Do you ever feel that in the span of a few days' time so much has happened that you can never be the same? And yet, you really don't know what has happened or what you've become, you just know there's been a shift and you can never be what you once were?
Dramatic introduction to a slightly less dramatic weekend-- at least on the obvious side of things.
Friday morning was my first real day of my concurrent mission placement at the hospital down the road. I was so unsure about it; so frightfully insecure. But suddenly I found myself on my ward, walking into bays full of beds of elderly. I visited patient after patient, some more coherent than others, and felt my heart going out to them again and again. It was terrifying each time, but each time was also rewarding in its own way. One dear old lady was quite out-of-it and simply greeted me again and again, "Hello, dearie. Hello, dearie. Hello, dearie." Then she asked me where she was, "please," and she was only calm and silent when I took her hand and asked to pray with her. Beautiful, dear old lady. She then began to ask again and again and again and again, "You'll come back to visit me again, dearie, won't you? Won't you, dearie?" I did assure her that I would. I met one sweet old lady from Italy with a huge smile and a sweet way of calling me a lovely girl. But the one who really stole my heart, I have to say, is a big old man named James. He had a full white beard and a twinkle, though faded by time and circumstance, in his eye. I knelt by his bedside until my legs were fast asleep and listened to him talk of the farm he once worked on, his atheist son, the time he lost his wife and his mother all in the same week (at which point his clear blue eyes filled with quick tears), and his Saviour Jesus Christ, Whom he's known through the good and through the bad all his life. We prayed together. I held his hand. He was a blessing. I know his face will be the one I'll look for next week. He called me his Angel. I walked out of that ward with my mind buzzing, my heart full, and my hands remembering the softness of all the beautiful hands they had been holding.
I got back to school just in time for the end of coffeebreak, still overwhelmed by all that had transpired in my heart that morning, when Shemil (India) pulled me aside and asked if I would like to go to London for the weekend. London? Um, YES. Hehe. It wasn't a hard decision, even though he warned me that it was for a mission conference and wouldn't be for sight-seeing and such : ) I had to run to class until 1 which left me with about 20 minutes to pack, not actually knowing where I was going in the first place. I wouldn't learn until I was waiting with Shemil and Gloria (Pakistan-- she recently finished her Master's here at Redcliffe) at the front door what I was going to and even then it was sketchy-- they'd never been to this particular weekend either. We would learn that we were attending a Fellowship of Prayer for South Asia conference put on every year by about 60 different veterans of the missionfield in South Asia. A dear, old Gloucester couple who used to work in Sri Lanka drove us. We found ourselves at a secluded lodge situated on a hill overlooking acres and acres of rolling green English hills speckled with trees of Autumn-turning leaves. We were 3 of about 4 people under thirty years old : ) This fellowship was mostly made up of seasoned missionaries-- people who had spent their lives bringing Jesus to the lives of forgotten peoples in a part of the world I hardly knew about. I felt quite awkward. I was the only one there who had no tie to South Asia-- Shemil and Gloria come from there. But... somehow, it seems important that I had this weekend there. I was the replacement to the replacement of the lady (from India) originally planning to go. The first lady got sick, the lady taking her place got a toothache, so there I was. Not understanding clearly, but sure of His perfect timing and sovereignty.
This weekend shook me up. We had session after session on obscure South Asian country after obscure South Asian country. Now, be honest, how many of you know what exactly constitutes the term 'South Asia'? I didn't. Turns out it's places like India, Bhurma, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and all the 'stans' (Pakistan, Afganistan, Kajikistan, so on and so forth). There were people in off the field of each country to highlight the prayer needs of each individual country, and individual areas and missions and missionaries in each individual country, and then we would spend the rest of the session literally praying, just like that. It was incredible. I felt so... unworthy to be sitting there amongst these faithful, steadfast, experienced soldiers for Christ. I felt inadequate to pray and foolish for knowing so little. Oh, how God expanded my worldview this weekend. America is supposed to be so privelaged (and, granted, after hearing what I did about these hurting countries, we ARE very privelaged in one way) and yet I can no longer look at our blissful ignorance as any kind of privelage. The passion these dear-hearted missionaries had was so clear, so unhindered by the materialism and selfishness riddling the culture I'm familliar with like the worst kind of epidemic. It was... difficult to process. I was preoccupied with other worries and hit by the torrents of new convictions and awareness. I found myself wandering outside into the green beauty at every break just to be with God and reflect. I found a sweet little shelter in the garden and claimed it as my own. I spent alot of time drawing out the myriad of experiences in the history of the beautiful-hearted people there. I was delighted to meet Hilary Rogers, who moved to Dohnavur, India in 1955 to work as a nurse at the fellowship started by Amy Carmichael, one of my own personal heroes. Hilary worked there for 36 years. I also met two spritely old ladies who had studied at Redcliffe in the early 1950's : ) One younger family was headed out to an area of Afghanistan called Nuristan where they would have to walk for 2 days to get to the villages in the mountains they were headed for. And I thought I had hard things to face... The life experience and tried-and-true trust in God gathered in that lodge for the weekend was incredible. And the entire experience moved me and encouraged me and convicted me and stretched me and pained me and inspired me. And even now I am in awe of the circumstances of how I ended up there. I can't shake the feeling that something about it had to be terribly significant to warrant two people cancelling coincidentally in turn.
It was a lovely retreat into the English countryside as well. And I went with fellow students who were still practically strangers upon leaving but friends upon our return. After being cooped up inside all day every day throughout the weekend, Shemil and I would take long long walks at night after the stars came out slightly shrouded by the Autumn fog. It's amazing to me that the India I know from fairytales really truly exists-- only intermixed with a modern world. They have elephants alongside traffic in the streets, only these days the elephants must wear little red breaklights on their bums : ) They still must sit segregated by gender in schools. His mom still wears a Sari everyday. His father, a middle-class English professor, earns only 2 pounds a day-- the equivalent of about 4 dollars-- yet, they live in a house with 10 rooms. Marriages are still arranged by parents after a certain age and people are okay with that! Ha : ) Such a vast and intriguing and terribly different culture but fascinating. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such different experiences than I'm used to... and brothers and sisters who truly care about me, and whom I can care about, despite all differences!
Pictures of my weekend-- www.xanga.com/OtobeinEngland
May He be ever expanding your horizons in ways big and small, subtle and loud. May your heart be open to His voice...
God bless, all.