Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye, 2009

I, like most bloggers out there, am trying to reflect upon the year 2009. My year has passed by so quickly that as I sit here to make a bulleted list of things I have done in 2009, I have to have my calendar. So here goes...

- Worked at Kohl's and chose to give it up.
- Worked as a youth pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist and chose to leave.
- Took classes at the nearby Catholic seminary. Now that is a post all in itself.
- Spent my birthday with my fabulous friends from GCSRW. I learned how to celebrate important things away from my husband.
- Learned the difficulty of doing my own taxes. Thank God for Michael Hurd.
- Celebrated the 80th birthday of my grandmother. I am so thankful for my huge family.
- Completed my first year of seminary.
- Took a trip to Canada with Garrett and his family just because I could.
- Spent 2 weeks + in Korea and Japan. I learned more on this trip than I ever could have in a classroom. While on the trip, Garrett learned that he passed an important test. Again, I celebrated something big away from my husband.
- Celebrated my 1st anniversary with Garrett. A great night with great food, wine, and accommodations. We topped it off by seeing Transformers. Too fun.
- Endured a week of Local Pastor's Licensing School. Though the content was deplorable, I did meet some good friends and colleagues.
- Became a certified candidate for ministry and a licensed local pastor in the United Methodist Church. Still trying to adjust to getting mail for "Rev. Anna Guillozet"
- Officiated my first funeral. Humbling.

and here are a few things that I have learned...

- friendship takes work. The good ones are worth the work, and the bad ones aren't worth the tears that I cried over them.
- Other people have feelings. Though this may seem obvious, it is something I have to remind myself of quite frequently. I tend to think my feelings trump those of others, and that is simply not true.
- Age is just a number. Now, most people that claim they have learned this are older... I, however, have done many things this year that few 22/23 year olds see as normal.
- I still don't like seafood.
- Sometimes it is ok to be doing nothing.
- Life is fragile. I thank my Aunt Laurel for this mostly. Though her life is waning in front of her own eyes, she keeps such a Godly attitude and genuinely joyful spirit that I can't help but keep her as a role model for my life.

And as I sit to publish this blog, I am watching montages and reading "best of" lists. I am reflecting on the close of this decade and what it has all meant to me. Now don't laugh, reader, but I think that this decade has been hysterical. 10 years ago I was 13. I was a child. And now, I close out the decade with a high school degree, a college degree, well on my way to a masters degree, a career well underway, a great marriage, a house that I call my own (despite our "renter" status), a dog who still rocks my world, and friends and family surrounding me who I love dearly.

So thank you, 00's, for changing my life in more ways than I could ever know.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"B" is for Balance

It is the beautiful time of the seminary year in which final grades have been posted, but the syllabus for my J-term class has not. I officially have nothing to be reading for school... no papers to write, no theological reflecting to be doing. I must admit that I could really get used to this.

Another thing that this time of the year brings is the inevitable facebook status updates that people make as professors post the students' grades to the student portal. As I was reading through (a.k.a.
being a creeper) my facebook news feed, one specific status update caught my eye. My friend posted the following...

Hmmmm... one D+, two Cs, and an F... a 1.325 average ..... maybe this place isn't for me....

Immediately upon reading, I was concerned. I know that this friend is an intelligent (and might I add well dressed... friend, you can pay me later for that one) and not one that should be receiving that type of grades. My husband, who is also a friend of this person on facebook (real life, too, just in case you were wondering...), sent me a text message regarding said status message, inquiring to its authenticity. I did the only sensible thing. I sent my friend a BBM (blackberry message) to find out. This is how the conversation played out. I have taken a bit of liberty with the conversation.

Me: Was that your real GPA?
Friend: No, just sick of people bragging.
Me: You and me both. I was just so worried!
Friend: Thank you.
Me: And between you and me, I work hard not to let anyone make me feel like crap about my 3.1 average... but it takes a lot
Friend: You shouldn't. Guess what? People who get 3.1 are pastors. B's get degrees.

Wow... I bet this friend had NO IDEA how much I needed this conversation. I have always been the kind of person who was hesitant to share my grades. In high school, I usually got higher grades than people, so I didn't want to share them for fear of making someone else feel bad. In college, I found that my high school education was perhaps not quite as challenging as those of some of my peers, and that my lackadaisical attitude toward school was going to prove a stumbling block to me. I had to learn how to study (which I still am not sure I know how to do), and my grades were not as good as those of my friends. This is not to say that my grades were bad, but I have always considered myself blessed to be surrounded by such intelligent human beings, and my college friends were
certainly no exception to that. As they were flourishing in academia, I was working four time as hard to merely keep my head above water.

Then at graduation, something interesting happened. I had never really cared that my grades were not as flawless as my friends, but as I walked into the gymnasium to take my place in the line of graduates, many were wearing chords. These chords were bright orange against their black robes, so they were not to be missed. I realized as I flipped through the graduation program that the chords were to signify those who had graduated "with high honors" or "with honors." I did not have either of those chords. I was proud of my GPA and the fact that it had earned me a scholarship to continue my education at the graduate level, but I had never thought of the sinking feeling in my stomach I would feel as I posed for pictures with my friends who were chorded while I was looking stunning in my plain black robe (may I just add, however, that I had the best shoes... a rocking pair of pointy, pink, glittery pumps). If you wonder why acceptance from peers is such a big deal to me, read my previous post. I am working on it...

I imagine that my mother would have told me that the chords didn't matter, and she would have been right. After that day I could not have cared less who had a chord and who didn't...

But then I came to seminary.

Seminary is, I imagine, like many other graduate programs where people usually inquire about academic situations. "How do you think you did on that test?" Or, in the case of seminary, "How do you think that sermon turned out?" or, "man, I really think I aced that Hebrew exam!" Now, I truly believe that 99% of the people who engage in the practice of grade inquiring do not do so to put anyone down or to lift themselves up, but there are those few people that I have encountered who make me feel like they just HAD to tell me that they got an A on their final or a glowing evaluation to make me remember that I didn't. And I know that I should not let my hard work be diminished by comparing it to the work of others, but it happens!

But from here on out, I will keep in mind the words of my friend... "People who get 3.1 are pastors." Yeah! I am a pastor. Sometimes I have to tell myself again and again that sitting in the room at the nursing home may sometimes be more important than doing the supplemental readings for class. Sometimes a funeral may pop up the week of a presentation, and the presentation has to take the back seat.

Now, I understand that there are a few students out there who manage to balance 2+ jobs plus families and other responsibilities and manage to pull off a 4.0 (I know this because I am friends with a few of them), but I have become more comfortable in knowing that I am not that kind of person. If I allow myself to dwell on my grades, I will not be able to maintain the relationships necessary for keeping my family and my ministry healthy.

So I have learned in seminary that, for me, "B" stands for balance. And a balanced "B" is a grade that I will humbly accept any semester.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

wow, a semester really will fly... I cannot believe I have neglected my poor blog for this long...

I have had a really difficult time in seminary this semester, and I am just realizing it now that the semester is over (thank GOD). This semester has been full of more reading and writing than I could have ever imagined, plus the added stress of having my first church appointment. Writing an additional 8-10 page paper every week in the form of a sermon seemed to be one of the easiest parts of my weeks as they blew past me. The hardest part of it all was the fact that I have felt a huge disconnect in the social sector...

