Saturday, February 24, 2007

Finding Focus

Through the glazed over stare of a burnt out substitute teacher, its hard to find focus. All this to say, I've been negligent about keeping up on my blog. I actually need to send out a newsletter soon as well, but at the moment this will have to suffice.
I have now completed reading the packet about the Czech Republic, and the more I read the more I see the desperation of these people. After years of communist repression, the land has now been overrun by consumerism, leaving the people in a faithless moral vacuum. Despite the faith based architectural influences that surround cities like Prague, the people are left culturally despondent. There was a report of a couple walking through a museum and seeing a picture of a crucifix. The girl asked who did such a thing and the guy replied, "I think maybe the Communists." There is a clear need for Christians, and especially those with an intellectual background, to come to these people with the truth of the past, and hope for the future.
I can't say exactly what role I will play, but I do hope to share with my students the love that has been given to me. I've never been much of an evangelist. I know what I believe, and I rest peacefully in the truth at night, but I'm no great apologist. My hope is that, by reaching out to these disillusioned people, I can offer up my heart and my faith in a way that will be real for them.
At Mother's Choice, it was so easy to love. Every time I looked at those babies I could feel God's heart for them. (well, every time excluding in the middle of the night when screaming fits would wake the whole room...) Dealing with abominable second graders has been a new experience for me. They don't fill me with hope and joy. They make me wonder how our own society has become so dark and callused. I have had these seven and eight year olds telling me that they only like to watch R rated movies. They thrive on horror films that you couldn't pay me to watch. Their heads are filled with violent images, and it is reflected in their propensity toward violence and cruelty against one another. After a month working with this class I'm relieved to be done with it, and yet I find myself worrying about them. I hope the next teacher will be able to reach them; to get them to sit quietly; to teach them a thing or two about life, love, and caring for each other.
As I read up, in a cursory way, about the people I will hopefully be serving over the next year, I confess I have concerns. Will I be able to teach them anything? Will they see the love of Christ in me? Will my life inspire them in some way? Will I spend every day afraid of what they are thinking? I have so many questions. It makes it hard to find focus.
I don't know what the future holds. All I know is that this opportunity has presented itself, and I feel compelled to accept the challenge. I want to stretch myself, to see what else God has out there for me. I want to speak to these students, to encourage them to learn and to grow and to seek the hope that only Jesus can give.
I want to continue finding my focus in life.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My Alaska Adventure...

