A New Adventure: Post-Mission’s Team

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Photo taken by the author, Kalamalka Lake, BC

“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfilment.”

– Hilaire Belloc

After my mission’s team had left I was able to have an entire week with Ralph. Time spent with him is always an adventure, and you never know what exciting things will come out of it.

Ralph and I spent a good bulk of that week continuing working on the Guest House, interacting with the locals, and making trips back and forth into Addis.

One of the highlights of this week were the conversations Ralph and I had together.

We would talk about everything and anything that came to us.

It was so cool to see the thoughts that would emerge from our minds and the Spirit’s leading.

I looked forward to them and didn’t want them to come to an end.

As a young man, to hear the words of wisdom, advice, and insights gained from an older man (though he is young and wild at heart), was very valuable to me.

These talks were impactful and memorable for me, and were fitting for where I was at in life.

For me to have this one-on-one time with him, was truly a gift from God.

Each of our talks were times of great excitement, learning, and encouragement to me. God used these discussions in a deep way for me, and for this I am thankful.

When Ralph left to go back to Canada, a team from the United States followed, which I had the privilege of spending another week with.

The team was a group of high school students from Orange County, California.

I didn’t know what to expect at first, as this was a group I had never met before and wasn’t sure how it would all go.

But, by God’s grace, I was able to gel quite well with the team and participate in many cool and awesome volunteer opportunities with them.

The best adventure I had with this team was teaching an I.T. course to the grade 8 and 12 students at the local preparatory school.

Being one who loves to teach and having been trained in computers, this was a great opportunity afforded to me.

It was an adventure because, although I had a curriculum prepared for the students, I did not know how quickly the students would catch on or how much I should teach without overwhelming them.

So I just went for it and towards the end of this teaching opportunity, a group of the U.S. team came and joined me, which was a great help.

This was a really positive experience for me, to be able to hone my teaching skills in a completely different culture and people group.

I really enjoyed hanging out with all of them and was quite sad when it came time for me to leave.

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Adventures in Africa: Ethiopia

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Photo taken by the author

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

– Marcel Proust

Ethiopia took me some time to get adjusted to.

It was the opposite of Rwanda in mostly every way.

As one of our team leader’s, Ralph, said, “Whatever you learned in Rwanda, throw it out the window when you get to Ethiopia.”

And he was right.

Initially, I did not like the country, but over my extended time there I gradually grew to like it, appreciate it, and enjoy the people around me.

In Ethiopia, one main adventure that stood out is going back and forth to the capital city, Addis Ababa, from our project site located in Harbu Chulule.

Our work site was located in a rural countryside and was about a two-hour drive from the city center. For half of the way the road is paved and the other half is just a dirt road, which made for a very bumpy ride.

In the organization’s Toyota Hilux, Ralph and I would make this trek into Addis every so often to use Wifi, as there was no Internet available in the countryside at the time.

I was introduced to an excellent Italian restaurant at The Hilton hotel, which was about a 15 minute walk from The Sheraton hotel. It quickly became my favorite place for eating dinner in the city, as I would routinely eat a full pizza all to myself.

I enjoyed this spot because it was a familiar taste to home, and my idea was to order a Coke (not Pepsi, as The Sheraton hotel must have had this contract), and, as an appy, fill up on bread with butter to start with and then take in the entire pizza, followed by dessert back at The Sheraton hotel.

Coming to the city was a good break from the urban lifestyle, and was something I was familiar to, having been raised in a big city myself, in Calgary, Alberta.

So, naturally I looked forward to these excursions.

Another adventure that comes to mind is how our mission’s team was the first team to stay in the newly built guest house in Harbu Chulule. The green roof had literally just been put on a few weeks before we got there.

When we first arrived, there was nothing to it; just a big, open, rectangular space. There were rooms at opposite ends, complete with empty bed frames. The inside felt like a container, surrounded by cement walls.

A large part of our work would be in helping to set up the interiors into a more liveable condition for future teams when they arrive and stay here. I got to do a lot of painting (rolling and cutting), helped put sheets and pillow cases on the bunk beds in the bedrooms, wash the cutlery we had brought over for the first time, spray down the new couches with a protective coating, to name a few of the things I was involved in.

This was groundbreaking as we were the first team to live in the guest house and were able to contribute in a major way to the development of the house, and the organization as a whole.

