Tuesday, July 30, 2013

SM training

Two weeks, twenty students. And we're already halfway done...

I hardly have words to describe the amazingness that is AFM's student missionary training. I'm not sure that this blogpost will accurately portray it, but I'll try, since I know many of you want to hear - and I'm eager to share!

First of all, I did arrive in Michigan! I had a nice time over my first weekend here with some old friends. It was great to see them again and catch up. I was also able to stay with Sarah and her aunt and uncle, who are the caretakers of the AFM campus.

The first evening I was here (Sunday), we met the other SMs. Everyone was so friendly and not shy! There are some quieter ones of us, but there was nothing awkward about our first meeting, which was really neat, considering other groups of people I've met in the past. Right from the start, we all hit it off really well, and became instant buddies. We've only known each other for two weeks, but because of the challenges and intense learning we've gone through together, we are already really close. I knew four of the other SMs before I came, so it's been neat to spend some extra time with them, and get to know them better.

Our first week was wonderful, we learned SO much. My mind felt like it was going to explode, I was learning so many new things! We learned about worldviews, the reasons that cultures are different, and many other things. I was glad to be able to talk to my parents and to Sarah's aunt and uncle, to debrief several things and process them. I now have such a different perspective on missions than I had before... so many things are much clearer in my mind. I don't know that I could explain it all, but I will be working on processing that information as well, as time goes on. :-)

And then... we went on the Crucible. For those of you who are curious, it'll have to stay that way, because, well, it's top secret. Anyone who goes through the Crucible is sworn to secrecy, so as to not destroy the element of surprise for future missionaries. ;-) But I will just say, that the challenges encountered there were definitely challenges, but the end result was absolutely worth it. The lessons we learned together as a team were amazing.

Last week was great. On Monday, we had a recuperation/recreation day after the Crucible, at a hospitable doctor's home. We played in their pool and enjoyed relaxing! Tuesday began an intensive course on language learning. In the mornings we learned the whys and how-tos of learning a language, and in the afternoon we put it all to practice. We split up into four different language groups, and I got in with the Arabic bunch! Through the methods presented, we learned a large amount of vocabulary in just five days. We did a lot of listening and playing with toys and having fun. :-) It's a fascinating language, I only wish I could continue learning it. Maybe someday I will have the opportunity!

On Thursday we received a couple of new instructions. 1) A distance of three to five feet is to be kept at all times from the opposite gender for the remainder of training, and 2) break a social norm of some sort. For rule 1, it's been amusing to see how girls and guys steer clear of each other, especially if they catch themselves at the last second. :-) It's a valuable rule, really. Good practice for other cultures where it is the way things are, and it's also good to keep distance in general. Maybe all early adults should give it a try... hehe. Rule 2 was fun to do: On Sabbath, a bunch of us girls took our shoes off before entering the sanctuary. One of the guys sat on the floor during church (he got a bunch of stares for that!). It was interesting to do something that made you stand out and look different. We'll be the gazingstock in our new countries; we might as well practice now!

Sabbath afternoon was spent on some trails behind Andrews University. Really special people, really fun times. :-)

And now a new week has begun. After finishing language studies, we switched to medical types of things. Just today has given me a lot to think about...

And that's two weeks (plus a couple days). We're nearing the end and will soon be launching out into the great unknown. Thankfully, though unknown, it will be more expected because of the training behind us. We will also be equipped with a newfound trust in God. He's our only strength!

Flying over Chicago

Enjoyed time with Josh!

We buried our friend Laura - and then created a fish on top. :)

Spending time with the AFM bunch at Lake Michigan

Volleyball together!

Sunset at Lake Michigan

Language learning techniques. "The man is under the chair."

Sabbath afternoon hike

One of the other Emilys (there's three of us!)

A beautiful end to a beautiful day...

We sang hymns on the dock.

Cause for contemplation...

Monday, July 8, 2013

I wasn't counting on...

When I left Inchy, I had hopes and dreams of new things ahead. I still do (I leave Friday for AFM's summer mission training)! However, I've already been surprised with several unexpected things:

Dusting off my violin. I've really enjoyed playing it again this summer, thanks to a friend who inspired me to get practiced up so we could play duets. Although, this may be the last week that I'll actually have time to practice for a while! Even though I still have a long way to go, two months of practice has done a lot of good.

Missing a second church family. Leaving Inchy-town was a sad event, and I miss a lot of people there. However, what I didn't expect was having to say goodbye to another group of special people here in WW! From earning new little-kid hugs, to playing violin/cello duets, to sharing Sunday breakfasts with friends, to playing many active games of Cones... I've had lots of special times with lots of wonderful people who are becoming fast friends. I'll miss them just as much as my Inchy family.

Not reading any books through. Seriously? What happened to all of the time I thought I'd have? Somehow my bookshelf is untouched... I've pulled one or two volumes off every now and then, but nothing's gotten read all the way through. Oops! That's one thing I need to make sure I figure out how to do.

Learning how to take care of chickens. I should have known! My brother is an animal-lover, and he has his own crew of chickens in the back yard. I've been duly taught how to take care of them in the mornings and evenings for when he's not around. Lessons learned, mistakes made... I'm well on my way to becoming a chicken farmer. Sort of.

Time flying so fast. It seems like I just arrived here with my Tahoe-load of earthly possessions. Two months, gone already?? I have a feeling that the coming year will speed right by...

Many other things... I've learned a lot that wasn't in the plan. Isn't that true of all paths of life? This all reminds me of a quote that has spoken to me many times:

A life of monotony is not the most conducive to spiritual growth. Some can reach the highest standard of spirituality only through the breaking up of the regular order of things.... God desires human beings to be more closely associated with Him. Therefore He takes them away from their friends and acquaintances. When God was preparing Elijah for translation, He moved him from place to place, that he might leave behind the methods and customs he had previously followed, that he might not settle down on his lees, and thus fail of obtaining moral greatness and spiritual soundness.*

I want the stuff I can't count on to shape me into the flexible and yet grounded person God wants me to be!

*The Upward Look, page 170. Emphasis provided by me.