Wednesday, September 27, 2006

God's Motivational Seminar

So today God came through for me in a big tangible way. I’ve been really unmotivated lately and I woke up this morning thinking, “Is there any reason for me to get out of bed today?” This didn’t really seem healthy, so I was a little concerned for myself. Later I was reading the book “Primal Leadership” and it seemed rather ironic that I was on the chapter called “Motivation to Change.” It told the story of this little boy Logan who went on vacation for a week at his uncle’s house and every day he would spring out of bed at 5am because he was so excited to work with his uncle on the farm. The point of the chapter is basically that you need to get in touch with yourself and evaluate where you’re falling short of your ideals, because you may have slipped into habits that are creating inertia in your life. It talked about the “Logan test” and asked the question, “Do you awake each morning excited about the day, not wanting to sleep any more than absolutely necessary?” It hit just a little too close to home and I wondered “God? What are you up to here?”

The thing I’m struggling with is that I’m doing the kind of work I’ve dreamed of and planned for since high school! This has been my goal for SEVEN years, yet here I am and I don’t even want to get out of bed? What’s that about? I tried to think of things that I get excited about and compare it with what I actually do here. One of the things that has been on my mind for a long time is how much I miss ministering at my church. Before I went to study French in Switzerland last year, I was leading a 7th grade girls small group. It was so awesome! In my mind, it was the most fruitful time of my life. Since then I haven’t really had a ministry. I’m a “missionary” but my work involves sitting in an office a good part of the time. Sure I interact with people and can invest in them in little ways from time to time, but I miss that set apart time at church where I have the freedom to minister directly, teaching the Word of God and praying for people and experiencing the presence of the Spirit together. I wrote to an old friend today that I feel like I need to get back into a more hands-on kind of ministry, like maybe that would make life feel meaningful again. So back to God coming through for me in a big tangible way…

I went to my local church today for a seminar. I noticed that about half the people present were young girls! For a good part of the sermon I couldn’t even listen ‘cause my mind was racing over all the cool things I could do with these girls. They don’t have anything geared towards them and it’s a bummer that they only teaching they get is a sermon from the pulpit on Sunday. I know most of them a little bit and after the service they all gathered around me. It was weird ‘cause it was like they were all just waiting for me to ask them to do something together! So I was like “Uh, we should get together some time.” We had started arranging what day would be good when the pastor came over (a man who also works with me at SIL) and he said, “This is Jessica. She’s going to be your leader now. You will meet with her and she will teach you things.” Just like that!!

So I feel like maybe God likes me a little bit :o) He set things up so that I would realize this deep need in my life and just when I was feeling the most distressed about it, He comes through with this God-sized gift! He is good.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pious missionary talk

So long as we're on the topic of soul mates and such, I thought I'd give you a little window into my world:

The other night I was walking down to the icecream shop with my friend Elizabeth, her parents who are here visiting, and the Humber family—Paul, Kristin, and their 3 little girls. Elizabeth’s parents were walking hand and hand and Kristin was holding one of her girls’ hands, so Elizabeth and I wanted to get in on the action. We held the other girls’ hands and I remarked “Well, we’ll take what we can get.” Kristin said, “Beggars can’t be choosers, right?” I said, “Single white women in the Congo can’t be choosers!” “Are you saying you are beggars?” “I’m saying you married folks don’t understand our reality,” I said teasingly.

I went on: “I’m starting to worry about myself. I see so few good looking white guys that when I do see one I have to wipe the drool off my chin. What’s gonna happen when I go back home?” Elizabeth chimed in, “Oh I know! On Tuesday I saw this really hot French guy while I was shopping at Score.” Kristin cut in, “Wait a minute, you saw this guy on Tuesday? This is so funny! You’re talking about it like it was the highlight of your week!” Elizabeth retorted, “Highlight of my week?! That was like the highlight of the last 3 months!”

And so goes the pious talk of missionary women. They’ll probably leave those kinds of details out when they write biographies of our heroic lives. I’m telling you now, so you’ll know the real story :o)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Portrait of a Compatible Soul Mate

My soul mate finds truth in whimsical, slightly odd films. He speaks a foreign language...or 2 or 3. He prays like there's no tomorrow and worships like eternity isn't long enough to love Jesus. He will work in Congo but he's not Congolese. He'll be able to make me laugh until I cry. He is hot. He has a sense of style. He won't be a party pooper.

I guess. I mean, I've never seen a soul mate before. I think I'll recognize him though.