Adventures in Africa: Rwanda

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Photo taken by the author

“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.”

– Henry Miller

In the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to Africa, where I went to volunteer with an NGO, HOPEthiopia, through my local church.

I went with a mission’s team for two weeks and stayed for another month after, totalling six weeks in all. Our team stayed one week in Rwanda and one week in Ethiopia, where I spent the rest of my time.

It was a really cool experience being in Africa, on the other side of the world! Many times I caught myself thinking, “I am actually in Africa and walking on African soil!”

Africa had been a dream of mine in the making for the last twelve years.

I had wanted to go with this really amazing couple, Ralph & Glenda, on a mission’s trip since I was in high school. For various reasons, the timing didn’t work out in prior years, but last summer the proverbial door was opened for me to go.

As for my experience, I absolutely loved Rwanda right from the start.

It is known as “the land of a thousand hills and a million smiles.”

How true this is. I think I became a happier person just by being there.

We spent most of our time in Kigali, the capital city, and it was so clean, well-organized and orderly.

The Rwandese people were so welcoming and would often take the initiative to wave a warm hand of greeting.

I can distinctly remember one particular morning, where I was on the patio of my room early in the morning. A few locals walking by waved and smiled to me while I was taking in this beautiful start to the day.

Rwanda has three official languages (Kinyarwanda, English and French), while Ethiopia has 80 languages, with some 200 dialects.

One cool adventure I had in Rwanda was running.

In the seven days I was there, I was able to run three times, all first thing in the morning.

I ran alone, which heightened this running experience, as I was in a country and geography that was entirely new to me and my senses. I felt totally safe and got a lot of eyes staring at me, as I was the only white dude running on the streets; nevertheless, it was a thrill for me.

I found three different routes over the course of my runs, one for each day.

The most adventurous was running on a red-dirt road directly behind the place we were staying. I considered this the countryside, as it was away from the busyness of the city, and a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere, which is what I was searching for.

The road went on for several kilometres, and as the road traversed up and down, left and right, I did not know where it would take me or how much longer it would go on for.

But, on day three, I kept going until I was a full semi-circle of the trail from my hotel and could see it in the distance across the deep valley that laid beneath me. It was a breathtaking view to take in through my optical sense.

I felt free here, through exercising and listening to a set playlist on my iPod (which consisted mostly of “pump-me-up-kind-of-songs”), in a very remote part of the city, of a country, and continent I had not set foot in until days before.

European Adventure

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Photo taken by the author

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

– Susan Sontag

As I mentioned, travelling is one of the areas where I experience a heightened level of adventure.

I have been able to travel to two different continents over the last three years: Europe and Africa.

As it would be, I set foot on both lands for six weeks each and travelled by myself for the majority of the time.

I’ll start with Europe.

I went here after completing six years of post-secondary education, coming out with a Business degree and an Information Technology diploma.

I travelled with a tour group, on my own, and got to see 19 countries in five weeks. I then stayed for a week in London.

The whole trip was an epic adventure for me. I really enjoyed the whirlwind experience in seeing the vast majority of the countries in Western Europe.

I took the most amount of pictures I had ever taken on a single trip to date, totalling more than 7,000, on my Canon PowerShot digital camera.

Here are some of the highlights of this adventurous voyage:

Paris – Just being in this city felt majestic. Climbing to the top level of the Eiffel Tower and see the amazing, panoramic view of the city; exploring the limitless number of art in the long-stretching wings of the glass pyramid at The Louvre, and, of course, our bus driver just going for it in merging across eight lanes of traffic at an uncontrolled, and very hectic, traffic circle at the Arc de Triomphe was an exciting, adrenaline rush, for sure.

Rome – I thoroughly enjoyed touring both the Roman Forums & Colosseum, complete with an amazing tour guide who was extremely passionate about Roman history and made Rome come to life. This was following by eating Europe’s famed gelato ice cream while visiting the Spanish Steps. Other memorable events were tossing a coin into Trevi Fountain, and seeing the main attractions of Vatican City: The Vatican museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel – all of which were breathtaking to the eye.

Greek Islands – We took a break from the tour bus and hopped on a cruise ship around five Greek islands, including: Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, Crete, Patmos, as well as a stop in Kusadasi, Turkey, where I got to see the ancient, Biblical city, Ephesus. My favourite island was Santorini, with its renowned white-washed, blue-domed architecture, set amidst in the Aegean Sea.

