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The calm before the storm…

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
As I’ve been watching the coverage of Hurricane Katrina (my prayers go out to those affected by the storm), I’ve been feeling like I’ve been in that calm before the storm. Last week, I spent my time processing applications and meeting with people for the first half, and then… I looked for office furniture. For two days, my entire job was to look for office furniture. Yesterday I got to drive around the city looking for a microwave since we are one short for our families that we’ll be bringing in. That was a whole lot of fun too…

We started with 10 applications. We’re down to 5. We reopened the application process because we would like to bring in 4 quality applicants. I’ve been trying to call places and get our name out but social service agencies already have so much to do that it is difficult to get anyone on the phone, let alone be able to explain the program and get some referrals. So basically I sit here and wait. A lot. I watch people walk by to and from class at UNM.

The flip side to all of this waiting is what is on the horizon. We are closing on the apartment complex Sept. 9. Then we are moving families in that following Monday. Next week we have interviews, I have my first taste of being out on my own while trying to explain our program to people who might work for us for class credit. I’ll have to go shopping for food items for the families, and all sorts of other things. Next week will prove a bit more crazy than this week, and I’m ready for it. Here is hoping I can survive the storm.

Monday, August 22, 2005
Already the week is busy busy busy.

Applications. I am SO glad we only go through this twice a year. Met with a couple of the families today, one set will definitely come back, the other single mother, I'm just not sure. She is my age, has 4 kids, and is just really apprehensive about stepping out on her own. I don't blame her. Though she doesn't have custody of all of her kids, she's been through a whole lot and is terrified of change. I think we all are. It is funny to me that the message at counterculture this Sat night was about change. How God sees us through change and though bad things happen, God takes those things and completely turns them around. What I wouldn't give to see God just completely change the people that I've met who would like to be in our program. I'm sure I will, but listening to such difficult stories right from the start is tough. It makes me wonder where God was in all of these people's trials. Where was God when a 14 year old ended up pregnant, had to leave home because her mother was an addict and then she ends up down the same path? That right there, that is hard. I know that I just have to trust and believe that God is preparing all of our residents and future residents to be people that they could never have dreamed being. I can only hope that I can be a positive influence, a smiling face, someone who cares. Today one of the client advocates asked the case manager and I why we do this. What is in it for us. It is scary for someone who has never been given anything in his or her life to accept that others want to help. So saying why we do this tends to start to open up the lines of communication. We both said that we do this because we only hope to help people realize their own potential. We have both been so blessed that we want to give back. We want to offer support to those who lack support because we've had support or have been through times where we could have benefitted from it. That is still something that is very very hard to comprehend.

Enough with the deep thoughts, but on to happy ones... we are so very close to having the apartments. All we need now is a closing date. The negotiations have been rough, both sides ended up giving a little, but with any luck we will be moving out of our offices sometime in the next couple of weeks and will be all set up. The apartment complex is 24 units which is great for the short term plan. In the long term... probably 10 years down the road or so, they'll be looking at building a larger complex and expanding. It is SO wonderful to be in on this in the very beginning. It is exciting to move though it will be hard to not see those friendly church office faces anymore. I'm hoping that I'll spend some time over there because of some aspects of my job. I'm sure we'll still drive back for staff meeting but it is going to be a whole new environment with just the 3 of us on staff setting out on our own. I am thankful every day for the ministry that I've been placed at and I hope that things can continue to run fairly smooth through all of this transitioning. Yay for the apartment complex!

Friday, August 19, 2005
On waiting....
Here I am, another Friday, another day to just sort of wait. Applications were due on Wednesday to enter our program. We reviewed them yesterday and made first decisions. One thing I learned yesterday is that this is hard. I am given a short summary of someone's life and hardships thus far, and from that we have to make a decision to interview them or not. I've spent a lot of my time running background checks, making sure that applications are complete, listening to people explain to me why they aren't, etc. It isn't easy to do. And it isn't emotionally easy to go through the applications and see what all comes out of them.All sorts of emotions come through with it, anger, frustration, shock, sympathy, and no matter what, we can only do so much.