Now, in my life I have never had a shortage of friends. I thrive in social settings with people, but the more I reflect on my time in high school and college the more I realize that I function best in a circle of friends as the person who understands that she isn't quite at the same social level as everyone else, but is funny enough to make up the difference. Now, hear me out before you try to tell me otherwise...

- I dated some low quality people. That is NOT to say that every guy I dated was a loser, because they weren't, but lots of times I found myself in relationships just for the sake of having a boyfriend...
- I found the groups that I fit well in and worked to be in formal leadership positions to secure my friendships. For example, I didn't do well playing volleyball, found myself sitting the bench more often than I had ever dreamed, and I quit (man... that was hard... I have always justified the quitting with a shoulder injury... real injury, bad excuse...). In band, however, I did well and ended up field commander. The same goes for musicals. I was never the star, but had roles just bigger than average...
- In college, I found myself being the funny girl... I literally can't count how many times guys confided in me that they were in love with my roommate or that they thought my friend was great looking. And the one time a guy was really head over heels for me, I really couldn't (and sometimes still can't) get over the fact that the girl he was with before me was much prettier. I banked on my humor to get me through, which served me pretty well.

... and those are just a few of the many examples that I can think of. Now I don't want to be pitied or told that I'm wrong, because I am just reflecting on my own experiences. But this semester, something really interesting happened... When I did not have the time or the energy to get by with my humor, I found myself struggling to invest in significant social relationships. I see other people attending social events that I didn't get invited to, or people making plans that don't involve me. This is mostly my own fault...

but the greatest thing is that I have learned how I measure myself. I have always considered myself an extrovert, and I truly believe that I am, but I have spent so much time telling myself that drawing energy from being around people and banking on always being around people are very different things...

I am still reflecting on what it means in my life and relationships, but what I do know is that I am blessed to be where I am surrounded by the people I am, and I need to not be caught up in my identity in relation to others, but in relation to God and God's calling upon my life.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Most Beautiful Thing I've Read Today

My friend, Julia, had posted something striking when researching for class, and I must admit that I had a similar experience this evening. I consider it a blessing to enjoy this project so much. As I read each word of the biography of Anna Howard Shaw, I learn to appreciate her in a new way, feeling as though she is a friend of mine, which is exactly what Dr. Lobody intended (or at least what I think she intended) with this project. After Anna (because I honestly feel that we're on a first name basis) has struggled on her path to become educated she moved and saw her first woman preacher. Here is what she writes. Her words moved me to tears... "Her sermon was delivered on a Sunday morning, and I was, I think, almost the earliest arrival of the great congregation which filled the church. It was a wonderful moment when I saw my first woman minister enter her pulpit; and as I listened to her sermon, thrilled to the soul, all my early aspirations to become a minister myself stirred in my with cumulative force. After the services I hung for a time on the fringe of the group that surrounded her, and at last, when she was alone and about to leave, I found courage to introduce myself and pour forth the tale of my ambition. Her advice was as prompt as if she had studied my problem for years. 'My child,' she said, 'give up your foolish idea of learning a trade and go to school...'" Beautiful. Powerful. Moving.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Appreciate Your Pastor

You can't ever win with sermons. Well, ok, maybe sometimes you can, but today was certainly not one of those times for me. Let me preface this by saying that the month of October is my least favorite month of the year because of some immense personal and community loss I experienced during this month. No matter how hard I try to enjoy it (and I do try, believe me), it always turns out to be more hard than I thought it would be. This month is no different.

All that being said, my genius, novice pastor self decided to preach on the Job lectionary text this week, the Sunday before my infamous "dead-mom" anniversary (sorry if it sounds insensitive... it is how I cope). The sermon I was going to preach was no doubt going to be difficult for me to preach on a very personal level, but I decided that I was going to preach it anyway. Now, I am typically a manuscript preacher, but on this occasion I stuck a little bit more closely to the manuscript than I normally do, fearing that if I strayed, I would make myself cry like a 13 year old girl after her first heartbreak.

One member of my congregation loves to tell me his reaction to the sermon. Even when theological criticism, I generally really enjoy the conversation. As he approached me after the service, I was kind of excited to hear what he had to say. He very plainly told me that he would be offering me constructive criticism and proceeded to tell me that I had great oratory, but a very poor sermon. He then said that the way you put babies/children to sleep is by reading to them, and I did that to my congregation today. I told him that, unfortunately, that is one of the pitfalls of being a student pastor... I don't always get the time to do more than simply prepare my sermon, let alone memorize it or try to deliver it from an outline. Sometimes it is just not feasible.

I continued with the cordial handshakes of parishioners. Each time I thought about this man's comment, tears would well up in my eyes. Not wanting to cry in front of people over sermon criticism, I retreated to my office. After gathering myself, I started packing up my things to head home for the afternoon and was greeted by a string of three people who told me that they really enjoyed my "different" approach to Job, stating that the sermon was just what their wounded hearts needed to hear that day. I was truly touched.

... but as I drove home, the uplifting comments were drowned out by the replaying of the comments of the one man who had told me that my sermon was not very good. He had no idea that I needed to stick to my manuscript for personal reasons, nor did I care to tell him. And no matter how much I told myself that his comments should not bear much weight, they did.

This situation just reminds me of a blog post that my friend,
Michele, wrote about how preaching is like making visual art. Preachers put so much solitary time, energy, effort, pray, personality, and emotion into a sermon that when we deliver it, instead of feeling relieved, we (and by "we" I really mean "I") feel exhausted and sometimes a bit paranoid that people did not hear the sermon the way we meant them to. I felt that this person had so horribly misunderstood my sermon that all I wanted to do was go home and curl up and never preach again.

And yet I know that God used my words to touch the hearts of listeners, and I have to remind myself that constructive criticism at least means that someone listened...

What a great first Pastor Appreciation Day...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lily Pads

My favorite author wrote in my favorite book about lily pads. She writes that our journey in life is just like jumping from lily pad to lily pad, from one safe place to another.

I have really felt that way lately. Just when I get settled on one lily pad, something else falls into the water, causing just enough of a ripple that causes me to jump. Sometimes that jump is welcomed. That is the jump that comes off of a nice, strong, green, lily pad. I am ready for this jump. The lily pad provides a steady base that I can spring off of, reaching another lily pad that will hold my weight. This is like when I graduated college, ready to get married and start seminary, knowing that what I was leaving would always provide a strong foundation, but more importantly a strong sounding board. I would leave that place, never coming back to it, but always remembering how long it had held me up.

But then there are those lily pads that sink when you hit them. Maybe they hold you up for a while, but as you grow heavy and settle into your life on that lily pad, it sinks under your weight. And as the water starts to creep in over the edges of the lily pad, you realize that you have to jump off, without seeing a lily pad in front of you, but knowing that the one you are on is not where you want to stay.

