Friday, September 7, 2012

The past few months...

 I'm far worse at this whole "keeping people posted on what's happening while living in another country" thing than I ever thought I would be, but here's my attempt at encapsulating the comings and goings of recent months:

This summer was kinda interesting as it was split between the US and East Africa; I think most of you know I was back in the states for the months of May and June. My time stateside included three weddings (two of the newly-wedded being my brothers); catching up with old friends; time in Martinsville with my family, Winchester and Lancaster with grandparents, and Philadelphia with my wonderful friends and church family there; a camping trip; a family reunion; lots of time spent creating and making jewelry; and attempting to partake in most of the foods I miss while I’m here, which lead to having brunch at a great cafĂ© in Philly and ordering something called “The Kitchen Sink”. :-) After dealing with some big challenges and experiencing much loneliness during my December-May term here at COH, those 2 months in the US were very rejuvenating, life-giving, and joyful. Suffice it to say, I have been very blessed with an incredible family and friends in lots of different places.

While “summer” doesn’t have much bearing on the weather here (actually it tends to be colder in the June, July, and August due to the rains), it does mean that the season of large teams of people coming in and out of the City of Hope is upon us. It’s been an eventful summer, to say the least. The clinic at COH opened back in February after standing empty for years, and our new medical director, Ty Hopkins, was primarily the catalyst to make that happen. After heading back to the US for about 5 months, Ty returned for 2 months this summer with his wife Joi, two kids, and a team of 15 medical and nursing students who were all coming to take part in a class Ty taught called “Foundations of Health and Development” (FHD). The class was aimed at students who are considering becoming medical missionaries, and focused on a holistic, Biblical view of health, learning about the culture, and determining the root of so many systemic problems here.

In addition to the team of med students, we also had 3 summer interns, several longer-term young people, and various short-term teams coming and going. I think the largest count for people eating together in the mission house was 38 in July, but fortunately that was only for a few days. :-) Towards the end of August we hosted a team of nursing students from Duke University here, who made their exit along with the Hopkins family and the remaining members of the FHD team. Though it has been a great summer, I’ve been relishing having my own room again, a quieter house, and some quality time with the other 3 girls who are remaining here: Brittany (a nurse who’s staying til mid-Sept.), Angie (recent high school grad staying into Dec.), and my cousin Tenzi, who will be here for a year.  

After much thought and prayer, I’ve decided that I will be leaving the City of Hope in mid-October, one month after my two-year term is completed. I’m planning on doing some traveling to the Mt. Kilimanjaro region (Arusha and Moshi), and possibly elsewhere, and then returning to the states around the end of Oct. or beginning of Nov. At this point I’m not entirely sure how long I’ll be in the US, at least until January, but I really feel I need to spend more time with the people whom are both very dear to me and influential in my life as I consider what’s next. I also plan on putting a lot of energy into my creative efforts, since that’s something I haven’t been able to spend much time on over the past 2 years, and hopefully find more venues for selling my jewelry as I produce it.

I’m asking for your prayers as I make preparations to step into the next phase of my life -  leaving the place I’ve poured my life into for 2 years, considering the possibility of moving to Kenya next year, deciding whether to continue as a missionary raising support or to seek international employment, knowing that I want to work with a women’s co-op or income generation group and use my skills in craftsmanship to train and empower women of East Africa to be able to sustain themselves and even prosper in a trade. There are so many unknowns in my life right now, but I know that God has brought me this far and He has taught me so much on the journey, so I’m just trying to trust Him to lead me to the next stop on the path.

Thanks for caring, reading, supporting, and praying for me and with me... those things all mean more than you could know.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

On being good

Holy cow, it's been about 9 months since I last blogged, and that is entirely too long! The problem is that I have way too much running around in my head, too many experiences, and constant lessons I'm learning that I just get overwhelmed when I try to write them down. However, I promised myself (and lots of people in the states) that I would be better about communication this year. While I don't place much stock in New Year's resolutions anymore - I think we start out setting ridiculously high goals for ourselves, failing to maintain or reach them, and then get depressed about how we never met those goals, and eventually completely forget - I did vow to myself that I would write a lot more this year. So far I have been doing that, even if it is fragmented musings on a myriad of topics, hopefully I can eventually piece them together and you'll be able to read some of them. I'm actually considering starting another blog where I just post my musings on life, relationships, and God, kinda separate from this one which is primarily about my work and experiences here in Tanzania and elsewhere. Actually this post kinda straddles the two categories.

