Friday, July 30, 2010

Cool Things Happening

The retirement decision was BIG! Did you see it coming? I'd been thinking about it and praying about it for months. This is really cool: Since I faxed the letter to my principal all of three days ago, a whole bunch of incidental things have started falling into place. I have some leads on having someone watch my house in Florida, I have two new Russian orthodox friends in Anchorage who are anxious to get better acquainted and talk about "religious" things, I have been invited to join a church team going to another remote native village (with no church) and chop wood and have a church service (so I'll be a little late getting home in August), my pastor, Juan, asked me to bring the message at church when I finally get back home (and I have a great message to bring), a new friend, Denise, offered to let me stay with her when I return to Anchorage and am looking for an apt., and when I cranked up the Puffin (old Olds that I'm driving)the radio blared out a song that said something about beginnings and endings that was just what I needed to hear. I think the song was actually about being drunk and getting sober but I applied it to me anyway.
Well that's the latest. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Big News!!!!!

So I was in the Word this afternoon....... the Word is the name for the staff's secret napping spots up by the baptistry at the church. There's two of them, the Old Testament and the New Testament. So when you disappear for a while to rest and don't want to be called a slacker, you can say, "Hey, I was deep in the Word and lost track of time." (btw, the New Testament became Tom's new bedroom because of the crowd this week, but nobody told me (Remember Tom, the older gentleman I picked raspberries with?) So yesterday Tom walks into his room and finds me asleep in his bed. I wondered why we suddenly had a pillow and covers. This has been a hard one to live down.)
Anyway, I'm dozing in the Old Testament this afternoon when my phone rings. It was Mike from human resources at the Pasco school system returning my call. When the chat was over, the deed was done. I am now, after an illustrious 34 year career as an elementary school teacher................RETIRED! Yikes!!!! I called my principal and gave her the news. A few paperwork formalities and I am officially unemployed.
I feel the weight of the world off my shoulders... but that could be an illusion. What if I've made a big mistake? No I haven't, yes I have, no I haven't, yes I have, no I haven't and THAT'S FINAL!
I fly home next week and start making my plans to move to Alaska..... temporarily, that is. Maybe for a few months. We'll see where God leads from there.
Tomorrow night I'm leading singing at the Anchorage Rescue Mission. Just a matter of time until I fit right in.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thinking Adventure

"Naturally we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing....Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; Gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation." Oswald Chambers

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Missionary Me

Me, the missionary. I guess that's technically what I am this summer. It's funny how this all came to be. It was quite unexpected and almost planned itself. Having been here a month I'm starting to remember a time in my life when I longed to be a missionary. When visiting missionaries would speak at church I wanted to stow myself away in their baggage and journey along with them. When I went to Ecuador years ago, I didn't want to come home.
I always thought Greg and I would make a powerful missionary team. He could teach the natives in some exotic land how to grow their own fish and I would feed their souls with the Word of God. He wasn't interested though, so the dream slowly died. Or so I thought. Now widowed for two and a half years, I find myself dreaming again. With so many options, I'm overwhelmed.
I have the privilege this summer, not only of serving mission teams in Alaska, but of interacting with some highly experienced and successful career missionaries. Scott has a PhD in missions and has been living his missionary dream for years. He's able to answer so many questions and tell me things I wouldn't have thought to ask. This guy, Larry, is on the team I'm hosting this week. He was on some international mission board for years and has been on too many trips to count. I've been picking his brain as well. He tells me of reaching people groups in Africa that have never ever heard the name of Jesus. He told the story of one guy who said he always knew from observing the heavens that there must be a creator but he never knew His name.
What I hear repeated over and over from these seasoned veterans is "Don't be afraid to take risks. When you feel compelled to leave your comfort zone, just do it."
A missionary spoke at Lebanon Baptist Church when I was about 14 years old. I'll never forget her talk. She said when God calls you to do something JUST DO IT! That has been stuck in the deepest part of my mind and emotions all these years. JUST DO IT! What does that mean for me now, a single, middle aged, soon-to-be-retired school teacher who has always valued routine, predictability and safety. Sheesh!
What does God want me to do? There's a bend in the road ahead. I can see that clearly. But what's around that bend is still out of sight. With every step I get closer. But just as with a curve in the road, I expect it will seem to straighten as I approach it. I'm thinking in a few years I'll be looking back and wondering, "What happened to that bend I saw in the road?" I will have negotiated the turn without even realizing it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Week Beginning