I have started to realize that life is just a series of lily pads... you will never settle in one safe place, but like Anne writes, you just have to move from safe place to safe place. And now I have to decide (luckily not by myself) weather I will stay or if I will jump. And I don't see any lily pad in front of me. I just have to figure out whether this lily pad is the strong, green one, or if the water is creeping up towards my feet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm just a statistic

I have to admit that my small town upbringing has finally caught up with me. Not always remembering the necessity of locking doors was kind of instilled in me in good ole Upper Sandusky. Last week, after a meeting with my mentor, I left my wallet in my car and walked into the house. It wasn't until the next morning that I realized that I couldn't find my wallet. I sat down in my car first and saw that my prescription sunglasses were laying in their case on the seat. This may not seem unusual to most people, but I don't wear them very often, and if I do, I don't put them back in their case until someone rides with me and I need to put them away. As I turned on the car, the gas light came on. Reaching down into the place I normally shove my wallet, I didn't find it. That's not a big deal. It is probably in the back seat. I turned off my car and looked in the back seat. Not there. So perhaps it has fallen on the floor and wedged itself under the seat. Still not there. At this point I call Garrett, freak out, tear the house apart, root through bags and purses, realize how late I am and leave anyway.

As I am driving to church on my gaslight with no cash or plastic to buy gas, and no ID to show if I write a check, I call every place I was the day before, the people I was with, etc. to see if anyone could be of any help. No luck. I get back from church, exhaust myself looking for it, and wait for Garrett to get home. When he arrives, we both scan every inch of the house, turning over furniture and all, looking for my wallet. Not finding it by the time of our dinner date, we leave, and on the ay I call in all of my cards lost/stolen and call in for new insurance cards. Thankfully, I have my passport, so Saturday morning when I go to get a new driver license (on the card it does NOT say "driver's license," just FYI) it was not as much of a hassle as I thought it would be. The whole time I have written my wallet off as "lost" because I don't want to say that it is stolen, find it a few days later, and then be embarrased.

Fast forward to today. As I am leaving my morning class, I check my phone and see that I have a voicemail from a Delaware number that I didn't recognize. I listen to the voicemail, and it is a beautiful voice on the phone saying that she has a few of my credit cards. Her husband was walking their dog through the park that is two houses down from my house and after his dog (Copper, I later learned) had done his "business," the gentleman decided to be a good citizen of Delaware and pick up the poop. While disposing of said poop in the trash can, he saw credit cards, a few business cards, and reciepts strewn about in the can. He (again the responsible citizen) decided to retrieve all of this information, and give me a call. I was quite shocked when his wife called, and I went over to her house to pick up what was left of my wallet. She was a kind woman, with a kind husband (who I didn't meet, but assume he is great because he works as a foreign language professor... I haven't met very many mean language professors. Crazy? Yes. Mean? Not so much) who invited me in, returned my personal information with a promise that she didn't look through it, and gave me her apologies for how awful this has been for her.

So I returned home and filed a police report, not with the hopes of any resolution, but just so that the police were made aware of the situation in our quiet neighborhood. The police officer told me that he couldn't do much, and reminded me to keep better care of my personal information (thanks... like I really need reminded) and went on his way.

I guess I never understood how much people meant it when they say that a robbery or break in robbed them of more than their possesions; it robbed them of their security. This experience really has done that for me. I worry now about whether my garage is locked, and if I latched the windows shut. I wonder if the person who took my wallet just needed a bit of cash, or if they wanted to harm someone. Will they just spend the money, or did they gather enough information to take more money from me from my checking and (meager) savings accounts? I wonder if they'll come back. I feel like my home has been violated.

I have always thought the best of people in all circumstances, but situations like this challenge that view. I also wonder how I am supposed to forgive someone when I don't know who they are or what intentions they had. If they needed a little bit of cash to get a prescription for their grandmother with no medical coverage, fine. Forgiveness granted. But if they needed beer for the party? How am I supposed to forgive that?

But that's what God calls us to... to forgive in all times, places, situations. We are supposed to forgive the drug addict who stole our wallet just like the person who needed a bit more money for something truly worthwhile. Forgive. Easier said than done.

It is like the news story about Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi who bombed a plane in the late 1980's. He has recently been freed from jail because he is thought to be terminally ill. Many of the family members of people killed in the bombing are upset that this killer is allowed to go free. One woman (a mother whose son was killed) said that she forgives him, but that doesn't mean that he should go free. Is that real forgiveness? Or is that saying we forgive someone and still needing that person to be punished so that we feel closure.

So here is the question I pose to you, readers...

Does true forgiviness always bring about a sense of closure?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my life, it is that what I always thought of as a mundane and normal upbringing was anything but that. In my 22 years, I have never heard of anyone who had an upbringing like mine. Sometimes I am frustrated by that, but more often I am thankful for my life experiences thus far, no matter how difficult they were or to deal with at the time.

It is often joked that the average American family has 2.5 children. My family really did have 2.5 children. I was the second born child; the first female. My brother and I often tease that mom and dad had children until they got what they wanted, and that was me. The other .5 came from the fact that there was always another child in our house. We often had a foster child, and most of the time that child was one of my cousins.

I feel that I must explain a bit about my mother’s upbringing in order for a person to understand my childhood. My mother, named Vanessa, was one of four children. She was born in 1955 in Grover Hill, Ohio to a family who lived in a two room home with no indoor plumbing. She often told us stories of her days in high school and her preparations for a romantic date. If she wanted a bath, she had to walk one half of a mile down the road to her grandfather’s house. Her family was beyond poor, and she always knew it. Her father (from what I’ve been told) was a very loving man, but his job in a factory was not enough to provide for their family. He spent most of his time at work, and therefore she did not see much of him. Her brothers, lacking a strong male figure, often beat her and her sister. Her mother simply looked the other way saying, “Boys will be boys.” None of her siblings graduated from high school, and the only reason she did was at the urging of her mentor, Adelphine, for whom she worked. It was because of Adelphine that my mother attended and graduated from the University of Findlay. It was Adelphine that reminded my mother that she was a beautiful, smart, and talented young woman. No other person told her these things growing up. Adelphine also instilled the importance of education in my mother’s life. Because of Adelphine, my mother took it upon herself to make every child she encountered know that he/she had potential and that someone loved him/her. This is how my cousins often came to live with us. When my aunt, her sister, failed to provide for her children, my mother graciously took them in while her sister got back on her feet.

Education was always the top priority in our home. I was always the youngest child in the house and took it upon myself to catch up to what the bigger kids were doing. When my brother (3 years older than me) learned to read, I learned too. If Bradley could do it, so could I. My brother learned because he had to. I learned because I wanted to. While many of our friends spent summers on exotic vacations and on cruises with their families, my family never took vacations. My mother viewed a leisurely vacation as a waste. Vacation in the Barrett household was a day at C.O.S.I. or a trip to the Ohio Historical Society. At the time, I felt robbed of the typical experiences of a family, but in retrospect I see that having a teacher for a mother was about more than having a mother who spent her days in a classroom with third graders. My mother’s job was to teach, and her most prized students were her biological children.

My father was one of ten children. His family could not afford to send him to college. If attending college was something he would like to do, he would have had to fund the experience on his own. He decided to work and keep his money rather than attend college and throw his money away. He spent most of my childhood working in a factory, and when the factory laid him off, he took up the profession of driving a semi-truck. I, like my mother, did not see much of my father, but I knew that he loved me. I would even go as far as to define myself as a daddy’s girl.

