Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In America

Last night we safely arrived back in sleep Spencer, Indiana. The sky was black and the moon an amazing reddish color that made the man in the moon look like he was blushing. And it was quiet... strangely, but wonderfully quiet.

My dad had a hard time sleeping when he visted me in Winnipeg because of all the sirens. I live near a hospital in the bad part of town- every siren you can imagine runs past my apartment. I just get used to it. Last night the silence was awkward and took me a bit to get used to.

Being back in the US is going to take a bit of getting used to, as well. Before I was just visiting for a few weeks- rarely more than two. Now, I am going to be in residence here again, everything is going to be so different.

I miss people from Winnipeg already. It's only been two days, but the realization that I may not see them ever again is setting in. And I miss my dear friends, my roommates, my sisters, the guys who I play soccer with, the cute old man who I wave to each morning, the little girls who give me hugs, and the funny man who always jokes with me at drop-in.

But mostly- I am gonna miss the girl that I mentor, and seeing her come out the other end on the things she is struggling with. I am gonna miss the guys I know who just got put in jail- and seeing how their lives are going to change once they get out. I am going to miss seeing so-and-so go to school, or get back in school. I am going to miss helping her with her baby. I am going to miss so many people who's lives I've been blessed to be a part of.

I don't want to write anymore today. And I feel so busy, even now with being away I still have a million things to do before I go to college in a week. Oh- will I ever get it all done?

Oh- I was supposed to mention. In case none of you have noticed, I added a page element at the bottom of my blog. It has bits of the day or past days breifly mentioned, so check it out.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thank you, everyone who prayed

5 minutes before I arrived at the office yesterday morning, I got a phone call from the Youth Center, telling me that I had clearance to visit my friend who I have been asking for you all to pray that I could visit.
I called back as soon as I was finished on the phone getting my monday morning visit with someone else (which I am leaving my parents to hang out at my apartment for an hour by themselves while I visit him). And had an interesting talk on the phone- part of that was because the man talked unbelievably fast. It was almost as if one of the Gilmore girls was ranting about something- only instead as a 50 year old man.
" Yep, you have clearance to visit. Sundays are the usual visiting times."
" Yeah- I was wondering about that. It says there could be exceptions to that, that I could visit on another day?"
" Perhaps, but there would need to be a good reason."
" See, I am moving out of the country on Monday, so Sunday is really not gonna work for me."
" Moving out of the country, that doesn't seem like much of a connection."
" I've known this guy for over a year and a half and we have a good relationship built up. And it can be really harmful to break that trust by leaving without saying goodbye."
" Oh."
" So could I visit today?"
" Today!?!"
" Yeah. Like in a few hours from now? Say 2 o'clock?"

" I'll make it work. I'll leave a message at the gate."

So, then I just had to sweet talk my boyfriend into letting me use his car. Then cuddle up and ask him to send some quality time with me in the car during the hour long drive, which I was hoping he would do the driving for. And then I mentioned, a little more quietly, that he would have to wait alone in the car for about an hour while I had the visit. So, 3 hours out of his day. And we would have to race back because my parents were arriving to Winnipeg earlier than planned and would have to roam around Winnipeg alone for about an hour as I was not about to change the visit plans that had come together so perfectly.
I have a really nice boyfriend :). But he made me drive on the way back and took a bit of a nap. It's like he had a 12-hour night shift that night and needed to rest or something.

The visit was wonderful. Sometimes I wonder if the work I do makes a difference- this visit helps confirm that at least for his life, nothing was wasted. He told me for the first time, that after our long, deep talks he would go home and play X-box instead of selling drugs. He said I gave him hope for wanting to change and had faith in him that he could when others had given up on him. Wow. That is one of the things that makes me sad for leaving this ministry.

I wish I could physically be there to offer that extra support when he gets out in about 2 weeks. However, I know that he does not need me. He needs God. He needs to want to do it himself- as much as I want the best for him, that has never been enough for him to change. He needs to want it enough to do the hard, hard work it takes to pursue it and stick with it. And above all- he needs God. I know it's probably good for me not to be there so that he doesn't depend on me or turn to me when it's something I can't or shouldn't help too much with- however, I can't help but want to be there.

Without getting off topic too much- I was incredibly impressed with how that center was run. The boys (and girls as well) are put into units of about 8-12 people of the same gender categorized in low, medium and maximum security units, their privileges depending on their level of security. The group is given more freedoms or those freedoms taken away on how they as a group and the individuals of the group behave on a regular basis. If one person fails, you all fail. You succeed and fail as a group. If one person is angry or screwing up, it is not the supervisor's responsibility to repremand or discipline them- it is the job of the group (with the incentive of privileges for them to have good behavior). I saw it working wonderfully! The group was sickeninly polite, and almost made me burst out laughing at how they were overly asking everyone if this or that would bother them.
My friend told me how the group was helping him work through some of his anger problems- how they would circle around him and first help him calm down, and then find out what had made him angry or whatever. The supervisor was there to give punishment or privilege, not discipline (if you ketch the difference). The group kept one another in line- and did a good job of it.
Together the group worked in the gardens that were grown and cared for by the inmates for the food that they consumed. As well as tending the animals (such as pigs and cows) that were on the property. During the school year they were kept busy with studies as well.

