Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Ketchup on my hot dog*
While I catch up on my blog
To fill this screen
I need lycopene
Or a quick trip to Prague.

Yeah, the last line was a stretch for the sake of rhyme scheme. I'm open to suggestions. I was actually considering: "Or maybe just a nap," but that wouldn't scan AND would drive my parents crazy. We're in heads down, all-productive mode here at the Edison-Swift-Albright house: tomorrow I preach at the Thursday evening contemporary service, and then at the Sunday morning services at St. Luke's. Sean and my parents will also serve at these services in various roles: lectors, communion assistants and ushers. After the services Sunday morning we'll be hosting a rather large number of family and friends back at the condo: it is exciting, wonderful and there are preparations to be made. But first! A quick ketchup on the past month.
From the ELCA-specific orientation at the Lutheran Center we went to Hyde Park and the Ecumenical Orientation, joining missionaries and staff from the Presbyterian Church USA and the Reformed Church of America. Many in our group got a nasty cold, which we dubbed "missionella" or "missionaires' disease." Sean got it and it eventually made its way to me--luckily there was a sweet spot for noodle soup nearby.
After going to see The Dark Knight at a theater near Navy Pier, a group of us took the el home. It was pretty late at night and all was subdued on the red line heading south--until a women screamed, clearly distressed. The anxiety in the car rose as she screamed again--and just as suddenly all broke into laughter and relief as someone reported to the packed train: "It's a moth!" It was a huge moth, and, still laughing (and screaming a little,) we all spent the space before the next stop dodging and swinging at it. The moth made its way to the door and was liberated by a CTA employee as he exited, smiling and shaking his head.

It could have been a real emergency; it wasn't and I was grateful. Both for the safety the woman and all of us on the el, and for the chance to laugh together with friends and strangers.
At closing worship for the Ecumenical Orientation, Rachel (who will have a communications position in Cambodia) reflected on this ee cummings poem:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Rachel said that orientation was helping her to realize that this poem applies not only to the people we love and will leave behind in the US, but also to the people we will meet and walk together with as we journey. We will carry them in our heart; they will carry us in theirs. It was one of the most touching, meaningful moments of orientation. Healing, too, for hearts like ours that might feel heavy with carrying--healing like the leaves of "a tree called life."
From the University of Chicago and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in Hyde Park we went north by limo (!) to Kenosha and Carthage College, site of the Summer Missionary Conference. There we enjoyed swimming in Lake Michigan (brrrrr!), challenging the young women of the volleyball camp to a beach volleyball game (winner: the mosquitoes), playing pool and the occasional polka.
Sean and I were particularly lucky in that my supervisors, David and Carla, and Josh (who is returning to the US after being the associate pastor in Bratislava), where all also at the conference. We're also particularly lucky to be going where we're going, learning from such great people! But more on that throughout the year. =)

We were blessed and commissioned as missionaries--while I have to admit to some orientation fatigue, there was a sense that everything we'd learned, experienced and reflected on had led up to that moment. And even with a month of preparation, that moment was a little overwhelming for me: such a blessing, such a gift, such a responsibility and a privilege! After closing worship we were quickly herded onto a bus to back to Chicago, where most got on planes to begin final preparations for their departure. Sean and six others stayed in Kenosha for 18 hours of intensive training and certification for teaching English as a Second Language. After a month of serious bonding, it was hard to see our friends scatter. It is good to know we'll be seeing many of the other Horizon interns in November, and this Internet thing is nice, too.

There's so much more I want to write about, but I can't justify another moment away from sermon-prep. I'll just have to work on my blogging discipline. And my poem writing. =) We didn't take very many pictures during orientation (we have to get in the habit of taking photos when there aren't any nieces or nephews involved!) but the ones we got are nice, and you can view them here.

*For the sake of realism, I actually did eat a hot dog with ketchup as I composed the poem. Delicious!

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