Monday, March 29, 2010

The Best Week of Their Year or Mine?

Today we got news from Al, our leader in the Czech, who is planning the camp and working with the kids we'll be meeting in a few short months. It made the trip more real to me, or rather, it made the kids we're going to meet more real. I heard more about them, and learned that we have an opportunity to help make this camp the best week of their year.

According to Al, one of the big reasons kids come to camp is to meet "the Americans, especially ones from California." He writes, "there is still a desire to meet and know Americans here, so your team plays a big role just by showing up." Wow, I suddenly feel humbled hearing that. Who am I? Just because I was born in America and happen to live in California, a bunch of kids want to meet me? Really? That's cool, because I'm looking forward to meeting them too. I wonder, how can we have that attitude towards them? I don't want to walk in there all prideful, thinking I know it all because I'm an American. Hundreds of years of colonialism has to have taught us something...we aren't just these awesome amazing people walking in to help kids who don't know English and make their lives better. We do have a message we want to bring. We have hope we want to share. But that does not make us better. It makes us grateful. We need to go with humble hearts and minds, open to LEARNING from these kids. Who knows what they will teach us...

-Melissa Mills
March 29, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Focusing Despite The Murkyness

"It's worth it brothers and it's worth it friends to know your maker, to lose your sin. Did you know that you are dearly loved?" - Jimmy Needham

I just had to put that song quote up at the top of this blog, because this song reminds me of the road trip I took back from Urbana 2009 after committing to go on my first missions trip. I didn't know where I'd be going first, all I knew that I had to take a step of faith and say I was going to go. I stood up in front of 17,000 people and committed to get out of my own way for long enough to let God's story play out in my life. At the time, I remember thinking, this isn't that big of a deal, why aren't more people standing up? Isn't this what Urbana is all about? The realization that we are to love our neighbor whether they be next door or in the Czech, or India, or Laos, or Argentina, Africa, or the Middle East.

I have to admit, in the last few months, my desire to do just that has been really clouded. It became crystal clear to me at Urbana that my life was to be more about me. It was easy to live in that reality. It was clear cut. It's become murky for me in the last few weeks. I've been running around at my new job at the Community Center and I've really been able to throw myself into it. It's been great. Not since my discovery of God's heart for justice have I been able to get behind something so much. I'm that kind of person who loves to discover a cause and just run toward it. Working again after months of unemployment has been a huge blessing. But now I need to focus.

That's My One Word for the year FOCUS. And now to focus on the Czech. I've been focusing on my new job, my relationship, and everything else besides the task before me. Pray for me, please! Pray for our team as we raise funds and prayer support for this journey. Pray for unity and focus. We need it! :)

Melissa Mills
March 24, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Story and The Importance of Connection

I just realized today that in three months, we'll be in the Czech. It's exciting to think how this whole journey and idea for the trip came about for me. It started with a class called Perspectives when I realized that the world was so much bigger than I am. I realized that my life wasn't about my story, it was about God's story. I was a storyteller but I questioned "Whose story am I telling anyway?"

I want so much to be a part of something bigger than my own story, my own set of experiences, which are very limited. I've found that while we all have differences, the things that connect us are our stories. Brenda Salter-McNeill reiterated that to me this week at a luncheon I attended this week on women and leadership. She gave an example of how she was from Trenton and asked if anyone in the room was from there. When no one raised their hand, she asked, "Does anyone know anyone from there?" At that point several hands went up. The point is this: If we can find a connecting point for other people to understand us, and we can try to understand them, we will be so much further along! Once we realized that we could start with something small like "place of origin" as a connection point, people stopped being strangers and started to be people.

This week, I've been trying to figure out how the heck we're going to make this documentary while giving an accurate and true to life depiction of these kids from the Czech. I don't know them. I've been to Prague, but only for 3 days and I was sick most of the time. I didn't really have time to soak in the culture, understand what makes the people tick. But then I remembered, it's about story. It's about finding a connecting point between us and them so that maybe it won't be an "us" and "them" anymore, it'll be people who are connecting across cultures who want to find our commonalities so that we can further connect others to the broader story of who we are in God's story.

One of my favorite quotes about connection and bridging the gap:
"In these dangerous times, where it seems that the world is ripping apart at the seams, we all can learn how to survive from those who stare death squarely in the face every day and we should reach out to each other and bond as a community, rather than hide from the terrors of life." - Jonathan Larson, creator of "Rent".

-Melissa Mills
March 21, 2010