Sunday, November 22, 2009

Heading North!

Well ... the bag is packed, I'm ready to go ... and no ... I am not going to sing any more of THAT song!

Tomorrow I hop a flight west to Beijing and then back East and North. The northern version of the country I currently reside in.
Tuesday is the day we go in, tomorrow we spend the night in Beijing, picking up Visas for the trip North.

For those of you wishing to know a little more about what I am doing, read on.

Our school works in partnership with the Eugene Bell Foundation. Eugene Bell support TB care centres throughout the North. TB is rampant up there and Eugene Bell do an awesome job partnering with the locals to provide medical supplies and assistance where needed and requested. You can read an excellent article about them here.

For the past nine years, I have served on our fundraising committee. We have an intense 6 week period where staff and students pull out all the stops to raise funds to buy a 6 month resupply kit for our care centre. The past 5 or so years, we have been able to resupply the clinic for a year which has been fantastic. Our kids have fun while saving lives. Things we did in the past year were a cooking school, an arthouse coffee house with live music and poetry, craft bazaars, hot chocolate sales, collecting coins and competing against other classes to get the most weight, soak the teacher campaigns, sales of shammograms (candy and personalised messages on St Patrick's day), an entire school fair put on by the different classes, talent shows ... you name it, our kids do it!

People often wonder how we know that the supplies are getting to where they need to go. Eugene Bell take a visiting team in twice a year and check the supplies and the clinics to see all is going well. I will be on one of those visiting delegations. Actually, I am going to be the official photographer for this visiting delegation and it will probably be some of the most challenging photography of my life! It's dark ... many things are not allowed to be photographed ... i am stepping out of my comfort zone and shooting up close with people ... :) The photos will be used by Eugene Bell with their fundraising and sponsors around the world so I really want to do a good job.

I will be gone two weeks and back on Dec 8th. Please pray for me and the team while I am gone ... Here are the things I would love prayer for ... (will be out of touch with the world for the next two weeks).

1. Health - I will be in and out of TB clinics with very sick patients, please pray for our protection. In addition, if I get sick, i would not be able to visit the sick patients and it is really important i get the pics.

2. Visas. Please pray that all our visas come through fine on Monday 23rd (or 22nd for my Nth American friends).

3. Camera Gear. Please pray on TUESDAY (24th) that all my camera gear gets in okay. We are a little concerned about one of the lenses. Pray that we have no difficulties or malfunctioning equipment.

4. Photography. Pray that I capture "moments". The pictures I am looking to catch are those fleeting moments where faces light up with hope and joy as patients get their meds. Those are the pics I want to bring back and show people.

5. Safety. Pray for our safety as we travel around.

6. Light. please pray that I would shine and be a light in some dark places.

7. Generally ... for me, I think this is going to be a hard trip, yet, I am fully confident that this is a God trip. Pray that I am close with him this trip.

I will post in two and a half weeks. Until then ...


Friday, November 20, 2009

Spring Is Coming

Hi All ...

It's been a long, long time but I am back! A lot has been happening in every which way in my life.

Stunning album out by Steven Curtis Chapman ... Beauty Will Rise. if you have not gotten it ... you need to do it. It is written in the aftermath of his 5 year old daughter's (Maria) death last year. It is the most raw, honest, hope-filled album I have heard in a long long time. Beauty Will Rise. Here is Steven talking about this album.

A song that is speaking to me a lot right now is

Spring Is Coming ...

We planted the seed
while the tears of our grief soaked the ground
The sky lost its sun
And the world lost its green to lifeless brown
Now the chill in the wind has turned the earth hard as stone
And silent seed lies beneath ice and snow
And my heart's heavy now
But I am not letting go
Of this hope I have
That tells me

Spring is coming
Spring is coming
All we have been hoping and longing for
Soon will appear
Spring is coming
Spring is coming
It won't be long now
It's just about here

Here the birds start to sing
Feel the life in the breeze
watch the ice melt away
The kids are coming out to play
Feel the sun on your skin
Growing strong and warm again
Watch the ground
Something is moving
Something is breaking through
New Life is breaking through

Spring is coming (Out of these ashes, beauty will rise)
Spring is coming (Sorrow will be turned to joy)
All we’ve been hoping and longing for (All we’ve hoped for)
Soon will appear (soon will appear)
Spring is coming (Out of the darkness beauty will shine)
Spring is coming (All of earth and heaven rejoice)
It won’t be long now (Spring is coming soon)
It’s just about here (Spring is coming soon)

This song reminds me of the Oscar Wilde Story "The Selfish Giant". If you have not read this, you can read it here. My favorite line in the story is this:
He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.