I saw that this place was working on some underlying problems of these kids- their authority issues, their anger problems, confidence issues, ect. I had never seen that before- I had seen them having the inmates sit in cells where the only thing to do was work out, think about how you had screwed up and hours and hours of harboring that anger or possibly coming up with your own solutions on how to fix it. Or making phone calls to all your old friends or family.
My friend talked about the things he had realized that he needed to work on. And I heard him use the word 'poop' instead of s***! Wow- he had stepped out further that I had imagined he could in the short time he had been in.

Honestly, if I was to intern as a social worker and it had to be in Manitoba, I would see if I could do it there- because it was so impressive to me. However, I hope that my allowances for where and what I can do during my practicum part of my social work degree are alot more broad than Winnipeg, Manitoba. I am sure that they will be.

My parents arrived just fine. However, we met at the wrong spot because my mother seems to equate 'golden statue' with 'green dome'.

Friday: Final(?) Day of Work in Winnipeg

How do I have time with my busy schedule to post a blog? Well- it's 9 am in Winnipeg, which means that most people are sleeping and many places are not yet open. And, because I am listening to the hold music on the visiting line for the city correctional center.

My last visit (yesterday) was wonderful! They told me that the person I was visiting had been released.
So why was he still on the visiting list? Grr... stupid people wasting my time.
But it worked out wonderfully, because then I got to see him and we had a good laugh about how I missed my visit as we sat in the office and ate chicken and talked about the Winnipeg police.
And that friend was able to answer a question- what is so-and-so's last name? (well, because he knew who to call to ask). The answer to that allowing me to be here, making that visit with so-and-so.

The police are doing a 'crack down' in the neighborhood. Arresting people as if they were shopping for groceries- picking this one, patting down that one. Sometimes just taking people down to the station and then letting them go.
Arresting 30 some people in the north end and another large batch in the west end, most of who are known to be dealers and/or affiliated with a gang looks really good for the records and the news (which happened in about 1 day this past weekend). However, in about a week most of those people will be back out because there wasn't enough evidence or confirmation of a big enough crime (usually it was nothing more than a breech) to hold them longer than that.

The droves that went in come trickling out within a few days; all for our safety? Obviously not. All for show? Probably.
Those guys are breaking the law and they do need to be in jail. However, the whole problem is that they haven't been able to get them with enough evidence to get them sentenced anyway, how will getting them on a small little breech change that? It's like they are wasting their own time because arresting them gets in the way of the undercover work and other investigations going on because it halts everything.

I was telling a friend one of the things that was exciting me about going back to college- the difference in what I was going to worry about.
From worrying about
_____ missed the mentor meeting, is she still attending rehab or did she go back to drugs?
_____ got jumped the other day
_____ has to go to court, can you watch her kids for a while?
_____ is in the hospital- please visit him.
_____ hasn't been around for a month or more- jail? dead? just hiding?
_____ is on the run from the police again.
_____ was caught _____ing again.
_____ thinks she might be pregnant
_____ needs help finding a job

To worrying about
- I have one night to right that paper
- My printer died! now I have to go to the library and do the rest of it there
- I really need to study for that exam
- My roommate is really annoying me

Yeah, for sure I'm excited! And to sleep in a bed again would be so nice. I'm also happy for the conservative campus, if my friends from the street here do follow up on their promises and give me calls on occasion. I laugh when I think of what their voice mails would say!

I looked over the 'agenda' for the next few days when my parents visit. I feel sorry for them, they are going to be so stuffed full of food! Everyone wants to meet them, and everyone wants to feed them.

I came over to Biruk's house to see his mom beside the largest amount of chopped onions I have ever seen. She said she had cut about 12 onions already.
"Biruk! You forgot to tell her!"
He looked really sheepish as he told his mom in Amharic (as if that would fool me or something) that my dad is allergic to onions. She looked really annoyed, but them brightened up as she asked me-
"What if he can't taste the onion?" No- he is allergic, eating the onions would make him sick.
"What if I chop them really small?" No.
"What if you couldn't see the onions?" No.
So cute, it made me laugh. But seriously- No!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

6 days to go...

