But it got me thinking, and you know how you can only say a few things & your brain doesn't quite pull it all together? (I've been using the young mom excuse a little too frequently these days...) But I have to trust God knew what I needed to say then b/c he better knows the people on this year's team than I. But ... it got me thinking, so I thought I'd post a reflections journal-type blog, just to share the memories in my heart.
Some of what I said:
Australia broadened my experiential understanding of how big our God is. You know He's God everywhere, at least in your head, but one of the sweetest moments I remember from my time was just an ordinary Wednesday night prayer meeting at Bro. Tracy & Sis. Debbi Minnick's church. I'm sitting in a circle of ladies and I remember praying and listening to these dear sisters in Christ talk to Him--that God Who they knew as I, that God Who was and is so personal. Unhampered by time zones and cultural differences, He is their Friend & Father too. I just remember it really striking me, like the truth I knew that God is God everywhere became alive! It may sound trite, but it was powerful in my heart.
One of things I remember was the lack of facial reaction as I spoke. As a special ed major, though very green at the time, I staked everything on response. Just like I was determined to know my students understand my lessons, I was determined those in the churches I got to share my testimony at understood what I was saying. When I didn't get any visible feedback, I'd reword or repeat what I said, hoping for a better ... or at least some response. I remember Dad Matzko challenging me just to say what I planned to say and trust that they get it. As I've reflected on it over the years and had some recent speaking opportunities, I've realized that it's ultimately trusting God. He puts the words on my heart and promises to work through me, but it's His work, not mine. It doesn't matter how many times I say it, how loud I say it, or what further illustration I implement. He is the one speaking and making those who will understand, to understand. Okay, I won't keep going on trying to make sure I expressed this clearly. I think you get my point.
And the last thing I said was how just having been to Australia binds us together. There are multiple others from years different from my own that over the years I've intersected with, and that bond is there. It's special. And wonderful. And I'm so thankful for it.
Some of what I didn't say but could have:
Even as I shut my mouth and sat back down, I had thoughts flooding back in. There's so much more I could've said. I could sit down & share for hours with these college students the experiences and lessons, sip on a cuppa tea. Not that their experiences would be the same, but it'd be so much fun. In fact I did sit with some former team members (Becca Martin, a fellow SpEducator, and Katie Diachenko, a former neighbor and on her way back to Australia with her family) and we caught up.
Tonight I shared with my kids part of my story. They loved it!
- We talked about the trip over--how our team leaders missed their flight connection winding me & team member Chris Hartfelder in Tokyo on our own;
- we talked about what Religious Education is--how it works first-come, first-serve: so if a true believer signs up first, they get to teach for however long they're willing to, but if a Catholic gets their first, or another group, it's all the same to them (at least this is how it was as I remember; not sure if it's still this way, but); it's just religion to them; they don't get that there's only one way to heaven, through faith in Christ alone, no other name, and by grace alone, no works of my own.
- Then I reminded them of not calling cinnamon-sugar biscuits (cookies) "snickerdoodles": "snickerdoodles" are what doggies leave in the yard. Oops, my bad.
One of the girls from another team said "you learn more the longer it's been." And I think she may actually be right. I'm thinking I learned a lot about culture. I know, for one, imitating the Aussie accent (attempting to), doesn't really gain you ground with an Australian. (No, I didn't try this, but a teammate did.) They want you to be yourself, even if that means American. They want to trust you explicitly, and where we were that included leaving the makeup off.
From the outset, I requested to stay in the homes of missionaries/pastors for a week at a time so I could see how their families worked. Sure, I missed out on some of the tourist attractions down South, but I did get my purpose fulfilled. I saw normal families living day-to-day, working together as a team, surviving, fixing meals, doing school, playing games, loving one another, and learning as they went. I saw them getting up early to spend quiet time with God. I saw them prepping for SS lessons and RE classes. I listened to them pour out their hearts for their children. I played with their children, went on walks, talked with them. And they included me. I learned that missionary biographies often highlight the mountain tops and leave out the long narrow climbing stretches in between (maybe with the exception of Isobel Kuhn, whose books I love). They were real. And my heart was nit to theirs. I saw missions as something I could do, by the grace of God, not something elite or romantic.
This is really only a sampling, but these are some of the thoughts that have gone through my head today, chanelled through my heart and leaving it very thankful and reminding it to pray more often for my fellow believers who are serving our great God in "the land down under."