Monday, January 30, 2012

A Chauffeur's View (Dave Halstensgard)

A snapshot of God’s love for our students.

I was the driver who picked up Garry Morgan and his wife  at the airport following their eight week ICS trip this past semester.   I settled into a chair while I waited for the team to arrive.   As I waited I noticed other people beginning to gather and wait.  These must be several sets of parents waiting for the team.  Eyes are looking over at the gate where the students will be returning.  When will they arrive at the luggage return?  At this point no one knows anyone.   By the time the team returns this will all change. 

The first students are in sight. Then shouts of  Mom!   Dad! Can be heard.  Several sets of parents are met by racing students who embrace their moms followed by their fathers.  Joy stems from the faces of the students.  The embraces last  forever.  There is relief  seen on the faces of parents.  Their student is back!  Safe!  Conversations begin to unroll from each group of parents and students.  Then one by one the parents are introduced to Garry Morgan.  While all the time Garry is snatching up the journals which the students have written and putting them away in his backpack.

No one has noticed me yet.  I am experiencing the pure joy of reunions.  Wait!  There comes a scream from behind us.  Running full speed comes roommates of one of the girl.   Hugs all the way around.  Not a moment of silence.  The chatter between friends is in full force.  
Two months of separation has turned into non-stop talking between the girls.  The happiness of the meeting can be seen in all of those involved.   By this point all the luggage has been removed from the carousel but no one  is leaving.  Now parents are being introduced to other parents.   Best friends now meet extended families.  A sister there or brother here is brought into the conversations.  This is the Northwestern family.  There is Gary picking off a few more journals, meeting another set of parents.

To my right sits what appears to be grandparents.  Little did I know they belonged to one of the students.  Grandmother and grandfather are met by a beaming grandson.  He greets his younger brother who is with.  It has been a good trip he says.

The initial wave of euphoria is over.  Now there must be seven to eight groups talking.  Still parents meet the friends who were on the trip with their child.    No one is in a hurry to leave.  There is so much to catch up on.  What was the hi ghlight?  What did you learn?  Here is my new best friend.   One can see by the actions of the returning students that this indeed was a special time. A life-changing experience.  The bond between the whole group is so strong. 

Finally the last parents arrive.  Met with the same enthusiasm as earlier students, by their loved one who has travelled the world.   At last a group or two begin to break up.  Goodbyes are said.  Embraces of team members with each other begins.  I hear the many comments of “ I will never be the same.” “ You have helped change me.”  God has been so good to us.    The first groups begin to drift off.  The roommates sweep their friend into her farewell moments.  A pause with Garry.  A look that says thank-you.   You have made a difference in my life.  The girls disappear.

Now half of the people have departed.  Garry sees me.  He looks very pleased.   He walks over to greet me.  I watch his luggage as he continues to say his farewells to the students.  The eight weeks has been long but very , very,  good.

The whole scene has been a God moment.  The blessing of the Lord has lingered on this place.  The contentment portrayed by our world travelers has been displayed in many different ways.  It’s over but it is not over.  It will never be over.  Locked in their memories forever are the experiences they have shared as 17 who have travelled together.  God had used them.  Changed them and cared for them.  For a lifetime their memories will keep the experience fresh.  Yes it was a life-changer.   You could see it written over all the kids.  

Finally the last group leaves.  Farewell for now.  See you in school.  Have a great Christmas. 

The welcome home was marvelous to witness.  Never have I seen true genuine love for parents displayed with such mature emotions.  God had locked into the lives of the 17 in a very special way.  I was blessed to see the first moments of the group back home.  It will be forever etched in my mind.  How sweet it was to witness the life changing events shared by the students.  The first moments of reunion were so special.  No one will ever be able to measure the impact God had on the group and I had the first glance of his mighty power transforming our students lives.  I will always cherish those moments by the luggage carousel in the airport.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why debrief? A Dr. Morgan explanation

Our two-month intercultural studies internship ends with four days of “debriefing” and re-entry preparation. Nascer do Sol is a cluster of cottages nestled among the sand dunes on the Indian Ocean coast in Mozambique. At this location, the coastline runs east-west rather than north-south, so we watch both the sunrise and the sunset over water. The view is stunning. The sound of the ocean is relaxing.

