Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I've got a see-saw mind

One of the main purposes of this trip has been to learn about Islam, to be better equipped to reach Muslims both in America and abroad. To this end, we've been drowning in a deluge of new insight.

We visited a mosque, watched the afternoon prayers, talked with the imam, asked questions of his students. A three year old in a hijab did prayers alongside her father. A young boy told us about watching Terry Jones stamping and spitting on the Qur'an. The young men answered our questions about the prayer beads and being a minority in the schools, while the imam talked in circles in response to our more difficult questions. By the time we left he was sounding like an emergent or a universalist: Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all right; on Judgement day, each religion's prophet will be an intercessor; Jesus is the Messiah and the word of God . . .

Let's also say, we learned some interesting Bible stories. Did you know Jesus talked in the cradle? And Jonas was the Savior of Ninevah? That God made a covenant with Ishmael? The imam was pleased to school us on the Tawrat.

When we left the mosque, we launched into a review of everything that had been said. We learned about the "doctrine of deception", that is, Muslims are allowed to lie for the sake of "reverting" an infidel. They call it reverting instead of converting because Muhammed taught that the whole world is Muslim, and it's this mindset that motivates the spread of Islam. Everything the Qur'an and Muhammed say a Muslim must believe, and no matter how moderate or nominally they believe, they can never deny its truth. And the Qur'an and Hadith say some stark and frightening things: we uncover a little more of the darkness of its teachings every day.

It's frustrating that opportunities for ministry are so few and far between. The community is so closed to outsiders, it's a miracle to be able to talk to these women face to face. The real value is any chance to show these people that Christians are people who love Jesus and are filled with love as a result. How different this trip has been so far! And how very much I'm learning.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bullet points

A) Food. After a long roadtrip featuring McDonalds, Wendy's, and Burger King, we first solace we found in reaching our destination was real food. We hit up the Arab-American festival first thing, and the shish tamook sandwich I had was so good, I went back for a falafel sandwich. The next morning we reaped the blessing of having a bunch of moms on our team: banana and raisin oatmeal made with organic steel-cut oats. Lunch was Yemeni chicken and saffron with naan and hummus. Dinner was a fail on my part: most of the team had Italian (but come on, we're from Rhode Island) but a few of us went to the local church's college and career group where we had burgers and pizza. Tomorrow is certain to feature food from the Lebanese bakery next door! It doesn't get better than this, folks.

B) Darkness. It's a Sunday, so we haven't started any of our projects around the base or done any ESL classes yet. Instead we spent the afternoon educating ourselves. The first documentary we watched was on the Ground Zero mega-mosque . . . and, this always happens to me on these trips, I think I have to amend my position on the issue. Capitalizing on the extremism behind the sponsors of the mosque, we also watched a documentary about Islamic radicals and their war on the West. Little girls chanting about jihad. Persecuted Christians. Striking comparisons to the Holocaust. While the skeptic in me held everything I heard in flux, I couldn't help the fear creeping into my stomach. The darkness is real, the lies are powerful.

C) Other stuff. Our group's motto is becoming "We we we so excited!" My guitar lessons are also progressing. I know five chords now. Woo! When we pulled into the city, the main street was entirely lined with abandoned buildings. Empty, dry, and dead. Hardly a person in sight. What a setting to hear the call to prayer, the whole effect was 100% eerie. I was not prepared to be confronted by poverty in addition to spiritual strongholds. It's also a little uncomfortable being a girl around here. There are very few women out and about on the streets, and the mobs of men we ran into at the Arab-American festival made me feel unsettled; it was weird to feel so vulnerable.

So, no real news. But thank you, thank you, thank you for praying! Believe me when I say it's made a difference, that I can tell you've been praying. That's a testimony that's blowing my mind right now. My heart is full of half-developed musings on abiding in Christ and the necessity of sacrifice, and I'm surprised to feel so afraid, but, our God is faithful. And so, so good.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dearborn Prep: Salat

In preparation for the trip, one adult team member sent out a prayer request every day, for the forty days leading up to the first team's departure. (Because forty is a magical, biblical number. And also because prayer is the lynchpin of our whole operation.) Below are all forty of these prayer requests, compiled here for my own reference (as all of these Dearborn Prep posts have been, largely, for my own reference).