Someone at my church reminded me of that, as he has also been keeping track for me.
Today was my last day helping with the drop-in. I didn't make any sandwiches and touched no soup- which is the first time that that has ever happened. I sat and talked and said good-byes and took pictures and encouraged a few people- but mostly, they encouraged me.
Someone got jumped over the weekend and now has a swollen fist
And someone's bike was stolen.
And two someones got shot over the weekend.
And I'm glad that Biruk made me drive his car home because someone was mugged along that same street that night.
And I need to call for a visit because someone had a cellphone who shouldn't have.
And someone turned 18 yesterday and there is a dinner sitting in the fridge for him.
And I have a final mentor meeting with someone tomorrow.
AND I have lots, and lots of people to say 'good-bye' to.

One prayer already answered!
Before I even know if I have clearance for the visit, I have had 3 offers for possible transportation for the hour-long trip up to the facility where my friend is. My favorite of the offers is a ride, gas paid for (I'm assuming) and a trust-worthy, good driver to do all the driving for me, as well as the company of a friend.
Wow, I love when people offer to 'bust out their connections' for me.

Please pray that I get clearance for this visit. The visit has to happen THIS week. Or I'll be leaving my parents to relax somewhere in Winnipeg with some people they don't know while I

I felt ill this morning, but am much better now. However- I feel so drained. I didn't know saying good bye could be so stressful or busy! I am moving out of the country and finishing up ministry stuff all after an intense 2 weeks of leading a mission trip. I guess that could explain why I feel awful.
And that my 'relaxing' days never happened. Whenever I would head home to take a nap, something would come up.

The little girl I know getting hit by a car at a crosswalk takes the cake as the best excuse I had for not sleeping at that time. I stayed in the ER with her mom and sisters for a little while, and tried to get the girls to stop climbing over everything before the receptionist yelled at them AGAIN.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Goodbyes

Yesterday I went to a party and saw some friends of mine. I mentioned to them that I was leaving in a week, moving out of Winnipeg.
"When will you be back?"
"I'm not coming back."
"Yeah... sure. Whatever- you'll be back."
They really didn't believe me.

And so begins my final week.

I was able to use that to guilt the little boys into not stealing the markers. I just didn't have the energy to wrestle with them or force them out of the office. Me leaving and they would never see me again was a very effective guilt-trip. And used alot less energy.

The little girls gave an extra squeeze in their hugs and a few guys came up to recieve an extra one, usually I initiate the hugs. They could feel that I was leaving and they wouldn't get that chance again.

A few days ago at the park some one said to me, "You know- when you go, you're leaving us in the slums."
I was confused. They had lived in Winnipeg before I had arrived, how would that be any different?
"Not like that. When you leave who else is gonna help us out? You're leaving us in the slums."
That made me sad.
Of course it's not all true. Of course it's a bit of a pity party. But it's sad that that is his perspective, that no one else helps him out. Especially when I think of how little I've done to help him in particular.
Perhaps that perspective is my failing. Perhaps that perspective is the failing of the church.

The park that has 2 churches at it's corners and at least 3 ministries around it's perimeter and he still feels so helpless. I go to that park to pray. It's such a desperate place, but also because it is so desperate I know that God moves in mighty ways there each day.
However... I still get so frustrated.
Sunday was sunny and there was a cute, sweet old man having a bit of a yard sale sort of at the parking garage of an apartment building. Two police men pull up in their cruiser and start questioning him. Across the street I see two guys- one who is breeching on his restrictions by even walking down that street and another is a known drug dealer. And the cops are focused on the old man and his yard sale?

There must have been exciting, fun, sad and wonderful things that happened over the past few weeks. But they seemed to have leaked out of my brain because I can't remember much more than 2 days ago.

It's looking as if things are possible for me to visit a certain friend. However- it is an hour drive away. And I need to be cleared to visit within 2 days. Please keep that in your prayers- I would need to borrow someone's car and even more--- I would have to drive!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ahh... to sit down for a moment

A chilly morning in August (which just shouldn't be).
The west end feels asleep and calm (a completely different atmosphere from the evening/night in this same part).
A break from the mission trip, but not a break from life or work. However, this city sleeps in, so alot of that sort of thing has to wait until the afternoon.

Camp was wonderful! The little girls blessed me so much and God was faithful in so many ways. I wouldn't call that time 'relaxing' exactly, but it was wonderful and refreshing just to be in America and away from the city. Surrounded by trees, by screaming little girls who don't use swear words and say 'thank you' without being told to. Who would never punch one another or even think of clawing you. Who I don't have to scold for making fun of the girls who are working as prostitutes or take them aside to talk about why they shouldn't be using marijuana. It was very refreshing in that sense. However, it also took the edge off some of the adventure.
I'll put some pictures up later.