We've requested drug tests of the ones that we are choosing to interview and that is turning out to be a problem. See it is hard to have an ID when you've been through terrible and horrible things. Sometimes the police take them away, sometimes you get them stolen or even never had one in the first place. To take a drug test, you need an ID. So we're fighting those battles right now, trying to see our options. And well, there just aren't many. You have to have an address to have an ID. You have to have documents saying you are who you say you are, often they don't have those. So what can a person do to get an ID? Sometimes I get frustrated with the "system". Things that are in place in order to keep us "safe" almost always end up keeping people from getting help. I just think there has got to be a better way, or process for obtaining identification.

Needless to say, there are really good resources in the city for people who find themselves without homes. I'm proud to be part of that network of people, and am excited to continue to find out more about services in the area that may help us out.

Well the day is done for me for now, I've gotten all of the calls I was expecting so I think it is time to run some errands and see if I can find something interesting to do tonight.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

On Progressive Christianity

Let me start off by saying that I hate labels. Let me also say that I consider myself a progressive Christian. It became apparent to me last night that different people have different ideas of what progressive Christianity means. I didn’t mention when I wrote about my experience at counterculture that I felt that it was a tid bit on the conservative side. I guess I described it to some as being “bible-thumpy.” Now don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the Good Book. I just have had experiences with people throwing things in my face or in some of my friend’s faces that has left a really bad aftertaste in my mouth. If there is one thing that I think scripture should not be used for… it is to demonize others. I decided to look at this experience positively and say that God probably placed me into the situation with more scripture than I am used to in order to open my life to more scripture. After all, I know where I stand on things and perhaps I can open some minds to some different points of view.

So back to being progressive… first off, like I mentioned, I do not think that the Bible should be a tool to oppress others. There are so many other horrible ways of oppression out there that the Bible should certainly not be one of them. Jesus was a constant advocate for the oppressed, fighting against the oppressors silently and skillfully. Admitting that I am not perfect is another thing that I think is important to furthering ourselves as Christians. There are so many churches these days that have picture perfect people that seem to make no mistakes. Without being real with one another, we are lying. Without admitting and owning up to our mistakes, we cannot move to being right with God. We are human… we should act like it. The most important piece for me in all of my thoughts about being a Christian and Christianity is social justice. I am constantly in awe of the works and actions of Jesus Christ. My passion has driven me to this position and place in my life, and I regularly meet Christians who attend church on Sunday morning and yet do nothing for anyone else the whole week. Perhaps they even attend a bible study on Wednesday mornings and even tithe…. these things are all important yes. I myself am committed to doing these three things while here and beyond. But I feel that I am nothing unless I am giving back to others. Jesus’ ministry was a ministry of giving. Giving without hesitation, giving without ceasing.

Matthew 25:35-46

35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

The purpose of this post tonight didn’t turn out how I started with it, but I think it is important nonetheless. We are called to care for others. As we move on into this time and place, I see this reality as imperative to the progression of humanity.

Friday, August 12, 2005
Humidity here is 79% right now. Which means the swamp cooler doesn't work.

Swamp cooler you say? What is that? Well for those of you who have never ventured into the great unknown of the southwest, a swamp cooler is the cooling system of choice for those in dry climates. You see, an air conditioner removes moisture from the air in order to cool the house down. Swamp coolers add cool moisture to the air to cool things down. Well when there isn't a whole lot of room for moisture to go into the air... swamp coolers don't work.

It also rained today. Which was hysterical. All of the people in the office were just enthralled by the rain. It is such a big deal that people just quit doing things to watch. Of course it rains for 10 minutes and then is blue sky again, I told them they should all vacation in Illinois from March-May and they would see plenty of rain. The answer... its cold are you kidding me? Bahahaha.

