom, I suspect the blessings to come will eclipse what I now understand onehundredfold.

To the missionaries: I praise God every time I remember each of you. I am blessed to have been written into a brief chapter in your lives, and I count your continued presence in my life a gift. I have all faith that the Lord will multiply your gifts for his glory. Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est.

*Apologies to MTV