It's Sunday morning. I had yesterday off which was a good thing. I really needed the rest. I slept in then Jody and I went to brunch, then flea market shopping, then Target, then more rest, then dinner at Taco King, then more rest, then bedtime.
Today I got up at five to leave at six to have breakfast served for 50 at 7:30.
I'm sticking around the church here for the service. I haven't been to a service here yet (at Calvary where we are headquartered). Then I'm scheduled to co-lead a team from Texas that will be arriving at Eagle River in clumps all afternoon and evening. I'm driving there after church to help get things ready for them.
Eagle River is a little community about 10 miles from here. The Texans will stay at a church there and Emily and I will be hosting them. This will be my first "away" mission. We will have our own cook, do our own chapel services and have our own ministries in that area, although I will still drive back "home" each night and sleep in my own bed.
Later this afternoon I'm driving back to Calvary to help cook a late dinner for the teams arriving here. Sundays are transition days with last week's teams leaving and new ones coming. Lots of chores to be done, email addresses to exchange, hellos and goodbyes. Sound like summer camp??? Well... it is!
Did I mention I called my new Indian friend, Annabelle, to thank her for her hospitality in the village? She said I could come back anytime so I said, "How 'bout next week?" We're going to walk on the beach.
So now the logistics of getting there. We have a team of men flying to the village this week to stay and do service projects for the elders. They have to be picked up sometime, right??? So I'm arranging to fly over Friday with the bush pilot who goes to fetch them. There won't be room for me to fly back so...hmmmm.... I'm going to have to actually book a flight with Spernak, the commercial airlines that flies in and out of there. I'm told the planes only have six seats so I'll have to book early, i.e. tomorrow. I asked Scott how I would get to the landing strip from Annabelle's house and he said, "walk". So walk I will. Honestly, this is just too much adventure for a person who spent her last meaningful vacation at fiddle camp at a college where I never left the same hundred yard radius all week and the biggest challenge was playing a solid G# with my pinky. To say I'm stretching is an understatement. Remember the analogy of spreading out onto the extra seat on the plane? God is really making peanut butter out of me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Back From Tyonek

The trip was surreal. I felt I was in a dream or a player on a stage. The four of us, Scott, Jay, Joe and I, crammed into the tiny plane full of excitement, anticipation, and fishing poles. This was a trip I'd been hoping for but wasn't sure would happen. We were headed to a native village to meet Scott's Athabascan friends and fish.
I don't feel it would be appropriate to relate the details of the day in a blog. We were guests, after all, and I want to be respectful of that. I would extend the same courtesy to you if you had me over (and some of you need to have me over in August so start planning).
I will say our native hosts were very hospitable and excellent cooks. (They were watching Rachel Ray on TV. That should shatter some stereotypes). I hope, hope, hope I get invited back.
As for the fishing, we only caught one salmon that we could keep and eat. I tried to show them how it's done, but they were too proud to listen to this white woman.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bigger Adventure

Okay, this has got to be quick! Sunday I talked to Scott about the possibility of going to one of the remote villages and seeing what God might have in store. I want to minister to women and I'm praying for direction.
At 11:00 today, I'm playing fiddle tunes for the dementia patients at Pioneer Center when my phone in my pocket rings. I say, "excuse me" to my audience but the expressions don't change. I was just about the turn off the phone when I noticed it was Scott. So I answered. He says to be at the airport at 1:00 prepared to stay in Tyonek for the night. Some guys are going fishing over there and something about something else, but all I really heard was be at the airport at 1:00. I quickly pack up the fiddle (still no expressions change) and flagged down a nurse to escort me to the third floor where the rest of the group was playing bingo with the bingo crowd. Then I had to beg for a quick ride back to the church to get the Goose (my van)and drive home and pack up.
So here I am packing, charging my camera battery, wondering what to wear, and getting this down quick. I have no idea what to expect but I am tremendously excited.
And btw, I am also excited about returning to the dementia ward. I could make all kinds of jokes right now (you're probably thinking of a few) but I was honestly touched by the experience of entertaining (if that's the word) these seemingly vacant, nonresponsive old people. There was just enough light shining through to brighten my day (even if Scott hadn't called).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Down From Denali