But, I mean, I feel so small for asking, but if you think of it, if you would pray for our team, below are the ways you can be praying. The Arab-American Festival will be going on while we're there and is a prime witnessing opportunity. We girls will be teaching a lot of ESL classes, and our whole team is going to be engaging in even more street evangelism in the park. It's hard to prepare for a future yet unseen, but if our hearts are right with God, He will be glorified through us. That's the only way to count the trip a success. Please pray.

• Fellow prayer partners to remain faithful, persistent and persevering.

•A deepening commitment to personal prayer and Bible study for each team member.

• Full financial and prayer support for each team member.

• Enablement for team members to manage necessary responsibilities of home, school, work and family prior to leaving for MI.

• Unity and co-operative spirits in each team.

• An attitude of servanthood.

• Hearts of love for Muslims and fellow team-mates.

• Godliness in thoughts, words and deeds for all team members.

• God to open the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of Muslims to see, hear, understand and believe the truth about Jesus.

• God to defeat Satan's attempts at any disruption and conflict at the Arab-American Festival.

• Team members to exhibit the peace, joy , grace and love of Jesus in every encounter with Muslims.

• Every team member to remember that Jesus said: "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world." Pray that our light will shine brightly, exposing the darkness and revealing the Truth and that our salt will whet appetites to hunger and thirst for righteousness that is found only in Jesus.

• Healthy, interdependent relationship of trust and accountability between the CCF teams and the hosting ministry.

• Our course of action in all endeavors to be wise, biblical, culturally-appropriate and bear spiritual fruit for God's glory.

• Every team member to be fully prepared and competent to serve and fully supported financially by 6-16-11.

• Team leaders to be empowered and equipped to lead with grace and wisdom.

• Our teams to enhance and broaden the ministry of our host organization.

• Team members to recognize the importance of training and remain responsible and accountable.

• Alertness and sensitivity to "sow seeds."

• On-going planning, assessment, evaluation and follow-up involving all participants. (pre-field, on-field, and post-field)

• Opportunities to "connect" with Muslim people.

• Each team member to be alert and prepared for spiritual battle.

• A willingness to be stretched in order to accomplish a "God-sized project."

• Daily submission to and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

• Defeat of Satan's purposes.

• Physical, mental emotional and spiritual protection.

• God to relieve any team member fears or anxieties.

• For every team member and prayer partner to be diligent and confident in praying big bold prayers.

• Good health, strength and stamina for each team member.

• Safety in travel and on site.

• A complete sense of need for dependency on God and reliance on His sufficiency.

• Personal renewal and revival for each team member.

• Praise God for each one who has provided prayer and financial support. Ask God to use the united efforts of prayer, money and team members to accomplish God's purposes for His glory.

Walter Wink said that "History belongs to the intercessors — those who believe and pray the future into being." And, it's just a two week short term missions trip. It's just 21 of us (11 on the adult team, 11 on the youth team, and five of us who are on both) who are warm bodies with sin natures and heart desirous of following Jesus. It's just a fifteen hour van ride from Rhode Island to Dearborn. But if you would pray, it would make all the difference.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dearborn Prep: Dress Code

When I used to think Isalm, I used to think hijab. Maybe it's the feminist in me, or maybe it's just my lack of trans-cultural exposure, but head coverings were always synonymous with the term Muslims. (Until I got educated. Then I only partially associated hijabs with Islam.)

Still, when I signed up to work with the largest Yemeni population outside of Yemen, the thought of a dress code didn't cross my mind. The standard STM dress code was always very easy for me to fit: long shorts, high necklines, no tank tops. Standard stuff. And when the word from the higher-ups came that flip-flops would be allows, I thought for sure that the attire required in Dearborn would be standard fare.

But it turned out to be a little more complicated than that.