London – In one week I got to see more than 25 of the top sites London has to offer, including Big Ben, Churchill Museum, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster bridge, to name a few. I loved exploring this iconic and historic city all by myself, and it was a very thrilling and productive week.

This trip meant a lot to me because my dad had gone to Europe after he completed High School, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I always loved hearing the stories he would tell me about his European travels and I wanted to be able to have similar stories to share with my kids one day.

It was an adventure because this was the first time I had visited a different continent, outside of North America.

It was a very exciting time for me, especially with all the planning and preparation that went in beforehand and then being able to live it and see it – right before my eyes.

The “Go” Song

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Photo taken by the author

“’Doesn’t it seem to you,’ asked Madame Bovary, ‘that the mind moves more freely in the presence of that boundless expanse, that the sight of it elevates the soul and gives rise to thoughts of the infinite and the ideal?’”

– Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

In Matthew 28:19 (ESV), commonly known as the Great Commission, Jesus tells his followers to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

It was the song, “Oceans”, by Hillsong United, where I first felt the call to go on a mission’s trip in the summer of 2014.

From the time I first heard it played at my church, I knew I was to go with the NGO, HOPEthiopia.

These lyrics, in particular, were what stood out to me:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders 

Let me walk upon the waters 

Wherever you would call me 

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander 

And my faith will be made stronger 

In the presence of my Saviour (1)

It struck a chord within me and I thought I would expound on what these words mean to me:

Spirit lead me – It all starts with the Holy Spirit. He is the one that leads us in the calling and purposes that are from God. Being the third member of the Godhead, He was the first one to have tugged my heart to go on this mission’s trip.

Where my trust is without borders – Trust is a very important thing for all of us. It is a sensitive area, too, as we have all experienced our trust being broken by another person(s). But, when you can move to the place where you can trust your Creator with the delicate, fragile pieces of your heart, He will blow your mind with the places He will take you & the people you will meet. You will discover that the One person you can fully and completely trust will indeed show you that your trust (in Him) will be without borders, borderless that is, even amongst the raging ocean waves that seem to engulf you on all sides.

Let me walk upon the waters – The Apostle Peter got to waterski without a boat, and we want to do the same. When you’re out on the water, outside of the boat, your perspective changes. It’s a whole new vantage point as you aren’t thinking about yourself or your comfort. Instead, you are taking a risk with your life – one with your eyes fixed on the One who’s called you to walk on water in the first place.

Wherever you would call me – We all crave to be called to something noble and great. We want to go. To go somewhere big and to do something far greater than who we are, and something much grander than our present conditions, whatever they may be. We instinctively know there’s more. There has to be. And where shall we go? Wherever He would call us. He sets the course, and we follow in the wake. As you’ll discover, more often than not, it will be the very place where you most want to go.

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander – I want to go deeper, much deeper, in my life than where I’m at now, or where I have been in the past (no matter how deep those places were.) Whenever I travel to a new destination or go somewhere for the first time, my first inclination is to explore and to discover my new surroundings – all of it. I want to know what’s there. This is called wandering and it’s like this with God. He will guide you into places, people, and situations you had no idea even existed and you will just wander right into these ultra-cool, life-changing, kairos moments.

And my faith will be made stronger – Faith is a difficult concept, idea, and doctrine for me to grasp and understand, much less to live out. We all know the definition of faith, as the writer of Hebrews pens in the eleventh chapter of the book. I want faith. Genuine faith. Sterling faith. The real kind. Faith that is rock-solid. Stronger than silver. I think this would help me greatly in my day-to-day life and the various encounters I face.

In the presence of my Saviour – This stanza starts with the Holy Spirit and ends with Jesus. This is what it’s all about & who it’s all about. Our life (and anything in it that can be deemed good or worthwhile) starts with God and ends with God.

Notes:

(1) “Hillsong UNITED Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) Lyric Video,” last modified February 22, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw.

Adventure As Life

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Photo taken by the author

“Life is adventure, not predicament.”

– James Broughton

Adventure is what the human heart most desires.

It can come in different ways for different people.

For me, I find adventure in the things that are new for me, first-time experiences – such as travelling, and sports: skiing during the winter months, slalom skiing in the summers, golfing, road biking, and rollerblading.