I've decided my Alaska Adventure will have to be subtitled: Just how many times can my car break down in a year???
I have found yet another fun, exciting, new place for my car to break down! I was cruising along at a nice 65 MPH when things began to get a little interesting. For starters my radio started going off and on. Then I began to lose power. Soon I was cruising along in the fast lane at a whopping 25 to 30 MPH. At least I was moving. I was still several miles out from where I was headed, and dying in the middle of the road was NOT on my to do list. I managed to get through a couple of traffic lights, but by that time my car was scarcely moving, and it would surge up and down between 15 and 20 MPH. Needless to say, the AM rush hour traffic was not overly thrilled by my performance. I was just thinking that I might make it all the way to work, when the silly thing decided to give out all together. I was just pulling into the left hand turn lane off the main highway when suddenly I had nothing in the way of power.
So, there I sat. Helpless amidst the swirling traffic. Alone and with little thought beyond the fact that I was going to be late, and if my car was really dead I might miss the Valentine's Party tomorrow after all the work I've gone through to put up with these little terrors for the past two weeks! It just wasn't fair.
I turned on my flashers and called the school and then called Cheryl, just so people would know. Then I sat as the temperature rapidly dropped inside my measly little Pathfinder. After about ten minutes of trying to figure out what in the world I could possibly come up with to do, a paramedic vehicle took pity on me. What a relief. Two very capable men came to my rescue and soon my car was at least out of the direct path of fast moving traffic that seemed intent on getting into the turn lane as quickly as possible regardless of non-moving impediments.
The guys offered to drive me to someplace slightly warmer than the side of the expressway, but another emergency vehicle approached from the other direction and slowed down so the driver could yell out at them and let them know they were missing an actual accident. Sadly, that meant no nice cozy ride in an ambulance. It's been a long time since I've had one of those trips...(sigh) Instead I had the joy of walking in the freezing cold for a couple of miles to the school.
I called the school and Cheryl once more, just to let them know again what was going on. I never looked back at my pathetic vehicle. I was NOT feeling the luv for Zed at the moment! By the time I was done with the phone call my hand was so frozen I had doubts that it would ever be quite normal again. I hurried along to the school as quickly as I could, passing a group of students who were heading the same direction.
Needless to say, I wasn't exactly in a chipper happy mood for my little miscreants. I had about five minutes before I had to let them in. Barely long enough to write their DOL sentences on the board and put their chairs down so I wouldn't have to put up with all their insane inability to move quickly. All the same, I managed not to seriously hurt any of them, although they are now saying I am only their second favorite teacher because apparently Ms. Wilson let them chew gum in class as long as they hid it from the principal. Nice. I did, however, give a couple lectures on the fact that I can still call their moms and make them stand on the wall at recess even if I am just a sub. I still don't quite get why they don't think they have to pay any attention to anything I say, but WHATEVER!
After school I rushed around madly trying to find someone who could jump my car. If I'd been smart and checked my phone I would have realized there was no need. Fortunately before I found anyone Tim entered the building. Ah the relief of being rescued. He'd brought along a reinforcement as well, and soon we were doing our best to assess the damage. Not surprisingly, no one had decided to try and steal the immobile beast. While jumping it did manage to start it, the instant the cables were removed the engine would die. Ultimately we had to tow my tin can back to Eagle River.
Pulling into the mechanic yard filled me with nostalgia. Upon opening the door I felt somehow compelled to say "Did ya miss me?" Instead I calmly informed them that my ignorant Pathfinder was up to it's pathetic tricks once again.
Now, for those of you who are waiting with bated breath to see how I will handle my sorrow over having to miss the long awaited Valentine's party, you may now breath deeply. I was assured at school that any time I showed up would be better than me not showing up at all. So I'll just have to wait until after Cheryl drops the girls off at school and then she'll drive me in. That means I can't get there until at least 9, by which time school will already have started, but my class has a pull out right away in the AM, so they'll hardly even miss me.
So that was my fun and exciting adventure for the day. (sigh)

Monday, February 5, 2007

Organized Crime...

So my sister Cheryl recently purchased the complete series of Alias, and we've both been devouring the episodes rapidly. There's something exhilarating about the mixture of action/adventure as well as travel. When I first watched the series, I don't think I paid enough attention to the places they spent often ended up in when dealing with organized crime and weapons deals. This time through I've noted that, over and over again, they end up hunting down bad guys in both Hong Kong and Prague...interesting.
I just read a report in my lovely packet of info commenting on the high rate of organized crime in the Czech Republic. It seems it is a hot bed of smuggling and mob activities. They actually called it "a sanctuary for gangsters," who enjoy coming to relax and conduct their business in relative safety. It appears I've moved from the land of the triads to the spa retreat of the Russian Mafia. Interesting...
I have to say, however, that in some ways Triad activity made me feel safer in Hong Kong than I have ever felt in American cities. Most crime there was very localized. It was illegal to own fire arms, and most violent acts took place within the Triad groups. I certainly wouldn't want to get mixed up in any of the gang politics, but since I was very removed from such things I felt perfectly confident walking home alone at 3AM through the city. I can't say for certain that it will be the same in the Czech Republic, but I'm more intrigued by what I have read than fearful over the prospect.
The article I read had a lot to say about how generally corrupt the morality of the Czech people has become. After years of oppressive authoritarian governments it seems the people have little esteem for laws. This reveals a lot about their need for understanding of the word of God, and His views on issues of morality. I confess I feel rather ill equipped to deal with such issues, having had little direct experience with corruption myself. I remain curious to see just exactly what God is planning for me in the midst of all of this.