My parents loved one another. I only remember them fighting once in the entirety of my childhood. I did not know that parents existed who did not love each other. The parents of my friends all loved one another as well. Perhaps this was because I was raised in the church, or maybe it was just luck. Divorce was a distant word in my childhood mind. It was an abstract concept that only other children at school had to deal with. I thought my childhood was perfect.

My spiritual life was always fostered. Both of my parents were faithful Christians and I followed suit. Baptized as an infant, I was raised in the church, and often I felt as though the church was just as much a home to me as my house. My parents chose to raise my brother and me in the United Methodist Church. When I was confirmed at age 12, and I felt as though no other church could be home to me like the United Methodist Church was. I was one of the few 12 year olds in my confirmation class that took the vows of confirmation seriously. At confirmation, I was a proud member of the United Methodist Church. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I quickly fell into a leadership role in my church. I loved serving on the district and conference youth councils, and the highlight of my year was always the West Ohio Annual Conference.

I attended my district youth camp when I was in high school, and the first time I remember having my own theological thought was at this camp. The camp coordinator asked all the youth pastors to stand up and share the date on which they were “saved.” After all the youth pastors had shared, the coordinator stood up and said that if we didn’t know the exact date that we were “saved,” we were not truly saved. This was a problem for me, because I didn’t know an exact date. As far back as I remember, I had loved Jesus and considered myself a Christian, having been raised in the church. This man would not devalue my upbringing. I felt that this date was the date that I was called to ministry. I knew that it was my task to raise people up in the church like I had been, whether they were infants or elders.

Upon graduating high school, I was set to attend Ohio Northern University to major in education, just like my mother had at her college. I knew that I was called to work in a church, but at that point in my life I believed my calling to be a professional educator first and a pastor part-time. I attended one education class and knew immediately that I was not going to cut it as a teacher. I called home to tell my parents that I was switching majors, and the change was welcomed after a bit of conversation. I felt at home in my religious education classes. I knew that the tug to educate was meant to be in a church setting. I felt that I was making my family proud.

Later on in my freshman year of college my world began to fall apart. My mother, since my childhood, had suffered from a degenerative kidney disease. We always knew that at some point she would need a kidney transplant or be bound to a life of dialysis. Her sister felt like she owed my mother her life for taking care of her children, and so she offered to donate her kidney. We were all elated at the prospect of having the real Vanessa, my mom, back. In my high school years she had grown tired and lethargic, and we knew that after a transplant her body would heal itself and she would be the spunky woman that we had all known. The surgery date was set, and things went according to plan. The transplant team kept all of us gathered in the waiting room posted on the surgery. It was when we noticed that we hadn’t been updated by the surgical team that we first knew something was wrong. When the surgeon stepped into the waiting room, we knew that the news he was going to deliver was not news we wanted to hear. He began by telling us that both my mother and aunt were in recovery. We all breathed a sigh of relief, but he went on to tell us that the kidney lost its blood supply and had as a result died. My mother would still be sick, and my aunt was now one kidney short.

After my freshman year and the transplant ordeal, I decided to move to Connecticut for the summer to work. My family supported me, and I packed up my car and left. I experienced an extreme case of homesickness, and spent all of my free time on the phone with my mom. She told me that she was feeling more and more tired, and she felt like her body was shutting down. The blood that was not being cleaned by her dying kidneys was poisoning her earthly body. I knew it was serious, but she refused to let me quit my job and come home to be with her. She assured me that she would be waiting for me when I got home. I received a phone call at the end of my summer telling me that my brother had been found to be a match for her, and that a second transplant was being arranged.

I came home from Connecticut hopeful that this time it would be different. My mother said many times that she didn’t want to go through this surgery, but she went forward with planning at the urging of my father, my brother, and me. The day the surgery was scheduled, she spiked a fever and the surgery was postponed for a week. She joked that she would do anything to get out of this surgery. Finally, the surgery went on as scheduled. My father and I waited to hear word on how my brother and mother were doing. The surgeon stepped into the waiting room, beaming, and told us that the surgery had gone perfectly. Life seemed to be back on track. As soon as my mother was in recovery, I went to see her. She and I chatted and then she told me to go back to school so that I didn’t miss another day of class. I obliged, knowing how much my education meant to her. I kissed her goodbye and told her I loved her. That was the last time I would speak to her. She died from complications from the transplant a few days later.

I dealt with my mother’s death a bit differently than some. The day we buried her, I returned back to school and went to class. I attempted to deal with the situation by putting it out of my mind and returning back to life as usual. That worked for a while, but I always felt like half of me was missing. I always knew I was like a carbon copy of my mother, but having her presence gone from my life was a kind of emptiness I had never experienced. Often people would look at me and say, “You look just like your mother.” Each time I heard this, my heart broke a bit more. I saw sadness in the eyes of people as they spoke these words, and it hurt me to know that every time they looked at me, they were reminded of how much they missed my mother. I felt my family falling apart. My father, who had always had issues with depression, became removed and quiet, and my brother felt as though her death was his fault. Bradley became more hostile to the idea of God than he had been previously, which was hard for me to witness. I used my college as a refuge from the home life that went from perfect to destroyed in a matter of days.

I never really lost my faith in God through the whole process of grieving, although I did take plenty of time to question why a God who was so loving would let my heart experience so much pain. I became frustrated with everyone feeding me empty religious clich├ęs, and I chose to seek a new friendship with someone outside of my circle of friends. This person’s name was Garrett. He was an acquaintance of mine from freshman year, and through a few conversations on the internet, I found that he was the only person who would just listen to me. Many nights I spent the evening sitting next to him in his dorm room crying. It was my opportunity to vent my frustrations of my newfound motherless life and have someone tell me it was OK to cry instead of urging me to stop crying and try to move on.

I was at a point in my life where I was grasping for any stability I could, and I found that in my faith. Though I spent a great deal of time questioning, it was easy for me to recognize that the questioning I was doing was necessary for my growth. Garrett took our newfound friendship and asked me (multiple times) if I wanted to take our friendship and turn it into something more, and (multiple times) I told him, “No.” I felt as if I needed to continue processing without a boyfriend adding an opinion, when really, his presence had calmed and reassured me in ways that I had not understood. One night I was heading to Garrett’s apartment when my roommate called me out on turning him down. It was then that I realized that I was foolish to turn this wonderful man down when I had been in an intimate emotional relationship with him for months. I walked into his apartment and told him that I would like to date him. The rest is history.

His proposal was perfect, but that is another story in itself. Garrett and I committed our lives to one another in June 2008. Since our friendship began, he has been my rock. He is the person that allows me to truly be myself. Spiritually, I needed him, and he is one of the few people I feel comfortable talking with about my spiritual doubts. I feel as if I have been a spiritual leader to so many that I cannot appear empty or questioning in front of them. Garrett is the person I turn to be filled up. He has been the person that took on the role of encourager for me when my mother died.

The most interesting thing in my mind is that Garrett never met my mother. While to some that may cause tension in a relationship, for us, it has been a blessing. While others that knew my mother may tire of hearing stories about her over and over again, Garrett takes those stories and uses each one to put another piece into the puzzle of who she was.

