Silk Road Seoul (3)

            Somewhere along the way I was informed that there would be two weeks of training at the end of October. “Cool, last two weeks of October, no sweat. I still have time.”

October 1st – I found out that I was expected to be at the Institute in Seoul on the 16th which meant I would have to leave on the 14th or 15th, due to time zone changes and whatnot, almost a week before the “last two weeks of October” that I expected…”Jesus take the wheel!”

October 2nd I was told “they” were still deciding whether they would have me join for the October or December term.

October 10th – I was a little frazzled and challenged God, “You told me to go and I’m going but you have to get me there.” I had just figured out the apostille process and sent my documents off. Without the apostille, I could not get my visa and the instructions said not to get a plane ticket until I had it. I asked if I could switch to the December term because I was still waiting for documents and at that point felt rushed and unprepared. I had not even started packing.

October 11th – My contact basically said, “we’re ready and waiting so just come.” No apostille, no visa, no ticket and just come? Sounds legit.

October 13th – I was running around like crazy.

 

October 14th – It was 1:15 am, I was spent. I was packing, unpacking, repacking and about to get frustrated so I prayed and took a break. I told my mom, “it looks like I have to get a ticket and just go tomorrow. I am unprepared but I just have to go and that is that. If God said go, He will have my back.” I figured I would check my email once more before buying a ticket and this was the message I read,

            Hi Kelli,

            I’m awfully sorry about this but one of our schools cancelled their request for a new teacher so I’ll have to move you to the next upcoming term [for] which the arrival date is set to December 16. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you.

            All I could do was praise God! I got that message the day before I was supposed to leave. My mom said that sometimes God just wants to know we are willing. Of course He knows but maybe He was making plain to me my own level of commitment and I am grateful. I could barely have imagined myself being that open and obedient. That is the type of thing I would read about and say, “wow, that’s amazing” and yet there I was taking that leap of faith. Better still, at 6:28 pm that evening I received an email that my apostilled documents had been shipped and were on their way to me. Amen! Little did I realize that Satan had been attacking the whole time and the small battles were going to escalate exponentially. It was about to get “real”.

Silk Road Seoul (2)

            I was calm, cool, and collected. This time I stepped out of God’s way. When I did that I realized that I was moving too fast and in my excitement to tackle something new, I had not thought things though. The teaching job in China would require me to work on my Sabbath, not much religious freedom in a communist country you see. It was the same for teaching jobs in Japan, except for the communism angle. Once in a while there would be an activity or sports day scheduled on the Sabbath and I just cannot compromise even if it is just once and in my experience having compromised before, it is rarely just once. It was a blessing in disguise and because I leaned on God and not my own warped understanding (Prov 3:5-6), I could discern things that I would not have if I had reacted in my usual manner. Was so happy. I felt like I was finally doing something right and being rewarded spiritually for heeding God.

            First, I started filling out the forms. Then I started working on Passport to Mission, an online course of sorts that lets the decision makers see where your head is or how you would possibly cope in a new environment. The online session had already started for those who desired to begin their missions in October and about half of my time was already gone but I pushed through and finished with little time to spare, maybe minutes before the deadline. Next I started on the identification related things; fingerprinting, FBI background check, photos, etc. Things were moving right along but time was winding up.

            September the 16th my contact at the main branch of the SDA Language institute in Seoul asked if I wanted to start in October or December. Well, things were still going fairly smoothly so I said, “October”, which was the plan since my timing for the August session was off. “Yeah, I can do this,” was my sentiment at the time. Then I hit a snag; the mysterious and oft dreaded apostille/notarization process. Getting my degree notarized and apostilled was a trial in itself and has its own blackened file in my memory. Some people I asked treated these separate processes as if they were the same, I had conflicting information, and in general no one even knew what an apostille was nor had they hard of it. I even went back to my Alma matter and they gave me the run around too.

Best Sabbath Ever!

          Now that I have had some time to settle down I must absolutely tell everyone about my beautiful Sabbath day! Friday, I was sick again (3rd time in 2 months!) and feeling pretty miserable. My hair was out of control, I had not studied my lesson and I had a video to edit for the next day so I was up late dealing with all of that. I was debating whether or not to go to church; I did not want to make anyone else sick yet it would not sit right with me that I could get up and go to work but not get up for church. Also, I was already obligated to take photos for the event happening that day. Last time I dragged myself to church when I was sick, I was a miserable, snotty, whiney mess and I really should have stayed home.

