In the past week or so that I haven’t written, I’ve explored much and eaten more. I’ve seen this place:
Rode this guy:
Touched these guys:
Lived and bonded with these guys:
Found this guy:
And for the first time ate these guys:
Tandoor chicken is a blessing from God Almighty. YUM.
It is now officially the fourth day of training, which I actually had to count out on my fingers to make sure I didn’t miscalculate. We moved into the VFC Tampines campus on Monday evening. It feels like it’s been three weeks of this routine, which is one of the most disciplined schedules I’ve ever had, and it’s only going to get more intense from here on out.
Our training week runs Tuesday to Saturday without much variation, save for different classes in the morning and afternoon. I rose this morning in the kindergarden classroom that we’ve come to call home at 4:55 am, with my two girl teammates, Hillary (from Seattle) and Pamela (from right here in Singapore), and Jodi, also from Singapore, who’s going out with a different team for a two year mission and who happens to be training with us. After brushing our teeth and changing, we met Tori and the boys, Gabriel (Singapore) and Joseph (Malaysia), at 5:15 and power-walked 1.5 miles, which will turn into running 1.5 miles next week when we’re more accustomed to being up and physically active three hours before the sn comes up. We arrive back at 5:45, put our mattresses and belongings into the cupboards, shower and get dressed for the day, beginning our personal devotions in various corners of the empty four story church at 6:15, meeting for our “family” devotions from 7-7:30, at which point the designated cooking team goes downstairs and prepare breakfast in the tiny kitchen until 8 o’clock.
Let me briefly interject here and describe the eating arrangements here in Gideonite training. We only have two meals a day, breakfast and dinner, and are allotted a budget of $1.50 for breakfast and $2.50 for dinner per person, which gives us a total of $4 a day to live on. We spend from 1-2 pm doing intercessory prayer instead of eating lunch. Wednesday we fast the entire day, with our last meal being on Tuesday evening and finally breaking the fast on Thursday morning. Since it’s the first week of training we were granted some mercy and ate our normal breakfast and dinner, but next week it’s go time.
It all sounded a bit horrific and a bit self-abusive to me at first. Maybe it’s the American roots I have, or maybe I just glorify food too much (or maybe it’s the same thing haha), but the idea of being able to afford more and but choosing less just has been toying with my mind for a few days. Who does this? I thought to myself the first day, as I was sweating at 5:30 am, shaking from hunger, What person in there right mind does this to people for training? How could this possibly be scriptural? What did I sign up for? I’m uncomfortable, I’m tired and I’m hungry. MEET MY NEEDS OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES.
Slightly dramatic, but tell me you wouldn’t be thinking something similar after two weeks in a foreign country where people think it’s appropriate to eat ghastly yellow fruit and call it a treat. It’s actually amazing how well you can eat with almost no money here. At the open market next to the church, I had noodles and a fried egg for breakfast for $1.50, a big plate that tasted like God Himself prepared it (or maybe I was just really hungry…) and we’ve learned how to cook for our group of seven for under $10, and it’s a serious amount of food. I’m holding up surprisingly well with just two meals and I eat more than I ever have, maybe not in my life, but definitely since arriving three weeks ago (how has it only been two weeks?).
We’re broken up into three teams for cooking, which rotates each day; Tori and I, Hillary and Joseph, and Pamela, Gabriel and Jodie.
Today it was H and J, and they made AMAZING fried rice which I literally inhaled in 10 minutes. Following breakfast, as a team, we made short work of the dishes and cleaned up in time for our CPM (Church Planting Movement) class at 9.