People often ask why we put so much emphasis on the debrief time. Is it a vacation? These students have worked hard the past 8 weeks, and have lived much of it in conditions most Americans have only seen in fundraising ads from World Vision. And they’ve done it without complaint. So, a mini-vacation would be appropriate and well-deserved. We do try to choose a nice place, with recreational opportunities (watching Minnesotans experience salt water and ocean breakers for the first time can be rather humorous), where the students can be “American” again after weeks of living in and adapting to other cultures

But the debrief is much more important than that. The students have read a book called Re-entry and written out thoughtful answers to a number of questions in preparation for this time. They spend about five hours each day in meetings; remembering, reflecting, processing, explaining, praying, and, where necessary, reconciling. Multiple research studies have shown that lasting change from short term mission trips is almost nonexistent. Despite what they may say right at the end of the trip, within days or weeks, participants are back into normal life routines, habits and values. Education should be about positive change, and Christian education should be about change that conforms us to the image of Jesus (see Romans 8:29). So we invest a lot in this internship to produce transformation that will last. The debrief is an important and necessary part of that transformation process. I won’t bore you with all that takes place, but one thing the students do is write a letter to themselves, putting on paper the changes they have decided they want to make as a result of what they learned on this internship. No one else reads this letter. We will mail it to them in six months, so they can evaluate how they are doing on the changes they said they wanted to make. Fifteen ICS internships and hundreds of students later, consistent feedback tells us the debrief time is critical to the learning process. And, the view is stunning J.

Post internship reflections from Papa Garry, aka Dr. Morgan

The clock tells me it’s 6:30a.m. I lie in bed wondering why my mind is so active but my body doesn’t want to move. In Mozambique I routinely got up at 4:45; what’s the problem? Jetlag? Two days ago, my body crossed 8 times zones in just over 16 hours, so some internal “confusion” should be expected. Is it the cold? I lie in a warm cocoon of blankets. To get up requires subjecting my body to cold it hasn’t felt in many weeks. The dark? The sun was already up at 4:45 in Mozambique. But this is something more. What? Then, I realize, it’s q-u-i-e-t. The insulation and double-paned windows in my house seal out not only cold, but sound. I listen harder. On my residential street in Minneapolis, at 6:30 in the morning there’s no sound to be heard anyway. No roosters crowing; no geese honking; no birds chirping; no women singing as they walk to the fields to cultivate their crops before the day gets too hot; no insect the size of a golf ball buzzing at the screen outside a window that is always open because of the heat; no sheet metal roof overhead popping and creaking as it expands in the heat of the rising sun. All the cues that tell me it’s morning are missing. It feels like a different world, not just another spot on the same planet that can be reached in a 16-hour plane ride. But it is the same world. And it’s the world Jesus entered as a baby so that he could redeem us from our sin. The world Jesus experienced while on earth was much more like the one in Mozambique that I stayed in for a few weeks than the one I call home in Minnesota. And he calls people from all of the “worlds” on this planet to follow him. So I pray for strength, throw off the blankets, and begin another day of my earthly journey with Jesus.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Long Goodbye

We're back, safe and sound, greeted at the airport by lots of shrieks of happiness at being reunited with families and friends.  The delayed flight out of Johannesburg was a blessing, giving us nights of sleep at hotels both in Jo'Burg and again in Atlanta, at the airline's expense.  It helped ease us out of village life back into American life.  We had just talked about re-entry issues at our debrief retreat, and it was good to be able to slow down the return trip, eager as everyone was to get home.

So, the internship is over, but there's so much to process for each one who went.  Living life in Africa, at Africa's pace...seeing how scaled down our lives could be in countless ways...being part of a "family" of 16 from Northwestern College 24/7 for two months...seeing the world and cross-cultural ministry through new eyes...being challenged in both good and hard ways...but always finding God there in the midst of life...thank you, Lord.  And thank you, family and friends for cheering us on.

This blogger is now signing out.  For those who are interested, there will be an evening's trip presentation at NWC in February to which all are welcome.  We will try to re-create some of the special memories of the trip!
Last Day in South Africa
Celebrating African-style
Painting the wall at Volta a Biblia

Monday, December 12, 2011

Flight from Johannesburg has been cancelled. Change in arrival date!

This message is being generated Stateside on Monday, December 12th:

We have just received word from Dr. Garry Morgan that their original flight from Johannesburg. South Africa has been cancelled.   Flight information will be sent to those listed on the emergency contact list by email shortly.  Arrival to Minneapolis/St. Paul will be delayed by one day.

If you are on the emergency contact list, please, continue to monitor your email for updates.

