Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's gonna be fine

So training has been a long but valuable process so far. We all know when we sign up that we're accepting a certain amount of danger by travelling to a developing country. Nevertheless I'm glad my mom isn't here to listen to half our speakers discuss potential dangers by saying "for example, when I was in Bolivia..." She probably doesn't need to know just how many times the last volunteer was robbed over the course of the year. She also probably doesn't want to hear about how they treat the children for tape worm every six months because it's considered almost inevitable. Or about how to properly bribe your way through a road block. Or what to do if a civil war starts during the elections in a few months. Thanks for allowing me to project my anxiety on to you, mom. The violence and illness are of course unsettling, but I think I'm more nervous about the first few months of feeling completely incompetent. It's very humbling to think about entering a community where I sound like a child when I try to piece together a sentence and can't make it to the grocery store unaccompanied.
Training is reminding us that mission is not about competence, it's about relationships. Accomplishments and goals are far less important than the day to day interactions we have with the people (particularly the children we're working with). It's a tough transition to make, especially coming from such a goal-oriented culture. Thinking about these challenges is not as intimidating as I expected. We're reminded every day to think about our motivation and purpose. How did we get here? Why are we staying?
I suppose I owe my family some of those answers too. The easiest answer is to say it's a calling. God asked, I'm answering, simple as that. It's true, but not terribly enlightening for everyone else. A lot of the people here would answer similarly. We have a deep desire to serve people. We want to learn to love better by serving the communities receiving us. Why do we have to leave to do that? Nouwen reminds us that displacing ourselves allows us to find our identity outside of the competition and constant striving of our "reglar" lives. We're forced to understand ourselves as weak. As I mentioned above, we're completely dependent upon our communities. We sound like children. We're sick all the time. It's not exactly glamorous., but His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

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