In the book of Galatians the Apostle Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit. The context helps us understand that if we are true believers, God's Spirit will live within us and manifest Himself in us through certain "fruit": Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. For the last two years I have perceived a serious withering of the fruit within me. I have prayed often and sincerely for God's Spirit to awaken within me and once again produce a harvest.
Recently I have felt my prayers being answered. It started happening a few months ago when I stopped trying to manipulate God, conceded His Lordship over me and submitted (to the best of my weak ability) myself into His sole keeping (My soul keeping).
On the field trip to Denali, I came my closest yet to feeling the reactivation of the fruit of the Spirit in my life.
Love, joy, peace all welled up within me standing on a mountaintop. I know many of you have had this "mountaintop" experience and know what I'm talking about. Feeling small and insignificant at the same time you feel integrated into God's enormous imagination is both humbling and affirming. The fruit of the Spirit is fraught with paradox.
Any road trip involving seven diverse and colorful personalities (including you, Emily and Karen if you're reading this) will tap into your patience. It's either that or harikari.
Gentleness, kindness, goodness have been evident on the surface these last few years, but they haven't been too heartfelt. I've been too preoccupied with myself. An elderly gentleman named Tom drew them out of me as he confided some personal struggles he's faced recently. His eyes were sad but trusting and I wanted to pray with him and offer the comfort that I have received in such abundance. He picked me some wild raspberries on the side of the road as we walked together. It just felt good and right.
Faithfulness: Bouncing along the road, sharing songs, telling jokes, oooing and ahhhing at the sights, scrambling for the best shots, silence on the mountaintop, dinner with new and interesting people in Fairbanks (members of the Christian pilot's association), all renewed my faith in the goodness of God and His promise to "satisfy my desires with good things..."
It was a lighthearted trip for the most part and I had a wonderful time.
And about self-control: that just wasn't a problem.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Last Blog Til Sunday

This is such an easy week compared to last. There are only five people here doing GraceWorks ministry. There are other teams stationed around the state, but I am not involved with that. So a few of us staffers are leaving around 3:00 to drive to Denali National Park. We are kinda camping in churches that we have prearranged with. We're taking inflatable mattresses and linens, an ice chest with sandwich stuff. Not really roughing it, but adventure never-the-less. They say the drive up is very scenic and I'll have my camera ready to hang out the window.
I'm praying hard about the ministry here. There are villages accessible only by air that do not have a church and have little or no exposure to the gospel. Scott has told me that I can help develop the ministry there if I.........move to Alaska.
Yikes! I wonder if God is leading me in this new direction. Can you see me retiring from teaching, packing up Daffodil and moving to the cold country? So many things to consider. Until now, dressing in layers meant wearing a tank top over a cami. I'd have to invest in a real coat. And get bear spray!
Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg (very funny). The real challenge would be assimilating into a new culture, establishing a new support circle, rebudgeting (which would seriously affect the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed), and really starting a whole new life. You'd have to get a plane ticket to visit me.
It would mean ending my days as a teacher and beginning a new life as a missionary. Because I wouldn't want to move here just to move (I'd never pick Alaska). I have to feel a sense of calling and purpose and really get excited about it.
I'm just thinking about this now, so please don't call Momma and say we heard Kim's moving to Alaska for good. If I make the move, she's to believe I'm still in Florida, okay? On the phone: "Kim, what's that sound I hear like teeth chattering?" "Why, Momma, that's just a woodpecker on the roof."
So pray along with me about this.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday Eve

I am very tired. But not from working. I had today off. My fellow mission worker, Jodie, and I went exploring. We found a hiking trail about 20 minutes from town that we had passed on our Saturday glacier trips. We decided to check it out. Wow! The trail paralleled a beautiful waterfall and shoal. We kept walking and found ourselves halfway up a mountain. It's bear country so we were very careful to make a lot of scary people sounds like cocking a rifle. No bear encounters today, but yesterday we saw two at the glacier (I didn't get pictures because I was driving. Darn!)
I will post a new photo album on fb tonight or tomorrow. The views were breathtaking. Better than fireworks on this Fourth of July (I don’t think they have much fireworks here because fireworks in the daytime would be like eating chocolate with a stuffy nose. What a waste!)
Jodie is in charge of the VBS portion of the GraceWorks ministry. We have had some stimulating conversations this weekend about childrens ministry and specifically evangelism. When a team arrives from the lower 48 (to stay a week), they are supposed to come equipped to conduct VBS with unchurched kids at a city park. WHOA! That’s a tall order. It’s very different from VBS at your local church where most of the kids already have exposure to Bible stories and Christian-speak. Some of the teams come well-prepared and the week flows smoothly without much fuss. But sometimes the team members have no experience with street urchins and it can be a bumpy ride. Even after one week I am starting to feel protective of “our” kids. I’m sure you’ll hear more on this as the weeks progress.
Small group this week. I will not be leading a team. Some of us staff people are taking off for Denali National Park on Wednesday. We’ll do a safari through the park then some errands in Fairbanks. Return on Saturday. I'm just certain I'll have some bear pictures to post by then.