Sunday, November 25, 2007

Here I am...

Well I am in Mexico, hanging out with Sandra Plett.

Sandra came and picked me up from the airport this morning - after I had about 2 hours sleep last night - and it really all felt surreal. One, I'm in Mexico. Two, I'm hanging out with Sandra after more than a year of seeing each other. And three, every time I take a plane to another country, I'm amazed that we have managed to hurl large tin cans into space, full of people, and make it half way across the world in a night.

I just awoke from a three hour nap - trying to recuperate from the lack of sleep last night. Let the adventures begin!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Spew fest.

So Carleigh and I are chatting away last night...she's burbing Bodhi. And then this happened. I laughed. And then insisted on taking a picture. I couldn't believe that this little baby boy even had this much food in his stomach. But he did. At least before this picture was taken.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The story of my weekend "up north"

Well folks, this has got to be the busiest month of "fun things" for me. This last weekend I found myself in Quesnel with a few friends...and had a blast!

Our good friends, Kevin and Christa Brand, along with baby Wyatt, moved up to Quesnel in August - so this long weekend was a great opportunity to venture up north and see how our friends are faring in the cold. (Please note: all of us lower-mainland "city slickers" found it cold...Kevin made sure we knew we were wimps.)

Here's some pictures to share the stories...

We spent a lot of time playing board games. It was fun...and what else are you expected to do when it's freezing outside. (Okay, well it wasn't freezing...)
Here's Christa with Wyatt - it was awesome to see them in a big house, and to see how Wyatt is growing and changing. He's very impressed with the jolly jumper, even if he doesn't look SO happy in this picture!
And of course, you can't go up north without the boys ( acting the part. Here is Kevin shooting at pop cans from his dining room.
Here are the guys at Kevin's parents' place - paintballing it up. The Balzers are looking a little intense here. But else can you do paintball?
The girls had a blast as well. Though we did more lady-like building fires and cooking hotdogs. You know, typical tasks that we're taught as young girls.
Here's Kevin with his war-wound. He was now also subjected to fire-duty and cooking hot dogs.
And then...the piece de resistance - Girls Night in Quesnel. Laura, Marcy, Elise, and I took Christa out and away from the house for a bit. We had such a fun night on the town. First stop...the bowling alley. Second stop, Mr. Mike's, which I didn't know had changed since it's buffet days. Anyone remember going to Mr. Mike's for buffet? So we had drinks and dessert. Here's Laura demonstrating how huge the bowling alley is. I'm sitting at the "scoreboard seat" - and can fit all 8 lanes, the entire alley, into one picture. Did I mention it was 5 pin? I won't recount scores...
Overall I have to say that I give Quesnel a gold star. I mean, the girls working at the bowling alley were nice and even polite - when do you ever find someone working at a bowling alley that appears to love their life? And the fellow Quesnel-ians even jokingly jumped in for some of our pictures. Can't say any of us are packing our bags to head up north...but I definitely had a great weekend! (and am excited that the Brands are coming down south for Christmas!)

Monday, November 05, 2007

The story of my weekend.

I made it through my second Urban Mission Adventure this weekend. Hallelujah.

I have to admit that Thursday, I was exhausted...and the weekend hadn't even started. I'm sitting here, Monday, and glad to say that all went well - and I had some interesting moments: fun, challenging, out-of-the-ordinary, and thought-provoking.

Friday night I went with "Team 2" to an Ethiopian Restaurant. It was a good time. Here is a pic to show you the food...
Here's half of the group enjoying their Ethiopian experience.
I love Vancouver for this. You can try anything, experience a variety of cultures and food, all within walking distance.

Another big event Friday night for our group was the filming of a movie at the Ivanhoe where we were staying. Of course this got everyone excited...especially as they were told that Steven Seagal would be at the Ivanhoe that night. This was a short-lived excitement...especially when they were further told that actually Steven Seagal wrote the movie. He wouldn't even be there. And...the movie was going straight to DVD. But still...we got a first-hand experience of being on a movie set. Even partially in one, as a couple of our rooms faced the cameras.

As the movie was set in Memphis, we had a variety of cop cars, fire trucks and ambulances all "from" Memphis...

