Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Some things are universal.

I have decided that hilarious, uncomfortable, and inconvenient moments happen to all of us, regardless of culture or location. This conclusion stemmed from my own experience today and the blog of a friend in Hungary who is a bit harried.

First, my dear friend already at ICSB scoping out the living conditions has shared the dilemma of daily cooking and laundry. I'll leave her humorous linguistic moments for when I am in the same situation, but suffice it to say she is often feeling awkward or uncomfortable! Anyway, let's just say she's baking without temperature knobs, pilot lights, or thermometers, laundering without instructions or soap, and just hanging in there until underwear runs out. What a trooper she is. Kristen--don't let that culture stress wear you down. Remember, you love Hungary. :)

I read her blog shortly after having an experience that gave me the impression of a stereotypical Eastern Bloc country before 1990. I was at the local County Jail today...getting fingerprints for substitute teaching. No crime was committed, but I felt as though I was being booked. Actually, the officers who worked with me were very pleasant and spoke English fluently, so this experience is already much easier than Kristen's.

On my way in, I tried to walk through the metal detector and did not see the conveyor belt for belongings during my first two tries, much to the chagrin and frustration of the guard. Embarrassing, but could have been so much worse with a language barrier. Then, what was supposed to be a simple in/out procedure on the rad new digital equipment turned into 45 minutes of my life that are gone forever. First, my last name is not Looms. Secondly, I do not have black eyes. Thirdly and most significantly, my fingerprints are wearing off because of perpetual contact with paper. That's right. It took quite a while to get viable prints from me. Apparently, English teachers have an occupational hazard of which I was not aware. Well, after having my hand pressed to the glass time after time, being rejected by the inanimate machine, and feeling nervous standing in central booking for so long, I was finally able to follow one of the kind officers back through the maze of hallways to the lobby and freedom. Miscreants should be aware that crime does not pay. Booking alone will take entirely too much time out of one's day.

But seriously, thanks to the patient law enforcement officers who could have been so negative when I took up so much of their time but were so funny and kind instead. All of us will experience those awkward moments in life. It may be confusion at the DMV or in the infamously long lines of Walmart. Those "self-checkout" machines may beep incessantly at you or the washer may not clean your clothes after two hours. My advice, after experiencing a bit of inconvenience myself: laugh and remember that nothing lasts forever but God is always good. And you are not alone in feeling stupid. Some things are universal.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Hi All! Well, I just had a conversation with a Ministry Partner Development guru from Campus Crusade. (Is it weird to use an Eastern religious reference in that sentence?) Anyway, he offered some helpful clarification regarding this time I have leading up to training in September. For those of you with whom I haven't spoken for a while, here it goes...

I have been given a missionary teaching position at the International Christian School of Budapest in Hungary, and Campus Crusade for Christ is my sending agency. These two organizations work in concert. As you may know, the school year has started and I am still stateside. The reason is, I have one more round of trainings before I can raise my prayer/financial support and head out. Now for the clarification: CCC has asked that I wait until after training to start raising support--they have philosophical and practical help for this process.

I am eager for the arrival of this long-awaited training and a bit anxious for the ensuing flurry of activity before departure. I appreciate your prayers for my spiritual growth, relationship with my parents as we are back under one roof, and both temporary and long-term support raising. And I pray also for you:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Friday, August 17, 2007

Pick a little, talk a little...

So many significant but separate things have happened recently, that a brief review is in order. I'll just give some highlights. First, Kristen and Kevin are at the airport and ready for take-off as I type! Their support has come in and they are heading to Hungary to teach at my school, ICSB. Thanks for your prayers for God's will in their lives and for this ministry!

Secondly, my cousin Jennifer got married in Minnesota this past weekend. They are a loving couple who honor God above all else, and they had an espresso bar at the reception! I call that a win-win.

Next, we visited my youngest brother at Southern Illinois University and met some of his fantastic friends. God is doing so much in and through the young people of Carbondale. It is a privilege to know them.

Finally, I got a much-anticipated visit from some Carthage friends! Andy and Ben came out for a cookout. This dear couple has taken good care of me in so many different situations; it was nice to offer them food for a change. :) Other than these wonderful events, not much is happening in Old El Paso. I'll be jumping through the hoops of the Regional Office of Education in order to substitute teach here until I depart for Budapest. This time has already proven to be special for seeing family and friends even though I had hoped to be abroad by now. I know that God has lessons for me as I prepare to leave. Crossing an ocean does not a missionary make; may I use every day to love those around me for the glory of God.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

To Be Known

Some people yearn for power. Others find security in money. Quite a few of us hope to make a difference in the world. While that last desire is extremely significant in my life with regard to the Kingdom of God, when I'm honest with myself it is apparent that my other greatest joy is to be known--truly, completely. This realization stemmed from a great phone call with someone who knows me well (love ya, Adina!) and eras of being new to a crowd and hoping to find a place.

