October 9, 2014

India... and China!

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” says Yogi Berra, and that pretty much sums up my life journey at the moment. Choices about future direction are looming. I've never been in this place before, can't go back, and must move forward. But first, let me tell you about India…

I had an amazing month of July in Bangalore teaching hermeneutics at the South Asian Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) – completely reinvigorated my sense of call to cross-cultural theological education. It felt so good to be back in the classroom, back in a multi-cultural setting, back in this ministry. The students were great, and my croquet team even managed to eke out second place in the annual tournament! (Scroll down for photos.) This was my final assignment with SIM before my SIM membership ended on July 31st. So grateful for this opportunity to finish well, and for the many of you who have given so generously to SIM through the years.

But one fork in the road ahead is whether I’ll be able to continue in theological education or will need to move into other areas of service. As a divorced person, cultural realities in Africa mean that previous opportunities may not remain open to me. I’m grieving over that. But I’ve asked the Lord to show me where new open doors might be. The surprise answer – at least in the short run – is: teaching English in China! In 2012 I started an MA in Teaching English for Academic Purposes (the higher ed specialization within ESL) with the idea of helping our PhD students in Kenya. It seems God knew some things about this that I didn’t, because (1) tutoring English in Charlottesville is helping me get by financially this year, and (2) there are huge opportunities for someone like me to be involved in teaching English overseas.

I feel led to explore this further, so I’ve applied and been accepted to spend six weeks next summer (23 Jun-2 Aug 2015) teaching in China with English Language Institute/China (ELIC, elic.org), a non-profit organization that sends Christians to teach in Asia for short- and long-term programs. I’m excited for this ‘vision trip’, asking whether God might be leading me to Asia for the longer term. More details to come in the next update!

Another fork in the road is my future denominational affiliation. Unhappy with the direction the Presbyterian Church (USA) has moved, in September I attended the Mid-Atlantic Presbytery meeting of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC). I felt warmly welcomed – in spite of the fact that there aren’t yet any ordained women pastors in our region. (Do I really want to be the first?!) In November I’m planning to attend a similar presbytery meeting of the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO). Meanwhile I’m doing some supply preaching at a lovely small Presbyterian (USA) church nearby, so at this point I still feel quite ‘Presby-menical’(!). Some of you Presbyterians out there may be on similar journeys. Any advice from further up the trail?

And, I have one last project to finish in Kenya, so I’m leaving next week to spend October 15-30 in Nairobi and western Kenya leading an accreditation team for the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA), reprising my former role as ACTEA Accreditation Officer.

Then back to Charlottesville, VA, to continue my ‘year of recovery’ before next summer’s vision trip to China. While I'm here I teach a bit of English, preach & speak occasionally, and volunteer with Chinese international students at the University of Virginia. In November I’ll go to Colorado for a re-entry workshop for Christian workers returning from overseas. In the spring I’ll teach a course for Fuller Seminary, mostly online. Day by day, step by step, I’m trusting God to make the way forward clearer.

Thank you so much for the words of encouragement I’ve received from many of you, for the gifts of your friendship, and some thoughtful and creative financial help. At a difficult point on the path, I feel the blessings of God through you.

A few scenes from SAIACS

A fantastic group of MA students in my hermeneutics class at the South Asian Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS)

In class on a Monday morning. I have no idea why I was flailing my arms around here.

These people take their croquet very seriously. But I'm proud to announce our team came from dead last to take second place in the tournament!

A privilege to help these lovely South Asian women of God find their voices in theological education

Beautiful SAIACS