Mary Hawley
Adminstrative Assistant for CMD on behalf of the Team

Friday, December 2, 2011

Team Birthdays

We’ve had a few team birthdays on our two-month trip. Evan’s was last week. Dani turned 20 yesterday, the day after we returned from Crocodile village.  She didn’t plan it this way deliberately, but it just happened that a “day off” at the beach was on the schedule.  Days off have been rare, and this was the first we could remember in a long time!  It was also the first day of December, and being on the south side of the equator, it seemed like a delicious idea to swim in turquoise waters and have a nice lunch at a restaurant over-looking the white sand. 

Here’s an up-to-date picture of the team on Dani’s birthday.  Tina, we also want to wish you a happy birthday back at home, and we can’t wait to see you at the airport!

We have a few more days of activities here at Volta a Biblia, including our daily work of building an irrigation system for a citrus orchard.  There’s a lot of muscle power on this team!  Then, the last leg of the trip will be four days of debrief on the coast at a secluded set of cottages before starting our journey home.  Students are holding up, and want to finish well.

Crocodile Village

Our team spent four days and nights in the village of Ngwenya, which means crocodile.  Miles from any paved road, the area really consists of scattered humble mud and reed houses, surrounded by open grassy fields and small cultivated farm plots.  Electricity and running water have not reached this area.

We were invited by a pastor from that village who teaches at Volta a Biblia. He wanted us to be able to experience the life of rural Africans as close-up as possible.  We knew that we would be rising early with them to go to their fields, and to follow them through the activities of a normal day, participating as much as possible.  Foreign visitors had never spent the night with them before, and it was a great honor to them, and a moving, humbling experience for us.

When we arrived to a big welcome from the extended family and neighbors and local village authorities, we were divided into smaller groups and taken to one of four homes within shouting distance of each other to become members of our new “family.”  Some slept on reed mats on the dirt floor of tiny one-room houses, sharing space with their hosts and children. Others crowded into beds that had been vacated by their hosts.  Some slept in tents that we had brought along.  Without a common language for most, communication often consisted of smiles and gestures.  “It’s now time to eat.”  “It’s time for a bath”  (a warmed basin of water behind an outdoor reed screen).  We had already learned a few basic Shangaan greetings, but little by little the vocabulary grew to include “water”, food names, people’s names, and other important survival words.

When we woke up early in the morning, we found that the household had risen long before to sweep the compound and to work on making reed mats, their primary source of income.  They were eager to get to their fields by 5:30 a.m. to get in some hours of work before the sun got too hot.

Over the course of the four days, these were some of the things that became part of our African rhythm of life, and new skills learned:
·         Walking a mile to the farm plots to hoe and harvest cassava, sweet potatoes and greens
·         Passing by the river where the community gets its water, spear fishes with bamboo poles, ladies bathe and swim after working the fields and people wash clothes
·         Learning how to weave reed mats on an outdoor loom
·         Learning to pick a variety of greens to sort, slice, and prepare for meals (eaten with rice or “pap,” which is stiff cornmeal porridge)
·         Killing chickens! (Eleven had to be butchered for a farewell feast, and almost everyone on the team had a chance to dispatch one)
·         Plucking feathers from chickens you’ve just butchered
·          Cooking all meals over outdoor wood fires
·         Preparing “millies” (corn) from grain to table by the traditional African method - pounding,  grinding, mixing with water and cooking (involves LOTS of stirring)        
·         Learning new African songs and celebratory dances
·         Watching how children are cared for in a traditional setting: a communal effort
·          Being amazed at how skilled a five year old girl can be peeling cassava with a sharp knife
·         Seeing how the household community works in harmony with many daily chores
·         Observing that doing things together is the norm; being alone seems unacceptable
·         Being good-naturedly laughed at for not knowing “basic skills” of life
·         Seeing how no resource is wasted; every drop of water is hand carried from a distance  

Many mental images will remain from the stay in Crocodile village, including the sweet friendships that formed with the families who lavished us with love and laughter.  One that will stand out for me was this:  at the farewell feast (freshly butchered chicken, pap and rice), the pastor's wife thanked us for coming, and as we women on the team stood to the sound of singing, she took traditional African head scarves that matched the one she was wearing, and tied one on each of our heads.  It seemed like a fitting initiation ceremony into a way of life that had seemed strange and difficult the day we arrived, but now seemed almost normal to us.