All of the long and drawn out story of the death of my mother and my relationship with Garrett has allowed me to understand that God works outside of the church. Before the death of my mother, faith was an activity that was lived out in church and at church functions. Faith was a happy activity that was never hard. I feel that now I have a faith that is life encompassing. My faith is now a faith that lives in my home and in my marriage and in my family (however broken).

With all of my life experiences, I am preparing myself for a future in a broken church and in a broken world. The value of my personal experiences has shown me that each person has a story in which God has had a hand in. The stories of two people are never exactly the same. Part of the wonder that the world holds for me is just that. God works individually in each life, and therefore, in each church. No two churches are alike. The future in store for me is full of wonder and excitement as I get to be a part of many churches in which God is moving and working.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I'd like to jump through the hoop a little early...

For those of you who don't speak United Methodist, I apologize in advance... but I have a frustration to share...

The UM Book of Discpline says that a certified candidate for ministry may be commissioned at the halfway point in their seminary studies. So when I realized that I would hit that point after fall semester 2009, I entertained the thought of applying for commissioning. In asking a few questions about how that would all pan out, here is a portion of the email that I received from an intentionally nameless someone who serves on the District Committee on Ministry...

"While the Book of Discipline allows persons to be commissioned prior to graduation from Seminary, West Ohio has held that since the superviesed years don't start until you graduate, there is no good reason to be commissioned while still in seminary. Once commissioned, the supervised years begin and to try to do that while being a pastor and completing your education would be a bit much."

Like going to school and doing field ed is too much? We meet at least once every two weeks with our supervisor, doing ministry and completing a whole lot of other stuff for our school work.

Like going to school and working in a church without field ed requirements is too much? Anyone who works in a church in
any capacity will tell you that being in school and working in a church is not easy. But we do it anyway, because it is what we are called and
of doing.

Plus, like a lot of other conferences recognize... if you are commissioned before you graduate school your Board of Ordained Ministry can say, "Hey, Anna, we think you are doing great ministry, but would really like to see you have more experience in counseling. Why don't you take another counseling class before you graduate." Instead of saying, "Hm... you lack some classwork... why didn't you take XYZ class while you were in seminary. We're going to wait to ordain you for another year while you get some continuing ed in that area."


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What's being a woman got to do with it?

I have had a lot on my mind around the matter of my ministry, my gender, and my age. After reading this blog post, I think that I have finally internalized my feelings enough to verbalize them.

Reading the post about Anna Howard Shaw, I was reminded of all the things that women have had to endure for the sake of ministry, especially ordination. I am so thankful to have strong women like Anna who have blazed the trails so that I don't have so many trails to blaze of my own. Especially in working with the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women I have had the privilege and the pleasure of getting to know some of the most capable and wonderful women in the United Methodist Church. I am so proud to count myself as a colleauge, but moreso as a sister in Christ to each and every one of these women.

In working towards my own ordination, I have heard a variety of advice from many people. Some of it is quality, tidbits that I will
never forget. Some is comical. I understand that it came out of their experience, but internally I can't help but chuckle. Then there is the infuriating advice. The advice that is completely unmerited and unwanted.

The first advice I can think of from the unmerited and unwanted advice happened before a class in a casual conversation. I was speaking with an older (meaning older than myself) male classmate who is currently serving a church as a student pastor. When I told him that I would be taking a congregation of my own as a student pastor in the fall, he "so graciously" warned me about finding an older (again, meaning older than myself) woman to be a mentor, so that I could talk over the specific challenges that young women have in the ministry, especially in rural congregations.

Now, I know that some rural congregations are still not keen on the idea of having female pastors, and that some rural congregations are composed primarily of older adults. But I was very frustrated by his assumption that I would automatically face challenges that would require me to have a mentor just to talk about those specific issues. I think I was more frustrated by his assumptions of the people that I would be in ministry with. It was so unfair of him to assume that they would be old people who wouldn't respect the authority of a young, capable, woman. I know that my classmate was speaking out of protection for me, but I left the conversation feeling frustrated and belittled.

I have another colleague who I email with quite frequently regarding ministry. We share stories and experiences, frustrations and triumphs, and many other things. When this person (gender left neutral on purpose) asked me how my first few weeks at my new church went, this person was suprised that I haven't had any major issues. I told this person how people readily and willingly address me as Pastor Anna (even though it still freaks me out a little), how they ask and seriously consider my advice, and how they respect my decisions.

An example of this is that the church secretary has served as the food pantry coordinator for years. Each year she must sign a contract with the foodbank that provides our food pantry with many staple items. This contract requires the signature of the pastor, after the pastor has reviewed the contract points. I reviewd the contract, and a few of the points were not being fulfilled by our church's foodbank. It was not as a specific oversight of any one person, but I told the church secretary that I didn't feel comfortable signing this contract until the policies of the church's foodbank had been revised accordingly. The next day, new policies were set in place and the church secretary thanked me for reading the entirety of the contract before I signed. She (though she has done it "her" way for years and years) had no problem with my methods.

Yes, I am young. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I am
qualified and capable. Yes, my church members recognize all of these points and respect me for all of them. I have had no problems thus far regarding my age and gender. Does that mean I will never have problems? Probably not.

Does being warned about problems and conflicts in advance prepare us? Perhaps... but often I think those warnings turn us on to problems and conflicts that we may not have pegged as happening because of a certain factor. I liken it to the dentist. When the dentist says, "I am going to give you this injection, you may feel a pinch and a sting," you anticipate that pinching and stinging. But if you don't know what is coming, you experience the injection just as it is, without having any notions of how it will feel.

For some people, that not knowing what you will experience is scary. I recognize that very fully. The way I function, however, is that I would like to experience everything without having my mind set on a situation or outcome in the beginning. I prefer to reflect more after the experience. My preference is no better than others, but I wonder if other young, capable women have experienced the same feelings as I have.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Well the craziness of traveling is done (for now), and I have slept off my jet lag. I have even turned in the paper for the class, writing much more than I had planned. I had about a week to just exist, which was wonderful, but by the end of the week I was ready to have something substantial to do.

And something substantial I got!! This last Sunday was my first Sunday as the pastor of the Darby Plains Larger Parish UMCs. It was a great Sunday for a couple of reasons. First, I got to spend my anniversary with my awesome husband who supports me in the ministry. I am so thankful for him in all of this. I also got to experience the love and congratulations of my parents. My dad, his wife Julie, and my mother and father-in-law were all in attendance for my first Sunday as pastor. I really enjoyed getting to know these congregation in worship and fellowship.

I spent Monday morning in the office doing some worship planning, and I also had the service of committal for a family member of my congregation. It was surreal. I am so humbled by this call to ministry. It just all seems like a dream...

A good dream that is what I am supposed to be dreaming. A dream that makes me happy and feels fulfilling, and a dream that I am blessed to have my husband, family, and friends supporting me in.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Japan 2

Well, 2 main points for today...