I loved the theme of camp- Be Wise.
I used to think of Wisdom as boring. Something that older adults had, and it stripped away all the fun and wonder in life. Like when you understand the science behind why the sunset creates such glorious colors in the sky, it ruins some of the beauty. Having Wisdom left them to lecture and write books about how to do things. I had a false idea that wise people didn't really 'do' much, they just talked alot and had meetings and told other people about the correct way to do things, since they knew how to.
But as I have been working in Winnipeg, I find myself again and again on my face, begging that God be with me in that situation, that he would direct me and give me guidance to know what to do. But even more than telling me clearly- 'this way' 'that way' that he would be with me, at my side.
Then I realized, what I was asking for WAS Wisdom, I just didn't know it. My screwed up view of what Wisdom was and wasn't was keeping me from desiring it and pursuing it. I was so set on not being caught up in the head knowledge stuff, because I wanted my heart and actions to be in it, that I missed what Wisdom is. (I'm not saying that I wanted to be doing things without theology or belief behind them, I was just avoiding being overly focused on the head-stuff or the 'rules' stuff) I would be looking for direction in all different sections of the Bible, but not in Proverbs- written by the wisest man every known. And Wisdom isn't boring or dull- it's exciting!
And you can tell a wise person by how they act, which was very exciting for me. Proverbs talks about how wise people know when to be silent, how their actions- often with social justice- are evident to their walking-out their Wisdom. Because what's the point of Wisdom if you never do anything with it? What is the point if you don't help people with it?
So, I loved the theme of camp and I loved seeing the girls be so excited about Wisdom. Seeing them diving into their Bibles, seeing how Proverbs can still speak to them today and hearing about how they plan to put what they learned into practice. It was awesome!

I'm pretty exhausted, so if you would remember to pray for me, that would be awesome. I've been really busy and I only have 2 weeks left, so it's beginning to be stressful about how to work and do all this extra stuff I have right now (and do that well) as well as ending my ministry stuff here the best that I can.
Also, there appears to be some situations where I will not be able to say even a 'good bye' to some people who I have been working with in ministry- I used to visit them in the Youth Correctional Center, but they have recently been moved and it doesn't look like I will be able to visit them again. Please pray about that, as it would be very sad to never get to say good bye.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

If I am famous, you might want to know these facts

I'm supposed to be playing some 'game' where I leave some rules and tag 8 other people or so to play the game as well. However- I'll just tell you the 8 random facts about me and not tag other people.

1. Hate fast food like Burger King or McDonalds. It's not just the huge amount of grease (not a health thing- I just hate the feeling of all that caking my mouth). It also sort of frightens me that when I order a cheeseburger it is handed to me, nicely wrapped and in a paper bag within a matter of 30 seconds (usually less). It actually repulses me that my food is ready that fast.

2. I love grocery shopping! Whenever I pass a grocery store, a market or the like I have an urge to go inside and buy, buy, buy! I love imagining all the meals and dishes that could be created with this item or that item. I love the bright green apples against the orange carrots and dark spinach. I like comparing prices and looking for the best deal. Weighing the bulk items and figuring out what type of juice I want to buy today.

3. I sort of wish that some terrible accident (but nothing that would cause loss of limb) would happen to me while on an airplane so that the company would have to compensate me with a lifetime supply of free vouchers for anywhere, anytime. Without it- I could easily spend every dime on plane tickets and live like a pauper in whatever country I have traveled to.

4. I don't enjoy driving. I would be quite content living on some small island where you can walk everywhere you want to go, or in a city where there is public transportation. And it makes it much easier to meet new people, too!

5. I love bright colors and cannot go out in just blue jeans and a white or plain black t-shirt, I have to add some color. maybe a bright orange belt. Perhaps green flip-flops or a blue head wrap. something has to add color or I just feel so so boring. My bed sheets are bright orange and they make me happy. When I see something so vividly bright like that, I smile.

6. I am proud of my scars. They all tell some sort of tale about my life- a piano fell on my ankle, killed some of the nerves there. I slipped while playing soccer with a group of guys in Thailand. Fell on a crooked sidewalk when I was about 4 or 5 years old. Slowly scraped all the skin off my hand right there because I was determined to get to the top of the crack (in rock climbing) no matter how much pain I was in. Bruises are fun, for sure- but scars are so much better because they are permanent- like a story on your body, an accidental tatoo.

7. An endugence of mine (which I haven't been able to do since I was in college) is run at night. It's so calm, so quiet. Never too hot. The stars are wonderful and I feel like I could run forever.

8. Cannot go to bed without brushing my teeth. I can sleep with my contacts in, with dirty feet, hot and sweaty, in uncomfortable clothes, on the floor, in a crowded room- but I simply cannot sleep without having brushed my teeth. I think it is the grossest feeling ever.