Ah where to start...

Well I guess I should start at Saturday with counterculture. I went to counterculture via bus. Got there just fine. It was a really interesting experience and very different from anything worship-wise that I've experienced. There wasn't a sermon persay, but rather little snips of people talking. The topic was fear, which I was relating to not only because I'm new, but venturing out to meet people is scary. I met some really nice people and then made the attempt to go home. Well I missed the last bus so I decided to walk home. I knew it was a little over a mile, but it was late and I really didn't have another choice. So I walked. I only had one sort of scary experience right as I was close to UNM, this guy who obviously had some sort of mental illness scared some girls in front of me but I kept walking past him. He turned around and started to follow me and yelled again, but he was just pacing so he turned around again. Close to home some guys yelled at me from a car... but those were the only major scary things.

So Monday I really started in on the work. We went and bought some supplies for our residents and I really started down on our service learning application. Last week I went to an orientation to have students from the local technical school/community college come and work with us and so that is one of my projects. Fun fun.

I actually met up with Karin from counterculture for lunch as she wanted to know more about the program I was working for. We had a great long lunch and I'm really excited to be part of that community of faith. It looks like they're looking at changing some things up and whatnot and as everyone I know is aware of, I can't stay away from giving worship advice. ;-)

When I got back to work I had a whole lot of things waiting for me, including an opportunity at having a car for awhile. We worked everything out and I will be borrowing a car from a family in the church basically until it gets too cold for one of them to ride a scooter around. Haha. This is good for me getting my bearings in the city and getting these necessity things taken care of.

I've been working at going around the area and visiting various sites that work like ours and that we can use as resources, which is a daunting task. So far I've only visited a supplemental food pantry but I'll be going somewhere next week for their tour. The end of this week has been busy as our applications are due next Wed and we're without a case manager. He's on vacation. Our families we have now don't require a ton of support at the moment, so that's good.

In other news, I'm dogsitting/catsitting/housesitting for my boss this weekend. A great way to get my dog fix.

Well that's about where I'm at right now. It has been a pretty busy week and I feel that I haven't been home much. Work is going well but we're just in all of the preparation time. We're still waiting on the apts but hopefully that will all go through next week. I'm really trying to jump in and do as much as I can do here, but today is one of those.... don't have much to do just waiting for some people to stop in days. I'll tell you one thing though, the office sure is quiet on Fridays.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

This picture is taken from my front door. That's the church. What a commute to work. Posted by Picasa

Just chillin in my bedroom. The sun on my face is just from my trip to walmart yesterday.  Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 05, 2005
It seems as though 6:30 or so is the new normal wakeup time for me. This is no matter what time I go to bed. Somewhat frustrating. I managed to fall back asleep this morning and stayed asleep until 9:30. Glorious. I wonder if my inability to sleep is related to culture shock. Hrm. Could be.

So anyhow, after figuring out the buses and a shower, I took off for Walmart to get my lock and a bit more in the food dept. I walked down to Lomas which is about a half mile away to see what I could find out about the credit union down there. After talking with them and leaving without an account, I could join a food co-op and be eligible for an account there... but well not so much. Especially when I don't know where the place is nor if I can get there by bus. With my bus schedule in hand, I took off to find a bus stop and wait. I had a little while so I figured I'd walk up Lomas a bit to get some excercise. I stopped walking at a bus stop close to the time that the bus should have arrived and I waited. For 20 minutes. Well that's great. Perhaps it was just a fluke. I got off at Walmart, did what I needed to do and was back outside in time to watch the 12:37 bus go by at 12:50... so I waited for the 1:02 bus... it came at 1:27. No wonder people complain about the buses here. I have studied the maps and you can basically get anywhere in town on the bus, but apparently never on time. Or even within a reasonable amount of time. I decided to not wait for the last bus that i could have caught back south from Lomas and instead just walked. I never saw the bus I would have taken so that was probably a smart decision.