In his book, “Wild at Heart”, John Eldredge states there are three core desires to a man’s heart: A battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. (1)

I sincerely believe he is both accurate and correct in this assessment of how men are wired.

In this post, I want to focus on that second key desire – the theme of adventure.

As I write this, I am staring out at the Simien Mountains range before my eyes, in the Northern Ethiopian highlands. I am sitting inside a “lodge” as my dinner is being prepared by the cook I hired, and other friendly, local assistance.

A red-headed rooster just walked past the entrance door and its presence cast a darkness covering the room, preventing the daylight in its fullness from entering through the doorway.

I can hear African music being played outside as the locals are jamming to it on the deck out front. And by “jamming”, I mean three or so men huddled around on stumps of wood for seats while listening to the tunes coming from a boombox.

As well, voices of the African language are being exchanged, words that I cannot understand; thus, are to be simply enjoyed as “background noise”, to accompany this section of writing.

Before I left on my first mission’s trip to Africa, which was my first time to Africa, my dad gave me a card which read, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

On the front of the card there is a really cool picture of a surfer, not too different from a guy my age, with adventure oozing out from his pores, staring out into the distant waters of the ocean, with an indescribable and radiant sunrise in the foreground.

I loved this card and it touched my heart deeply, mainly for the invitation that was awaiting to do something very fun and adventurous.

I wanted to go surfing right then and there.

It was an invitation to be adventurous.

Notes:

(1) John Eldredge, Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 9.

What Is It About Those Movie’s? – Part 2 of 2

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Photo taken by the author

“When a movie character is really working, we become that character. That’s what the movies offer: Escapism into lives other than our own.”

– Roger Ebert

One movie that has been very inspirational and moving to me is “Seabiscuit”.

It’s really the story of two soul’s: a jockey and a horse.

It’s a dual storyline outlining their coming-of-age, and discovering who they really are – who they were born to be.

And like anyone of us, it’s a timeless story that takes time for their real self to emerge: a journey undertaken through thick perils, deep inner darkness, which the characters must go through in order for them to come forth in full radiance.

Both Red (the jockey) and Seabiscuit (the horse) have been given a gift that very few other people recognize.

They don’t even recognize it for what it is themselves.

For most of their lives they have been at the brunt and cruel end of other people’s bullying, negligence, and abuse.

The line in the movie that really stood out for me, the first time and every time since, is: “You don’t throw a whole life away just ‘cause he’s banged up a little.” (1)

For me, this is the theme of the movie.

It’s what the whole show is trying to convey to its viewers.

This line was mentioned in reference to Seabiscuit, the horse that no one could see any potential in, and certainly not invest any worthwhile time in.

Let’s, for a moment, remember who Seabiscuit started out as.

He was a horse that for all of his life had been trained to lose.

Sure, he got to race with the other horses, but for the sole intent of losing so the other horses could feel and taste what true victory is really like.

During training and practice trials, other horsemen would use Seabiscuit and put him up against their own horses, so the other horses would win and get used to the feeling of winning – all the while, with Seabiscuit losing, every time.

Imagine yourself being told: “You are a loser. All you do well is lose.”

Pretty defeating, I’d say.

Think about what this would do to the heart of this horse.

What would it do to your heart if you were Seabiscuit?

And then there’s Red, an only child, who was abandoned by his parents as a young boy, due to the Great Depression of the Stock Market Crash of ’29. His parents, like countless others, lost everything, and couldn’t even afford to keep their child.

He had grown up without the love and presence of his natural parents and was sent to fill these deep longings from the things the world had to offer.

But it was all temporal; none of it lasted or stood the test of time. They were all but a shadow of the real thing.

Before he saw his parents for the last time, his father said to his son, “You have a gift. You have a gift.” (2)

That gift was riding horses well and being able to uniquely relate to them.

And then these two seemingly misfits, as judged by society at that time, are matched together – as horse and jockey.

And they fit together perfectly, like a right-hand and a left-hand glove.

This is because they both understand each other’s lives and all the pain the other has gone through.

Sure, this is a human and a horse we’re talking about here, but are not all feelings, especially of the deeper kind, perceivable?

The story goes on to showing this pair becoming a champion, and winning several horse races they enter, including the big ones.

Notes:

(1) Seabiscuit, DVD, directed by Gary Ross, (2003; USA: Universal Pictures & DreamWorks Pictures, 2003).

(2) Seabiscuit.