After hearing about YAGM from a friend at lunch I chose to apply. After getting an invitation to the DIP event (where we interview) I chose to attend. After receiving a call to go to Malaysia I chose to accept. So many of my own decisions got me here. I kept saying yes because I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to be pushed, and I wanted to be uncomfortable and yet, there are moments every day when this is still really hard. Some of these moments are more difficult to cope with than others but the truth is, as beautiful as this experience is, it is not easy.
I once had a professor who asked our class a simple question, "who likes change?" Aside from her own hand mine was the only one that went up. I don't remember why I raised my hand or why I thought I like change. However, most of my life I haven't really minded change. Often times I was able to see change as a gain, of course the times when change meant losing loved ones, friendships, or communities being the exceptions, but for the most part I welcomed and enjoyed change. In my YAGM experience so far the simultaneous relationship between gain and change has resulted in quite the emotional roller coaster. I am gaining so much. Everyday I am building relationships with my students, friendships with my co-workers, and am getting a lot better at adjusting. I am learning about this culture and am learning about myself with every challenge. However, I also feel some incredible loss. Like the simple loss of knowing how to shop in the grocery store for things I know how to make, the difficult physical loss of my support system, and the greatest loss of knowing how to walk into a classroom and teach well. I have had to let go of the certainty of knowing how to do daily things like grocery shop, ride the bus, and knowing directions home. Learning how to rely on the help and grace of others in that has been very hard. I have always been independent and while I love to give it, I am not always good at accepting help. I have had to let go of the certainty that one of my close friends or family will happen to be on facebook in the middle of the night when I need them. Learning how to put that trust in new places is something I am still trying to figure out. I have had to let go of the certainty that I know what I am doing in a classroom. I am learning to focus on remembering why I teach everyday instead of how to teach. In remembering I teach to love, I have found more direction and clarity than any ESL resource or website. When I remember I teach to love, a different classroom atmosphere than I am used to suddenly doesn't seem so scary. When I remember I teach to love, suddenly despite the language barrier my students and I always have a way to communicate. When I remember I teach to love, suddenly all things seem possible.
Having faith is how I am learning to deal with change. Dealing with change is like learning to float. If you are tense in the slightest you will sink. It's when you learn to relax and have faith that either you will indeed float or your teacher will catch you if you don't, that suddenly the water effortlessly lifts your body and you are floating. It is an incredible freedom.
I read a sermon from Nadia Bolz-Weber about how the mustard seed parable isn't necessarily about Jesus asking his disciples to increase their faith but rather affirming they already have the faith they need. The sermon also discussed the idea that just because you are struggling doesn't mean you lack faith. It mentioned the idea of lamentation and offered that, "being the people of God has always meant a whole lot of both praise and lament." These messages could not have come at a better time for me. It's not that I want permission to whine, I just want to be able to say this is really hard and not feel less faithful or less adequate. In fact, I perhaps feel more faith in my lamentation because it's like saying, "I hate how hard this is but I believe all things are possible through you and your people." It may be harder to have faith in times of loss and in times of change but it strengthens my faith every single day. The coexistence of praise and lamentation seems to permeate every corner of my life as I feel how equally difficult and amazing this journey can be.
Adjustment also feels like a strange line to walk because this is someone else's life which is not necessarily difficult for them in the same ways it is for me. So why is it hard for me? However, last week one of my teacher friends asked what my favorite food was and told me we would go to the market to buy ingredients and make it. She explained that she knows the food adjustment must be hard because if she went to my country she would probably have a hard time too. It was so beautiful for someone to recognize my struggle with such perspective. I am absolutely humbled and amazed by God's people every day. I have often felt in service the people I serve do more for me than I could ever do for them, but holy cow this year feels more like I am straight up getting served than able to serve anyone else. I am clinging to the belief that watching CSI or the Voice with friends and laughing together, or helping decide what to do with little girl's hair for the Grace Center Festival (which is tomorrow!!! blog post with pictures to come), or high fiving as many hands as I can while walking through school is love and is therefore enough. While I want to be better at teaching English in a foreign country, I am quickly realizing it's just really not the most important reason I'm here. I would say it's more likely I am here to love and be loved. I would even venture to say there are even more reasons still awaiting my discovery. Time will tell. Day by day. For now change will keep happening and I will praise and lament as my faith grows ever deeper.
In the midst of preparation for Grace Center Festival keeping us all very busy, my class called "Love" had some fun drawing "raksasa" (monsters) and described them using adjectives!