All in all, the situation is a lot better than it could have been: the dress code for the mosque is of course floor-length skirt, long sleeves, and a head scarf, but everywhere else we're allowed to wear generally whatever we want, so long as it's A) not jeans, B) below the knee, C) below the elbow, and D) reasonably baggy, and E) covers the collarbone. And friends, isn't it oh-so convenient that cargo pants are making a comeback this summer?! I might even actually be able to make sure my clothes match.

So this is what I've learned. When dressing for Muslim-ministry in the heat of summer, go for layers. Button-up blouses with crew-neck tee-shirts underneath. Broomstick skirts! Yes, and those cargo pant capris. I only spent $30 supplementing my wardrobe for this trip, and I think that's quite reasonable. My thrifty and practical side is satisfied. The side of me that watches Project Runway . . . that side of me is a little bummed out, but oh well. My friend spent a few weeks in Malaysia for band tour, and her host family was Malay. She said that even though she wore long pants the whole time, she still felt comparatively exposed next to their Muslim standards. (These floosy Westerners! Letting it all hang out!) So, I don't know what to expect!

But I should say, I really like wearing a head scarf. I'm thinking about making it a thing. Just saying!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dearborn Prep: Fundraising

I've come to the conclusion that I have been on an excess of short-term missions trips. Really, an excess. When I was thirteen I started, and since them I've gone every summer, sometimes two trips each summer. Most trips I've paid for out of pocket, but as I've gotten older and sought to do more, the financial pull has also gotten a little heavier. So Sarah and I have had to do some fundraising for the past three summers, which has involved sending letters to church members and a few of our parents' friends. This year especially, the idea of asking people for money was wholly distasteful to me. I sat at the kitchen table with Sarah and Maggie (three of us now, my soul!) with tears in my eyes asking, "Can't we pull a Keith Green and wait on God to move people to give us money?"

I feel as though fundraising is a much-talked about topic, not only in the Christian community, but through much of the West. My first semester of school I was involved with the student chapter of United Way Rhode Island, and I got a glimpse of just how vast the non-profit money network is. And so I've heard a sampling of the strategies and the important talking points and blah blah blah. Our youth minister always told us when we sent out the letters: "When people are financially invested in our trip, they are spiritually invested as well. What we really covet are their prayers." When my mentor told me that she sponsored me for Dearborn, I was beside myself. Why should anyone care? It's just a brief, two-week trip, to a random city in Michigan. Why should she care about whatever small impact we will make? I don't know, but it broke me that she did care.

I must confess, I was so anxious. I must've blogged about it a thousand times, my worries over funding and my subsequent uncertainty of whether I was even supposed to be on this trip. (Because I mean, as I mentioned, I've already been on an excess of STMTs!) Here I am, leaving this very week, and only just yesterday was fully funded. A miracle. Due to my generous church family and a well-paying job at a computer store, and God's abundant, abundant grace. And I'm not sure what this means for this trip. Dearborn: the first trip I freaked out about paying for it.

Luke says I'm too concerned about money, and as much as it pains me to say that Luke's right, Luke's right. I spend a lot of time thinking about money, and about as much time thinking about how to stop thinking so much about money. I feel like I'm always one step away from being trapped by money, and so from fear of making the wrong move, I'm helpless as to what to do with the few funds I do have. In the past, STM always felt like a worthy investment, but now I wonder, does God want me to do something different with His money?

Either way, I'm relieved that for this year, fundraising is over. A teensy part of me thinks (hopes?) it might be over for good. Still, nothing humbles a person like having to ask other people for money. And if that's what it takes to squash my money concerns, bring it on.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dearborn Prep: Tuesday Nights

For the past four weeks, my favorite day of the week has been Tuesday. You see, Tuesdays are like Mondays. You wake up like, and you're like, "Oh yeah, the week started." And you go through your weekday routine like you did on Monday, but it still feels new and fresh, like a brand new week is being broken in! And when the day wraps up, you feel a little tired, knowing that there are still a few days in the week to go, that you're not at the half-way point yet, but you're approaching it.

So for the past four weeks, every Tuesday I've arrived home in a mess, eager to sink down into my bed with Witness or play Mario Kart with Caleb. But for the past four weeks, every Tuesday, instead of kicking back and hunkering down until Wednesday, I've had to drag myself three miles down the road to church for Dearborn preparation meetings.