Here we are Friday night like the good "country folk" we are, watching a stunt man jump from the fourth floor onto this giant orange blow-up mattress thing. It's like the "blob" you would have at summer camp, but deflates as the guy jumps onto it...and then takes 20 minutes to blow up again in order to do the take again. We watched one good jump, and gave up on the rest.
I'd have to say the funniest part was that a number of the crew were sitting in the lobby of the hostel waiting to go outside for their parts. I walked into the lobby and realized that 12 very handsome African-American men were dressed in "bomb squad" and SWAT team uniforms. However, I couldn't come up with any excuses to stay and chat...

On a more serious note, I had a very reflective weekend personally. I struggle between the call for us as Christians to love the poor, the widowed and the orphaned, and my own human nature, and the human nature of others. I realize that mankind is broken...and I've seen it over and over again. I think I've been tainted and hurt, as we all have at one point or another, by other people. And we've done the same to others at one point as well, I'm sure.

Friday night I was alone for a couple of hours and decided to walk to Starbucks (one block from the Ivanhoe). Wouldn't you know that in that time, I met a man who obviously had been hurt at one point in his life himself. He told me how he'd just got out of jail, and how he'd been thrown out of Starbucks for...well...let's say "involving" himself with one a girl in the back room. As he says this to me, he's starting to get closer and closer. A big man, maybe 6 feet, and just big. I start to make plans in my mind. The first thing I did was instinctual - an elbow to the gut to show him I didn't want him near me. And it worked. He got the point, and bid me a good night. And I took many deep breaths, looked around outside before I left the Starbucks, and jetted it back to the Ivanhoe.

How do you love people in this life, but also take care of yourself?

The second scenario took place Saturday afternoon. I'll give you the short version. Again, I was by myself (rule #1 of UMA - not supposed to be by yourself...but I'm staff, right?). I was waiting for a team outside of a building - not realizing that they were already inside. As I waited, a street kid was walking along towards me. I'll admit I took a deep breath, and thought "here we go".

Let me clarify that my history of working in "poor" areas has always involved me being picked out of crowds by street people to talk to. This girl was one of those who picked me out of a few people. She walked straight past me, then double-backed and stared me in the eyes. She came real close and started asking me to validate her. "I'm being civil with you, right?", she stared in my eyes. She place a hand lightly on my chest - "We're just two people, connecting right now, right?" "Yes", I kept saying. Where this was going, I was pretty sure I knew, but also was curious.

She asked me to buy her coffee. I agreed to it...and then she starting asking for more. Cash, clothes, a place to stay, time for a conversation. I told her that at that point, all I could offer was to buy her coffee and a meal. I checked in with one of my team leaders who was inside the building, and then told him I'd be right back. While I talked with him she was muttering to herself, swearing at herself, for pushing herself on me, from the broken sentences that I could understand. She herself was struggling...obviously not drugged, not high, but struggling with a mental illness, that allowed me to hear the two sides of her heart. She was using me, and I knew that. But she also regretted it at the same time, somewhere deep inside of her.

She and I walked across the street to a food court. We walked in the doors and I asked her what she felt like. "Do you want pizza?" "Yeah, pizza would be okay," she said. " What kind do you want?" I asked. "Shut up!" She yelled. Then she went and picked out her pizza. "Do you want a drink?" I asked. "Yeah, that would be great. Thanks so much," she lovingly replied. I went to pay, while she whispered in my ear, "Ask for more money". I told her that we couldn't do that, and that I needed to return to my group. She asked if she could get in touch with me. I told her I didn't live in Vancouver. "But you come here often, right?" "No, not really" I replied. "Oh". She looked defeated. "Okay, well...thank you so much for everything." She came in for a big hug.

We stood there, a lingering embrace in the middle of the food court. Me with my clean new clothes, her with her garbage bag of belongings. And I left her there, in the food court, with her pizza in hand...feeling like I was fleeing.

I left that experience feeling awful. I am called to meet with all people; to connect, to interact, to love openly. But, I have walls, stereotypes, hesitations. I struggle with that. I spent much time this weekend thinking about that fact. What am I missing? Where do I need to grow and change? I also recognize that my specific calling is not the downtown Eastside of Vancouver. My specific calling right now, is discipleship, and part of that is in bringing students to the downtown Eastside, an effort to open their eyes, and have them struggle with the same questions I'm still struggling with, 8 years after my first trip there. But still, the greater calling that we all share, is to take care of each other, to love each other, despite what we've done, but more for who we are.

I don't have answers, but I am thankful for the moments that make me realize where I lack.

And in the midst of a busy city...I am learning, slowly, with each interaction, where Jesus is better at this than I am.