Saturday, October 18, 2008

Homeward Bound...

Well, I've been gone 48 days now. At times it hasn't seemed long, but right now it seems like an eternity. Not in a bad way, but in the way that some things just seem like distant memories, even though 48 days really isn't that long.

By the time anyone reads this, I'll probably be home. I'm actually writing this while sitting in a hotel room across the street from NASA's Space Center outside of Houston. In about 2 hours I'll be headed to the airport and in 5 hours from now I'll be on a plane headed home. BUT, since I'm trying to surprise as many people as possible, I'm setting this to post on Saturday evening late. I don't know how many people actually read about my wanderings, so it shouldn't spoil the surprise too much.

I know if I wait until I get home to record my "final thoughts" about this tour of duty, I'll never get around to my last South America post that has yet to be written. So it's really important to me to actually put my thoughts to "paper" right now, before I get home.

Once I knew I was being released from the field, I arranged for Evelyn (one of the inspectors with whom I'd roomed previously) to come and pick me up. She was being released as well, so I knew we could ride to the field office together to turn in our equipment.

Before she came to pick me up I carried my laundry the 3+ blocks to the Washateria (that's a laundromat if you hadn't already figured it out!) and finally got my dirty clothes washed...YAY!!! When Evelyn came to pick me up I was somewhat surprised at the pangs of regret I had for leaving the area with which I'd become very well acquainted over the last several weeks.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to sow seeds of God's love to the people whom I've encountered on a day to day basis. Many had voiced concern for my safety in that area, which opened the door for me to share how I felt about the people in that area. I had to laugh at one lady on Thursday, though.

I had just finished my last inspection for this deployment and was walking away from my applicant's apartment. My camera wasn't co-operating, and I was carrying it and trying to get it to turn off. A man and woman were walking by and said, "Hello, officer..." I laughed and made it very clear that I was NOT a police officer, but a contract inspector contracted to FEMA.

They cautioned me about having a camera out in that area (for a couple reasons 1- theft risk and 2-people who are using and/or dealing drugs get real nervous when there are people with cameras around taking pictures). Then she asked me my name and age. She introduced herself by saying that people called her "69" but that her real name was Re-----. The nickname "69" kind of makes me think she was a prostitute, but I'm not sure...

The thing is, SHE was concerned about ME. Before she walked away she cautioned me again to put away my camera and my cellphone, "You're too pink to be carrying a camera or a cellphone around here!" I laughed at her comment and thanked here sincerely for her concern. I've found most of the people in the Third Ward to be really nice, caring people.

I was talking to an applicant a couple days ago about why she chose to move into the area in which she is living. She said that it was a big decision for her at first, because the neighborhood was pretty run down when she bought her house. But she pointed out that if people who do care will move into a neighborhood that's run down and crime/drug infested, they CAN change the neighborhood.

It takes guts and time, but that's what happened in her case. She started caring, not only about her own house and self, but about her neighbors as well. She became pro-active and it rubbed off on a few of the other neighbors as well. Now her block is totally different than when she first moved into her home. The neighbors work together to keep the area clean. They look out for each other. They've run the drug dealers out of their block. They take pride in their community.

What I got from talking to her is that sometimes the easy road isn't the road that we have to take. That to get something worth having it may take some hard decisions and you may have to put up with adversity along the way (and people may tell you you're crazy for doing what you're doing!). BUT, there is a tremendous reward in the end. And when we stand up for Good and Right, we naturally draw other people to do the same. We shine the Light into the darkness and the darkness has to fall back.

I know that many times when we hear that term "shine the light into the darkness" we think of preaching the Gospel...telling people about Jesus. But shining the Light into the darkness can also mean looking out for our neighbors' well being, showing a love and compassion for others, giving of our time and energy to help those around us, encouraging others...being a "good neighbor."

I could ramble on and on, but I don't want to lose you as a reader, so let me just finish with this. I had a little time at the washateria to read more of Margaret Feinberg's book The Sacred Echo. At one point she was talking about surrender. I want to leave you with a couple quotes from her book and some final thoughts from me...
"Surrender means it's not just about getting things done, but how you get them done that matters. When Jesus speaks of walking two miles instead of one and giving your coat instead of just your shirt, he's saying that surrender takes many forms--everything including your schedule, your possessions, and, of course, your heart. Surrender asks us to hand over not just what we have but who we are to God."

There are many people who look at me and don't understand why I do many of the things that I do. I often step out of what little comfort zone I have left, and as my pastor commented to me on the phone the other day, "You do seem to get yourself into some interesting situations, Sandi."

In another chapter of Ms. Feinberg's book she talks about a friend of hers named Shana. At one point she states,
"I've watched Shana's life for almost a decade now, and her latest exploits are always a cliff-hanger resting on the hope that once again God will save the day. And he does--time and time again. Somehow Shana has managed to start her own entertainment company, film several movies, and launch a significant ministry with less than $1000 to her name at any given time." She later says, "Just watching Shana's life provides countless snapshots of faith in action and what it looks like to answer the call, You follow me. If God can do so much through one woman pursuing the passions of her heart and the calling on her life, then what could he do with me?"
That question resonates throughout my very being, "Then what could he do with me?" I truly have always striven to live my life as faith in action in response to God's call on my life (I didn't say I've always succeeded! :D ).

My dear family & friends, though you may not ever fully understand me...I hope & pray that you'll join me in the adventure of this pursuit!

To God's Glory!

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