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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wonderfully Overwhelmed

Before I share more about the past few weeks, I want to share some other exciting news. I am over halfway funded in my Send Me to Serve campaign!! A giant thank you to those of you who have committed to taking this journey with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We are going to the Federated States of Micronesia together, and I’m so grateful you’re joining me. I’d invite all of you to consider coming to FSM with me. Whatever you have to give – your prayers, a few minutes to read blog updates, letters (I’ll share my address soon!), or financial support. By supporting me in any of those ways, you are coming to Micronesia with me. All financial support can be given through


My first seven weeks of life as a college grad have been spent in 8 different countries, sleeping in 10 different beds, and trying to learn phrases of a few too many languages.

The day after graduation I loaded up my little blue car and moved home, only to spent the next few days deep cleaning my room and all of my earthly possessions through the lens of “I won’t have this for 2 years. Do I really need it when I come home?” Cleaning out every nook and cranny of the room I’ve lived in for 19 years was both a good trip down memory lane and an eye-opening reminder – I won’t see this place for 2 whole years. Cue every emotion known to man flooding my little heart. I’ve felt it all the past few weeks and I’ve tried to let each emotion resonate – giving them the time that they deserve in center stage before the next one moves in from stage left. Bittersweet goodbyes, deep joy, laughter making me double over in tears. I’ve been humbled, I’ve sweated through physical labor, I’ve studiously learned the history of Eastern Europe; I’ve been reminded how big God is and just how much I have to learn about the world (which is a lot!).

After getting my home affairs in order I hopped on a plane to Europe and have spent the past 5 weeks in Germany, Norway, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Woo. 7 very different countries. This trip has felt like a million different experiences – and none of them your typical vacation – all in one.

First, a friend and I spent time living and working with a Christian couple in a tiny, tiny town in Eastern Germany. After a whirlwind 2 days in Berlin we touched down in so-beautiful-it-takes-your-breathe-away Norway, spending 2 weeks with Elizabeth’s extended family all over that incredible country. They showed us the real Norway – from kayaking through the fjords to enjoying Norway’s best seafood, and I’ve never felt such deep, honest hospitality in my whole life.

Next, if you can keep up, I met my family in Budapest, Hungary for a river cruise through Eastern Europe. To call these past 2 weeks in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania eye opening, humbling, and confusing doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. The history of Eastern Europe is still so new and so fresh. Some wounds these countries carry are healing nicely, but others still need a little TLC and a band-aid. Or possibly some stitches. I’ve finally learned the history that we never got around to in my 17 years of public and private education - communism, former Yugoslavia, dictators, the whole nine yards. While at ‘Senior Citizen Summer Camp’ (my fond nickname for spending 2 weeks on a river cruise with 150 grandparents) we studied the economy, the EU, and the issues these countries are facing today from the perspective of local guides, students, pastors, and our ship’s crew members.

Complicated. That’s what I’ve decided the history of Eastern Europe is: complicated. And in the midst of all this learning and seeing, I’ve been trying to prepare for the next big adventure – coming up so, so soon.

In exactly one month I leave for Micronesia. One month. Woah.

Thirty days and I will start the long journey to FSM. 36 hours of plane rides and an 18 hour time change. Two days later and I’ll touch down in Pohnpei…and the craziness will begin – I’ll have just a few days of orientation and preparation before I start teaching at Pohnpei Catholic School! I’ve heard whispers that I could possibly be teaching 7th grade this year and 8th grade my second year (essentially moving up with my students to the next grade), but I won’t know for sure until I get there.

One of the best parts about traveling this summer is the opportunity to share my passion for teaching overseas as a Jesuit Volunteer with so many people in so many countries. One person at a time, I’m sharing my vision. One person at a time, I’m sharing where the heck this little country is and what exactly I’m doing there. All of my new old lady friends are positively tickled that I’m doing this and are convinced that I’m going to have the best time ever. The positive responses I’ve gotten from complete strangers about my decision to step out in faith has helped quench the fear and nerves that bubble to the surface every so often. The fear of living life in another country, on the complete opposite side of the world from family and friends, in an entirely different culture than the one I've grown up in, for two whole years. That fear sometimes plagues my heart like a child plagued by the very real fear of monsters living in her room. But, just like the kind parent that opens the closet door and checks under the bed for monsters, people’s enthusiasm and support has reminded me in my moments of fear that this decision was the right one. The best one I could have made at this point in my life.

This jumbled mass of thoughts you’ve just read should explain why I’m wonderfully overwhelmed. Wonderfully because I’ve gotten to see so much of the world the past few weeks – and not only see, but dig into the nitty-gritty details we often push under the rug – and see it with friends and family that I love by my side. Overwhelmed because this history just hits my heart so deeply. You can’t come here, sit down, and hear someone share about how the Nazi’s invaded Norway when they were in high school, or how the Communists tried to start brainwashing their precious baby straight out of the womb, or how bombs exploded in 1991 and annihilated 90% of someone’s hometown – and not be moved. Overwhelmed because I have so little time at home and so much to do before leaving for FSM. Overwhelmed because I want to prepare in the best possible way for all that God has challenged me to do in Micronesia, but don’t know what that looks like. Overwhelmed by warm smiles and kind words filled with love and support from friends and strangers alike.

Wonderfully overwhelmed.