I think he's like 5'10" with really cool glasses and light brown messy hair. He wears t-shirts from Goodwill and expensive jeans that his rich friend from college handed down to him so he'd stop wearing his favorite cargo pants from high school. He turned down Yale and Princeton to go to a local seminary. He's often found by the river, eating an apple and reading a good book or playing his guitar (I never realized my soul mate was a yuppy hippie!). He’s not into sports, but he kicks butt at Ultimate Frisbee. He can school me at pool, but only about half the time. He loves his dog. He goes to the dentist every 6 months and has nightmares that his teeth became crooked. He likes to shop at Trader Joe's, but he never checks out my hot friend Carrie 'cause redheads just aren't his type; plus he’s just too happy about all the free samples he just ate and the box of truffles he bought me. He offers to pick his friends up at the airport just to get that exciting feeling of going to the airport and to see all the funny people there. I guess he must be from Portland.

I'm just making this up as I go along. If anyone out there reading this matches this description, don't worry, I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about my mystical soul mate who isn't a real person. I probably wouldn't like to meet a real person like this because they would smell sometimes or say annoying things or want to take me out, and that's just not very mystical. My soul mate is very mystical. On the other hand, if you or anyone you know matches this description, please write to me, or feel free to stop by my office in Brazzaville. I take soul mate appointments every Monday.

Oregon, how do I love thee, let me count the ways

Just ran across this blog entry on I love that Powell's bookstore in Portland is famous. I think I love it because I somehow feel I have a personal relationship with Powell's, though I have no more claim on it than your average Powell's-loving-Oregonian.

Powell's is one of many reasons I am looking forward to next summer. I am coming home to TA at Oregon Summer Institute of Linguistics. It's been held for the last 20 years in Eugene, but is planning to move to P-Town in 2007! I've lived in Salem, Newberg, and Eugene, but never Portland, so I'm excited!

Other things I'm looking forward to in Portland: visiting churches (like Donald Miller's, author of Blue Like Jazz, Imago Dei) and making a study of the whole post-modern "emerging church" scene, spending time on 23rd Street (esp Papa Hayden's, Pizzicato, Starbucks, Lush, Pottery Barn), attending summer evening events at Pioneer Square (I don't actually know anything about this, but one time I watched the Goonies on a big screen there and it was cool), spending time with my great friends (Sarita, Stephanie, Carrie, whoever else I know in the Portland area), and you know, basically discovering how cool it is to be from Oregon.

I feel like Oregon is an often over-looked state. CA, NY, TX and states like that are famous, but OR? Lately, however, it's been getting the glory due its name. "Blue Like Jazz" seems like it's pretty much one of the most popular Christian books right now and it's full of Oregon propaganda. The lead character of my new favorite movie "Elizabethtown" is from Oregon, and there's funny jokes all the way thru where the Kentuckians keep accusing him of being from California. I guess if you're into the independent film/independent bookstore/independent political scene, Oregon is probably like Mecca or something.

OK, that's all I have to say about Oregon right now. Except that it's one of the most beautiful places on earth. I heart Oregon!!!

(Sorry about my verbose blogging of late. This is what happens when my photo program refuses to post.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Soul Mates

"Finding a soul mate on your own and knowing if you're really compatible has never been more confusing or difficult."

The above statement really hits me the wrong way. What do you think? This is a statement made by eHarmony, a very popular and surprisingly effective match-making site. Their aim is to help people find their "soul mate." I think this kind of match-making is valid in this day and age, but the idea of selling soul mates is a little disturbing to me. First of all, I'm not sure I believe in soul mates. Second of all, why should it be harder today? Do we think God has dropped the ball in the soul mate department?

Define, "compatibility" for me. In many cultures, compatibility consists in family status and wealth, or coming from the right branch of the family tree or the right tribe. Maybe this is why everything is confusing and difficult for us westerners, because we don't have such structures in place in our society to tell us who we should marry. For me, I am not on a quest to find my soul mate. "Soul mate" sounds rather mystical, and if it is, then it seems like that person will come to me. God will cause our paths to cross. He has been doing this throughout history so I don't really feel panicked that our society has messed things up over the last few decades with our lame ideas of dating and compatibility and soulmates.