          When I rolled out of bed Sabbath morning, I was so congested and could not even breathe out of my nose but other than that I felt fine. There was no way I could shirk my duties or miss the wonderful things in store. “What are these wonderful things of which you speak?” Well, let me tell you, my mom was teaching our Sabbath school class (an awesome study of discipleship and spiritual leadership http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/14a/less11m.html) and our guests for the day included about half of the Deliverance Mass Choir from Andrews University and Pastor Timothy Nixon who delivered the sermon.

          If you know me, you also know I am not one who likes crowds but I was so excited that so many people came out to support the program. I sent all the visitors to my mom’s class (because it’s the best of course!) and they even participated in the discussion. A guest, a lovely, young sister named Claudia, made an unforgettable point about discipleship. She said that we think of Jesus as a “what” instead of a “who” and when we think of Him as a “what”, something that we do not have, we think we cannot do. Wow! My mind was blown. Jesus is not a “thing” to be acquired in order for us to be successful disciples; He is our Savior and friend who walks beside us via the Holy Spirit.

           After an amazing class, I was pumped. I went downstairs to help prepare for the meal after service but I got wrapped up speaking to someone I was not any help at all regarding meal preparation (lol, for the best since I was all germy) but I got to make a suggestion that will hopefully help the person I was talking to move forward in his ministry.

          Heading back upstairs, I stopped to cut up with my mom and the other greeters at the door. We laughed and welcomed people in with cheerful spirits. We went inside to hear Pastor Nixon and I am so glad I did. The man was on fire! He talked about Elijah and how cocky he was like when he said he was the only prophet of God left yet in previous chapters it says that Obadiah hid 100 of God’s prophets in a cave and how Moses had to cover his face because it was too bright for the Israelites to stand after he had been in God’s presence but even as his “glow” faded he kept the covering on because he wanted them to think he still had it going on.

          We ate after service and the guest were so gracious. Then it was time for the concert. Oh did I not mention that before? THE Deliverance Mass Choir all the way from Berrien Springs, MI. came during their spring break to minister to us through song in full concert! I played ninja photographer for the day and was darting all over the place but I had to stop and praise. When Pastor Franklin said hearing them was life changing, I believed him but my God, my God, I have never experienced anything like this and I will NEVER forget it.

          It is Monday and I am still floating on a high. Such power, talent and emotion; it was absolutely undeniable that God was in Berea. People from the community came, alumni from Andrews and other pastors from the ministerium joined us as well. It was truly a spiritual experience, I literally feel like I got baptized all over again. It was the best total Sabbath experience I have ever had. Now I just pray that everyone will treasure the experience and it will make a difference in how we interact with God and each other. I want to have this feeling forever but that is idealistic so instead, whenever I feel down in the future, I can cling to this experience and God will turn things around! Believe it!

A Prayer(6)

           I am a shy person, so when I am asked to something that requires me to stand before a group of people I usually decline. Of course, I want to do my best for God so I am making an effort and saying, “yes” more often. One thing that I enjoy doing is praying. All I have to do is step to the mic and say, “Good morning church, please bow your heads and close your eyes” (or some variation thereof) and spill my guts to God. Everyone’s eyes are closed, no one is looking at me and my knees stop knocking together (as much).

            I was asked to do opening prayer then teacher’s prayer the next week and I would like to share them with you.

            Holy Spirit, come and fill this place. Embrace and comfort us as we gather together in the house of the Lord. Spring brings revitalization, renewal and new life. The vegetation is being restored after winter, which reminds us of how you were resurrected in a hardened, cold world, we rejoice in the new life that you bring and worship your name in the spirit of holiness. Please be with those that are on their way as well as those who cannot make it. May we continue to be led in the path of righteousness with earnest and loving hearts, *Bless the teachers as they are the vessels that contain your word. Be with them as they pour knowledge into us so that we may overflow with you spirit. In your holy name we pray, amen.

            Merciful Heavenly Father, we humbly come into your presence with a spirit of praise. Thank you for bringing us through another week to see another blessed Sabbath day. You are the Great Teacher but you have impressed our Sabbath School teachers to instruct us in your word. Please be with them as they lead us. Let the words you speak through them take root in our hearts and may the Holy Spirit water us with your blessings so that our relationship with you will flourish. In your name we pray, amen.

