Sunday, October 09, 2011
The Chronicles of Salamanca; Sore Joints and Subtle Victories
So, I'm in Salamanca, Spain. I've found myself five thousand miles away from anything familiar, with a well-intentioned, if not ill-advised, desire to make friends and communicate love with the people I meet. Giving myself over to a semester of service in a foreign country was a decision whose consequences I was only partially prepared for. Visiting foreign countries, working in short term missions, vacationing, etc., are one thing. Settling down and living life for a (somewhat) extended period of time is an entirely different monster, as I'm realizing. I have to adapt to the schedule, I have to get used to the food, I have to really speak the language, I have to establish a routine and make coffee dates and pick a favorite soccer team. This time abroad has taken on a new face, a new sense of being. And, it's unlike any I've experienced before. I've lived in Colorado, in California, in Georgia. I've had to make a life for myself, to "get plugged into the social pipeline." It's hard. It's really, really hard. The amount of effort and courage that it takes to insert yourself into a brand new society is tremendous. Doing that in a country that you're familiar with is difficult enough. Doing it on an entirely different continent is an entirely different thing altogether. But, here I am, in the trenches of not only student ministry, but of attempting to establish a lifestyle and sense of identity in a town that has no conscious need of me. It's hard. But, God has been extremely faithful in his care of me. Today, I played soccer with about 25 European university students from all over the continent. I've been trying like mad to find some type of pick-up soccer to be a part of, because it is there that community is accelerated among strangers: on the sports field. And, thankfully, I finally found a group of guys that play together regularly. It was awesome. I was the lone American on the "pitch," doing my best to not embarrass myself or America. I think I kept up pretty well. But, more importantly, I met Kristian from Germany and Ivan from Lyon and Oliver from Brugge. In order to be effective at relational ministry, you have to have relationships. That's a process that takes a lot of time. And it should, I think. It's not one that I would want to be instant, given the depth that I want to reach as a minister with these students. But, Lord willing, today I started that journey with some new folks. The list of people that I've begun to get to know is a long one. And, as the sun sets on another day in Salamanca, I am acutely aware of God's great love for me and for the hands that are carrying me through the subtle difficulties of loneliness, unfamiliarity, and inability to communicate. He's got me and I feel it out here.
I would like to write about the culture that I'm existing inside of, as well as the details of my weekly schedule. But, that must wait until next time, as the dinner hour is upon us, and you faithful readers are growing tired of reading this blog post. So, until next time. Thank you for your prayers. Send mail. Go Cards.