The other thing I learned from the bus system is that people at bus stops talk to you. Now I don't know if this is just a central illinois thing, but I don't really like to talk to people I don't know. I don't really care how excited you are to get out of walmart as it started to get busy, nor do I want to know why you just picked up your subscription of vicodin. I suppose I should be carrying a book around or something and look occupied unless I do want to talk to people. But then people will want to talk to me about the book or something.

So I got home and set to work on the deadbolt. Not as easy as it looked. I could definitely have benefitted from either another hand or putting it in on a door that is not already in use. It makes me feel a lot safer to have it, but I do find myself wanting bars on the windows. There are some on another apt which makes me wonder if those could be put up as well. That would probably be way more than it is worth to me to do so, but it is somewhat tempting.

I went to make one of those Totino's pizzas for dinner as they are 98 cents and easy... but this proved to be not so easy. The oven didn't get hot. I could smell gas. So obviously the pilot light was out. I finally managed to locate the pilot light and got it lit so that I could enjoy my pizza. Things I wish they had in NM... Jack's pizza. Also cheap but much tastier. That and my mexican chicken helpers. I told Christina that they must not sell those because people here probably don't need help making mexican food. She thought that was funny. I think it is gonna be rough because that one box can feed me for 3-4 days. That's like 40 cents a meal. I figured out that I can only spend about 2.30 per meal to stay under budget. That's not easy. I splurged today and bought some lean cuisines that are 2.50... but I have been only eating one meal and fruit because it either doesn't occur to me to eat or I lacked a way to make food.

Well now that I've rambled on about useless things, I suppose I should do something productive. I'm so exhausted though that I may just sit and read Harry Potter.

Thursday, August 04, 2005
Well I'm basically done with work for the week. It looks like I may do a half day tomorrow... just to make sure I'm getting some hours in and whatnot.

Also on the list for tomorrow is opening a bank account as well as finding walmart by the bus system. I need to buy a better security lock for my outside door as the girl who lived here before me stopped by and recommended it to me last night as she had a breakin. I am also looking into renter's insurance and will hopefully order that here shortly.

As far as my job, yesterday I joined the women's bible study on wednesday mornings. It is multi-generational which I think is really cool. My boss goes and invited me so I think I'll be attending that. I even signed up to lead at the end of Sept. and hopefully my job won't hinder me from doing that. I also ran some more errands to get me set up here, and started to look for scholarships that our residents might be able to apply for. I also set up some folders for files. Yay for office tasks for the missionary.

One thing that I am really looking forward to is Saturday night. I managed to finally find an emergent church that I can attend that isn't too far from here. The plus side is that their service is Saturday night as opposed to Sunday morning. The good thing about that is that I can still show up to do my job on Sunday morning. I've made contact with the pastor there and it sounds great. Seems to mostly draw college students, but looks like others too. At least young adults. Hopefully that will allow me to make some friends outside of my work sphere which will definitely be needed.

Well I think I'm gonna quit for the night on here. I'll have plenty to say about my adventures this weekend I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005
So where to start...

I guess I'll start with my trip out here. We left Illinois about 8 am and made it to Oklahoma City around 10 pm where we stopped to stay. My dad got us lost once, managing to get off of the interstate somewhere in Tulsa. It was a long drive, quite boring but I kept myself entertained by reading Harry Potter. I'm at the end of book 4 after starting two weeks ago with 1. Not bad I guess... especially with moving and whatnot.

We arrived in Albuquerque around 3:30 pm on Thursday, I got checked into the hotel, met my boss, checked out the church and ate dinner. Then I was done for the day.

Friday my dad left so I went into the church, tried to figure out stuff to do, but didn't really stay all that long. I instead got a driving tour of the city for the most part followed by a potluck to welcome me. I got to meet the board, and spend some time with them. That was quite the experience but I did get a gift of chocolate out of it and oh man apple snicker salad. That stuff was amazing.