- sushi is not as bad as I thought it was and
- being covered in Korean mosquito bites is not as fun as everyone says it is (ok, so no one has really told me that being attacked by Korean mosquitos is fun, but now I know personally that it is not)

Last night the Rev. Dr. Kim-chi told us that he would take us to the fish market (world famous) in the morning if we wanted to. Not everyone wanted to go, but four of us were adventerous and took the plunge. We dragged our sorry butts out of bed and walked out the door just after 6am. It took us a while to get the subway figured out, but a kind soul who could handle the small amount of Japanese that PK could speak and led us right to the fish market. The woman who runs the place which we are staying joked that you could get off of the subway and follow your nose which was very true!! The second you stepped off of the subway train the aroma of fish filled your nose. The thing was that this fish didn't smell bad. Most Americans haven't ever smelled real fresh fish. It does not smell bad at all. On our way to the fish market we passed a few Shinto shrines. Some are so small along the roads that you would not even know they existed if you did not know what you were looking for. I have always enjoyed learning about Shinto, and it is neat to have enough background to not have to ask questions, but to just know about it. When we arrived at the market and it was pretty destitute. Apparently arriving at 6:45 is late, and all the fresh fish have sold out. We were lucky, however, and found one restaraunt that had the day's catch still available. We ordered a bunch of tuna sushi and enjoyed it in community. I even ate one whole piece!! The journey back to the house was amongst the commuter rush, so it was pretty crowded. There were not many women on the subway, and I felt a bit out of place.

We got back and just tooled around the house for a bit. The only thing on the agenda for the day was a bus tour of Tokyo. We took the Japan Rail (JR) to the bus stop and just spent some time in the area shopping and looking for food that was relatively cheap. We don't quite have the hang of the yen, and the dollar is weak to the yen, so it is hard to do mental math. I luckily found some sort of gel for my mosquito bites, and that kept me from itching too much during the day. It is hard to communicate with a pharmacist when you don't speak the same language. It makes me wonder how frustrated people in the U.S. who don't speak English are pushed around and shown anger by those who do speak English... hm...

The bus tour didn't consist of a whole lot except for going to the Sensoji Buddhist Temple. The area is world famous for the shopping strip right in front of the temple. It was quite the site. I can't wait to post pictures of it. Again, I was thankful for all the studying I have done in the area of Buddhism. Even my very basic knowledge saved me a lot of confusion and question asking when we walked around the temple. It was an absolutely gorgeous space. The thing I will remember most is the people gathered around the incense bowl at the foot of the steps waving their arms to cover themselves in the smell of that incense. As you walked up the steps you could smell it from the people, and it was a handsome smell, just like the handsome temple that I was walking into. I wish I would have had more time to soak it all in, but as we were on a tour we didn't have a whole lot. I did finish my souvenir shopping, and headed back to the bus.

The evening was pretty uneventful. For frugality's sake, we ate at McDonald's and headed back to the house. As we journeyed back, the physical limits of the group were tested. There are some on the group that are not able to walk long distances and do stairs with ease, and so we were always scoping for shorter routes, elevators, and escalators. It really slowed the group down, and we were all forced to understand the needs of the group as a whole instead of just our own.

After we had taken the JR back a few stops, we put those who were tired in a cab and strolled our way back to the house through Harajuku. It seems strange to just say that so casually. It is true that the district is a fashion capital. We passed all sorts of designer stores: Fendi, D&G, Burberry, Dior, Cartier, and so many more. The people in the area are all dressed like they have lived in Harajuku their whole lives. I felt very underdressed. Though the people are so fashionable, I have been pleased to see that many more women wear tennis shoes/flats here. Coming from Korea, the land of spike heels, it was good to see people who value the look of their feet barefoot over how their outfit looks as a whole. Seeing the women wearing heels makes me think of all of the blisters, hammer toes, and bunyons in the future for these women. Japanese podiatrists may want to move to S. Korea ;) Also, there are many more "Westerners" here than in Seoul. It has been nice to hear a bit more English, although certainly not necessary.

Folks are tiring easily here now. A few people feel under the weather, and some (ok, not some, just me) are itchy. I am going to go to bed on the hard floor and be thankful that I have the opportunity to be on such a trip and to have a roof over my head in this interesting and lively city.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Japan 1

It is with great pleasure that I write a blog that is current and does not need back dated!

Today was our last time in Korea. We were bid farewell by many of the pastors of Bupyeong Church and were accompanied to the airport by Peter and James. None of us want to leave the two of them, but we were comforted by the hope of their visit to the U.S. Now we just have to make it happen.

As we got nearer to going through security, one of the women on our trip decided that a minor condition she had been experiencing was bad enough to visit the urgent care in the airport. The visit was only $12, and she got the medication that she needed, but she was warned that if the condition does not improve, she will not be permitted to re-enter the United States. That is a bit scary.

We all spent the last of our won on candy and waited at the gate for flight. Though the flight itself was turbulent, I got upgraded along with four others from our group to economy plus (not very exciting in the grand scheme of things, but since I was the only one who didn't get bumped up to first class on that same flight into Korea, I felt justified). We knew when we got on the plane that the health questionaire would happen, but the Japanese government means business with this H1N1 thing. They pulled a few members of our group for random extra paperwork. We all made it through the quarantine and customs, and after a long wait, the purchase of bus and rail tickets, the exchange of money (won and dollars to yen), we set out for Tokyo via bus. It was good to see coastline that was not lined with barbed wire. It is strange to think that we are only a two hour flight from Korea and the political tension is so much less.

A 1.5 hour bus ride and a CRAZY taxi trip took us to our home for the next few days, the Methodist Missionary Center in Tokyo. All of the women (8) are sleeping in one room, mostly on traditional Japanese mat-type beds. We'll see if I can walk in the morning! We grabbed a quick bit, spent some time de-briefing from Korea, and relaxed.

It is off to bed. I am tired, but excited to be in Japan. Garrett asked me if I was ready to come home. Earlier in the day I would have said yes, but now I am not so sure. I miss him and my Loler, but I am refreshed by the change of scenery.

South Korea 13

June 8

I felt remarkably refreshed in the morning. My solitude must have paid off. After breakfast we set out to enjoy our last full day in Korea.

Pastor James told us that Rev. Peter was "in poor condition." While we have all enjoyed his devotion to hospitality, it is a real reminder of the importance of self care while in vocational ministry.

Pastor James bravely leads us for the day. The first stop was the Samsung Center where we got to experience some of the newest technologly that Samsung has developed recently. The most noteable was the "fingerthin" 60" LCD TV. man, that would be a souvenir for Garrett! Our next stop was to the market. We had won in hand and were ready to spend. We were told that this was a tourist market, but i did not see very many tourists outside of our group. I just cannot picture myself shopping in this setting on a regular basis. I did, however, getting even better at bartering. I ended up making deals for half of our group because they were too timid to push the vendors. Imagine me, the aggressive shopper. Garrett probably wouldn't believe that at all. I am too much of a people pleaser normally to be good at bartering.

The market was so busy that I felt like my introverted evening the night before was immediately washed away in the crowd. Also in the crowd were men who had deformed and missing appendages (mainly legs) who would crawl around on the ground with boomboxes on wheels looking for money. Whenever someone would step over them or onto them, they would just grunt a little and keep moving. It was an interesting site. I wonder if they are being "pimped" for their deformaties.

