Wednesday, September 25, 2013

God With Us

Sunday, I received the best welcome packet from the BCCM church in KK.  Inside were lots of wonderful materials, but I was especially excited to get a daily Bible readings calendar.  Maybe a weird thing to be excited about, but go with it.  So today, the passages were all based around the coming of Jesus into the world, looking at Matthew and Luke for what we would usually hear around Christmas time.  Now, I still don't know why these readings were placed on this day, if not to remind us that Christmas is exactly 3 months from today :) But, it was really cool for me to read these because I have been reflecting on how thankful I am to have met so many incredible people in the past week that have made me feel more welcome and more comfortable in the midst of so much discomfort and uncertainty than I thought possible in such a short amount of time.  I have realized this week that one of my biggest anxieties for the year was not the food, or having hot water or internet, but having a community to feel connected to.  I think I felt that it was my responsibility to make this community happen, to build my own support for the year.  However, the beautiful thing about God's community is that there is no need for us to do all the work.  Just as God has acted first in loving us and claiming us, God also has acted first in showing me a new part of the community of Christ for me to be welcomed into with open arms.  Everyone from Mrs. Soong and her family, to the teachers I work with, to the staff and residents at Cheshire Home, to the new friends I made at church have all been incredibly hospitable and welcoming as I enter into this year, reminding me that God is with me.  God is with me in every single person I have met in this new community and will continue to to remind me that nothing is left up to me to figure out alone.  Sometimes, we just need to be still and let God meet us.

"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." Matthew 1:23

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Being "the Other"

It is hard to believe I have been here for one month!  Part of me feels like I just got here yesterday, but the other part feels like we have done so much these past few weeks that surely we have been here for longer than that!  Either way, the further I move into my year of service and as I settle into my home community, the more I realize my own visions of how I expected this year would go.  I pictured myself in my different roles, at Mrs. Soong's, the kindergarten, and at Cheshire Home.  Most of these images I had were of me thriving in the new environment, which for me meant blending in and being a part of the community as if I had been here my whole life.  I'm not too sure why I thought I would be such a natural at such a cross-cultural experience, but nevertheless it was an expectation I did not realize I had until recently.  Being not super comfortable with Malay yet, having not a single clue to a lick of Chinese, fumbling through my wallet when paying because I still don't know which color is which denomination, and only managing to get 4 grains of rice in my mouth with chopsticks are just a few of the initial cultural differences I'm dealing with now.  Not to mention how often I'm told that I am so tall. :) During orientation, I had to take a little journey to the local eye hospital because I thought I was going blind.  No worries, guys.  I can still see just fine.  But as I filled out paperwork, when asked my race, I had to check the "other" box, which made me uncomfortable.  To know that people "like me" were so few and far between in this country that my race wasn't included in the groups to check was a completely new experience.  To be frank, being "the other" is really uncomfortable a lot of the time, it doesn't always give the joyful feeling I had expected to be filled with by the newness.
But, the bright side to this uncomfortable post is the wonderful people I have met who have made this transition smoother.  The language barrier is made easier when people take the time to slow down what they say, or even when we play a small game of charades when talking.  Never be above a game of charades, that's just a good life rule.  People taking the time to talk to me to figure out what foods I like, then bringing them to me to make this new place more like home. (Shout out to Teacher Rita who brought me a ham and cheese sandwich to school the other morning after I told her I liked sandwiches!)  I know I look and speak much different than the people I am around.  But it means so much to me when I get glimmers of those differences being bridged, when my differences aren't the topic of conversation or of looks wherever I am.  I am so thankful for the people I have met who have helped me figure out how things work in Malaysia, to help me become more and more like a local.

So, who are the others in your life?  The ones you see at the store struggling to communicate with the cashier?  The ones who are trying to get from point A to point B but do not know the area to get on the right transportation?  How can you help them as they try to acclimate with the new community and culture?  Believe me, they will appreciate the help more than you know :)

In the mean time, I'll keep trying to fit in over here by being a head taller than those I walk to work alongside, carrying this massive book with me.  Casual. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Good Work, Holy Spirit.

Hey people! I'm writing from the wonderful Mrs. Soong's living room and am currently being serenaded by her granddaughters' piano lessons.  It is so great to have this family to come home to!  My living situation is such a good fit!  Mrs. Soong is probably in her 70's and rents the rooms upstairs to girls from Malaysia and to YAGM volunteers every year.  She is just precious and always has advice to help me in my transition.  For those of you who knew my Aunt Zela, she kind of reminds me of a Chinese Zela... kind of.  A good Mrs. Soong story happened this morning.  I told her last night that Peter would be picking me up for work around 7:45.  Once I got to my room to go to sleep, I had a message from Peter that he would be here around 8:45 instead.  So, I adjusted my alarm accordingly.  Well, this morning around 7:30, there was a faint knock at the door accompanied by a gentle yet persistent, "Sarah, Sarah, Sarah".  I went to my room door to find Mrs. Soong concerned that I had overslept and was going to miss my first day.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Soong didn't receive the same time change information I did.  So sweet of her to check on me though!  She has lots of advice.  Everything from not drinking cold water to how to properly open and close doors and how to stand against the wall to help my posture.  I think its safe to say I'll learn a lot this year!
Like I said, today was my first day of school at Yuk Yu kindergarten and work at Cheshire Home!

Yes, I did make Peter take a first day of school picture of me.  I got to the kindergarten and was greeted by the principal.  I was then introduced to Teacher Rita and my new class of 20 4-year-olds!!!  Y'all.  I can't even tell you how precious they are!!  Also, Sarah isn't the most natural word for people here to pronounce, so today I was introduced as "Sharah".  These kids can call me Sharah all day long, because they're adorable.  I was told of the upcoming concert (which we saw kids outside practicing their dancing for) and kindergarten graduation.  Seriously I may die of precious overload here.  More stories to come, I'm sure.
Then, I went to the Cheshire Home which is a residential care and vocational training center for adults who are differently abled.  On the tour, we got to the back building which not only houses their bakery classes, but will also be opening a nursery for children 4 and under to attend who have developmental or physical disabilities.  So basically, my two favorite things, children and baking, all in the same building.  I spent the afternoon mingling with the residents, showing off my lackluster Malay skills, and working on an English Assessment for the bakery students.  One of the residents, Chi-Chi (I'm not too sure of the spelling) had a car we were playing with much of the day.  At one point, she pointed at me and said, "kakak" which means sister in Malay.  I am more than happy to be Chi-Chi's sister this year, and to grow relationships both at Cheshire Home and the kindergarten. 
I really don't think my placement could be a better fit.  I have a nurturing grandmother and jobs that are exactly what brings me joy in life!  So, good work Holy Spirit.  I know that this placement is not at all by chance!
More to come soon, now it is dinner time with the Soong family! xoxo