Basically the idea that VFC is pioneering is that we as a mission team should strive to create “rabbit churches”, rather than “elephant” churches. Rather than simply building a large church over time, the goal is to disciple a community of believers to make following Christ daily a way of life, with a passion for discipling others in the faith almost immediately following conversion. Statistically, if we enter a village with ideas for building a church and westernizing, the church growth will endure as long as we’re there to fuel it, but when we leave, the growth will cease; the locals will identify having money, a building, a sound system, nice clothes, etc, as necessities to plant a church and won’t create more disciples and home churches. Rabbits reproduce rapidly and at only three months old, having up to 15 babies in one litter, whereas elephants can only have one baby every two years, thus the analogy VFC presents. Honestly I’m all onboard with this idea, but I’m currently incredibly intimidated by the prospect of being part of such a bold endeavor. VFC wants a minimum of 12 churches (meaning home churches) in 9 months; Tori thinks we can get more. Talk about a declaration of faith…I can barely speak Swahili at this point. (Language class is once or twice a week depending on the week).
Following the class, we had intercessory prayer. No lies, I felt like all I could see, hear and think about the first day was McDoubles physically manifesting in the room, but I’m starting to look forward to prayer now. There’s something powerful in a group of believers choosing to put their physical desires aside and corporately seeking God. He’s much louder and clearer when He speaks when you’re at a point of physical surrender. I love that each of my teammates specific style of speaking to God and declaring His promises over us. I cry at the very least three times a day, and I’m not even sorry; when God is moving there isn’t much left to do but marvel…or cry, if you’re like me.
In the afternoons (2 – 5 pm) starting next week we’ll have either chores, cleaning, serving or evangelism, which will really stretch my faith, door-to-door evangelizing is honestly one of my least favorite things to do, but it’s just one more challenge to overcome and grow from at this point. This week it’s been a lot of classes to help us catch up on church planting strategies, etc.
Around the conclusion of this time period, I’m all keenly aware that I’ve been up for 12 hours and I haven’t eaten yet, but HALLE, it’s time for the cooking team to start preparing dinner. Tori and I cooked a traditional Tanzanian meal last night, although it was a lot more of Tori delegating and me cutting vegetables, cooking rice, etc. We made a sauce of tomatos, green peppers, onions, curry chicken mix and garlic (Singaporeans LOVE their garlic) to be served over rice, chicken (that we purposely overcooked, since that’s how the Africans do it) to be dipped in salt and chili pepper and chips mayai, which is an omelet with french fries inside and is extremely filling.
It was interesting, especially since we finished the meal discussing all the diseases and unfortunate parasites that we’re at risk for (and most likely to acquire) while in Tanzania. That’s a bit too much for this entry, but rest assured, it’s coming. I have far too much to share on that subject.
With dinner being concluded, the dishes washed and the kitchen swept, our day still isn’t over. Whether it’s prayer meetings, cell group meetings, more studying, more evangelism, etc, we will usually be busy until 9 or 10 pm, at which point it’s all I can do to shower and pull my mattress down to sleep for 6 hours until we do it all over again.
I must be out of my mind, but I’m in love with this.
I’ve always felt that I’ve enjoyed life, where I’m at, who I’m with, how God is growing me, in each new season, but for the first time in my life, I don’t wish I was anywhere else in the world. All through college I felt like I was working towards a goal, a point, a destination on the horizon, and each day I’d cheer myself with the knowledge that soon I’d be finished with my education and that I could walk out into the dreams and callings that God has placed in me and for me, to make His name great among the nations. I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined that just three months after graduating I’d be offered this opportunity.
I am joyful, even as my stomach rumbles during what I used to call lunch.
I am joyful, even as I’ve left my family and all my friends and my home and my country to chase Christ and follow Him at all costs.
I am joyful, even as I hear that we have to take worm medicine once a month because we will be getting tapeworms, and there’s no way around it.
I am joyful when I think of all the children I will soon get to cherish and love and play with.
I am joyful, even though I’m going to have to kill chickens with a machete for dinner in Tanzania.
I am joyful that I get to grow with an extremely passionate and committed team for the next year.
I am joyful because I get to use my degree out on the mission field, like I’ve dreamed for the past few years.
I am joyful because there is nothing else on earth I’d rather be doing than this.
I am joyful, when I think of how God chooses earthen vessels like me with no qualifications to reconcile His people back to Himself.
I am joyful because though God could have had anyone, He chose me.
He’s much, much, much too good to me.