I got all of my souvenirs from Korea, and only had about 1,000 won left. It was a good hour of shopping. We came back, had a quick rest, and then were taken out by Peter and James for our "last supper." We ate on the upper deck of a restaraunt and enjoyed traditional Korean food with our Korean friends. We laughed a lot, reminisced about our time in Korea, and did not want to go back for the "final lecture" at church. We were happily suprised when Peter told us that instead he was going to treat us to an evening at the traditional Korean sauna instead!

What an experience the sauna was! Let me be frank for a minute. I turned the corner into the locker room and was taken aback by all of the nakedness in the ladies' locker room. It was quite shocking!! The ladies of the group changed into the shorts and t-shirts provided by the sauna and met up with the gents for some sweating time. We entered the first of three heat rooms. This one was 64 degrees celcius. The room was painted on the inside like a pyramid, and half of the floor was a rock pit. Some of us put our feet into the rocks while sitting on a step, not being very adventurous. The others sat on the mat on the floor and played jacks with Peter. As we all chatted, a women came in and dug herself a pit in the scorching rocks and just laid down. Three of us were brave enough to take the plunge and lay in the rocks. It was intense, but so relaxing.

After each session in the heat room, we took a quick trip to the igloo. This is seriously a real igloo in the middle of a spa. I had to remind myself not to lean against the walls for fear that my back would stick to them. We worked our way up to the highest heat room, the 85 degrees celcius room (194 degrees F). We (for time's sake) didn't stay in long, but it was so worth it. After leaving the heat room, we decided to go Korean style and take a dip into a few of the various hot tubs. These tubs are separate for men and women, as it is traditional to go nude. It was fun to let the inhibitions go within our group, but it was awkward to be the naked Americans in a spa full of Korean women. For me, the challenge was getting looked at because I had tattoos. There was only one other women in the room with a tattoo. The rest of the experience I will not write about, as it is too personal for public eyes ;)

It was a great close to a great time with our friends at Bupyeong Church. We exchanged gifts with Peter and James and called it a night. I think we all slept a little more relaxed that night.

South Korea 12

June 7

I slept well on Ok-Jin's bed. I would be lying if I said that I wnated to sleep on the floor like I argued the night before. Her mother made me breakfast and apologized for it being so simple. Her apologies were not necessary and i did my best to tell her that. Let me just say that bathrooms in homes are very different. There was not a shower, but there were so many buttons on the toilet that I didn't know what to do with them all!

Upon returning to church we got a tour of the Sunday School classes/parking garage/choirs/orchestra spaces.

Starting with parking... only one thing... the older tower of the church can hold 34 cars. It is like a dry cleaning rail! You drive your car in, get out, and a button gets pushed and the cars go around almost as though they are on a ferris wheel. When you are through with church, you just push the button and the device brings your car down to you. NUTS!

Music... there are so many musicians in this church! There is an organ in the choir practice room and the conductor (yes, I said conductor) wears tails in the service!! All of the hymns are accompanied by a full orchestra. In the evening service the Angelos kids choir sang.

Now for Sunday school... Their program makes me reflect again on vision. An elder told us a story while we were walking to the Sunday school building. This story is about the landscape of the church. The pastor had a vision of a tree in a place that the contractor did not recommend. The pastor did not know why, but he fought for this tree so much that the contractor eventually quit. The tree went in, and when a worker fell from the scaffolding, he landed on the tree instead of the concrete. He broke four ribs, but had the tree not been there he probably would have died. The tree is still there and is called "the Tree of Life."

I guess I was going to write about Sunday school and haven't yet. We knew that the program was huge, but we did not know how intentional it was. The main office monitors attendance but not just for record's sake. If a student does not come, the call, email, and visit until they have understood (and hopefully solved) the problem. They also are prayer centered. They have many bulletin boards that remind people to pray for and evangelize to certain places (schools, etc.) and people. This ministry takes evangelism seriously. They are not scared to do it! I feel as though churches in the U.S. focus on outreach that they hope will turn into evangelism, where this church intentionally evangelizes. I must admit that I am a bit frightened of blatant evangelism. I think that is because I have only seen empty evangelism. Empty evangelism is evangelism that ends at salvation. Not Bupyeong Church! They evangelize and then support those who come to church. And if you stop coming? They will email, call, and visit. My mega-church reservations are slowly dissolving in this church. The numbers here are a testament to the faithfulness to a God who calls us to make disciples.

We attended the late morning service and I am still completely in awe of the scale. A full orchestra is mind blowing. The church is a fine tuned machine! In spite of it all, one strange thing happened after the service. Our entire group stood at the back of the narthex so that the congregation could welcome us. I had two male classmates on either side of me. A gentleman greeting the guy to my right, shaking his hand and exchanging pleasantries, and when I extended my hand to greet him, he passed right by me without acknowledging my presence. he then greeted the guy on my left in the same cordial manner in which he greeted the first male classmate. I have spent a lot of time wondering if this is a cultural thing, as it was an isolated incident or if it was indeed a matter of choice by that man. The guys seem to think it is cultural. I am not so sure...

After the service and a fabulous lunch, we heard the testament of one of the church's elders. Through his amazing testimony, one thing was abundantly clear. He (along with all the members of Bupyeong Church) believes in the faithfulness of God and the power of prayer. Some classmates and I had a long conversation after this testimony. Here are the cliffnotes...

- Why are American churches (in general) so scared of evangelism? Because we are so afraid of offending or putting people off. The people here, despite their quiet and polite nature are not afraid to boast of Jesus.

- Why were we taught in school not to pray for miracles? These people pray for miracles and they happen. Ask and you shall receive.
- No matter how great the shepherd, only sheep can produce sheep. This church has empowered the lay people to make disciples and it has obviously worked.

The evening was relaxed, with another service. The children's chorus sang, which was the highlight for me. The message was about the keys to happiness. During the message, ment were encouraged to step up and be the heads of their households, and this made me revisit the incident from earlier in the day . I cannot figure out the gender dynamics of this church (and this culture).

Later in the evening most of the group went to play basketball with pastor James, but I stayed back. My limits were being tested socially and I needed to just exist in solitude for a bit. After writing and washing some clothes in the sink I hit the sack before my roommate got home. I didn't want to speak to people, so I enjoyed letting the music (via my ipod) speak to me until I drifted off.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

South Korea 11

(still June 6)

With my overnight things in hand I headed to the lobby. There i met my host, Cho Ok-Jin. She was shy about using her English but told me that her brother would join us. We headed out with some of my classmates and their hosts to explore the Bupyeong area of Incheon. We had fun having coffee, eating dinner, making fans, taking pictures, and chatting. Talking with Ok-Jin and her brother, was intersting. Ok-Jin is 27 years old (Korean age), and her brother is five years older. They were suprised to hear that I was married at 23. I was even more suprised to hear that they live with their parents. in my experience, young people who live in cities live with roommates or by themselves. We all enjoyed comparing our cultures and experiencing theirs. One of my classmates and his host seem to be hitting it off and Ok-Jin and I joke that they would make a cute couple. This sparked discussion (again) of relationships and culture. Both Ok-Jin and her brother want to marry Koreans and he explained to me that it is not because of family pressure but because, though he speaks English well, he expresses himself best in Korean. He told me that he did not want to marry someone who would not experience the fullness of his love because of his limited language. Here I had thought (after meeting a Korean girl who is dating an African-American guy and worries about what her family will say when she tells them that they want to get married) that secretly all Koreans want to marry someone who is not Korean but choose not to because of the old people. What a poor assumption on my part. Americans don't know what having a national identity is all about. Our country is so young and we are currently such a mixture of people that we have very little history in common with our fellow American in comparison to the rest of the world, especially the Korean people. Why do some South Koreans want to be reunited with North Koreans, no matter how hard or far-fetched the idea may seem? Because to be divided means a severed sense of identity. To not share all of their hostory with the North Koreans is breaking the hearts of many South Korean people. I wish I could experience such strong roots.

moving on...