To quote Maxwell Smart, I have been tired "and LOVING IT." I'm always excessively punchy during the meetings, overly giggly and talkative, but I pull myself together long enough to get drawn into the curriculum. We went through Fouad Masri's series called "Bridges" put out by the Crescent Project. I thought I knew a decent amount about Islam after Understanding the Times and Muslims, Christians, and Jesus, but the series still blew my mind with how much Muslims had in common with Christians. And, it makes me afraid for how much I still have to learn about Isalm. Astafirallah! It can only be all about Jesus.

The magic of Tuesday nights is how mixed they are, with the youth team meeting with the adult team. New church members and old-timers. Youth group kids and college folks. There's a little talking, a lot of listening, loads of praying, and planning. Always planning. Head scarf wrapping demonstrations, craft outreach brainstorming, breakfast menu deliberations, sleeping bag distributions. There is a certain kind of intentionality about this trip that I've never experienced before. And laughing, so much laughing! I leave each night with enough energy to run home (which I don't actually do), and I am crestfallen each Wednesday morning when I realize how far away the next Tuesday night meeting is.

Our last meeting is in two days, and in just five days we're packing up the van and shipping out! (You can follow us @CCFD1TEAM on Twitter, if you're into that sort of thing.) Our leader asked us to keep a journal to track our preparation, and then the trip, and then our responses returning home, and that's kind of what these Dearborn posts are. Posterity. For the future.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Minus the fart jokes

When I agreed to work the summer at the computer store, I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting myself into. Now at the end of my +40 hour work week, I'm realizing how hopelessly clueless I am. I still feel like a little girl when I answer the phone: "This is Hayley, how can I help you?" I'm in the back room every two seconds spouting my mantra: "I have a question!" Sometimes, "Yo tengo una pregunta!" They smile, or roll their eyes at me, "Not again! Okay, shoot, we have answers." For a while during the school year, they were free from my constant barrage of inquiries, but now that it's summer sales time, the questions are back in full force!

A lot of the summer work has just been fun. My own magnetic name badge, work uniforms, store meetings, update emails, back-room bonding, lunch breaks, shipping room adventures, logistical problem-solving: I'm learning so much about how a business works, and it's all new and exciting and fun! One of the techs has been working for the store just over a year, and he warned that it's about to get really old really quickly. "You think it's fun now, but after four years of this, it's not going to be fun anymore!" And in some ways, I already see what he means. After the third customer blow-up in one day, I was a little weary of smiling at angry people. I guess it's true what they say about working in retail making people callous? I'm learning all the more about people made in God's image, and being above reproach.

Still I have to confess, we are not a well-oiled machine. The manager does the very best he can, and really, he's amazing. But there's only so much you can do with a staff of college kids. Everyone is highly competent and contentious, and pretty good at communicating, too, but our margin of human error is still high. It's the little things that jam the gears. If Apple's not stiffing us on iPad shipping schedules, then we're running out of our Macbook stock, or an order was never marked open, or payment was never recorded, or an order has a typo. Or like yesterday, the internet dies and our server is slow to resurrect itself. (Benefit of working with computer nerds: a solution is rigged within the hour. Winners.) And so it's a constant tic in my head: what can I do to make my work in the store better?

I've started saying "Yessir" and "Yes ma'am". It's boosting my sales. (Not really. It's just polite.) We don't work on commission, but a little in-store competition is a good motivator.

I'm sorry, I talk about work too much, but it's all I'm consumed with these days! I don't know why it's all so interesting to me (probably because it's still all so new), but I have this continuous, weird impulse to cherish it all: every order rung through the register, every email sent, every trip to receiving, and every banter with the motley crew of student center employees. Is this the result of the rosy glasses of one's first real job? I feel so unworthy of such a good one.

As I spend more and more time at the store, I'm scared to discover that . . . I don't think I know how to live Jesus loudly there.

I'm also just going to say, the Dearborn Prep posts which are to come are non-organic. Which will probably be apparent, I just wanted to say that. So, yeah.