I knew it! I knew it! You would have some good thoughtful fodder for me if I asked you. You are a good friend Rob. Thanks for talking.
Details: Yes I do live about 1 hours bus ride from Seth but he is not very communicative as in maybe he wants to not be found... He does not have a cell and I just got his email last week from Joe so I am trying to track him down and get him out for a coffee. Joe says he and Brittn are doing poorly but I have no first hand insight.
Malawi... hmm maybe i should make a coffee and sit down to write this one. It just about makes me cry every time it comes up. Here is a short version:
At Dalat as a teenager I tried to be a good kid, responsible, spritual, but I found that when I took God at face value, I always ended up being more mystical and less rational and "loving God" was not something I seemed capable of doing in a physical body. I would read my Bible too much, pray too much, have difficulty making normal every day decisions as I tried to "seek the will of God" and so I learned to just be reasonable and participate in structural Christian acitivity taht did not threaten my ability to live normally (I went to church, had devotions lost fo the time, repsonded at SEW, etc.)
I went to colledge at Houghton College in New York for one year and was miserably lonely even after taking re-entry seminar at Narramore Foudnation in Califronia.
I left college after one year and worked at a labor job in BC for the Fall. Then at Christmas 1984 my Dad told me about an opportunity to volunteer with a mission and go to Ethiopia.
I had an AMAZING experience in Ethiopia as a 19 year old working short term helping a mission run a food distribution program to semi-nomadic people who lived in stick and mud huts, raised sorghum and cows, drank cow blood for strength (similar to the Masai of Kenya), could dance all night (see the Masai part in "The Ghost and the Darkness" movie), and I lived in a tent, slept on the ground (outside sometimes because the stars were so amazing) heard lions at night occasionally, drove in the bush in a beat up Landcruiser (ok I beat it up with the way I drove it I suppose! :) got stranded once on a motorcycle with a flat tire and had to walk about 12 hours to the next camp, crawled into the pit of an outhouse to fetch my glasses once, met my wife to be (I thought) worked alongside a wonderful American boss, Filipino teammates, some funny Brits, an Ethiopian-Greek and did all this to help people while being in relationship with God. I threw myself into learning language, eating native food, enjoying people (I bargained the value of my girlfriend, who vistied her folks there at the time, up to 8 cows with a local patriarch before cutting of the negotiations for fear that I might be taken seriously and actually have to sell her!) and the challenge of doing meaningful work with wonderful people in a challenging and romantic place [Three of my favorite authors became is Beryl Markham, Isak Dinesan, and Antoine de Saint-Exupery.]
That changed the trajectory of my life and I went back to school to study Human Nutrition in order to devote my life to more of the same. Well a few things interrupted my plans: First I realized that my girlfriend wanted to be a lawyer and that, I thought, did not fit with me working in Africa so I let her go then got furious with God that I had to do that which led to a period of frustration and distancing mysef from God. I got back on track then met a gorgeoous girl (who I DID marry!) who felt similar about serving God overseas and our little church sponsored us to go with a small mission to Ethiopia. Well, Ethiopia did not come around, so we accepted an assignment in Malawi. It was tough: Beth was sick a lot being pregnant with Amy (which we did not know most of the time), I was busy, water supply was on at 10:00 pm so that was when I washed diapers :(, the screens did not keep the mosquitos out or the scorpions or the spider hunters insects which did not help us sleep at all, I killed a little 11 year old boy while driving one day, Kylie got a terrible intestinal infection and began wasting away, then at the end of that term my boss labelled me a "racist" in my final evaluation and questioned my ability to work cooperatively with others and so Beth and I came "home" to Canada and crept into a little apartment with a baby and a toddler and tried to start life again.
I worked in a shipping office sending letters and packages and wanted to do more with my life so I went to school and got a degree then a teacher;s certficate. Teaching jobs were very hard to get in British Columbia so I accepted my first offer at a town I never heard of 300 miles away in "Toledo, Washington."
You know most of the details from the last 9 years.
So I honestly wonder about dreams and future plans. I don't trust my dreams, either nightly or vocationally. I lack the ability to be reasonable in my thinking and that is, partly, why I am in a rational job teaching rational content to irrational students: trying to keep my world from tipping over. I guess I am really insulating myself from my own irrational and impulsive mind to the largest degree possible. It seems every time I try to take God seriously I end up opening my mind and things not-God as well as my tendancy to irrational thought and behavior and so I do what I think a normal, rational person should.
One thing you may find too, is that most of the time I am with people I cannot relate too. For example, in Toledo, no one ever wanted to know about Africa or Ethiopia or Malawi. No one was interested in what I done or where I had been in the past. I just had to pick up and be whoever I was at taht stage and leave aside huge chunks of my life to connect with the poeple on the ground.
One reason Beth particularly, and I felt similar, did not want to work at Dalat, after my initial keenness, is that it is not the same place we left and we felt like it would be hard to be an adult, a teacher, a disciple, in the same place where we used to be kids and students and goofs. We honestly felt ike in our minds we could not be who we are in a place that held so many memories from a time long ago. Its ironic that feeling like a man wihtout a country I steered clear of a country I felt comfortable in, but that is the case.
So I don't have a clear response to dreams, except to say that I feel I lost some of my big dreams and lack the confidence to articulate new ones: it is easier not to have dreams.
Boy there sure is content for a story in this but if i wrote it I would have to deal with it as fiction; I don't think I can keep dealing with the same painful realites tme and again.
So this leaves me wondering what to do with these thoughts and feelings. I guess for starters I need to listen to my students to give thema chance to tell me about things taht are important to them. I can cathartically meet their needs; take on myself some of their hurts and in that small way bring the Kindgom of god to earth is this little tiny corner in one of the ways I can understand.
Man this is getting to be a bit too emotional for me, Rob. I gotta go.
Love you buddy; thanks for talking and listening