How incredibly hope-filled. When we are going through our dark times ... the winters of our soul, we need to know that there is a Spring. Spring always comes. In the chill of the winter ... when all is barren and brown, it comes. It has to ... it's a natural law. It is also a spiritual one. And when it does ... it is sudden, swift and beautiful.

For the past few years, I have been unwell. In January - March 2008, I was in a very dark place. I was sick, exhausted and struggling. It was winter ... it was dark. I was at the end of myself and desperately needing to connect with God. I went to Cambodia and asked many of you to pray for me that it would be a place of encounter with God. I went, and it was an amazing time. One of the things that God spoke to my heart at the time was a word "Spring Is Coming".

So I went to Cambodia, heard from him, came home with hope and joy that Spring was coming. And then, things got worse and I got sicker. The rest of the year was like this, until I went home and had to have emergency surgery in August. Then, at Christmas, I had to have a hysterectomy. Spring is coming Sarah. What ... how can that be? I am staring in the face of the loss of my fertility and the possibility of "fruitfulness". I am a barren women and you tell me, "spring is coming"? What?

And this my friends, is where God is so incredible, he is the God of paradoxes. In the midst of huge loss ... of winter, new life is unfurling. We don't see it immediately, but we have the hope that under the ground, things are happening ... as Steven sings, new life is breaking through. It will. It does ... it has to. It's a spiritual and natural law. After every winter, there is Spring. The flowers are resting, new life is developing and Spring is coming.

In April this year, I was waiting for Spring (Northern hemisphere here ...). I blogged about the cherry tree outside my kitchen window. Basically, throughout winter, it had stood empty and seemingly lifeless and barren. Then it started to bud, and the buds stayed a long time. There seemed to be no action. Nothing. I watched the buds and one day, coming home from work, I looked up and at the top of the tree, 2 sprays had opened. Just two. I smiled to my self and thought "spring is coming". Seasons change quickly when they change. I arrived home from work the next day, and BOOM! The whole tree had exploded into blossom and was stunning. New life ... fruitfulness ... beauty ... stunning. This is how God works. In our winters ... we hope for ... we long for ... we cry out for Spring. It's hard ... it's dark ... but have hope. Spring is coming.

For me ... the tree has suddenly exploded into blossom. Spring is here. God told me it was just before Cambodia ... and now ...18 months on ... BOOM! Spring is here. A lot is happening, so in summary:
My health is just great ... tumor still there, on meds, but things seem pretty stable. Darling Ruby is doing really REALLY well. She is still on chemo but December the 31st will mark the end of her treatment. It has been a long road, but she is a little miracle really.

I have been granted a sabbatical next year. This means that I have a year away from Korea on half pay to study. I am working on a Masters in Counselling and it's online so I can do it anywhere. I can have 5 months in New Zealand reconnecting with my family and beloved country ... and I get 3 months in Sorrento, Italy, just my favorite place to be! My friends have a summer house there and have made it available to me in the fall.

My neighbour to the North of where I live. On Monday I will be going for two weeks as our school rep on the Eugene Bell Foundation, to visit TB care centres. Watch this space tomorrow and I will update you. Many many things going on with this and its exciting.

Spring is here and I see it. I have longed for it ... hoped for it and it is here. For me, it has been 9 years of winter, and I just sense new life that God is doing, breathing and working. I am keen to see where it goes.

For those of you who are still feeling the barrenness of winter, I will close out with Steven's Words. He says it so much better than me (and even better ... sings it ... get it!)

Spring is coming (Out of these ashes, beauty will rise)
Spring is coming (Sorrow will be turned to joy)
All we’ve been hoping and longing for (All we’ve hoped for)
Soon will appear (soon will appear)
Spring is coming (Out of the darkness beauty will shine)
Spring is coming (All of earth and heaven rejoice)
It won’t be long now (Spring is coming soon)
It’s just about here (Spring is coming soon)

PS. If you are wondering what this picture has to do with Spring ... it's a fig ... figs speak of fruitfulness ... 2nd ... when it seems to be winter and nothing much is happening on the surface, all the action is going on underneath ... just like in this picture! And 3rd. It just happens to be the most favorite picture of all I have shot this year. :)