*Disclaimer of sorts: In many of my previous posts, I tried to go light on the whole spiritual life thing, because I do have so many friends who don't believe all the same things as me, and I was concerned they wouldn't identify with that at all. However, I've realized that I can't extract my daily experiences and struggles from my relationship with Christ, and not sharing that would be untrue to who I am. That being said, I hope that you can still read this even if you don't identify yourself as a Christian, because maybe you can still find some hope within these words regardless of what you believe. 

I've been thinking a lot over the past few months about the notion of being "good", what that means, and if it's even possible for us as flawed human beings. Since moving to Tanzania, I have been referred to as "good" many times, or told that I am "a good person" by a number of people, and I never quite know how to respond to that. Somehow people think that my being in this position - moving overseas, choosing to work as a missionary instead making money, and living in a village with fewer resources - makes me a much better person than the average American. 

The thing is, I don't see it that way. While I may be sacrificing some things to be here, I know so many other people doing good in their own ways, in their own communities, and just because they don't live in another country or work with orphans doesn't mean they're any less "good" than I am. One of the reasons I've made the choice to do what I'm doing is that I'm simply not happy with a normal 9-5 job, and even though my primary aim in coming here was to work with the kids, there was also a need for adventure that fueled my drive to move overseas. Of course, I've been told that's a very self-serving reason to go into missions.

When I hear someone say that I'm good, my mind replays all the bad things I've done over the past few days and I think there's no way that can be true. I think, "I have so many downfalls", in fact, sometimes I'm selfish and I don't want to jump up when a kid injures himself and needs a bandage. Sometimes I get so frustrated by 25 children all saying my name over and over and telling me what they need all at the SAME TIME that I snap and yell at them. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to have a well-paying job with lots of international travel where I can live in a bustling city and wear fashionable clothes. Often I become impatient with the Americans, Tanzanians, and Kenyans I have to work with every day, and sometimes I complain about how much work I have to do, when in reality I'm surrounded by people who do back-breaking work for 10 hours every day so that they can simply manage to feed their families. I struggle with wanting to stay inside my room all day and only do things for myself instead of constantly giving to others, and there are days where I do just that, and then end up feeling guilty because I'm supposed to be here to serve other people and not myself. 
Therefore, my first instinct when someone says "Greta, you're so good", is to say "No, I'm not, only God is good", because all I can think about is how I am sinful and unworthy to be compared to the One who is truly good, and the Author of all good things. However, a dear friend reminded me just the other day that in spite of my shortcomings, God has renewed my heart and saved me from my sins, and therefore I am not bound by my failures or mistakes. As I have been working through this, what Paul wrote to the Roman Christians in Romans 8:1 came to mind:
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Then later in verse 9, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you."

I think I was also afraid (knowing myself), that after hearing so many people tell me how good I am, that I would internalize that and start to dwell on it and see myself as so great, becoming proud and forgetting that it is only through Christ that I am made great. However, I am coming to understand that because of the new heart Christ has placed in me, one that is striving to love others without restraints, I may actually be good. Not because of anything that I have done, but because of what Christ has done in me. Not because I get everything right, but because I am striving to seek out what God has for me, and therefore God has brought me to this place where I am learning and growing so much. Even when I feel like there's no reason someone should refer to me as "good", it's because they aren't looking at me, but somehow they see Christ shining out of the cracks in this broken clay pot known as Greta Renae Ledyard. They see the work God is doing in me, and perhaps they are better at seeing the person I am becoming than I am.

I suppose my tendency towards pessimism and self-criticism leads me to believe the lie that I am not worthy of being called good, even though I am a child of God, and created in the likeness of the One who has redeemed me from my foul-ups. I am learning to see myself as others see me, and possibly how my heavenly Father sees me - as a beautiful, passionate woman who is serving God and others in the best way I know how, using my gifts to bless people and glorify my Father. The more I come to terms with this, the opposite of what I feared would happen is occurring: I am incredibly humbled that people view me that way and I only hope that I can live up to those perceptions. Every day I need to grab onto the truth that God is changing me and molding me in to who He wants me to be, and I need to keep my eyes, ears, and heart open so He can communicate with me during the process. 

So am I a good person? Yes, only through the power of Christ, I am becoming more like Him, which means I am, in fact, good.

It's awesome how God works in the small things, I was listening to Mute Math as I wrote this post, and their song "It's Ok" came on, and the lyrics were just so applicable. So, I think I'll leave you with these words:

Down on my knees, down on my face
You just say it's ok
So many days I've thrown away
You just say it's ok
I don't think I could ever repay
Your perfect grace, but it's ok

Your precious words intoxicate
A heart that aches; it's ok
You don't recall my past mistakes
You just say it's ok
The human mind can't calculate
Your perfect grace, but it's ok