The young adult service in the evening was better attended than I ever imagined. They had over 250 people at their Saturday service! This group showered us with gifts, love, prayers, and acceptance. more Korean hospitality! It never ends...

After a very long (but fulfilling day) Ok-Jin and I reached her house. All the way there she kept telling her brother to take my bag for me. I wouldn't let him, but the effort was kind and a bit humorous. When we arrived, her father was still at work and her mother was out with an old friend, and so she and I shared pictures. I showed her a picture of Garrett, my dad, my brother, and I at my wedding. She then showed me a picture of her parents at their wedding 34 years ago. This picture is gorgeous with the newly married couple dressed in traditional Korean attire. I asked if they (Ok-Jin and her brother) if they wanted to wear traditional Korean attire at their weddings, and they both answered yes. They told me that the younger generation will have the wedding wearing traditional attire and then go to the reception wearing Western wedding attire, or vice versa. It is just another example of how the traditional Korean culture can be maintained while still moving forward. It is a balance that amazes me.

After a glass of corn silk tea, I hit the sack. I was wiped!! As a special treat, Ok-Jin treated me to a serenade. She sang and strummed her guitar while sitting cross-legged on her blankets while I sat in her bed. She would not let me sleep on the floor, no matter how hard I fought. I really think that if you look up hospitality in the dictionary you will find a picture of a kind Korean face in the margin.

South Korea 10

June 6

Our wake up call sounded at 4:40 a.m. We had already been up for 40 minutes by then but the beautiful music over the intercom was not unwelcome. I was not excited to be up this early. Traveling is tiring, and I was truly exhausted. Little did I know how worth it being up that early would be. The first thing that astounded me was how many people came. The bottom level of the sanctuary was more than sparsely filled. Over 500 people were in attendance. As we walked in, we saw many people in deep and honest prayer already. I guess that they had been there quite a while. After a few hymns and scripture readings, they began to pray. They start praying by shouting (in Korean), "Lord! Lord! Lord!" They then pray out loud and all at once. There is name for this prayer that I know how to pronounce but not to spell. The music in the background is not mild and quiet, but full of energy and the spirit. It matches the prayer. The musician plays until 6 a.m. so that those praying can tell time by the music, but the faithful do not stop praying at 5. They pray until they are done praying. What a beautiful experience to be a part of.

We boarded the bus to Gangwha island shortly after. While we were all tired, few of us slept because we reflected on the morning. It was great to see green after being in cities for a few days. I really am a small town girl... For every cornfield in Ohio there is a rice paddy on Gangwha island. They are neat to see.

Our first stop was an Anglican chuch which was built in the traditional Korean style. Before walking in (like many places in Korea) you take off your shoes. It was a testament to the Korean Christians and their unique balance. They seem to balance their ancient culture to their religion which is so relatively new. We also visited the first Methodist church on the island, but before we got there we were randomly stopped by soldiers at a checkpoint. The sea on the North side of the island is so narrow that Gangwha is easily accesible from North Korea, and though the banks of Gangwha are lined with barbed wire (as are many coastlines and riverbeds in northern South Korea) and guarded by soldiers it is still a vulnerable spot. It was a harsh reminder that the beautiful, peacefull, free people of South Korea are (rightfully) always on guard.

We left the island and had lun with Rev. Lee's mother and the mother of a Korean classmate of mine at MTSO. It is a small world! Over lunch we discussed our trepidation regarding the homestay that was to come upon our return to Bupyeong Methodist Church.

South Korea 9

June 5

I was not upset to leave Seoul. While I enjoyed my time there, it was too busy for me. The population of Seoul is so large, and there are always tons of people out and about. While I consider myself an extrovert, my limits were tested. When I would get back to my room at the ened of the day I would hardly speak to my roommate.

We were picked up by the Pastor of Mission and Music of Bupyeong Methodist Church and an intern pastor (Rev. Peter Lee and James Kim, respectively). Our first stop was to the foreign missionaries cemetery. There were so many people buried there from Ohio. One was born in Latty! The grave that stuck out to me most was the one that read, "The man who loved Korea more than Koreans did." Learning more about Korea, I find it amazing that 120 years ago missionaries started coming here and now the Korean church is sending out so many missionaries to other countries. The reason that the U.S. missionaries (not just U.S. I suppose, but all of them) wanted to be buried here was so that they could continue to pray for Korea. I wonder what they would think of the church now. Only 120 years has passed since the first missionary to Korea and now the number of Christians nearly matches that of religions as old as 4,000 years.

After leaving the cemetery we moved on to the museum of Korean Christianity. The only real thoughts I have are how much it reminded me of the Living Bible Museum in Mansfield, Ohio and how disturbed I was by the center of the museum. It requires a bit of explantion... There is a hollow column in the center of the museum that you can see into from each floor. From ther ground level you look up into the column. The floor beneath you is an animation of fire. Looking upwards you see a few figures and a cross, but you cannot see what the scene holds. From the second floor you can see a figure (someone young and modern) reaching out towards the cross which is still one floor above you. Finally, reaching the third floor, you see the entire picture. The people (three of them) seem to be soaring up towards the cross, away from the flames below them. It was a strange display, but it made much more sense knowing that the museum was funded and is mantained by a full gospel church.

We then moved on to Bupyeong Methodist Church. On the way, Rev. Lee told us that our accomodations would be a bit less than a hotel. We didn't think much of it. Though the drive between the museum and the church was short, i still managed to doze off. I woke up to Rev. Lee saying, "Don't worry about your bags. We will take care of them." As I stepped off of the bus, I was handed a rose and greeted by a line of people smiling, waving, and saying hello. What an amazing greeting.

I was (and still am) amazed by the scale of this church. At first I was apprehensive. All of my feelings about mega-churches immediately appeared.

We dropped off our things in our rooms. Only then did we realize that Rev. Lee was kidding. The floors are headed (as if we would need it), there is high speed internet in each room, coffee is free (as much as you can drink), electricity conversion is provided, and everything else is merely a phone call away. For our enjoyment there is a rooftop rose garden. It was created simply for the enjoyment of guests.

We learned on the tour of the church that the reason they have the facilities for guest is because of a vision had by a church member. This person person saw a ministry that teaches leadership and evangelism while folks learn about Korean Christianity and hospitality. The vision is now a reality.

On the tour and hearing Senior pastor Hong Eun-Pa speak about his church, all I can thinka bout is vision. Not only was vision at the center of the building the church (like the vision of yellow stone that was imported from Egypt), but the central vision of honest evangelism is at the center of this church now.