I did realize on Friday that the altitude was getting to me, as well as the time change. And I do sort of miss some green, but currently there are some places that have some green so that's good.

Saturday I had on my own, and the only eventful aspects of that were walking to walmart, buying the new Jason Mraz cd, walking to Sonic for dinner and walking back and falling hardcore right as I got to the hotel, spilling my drink all over me, as well as tearing up my hand. That wasn't cool but oh well, tis but a flesh wound.

Sunday I got introduced to the church, had a mishap where I got left at the church because there was some miscommunication with a volunteer but luckily I got dropped off by the business administrator. The rest of the day was pretty ho hum, there isn't much to do in a hotel but take naps, watch tv and read.

Monday began the crazy moving. I learned about the program for 3 hours in the morning, and am already impressed at what has been done in such a short time. My boss is great, she really knows her stuff and has a lot of experience. I am continually impressed by the people around me. I had an issue with the bank and cashing my check, but it should be taken care of when I make a decision about where to bank which will be soon. Then we moved stuff in. This is where it got interesting. I was unpacking things last night and went to plug in a lamp. Turned the lamp on, it shorted out all of my lights. Well great. Found my circuit box, it didn't do anything. Called emergency maintenance... no answer. Called Christina... like that's gonna help me from Illinois. But she calmed me down from freaking out (best friends tend to do that) and got me to call my boss. So I called her, got the machine, but she picked up right at the end. We had a plan worked out to save my food I had just gotten, but it was crazy. I did learn where my resources are in the neighborhood and got even more this afternoon. It helps to figure out that you have some neighbors that go to the church. Right after I got off the phone, the maintenance guys had called me. I explained what happened and he came over after about a half an hour. After 10 minutes he told me to turn my breakers on and it worked. Yay! But that lamp is no longer anywhere near me.

So I got up this morning.... to have a cold shower. Apparently the gas company thought we wanted to cancel service and not start it. yeah that works for me... no. I went into work and we got that fixed up then it was back to moving some and got back just after staff meeting. Went out to lunch which looks like that will be a normal thing that I need to budget for. Then we went to this training at the local community college to see if we want to have someone come to our site for service learning. That is a program that people can volunteer at our site and earn class credit (ie get out of a big paper) for doing 25 hours of work. I'm hoping that is something we do, and that will be one of the things that I will be in charge of if that happens. Yay for responsibility! :-)

So I need to be thinking about the things that I would like to do at my job as well as a job title so when people outside of the sphere of the church ask what I do it is easy to explain. I'll mainly be doing work trying to involve the community, both the church community and the outer community. Of course I'll do other things as well. I know that right now I need to learn to be mindful of manners, as that is something we attempt to teach, as well as other things that we don't generally think about. I also have to learn to be firm.... yet friendly. I think I'm learning that from my boss though. She's pretty good at it. :-)

So that's where I am right now. I have internet finally, so this will be updated on a very regular basis. It is as much for me and my memories as for others to know what is going on in my life, so here is hoping I stick to it. Pictures coming up in a few!!

ok so this one is dark cause there was too much light but this is my living room from the other direction Posted by Picasa

living room with not matching furniture. that chair is much more of a rust color Posted by Picasa

one view of my kitchen Posted by Picasa

i made my bathroom pretty cute i think Posted by Picasa

check out that lovely headboard. don't mind the boxes.... i'm moving in Posted by Picasa

haha ghetto computer setup Posted by Picasa

bedroom from the hall Posted by Picasa

i thought this was pretty. Posted by Picasa

pretty nonetheless Posted by Picasa

there are only so many things you can see on a 22 hour drive. Posted by Picasa

mountains and clouds. pretty. :-) Posted by Picasa

i think this is the start of desert Posted by Picasa

the beginnings of a mountainous region Posted by Picasa

the drive out... this is somewhere in new mexico Posted by Picasa
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