Thursday, October 28, 2010

bouncy hearts

A few weeks ago, while recovering from my foot incident, I attempted to catch up on the sermons that I've been missing from the church I've attended in the last few years. While I am still many weeks behind in the online sermon archive, I listened to a message from early September that felt just as real as if it was spoken just for me right then and there. Since then, the message has kinda been stalking me, and creeping into my mind throughout the emotional roller coaster of my past few weeks.

This particular sermon of interest was starting off a short series on the book of Ezekiel, which seeks to capture all of the joys and obscurities of this random prophetic Old Testament book. By the time the story reaches Ezekiel 11, the Israelites have been driven off of their promised land and are left displaced and posession-less in the territory of their oppressor. Up until this point, the book has been one bummer after another, and the Israelites are pretty much at the end of their luck. Then, all of a sudden, God bursts into the situation and says, “Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone...I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” [Ezekiel 11:16, 19].

I'm really struck by the inclusive language that God uses here. It's not just “I'm going to do stuff for you individually,” but instead, “you're all going to be in this together.” And he's not just like, “Well, have a a nice trip as I fling you to different corners of the world,” but instead, “hey, I'll be there too and make sure you have what you need.” When it comes to hearts of flesh instead of stone, God promises not to remove the hard, disappointing, gross, depressing or painful parts of our lives, but rather equip us with what we need to make it through. It seems counter-intuitive that something soft and cushy would be tougher than what's solid and hard. But my pastor pointed out that we need hearts that are rubbery and maliable, so that they'll bounce back after God throws us into challenging being scattered among the countries.

My pastor described that when God talks about giving his people an “undivided heart,” he really means creating a community with one unified vision. This struck me after all the work that my MCC team here is Mozambique has been doing lately. Much of our tangible work and energy has been spent on creating vision statements, articulating our mission and outlining what it will take to get ourselves and our partner organizations to where we want to be. But then I started thinking again about the earlier point of the need for fleshy hearts and flexible characters when it comes to all these new challenges. As I started thinking about the past two months, I'm realizing all of the ways that we've been emotionally and physically tossed around. Since this time in August, we've had MCC Moz team members with homesickness and stomach sickness, fevers and sunburns. There have been rolled ankles, broken fingers, bruises and cuts. We've shared clinic visits, emotional breakdowns, prayers and the worries following a nighttime fainting spell and a closed head injury. But at the same time, we're all miraculously still here. The canoes didn't tip over, the chapas didn't crash, the planes worked as they were supposed to and the cars got us home in one piece. And through it all, we're together, unified in the realization that this work isn't easy, that the food isn't always good, that we have more nagging questions than relieving answers and that we're all at various levels of emotional disarray. But at least it's not just my heart bouncing around or my solitary feeling of displacement. God's doing a lot of work here, and I have quite the sneaky suspicion that he's starting by making our hearts just a little more squishy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

add it to the list

It's been a crazy past few days. After doing much traveling in the past weeks, I was looking forward to getting back to my routine, host family and work. Friday morning began as any typical work day as I stood by the side of the main road waiting for a bus into the city, and then kept waiting as the bus I caught slowly made its way through the heinous Maputo morning traffic. I was lucky enough to be able to sit down during the ride, and although this meant sitting in the direct sunlight for two and a half hours, I was trying to stay upbeat. When I got closer to my bus stop in the city, I decided to climb over all the bags, seats, children and legs that were between me and the door so I would be ready when my stop came. What began as one big stride over some baggage ended with me crumpled on top of my twisted foot. Apparently the floor wasn't as stable as I thought. This now tops the list of Ways Katie Gets Hurt When She's Clumsy.

I hobbled my way to work, trying to maintain my composure amidst the pain and worry that I had further messed up my bad ankle. Once I arrived at CCM, Jenny, my MCC colleague, was there to hear of my accident, my awful morning, my frustrations and my general emotional havoc. As the morning went on and my pain worsened, we decided to make our way over to the private clinic to check out my foot and ankle situation. After five hours, four x-rays and three snack crackers, we ended up with two different doctors, diagnoses and disgruntled Americans. The first doctor looked at the x-rays and concluded that nothing was broken, but a bone was just displaced. However, she recommended that we wait for the opinion of the second doctor who would be there in 15 minutes. Two and a half hours later, the second doctor arrived, stating that it was merely a sprain, the bones were fine and a simple bandage cast would be fine. In the end, I was given a full plaster of Paris cast and felt much more discomfort with my cast and unanswered questions than feeling like the visit was worth all the trouble.

By the end of Friday, I had many new additions for my list of Frustrations. I was hungry, tired, annoyed, inconvenienced, sore and generally quite negative. I was frustrated that my host family didn't seem to care that I was hurt and that instead the burden of taking care of me unfairly fell upon Jenny. I was annoyed with how much money and resources it took for such a dumb thing as a twisted ankle and that we still needed to buy me a crutch as well. And I felt awful for taking up so much of Jenny and Joél's time as they were trying to prepare for leaving on vacation the next day.

But by the next morning, I realized that all of my negativity had been really short-sighted. With the morning light came a new perspective that things weren't as bad as I had made them out to be. I cast aside dwelling on my lists of angering and frustrating things, and instead chose to add to my lists of Things To Be Grateful For and New Experiences. To the latter list, I can now add the experiences of Mozambican health care, learning to coordinate walking with a crutch and creatively showering when only one foot can get wet. I'm truly grateful that the injury isn't worse, that I have incredible coworkers who go above and beyond the titles of colleagues and friends, that I have an amazing MCC team here who prays for me and sends me encouraging texts and emails, and that I can recuperate at Joél and Jenny's apartment instead of commuting from Matola. I'm thankful for the little things like a ride to Sunday night fellowship, the luxury of Skype-ing with family and for fresh air on the roof where I can watch the Maputo skyline. Yeah, it's a bummer that my foot is hurting, but at least I now that I will be just fine.