As a child, I moved a few times but mingled with the locals. Despite freshman fears, in college, I was given instant friendship and ministry as God put me into the student movement InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. As a new teacher in Western Illinois, I needed to start over in introducing myself to a community. After four years, I can say with gratitude that I had a place there with friends and purpose. Now though, as I prepare to launch into the new Hungarian phase of this life God has given me, that old hope emerges again. And with it, concern.

Will my odd sense of humor be misconstrued? Am I inconsiderately extroverted? I know that I am a conflicted poser when it comes to music, movies, and books, but will others see it as charming or idiotic? Can new friends see past my facade and appreciate the work God is doing on flawed me? Can I be known here?

The glorious answer?
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,before you were born I set you apart..." Jeremiah 1:5
Now, the Lord said this to Jeremiah as he was called to be a prophet to the nations. My point is that the Almighty God sees and knows us before we were even...us. (That tense shift is purposeful, by the way.) We, too, are set apart as we believe in Him, and we are known by Him better than we know ourselves. And people get to know us, too.

Finally, and before you think my desire in this life ends with others thinking I am great, let me leave you with the most profound idea that goes beyond being known for who I am. I--the selfish, small-minded, dishonest, flawed person that I am--can know the perfect and holy God. What is this eternal life that Christians speak of in hushed tones? Not floating on a cloud playing a harp endlessly.
"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:3
The One who knows us better than anyone else is so gracious that in a conceivable tidbit now and in all His glory later, we can know Him.

As I am thankful for faithful friends here, I hope to have meaningful friendships across the Atlantic. The God of the universe wants to be known, too, and has made it possible through His Son.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Lessons from the Desert

Often, as I feel dry and distant or frustrated with myself or current situations, I consider these times as "desert" experiences. This is both a vivid metaphor and a reality in terms of this walk with Christ. Well, I have always been intrigued by what God does in these desert times, and I was reminded again through a look at the Israelites in the wilderness on Sunday...thanks, Dad!

First, God doesn't always take the shortest path. Exodus 13:17-18 shows us that though there was a quicker way to the Land of Milk and Honey--the land promised to the Israelites--it was not best for the people. I am really taking this lesson to heart as I wait at least four "extra" months before heading to Hungary. I wanted the shortest path, the quickest way to Budapest: raise support in a week, enjoy training in the summer, head out in August. Instead, I am waiting to raise support at the request of my missions agency, attending another training in September, then facing the wonderful and difficult task of Ministry Partner Development. God has other plans, better plans, though I can't see the benefits yet and may never see them in this life. This lesson links directly into the second lesson from the desert.

Second, God provides at just the right time. Exodus 16:4-5 explains God's care for the Children of Israel as well as His testing of them. As the Father led them into the desert--even as they wandered because of disobedience--He provided food each day in the form of manna or "what is it?" from the sky. They were to gather only enough for that day. Any more and it would rot before tomorrow. On Fridays, they were to gather enough for two days in order to have sustenance and rest for the Sabbath. Some people, accustomed to getting manna each day, did not gather twice as much, and they were hungry. There is much more to this lesson, but the bottom line is that if we trust and obey in the desert time, God will supply at just the right time. If I grasp for resources ahead of His plan or through the wrong means, it will "rot" or do me no good. If I take advantage of His provision and do not work as I should, I will "go hungry", not Hungary. (Okay, bad pun.)

The third lesson is that HOW God leads testifies to the world at large. This is not hard to believe since I spoke of this concept on July 16 from Joshua 1 and 2. Rehab and all of Jericho knew that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the God of Heaven and earth because they had heard of what He had done for His people! In Numbers 14:14, news of the goodness of God and how He met with and cared for His people spread throughout the land. In the same way, how God chooses to execute His plan and meet my needs will spread and He will get glory for His good work. If I got the easy way, I probably--and unfortunately--would not speak of it as much.

Finally, I must not forget that God is watching over us through it all. I get to peek behind the curtain, if you will, and see the wizard. Through Scripture, I get the hindsight to see that God was with His people through it all. He has a marvelous plan that began before the creation of the world, continued through the desert times of Abraham, of Moses and the Israelites, of Jesus, was finished on the cross as God accepted Christ's righteousness for unrighteous people, and will be made known completely in glory when all things are brought under One Head. God has cared for and watched over His loved creation through it all. "The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24 I am not alone in these desert times. Thank you, Lord.

P.S. "Dad" is Wes, teaching pastor at Community Bible Fellowship