Ouesso Diary #2

At times I found taking photos wasn't enough to capture a moment. I wrote this on 8/23/06

A lady walks intently across the soggy field, a long stick helping her make each step. The scarf on her head, her t-shirt and skirt are all faded and worn from many long days of toilsome labor. A man saunters by in a new bright blue outfit with red chickens on it, music streaming from a walkman in his pocket. From somewhere a rooster crows, and the sounds of humans emerging begin calling across the courtyard. The plunk, plunk of water dripping from tree branches is accented by the occasional distant rumble of thunder. With rhythmic steps and hands marking an inaudible beat, a girl zigzags carefully over the puddles. The air is cool and smells fresh. The village awakens after another impressive rainstorm.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Cab Conversation

To get around Brazza I often take taxis. This morning my ride to church was very typical, so I thought I’d share with you:

Taxi: You are Swedish?
Me: No, American.
Taxi: You need to take me to America.
Me: It’s expensive.
Taxi: How expensive?
Me: $2000, just for the plane ticket.
Taxi: You need to have faith.
Me: What about all the other Congolese people who have already asked me this?
Taxi: What?
Me: You’re not the first.
Taxi: You need to have faith
Me: Why would God want you to go to the United States?
Taxi: Because it’s my wish.
Me: God doesn’t give me everything I want.
Taxi: Of course not. Only God is big enough to have everything. No one man can have everything. Isn’t that right? If someone had everything that would make them God…

At this point I checked out of the conversation while he continued sermonizing on having faith and how God is the only One big enough to have everything. He might have asked me some more questions, but I don’t really know. I don’t like it when people hit me up for a ride to America when all I’m doing is trying to get across town to go to church. Do they actually think they’ll get something from me? I think the principle here is always ask. Ask for more than possible. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get something out of the deal. If they find anyone handing out tickets to the United States, I want to get in on that deal too!

PS: It's not that I don't want to help people fulfill their dreams, but I think the dream to go to America is usually misplaced. People here don't realized how absolutely miserable they would probably be in America. They wouldn't be marketable, they wouldn't have family, they would find both the culture and the climate extemely cold. It's not a ticket to prosperity and happiness. I wouldn't wish America on most of these people.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Check out the new fall GAP ad

My cool big sis' just tipped me off to this. If you don't have a TV like me, then check it out:

"I rather feel like expressing myself now. And I could certainly use the release! If a girl wants to dance, a girl wants to dance."

My only regret is that if clothes designed for Audrey Hepburn are in, most of us are out. I mean, wasn't she so skinny because she had a disease or something? Yeah, that's a look I'd want to promote!
One of the highlights of the trip was being able to deliver a tricycle to our friend Faustin. He is a faithful member of the Bekwil translation team and he would limp several miles into town to work. Now he zips around on his new wheels! We were so thankful for the Harrisons' supporters who jumped on the opportunity to give money to have the bike made. Posted by Picasa

Ouesso Diary #1

OK, folks, I'm getting pretty disgusted with my photo program. I'll try again tomorrow, but for now you'll just have to be happy with this story from my journal on August 25th...

Last night I went out just before dark to buy more kerosene. Judging by the huge sinister billowy clouds, I knew I didn’t have much time. I walked briskly to the store and by the time I left with my bottle of green fuel in hand, the rain was starting to fall. I was in a hurry and the streets were nearly completely dark and my glasses were blurred with rain drops, so I turned down the wrong street and ended up lost in the midst of some houses as the rain really began to pour. A man stopped me to say, “Lady, you better hurry.” Yeah, thanks.

Once wet, my slip-on plastic shoes were useless for getting anywhere fast, so I took them in my hand and ran down the dark sandy roads in the general direction of the house with rain dumping on my head, praying I wouldn’t step on anything sharp or gross. I made it home not having gone too far out of my way and without being completely soaked, feeling a healthy sense of satisfaction at my little adventure. It’s not every day a white girl runs barefoot in the rain down a Congolese dirt road in the dark!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Living it up in Brazzaville

On Friday my teammates and I staggered back to the SIL center in Brazzaville after 4 long weeks in Ouesso, northern Congo. Within minutes of arriving, I was sitting at my dining room table under a fan, drinking a cold glass of water and petting my cat while downloading my emails. I live a life of contrasts.

I'm really disappointed that my photos are refusing to upload for some reason today, but hopefully over the next couple weeks I'll be able to pictorally describe for you our continuing adventures in Congo.

I've been in Africa for 8 months now and while we were in Ouesso I seemed to have reached a critical point where I've rubbed up against this culture for long enough to get irritated with it. It didn't help that my sister had her baby (hooray!), leading to serious pangs of homesickness. I wondered for months as I was just coasting along when this phase would come. I'm actually glad that it's arrived because now I can push through it and move on to another stage of adjustment.

Despite the struggles, there were highlights on our trip and good progress in our work. Going back to Ouesso after being gone for just 3 weeks was cool. It felt like cries of joy were erupting all around town upon our arrival. It was so fun to have people squeal with delight at the sight of us. Astride’s mom came running up the steps to hug me crying “Jessica! Oh Jessica’s back! Astride is going to be beside herself!” We were able to build on previous friendships and ended up with several meaningful relationships.