            In an effort to become more involved in my church, I went to the Sabbath School Council meeting and Sister Nance made a comment about how the youth run from prayer and do not participate. I agreed and reflected on my own actions. Even though I usually pray when I am asked, sometimes I am not so eager. It is not that I do not want to talk to God or am embarrassed but I tend to revert to a “go-to” prayer of sorts and repeat myself when I am put on the spot (I like to write them out beforehand).

          When Brother Noakes asked me to pray again, I said “no”. I had done it the past few weeks (not that it meant anything). Then I remembered what Sister Nance said about running from prayer and I vowed right then and there that I would not say “no” anymore if anyone asked me to pray. So I changed my mind and said “yes!” I truly believe that God spoke to me through Sister Nance to bring my attention to something I could not see before.

           This time I prayed: Loving Heavenly Father, we come to you with a grateful spirit, thankful that we can see another Sabbath day. It is chilly outside but please send your Holy Spirit to warm our hearts so that we may be receptive to what you have in store for us. Be with as we fellowship and worship today in the spirit of holiness. Amen.

I Don’t Have to…

         A while ago my mom told me about a conversation she had with a coworker. If I remember correctly, it was a Friday and the coworker was going on about all the things she had to do after work and on Saturday. My mom told her that she did not have to do any of that stuff and that she just had to rest and relax. Naturally, the coworker curiously asked “why?” to which my mom responded by explaining what the sabbath was (witnessing opportunity). I do not know what became of that conversation but at the very least, the coworker learned something new. What a simple yet profound point!

            I must admit that prior to hearing that, I always thought of what I could not, should not, or did not do on the sabbath rather than what I did not have to do. Even when I realized there were so many things I could do, not once did I think of what I did not have to do but once I did, it only served to strengthen my affection for the sabbath. The only things I have to do on my Sabbath are rest and spend time with God. We all need a break from the riffraff of the week and what a great way to spend it. I don’t have to work, cook, clean, wash clothes, go shopping, do homework, study, go to school, get gas, wash my car, balance my checkbook, do my taxes, respond to emails I would rather ignore, sit in front of my computer all day or deal with (or even talk about) anything that doesn’t positively involve God. Ahh, this is the life!

Keeping it Holy

The fourth commandment says “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Seeing that this commandment takes up four verses (Exodus 20:8-11), it must be pretty important. Of course we should spend time with God every day, but the sabbath is special. It is a day of recuperation and rest from all the STUFF we have to deal with during the week (like a 24 hr. live pause). Since it is supposed to be different from the other days of the week, it is only appropriate that we do not do the same things on the Sabbath that we do every day.

To illustrate this point, I will tell you about a scenario I often see on TV. It is always a Sunday and not just any Sunday but a football Sunday (NFL, American football not soccer). A pastor (priest, minister or what have you) is preaching to an increasingly antsy congregation, some of whom look longingly toward the parking lot or at their watches in anticipation of the big game. Next thing you know, the congregation has thinned out and some, desperate to catch the kickoff are huddled around someone’s trunk trying to catch a glimpse on a portable TV (I guess it is smart phones now) and the pastor cuts the sermon short saying “go Steelers, Amen” (or something like that…I am biased).

These instances annoyed me to the point that I made a collective memory of them. I mean seriously? God asks us for one specific day out of seven and we cannot even give him that? (priorities, priorities) Yet, if something unfortunate happens, we call on Him expecting an immediate response right?

Another thing that concerns me is how people who seriously honor Sunday as the sabbath use calendars that show that Sunday is the first day of the week, not the seventh. I cannot condemn anyone because it is not my place to do so nor do I want to but I do question the logic. It is very difficult to keep the sabbath but one of the things that attracted me to Adventism was the fact that we keep the seventh day of the week (Saturday) holy. It is also fascinating how the word “Saturday” in other languages uses the word “sabbath” as a root (Sabato=Italian; Sabbat=German; Sabado=Spanish; Sabet=Arabic) which makes me even more inclined to believe Saturday is the sabbath that God was referring to in Exodus 20:8 (rather sunset Friday to sunset Saturday).

As I said before, keeping the sabbath is difficult (especially when Friday nights and Saturdays are used for most events or social activities) but it helps to have a filter for what is appropriate. When considering what activities I participate in on my sabbath, I ask myself the following questions: Would I do this in God’s presence? Will this bring me closer to God? Will this make God happy? Will this put me in a Godly state of mind? and Will I cause someone else to sin?. The first one usually stops me (usually meaning more often than not…90%). I put the last question in there because often when I say I cannot do something because it is my Sabbath, people will offer to do it for me. Well, if I think something is sinful, inappropriate or wrong to do on my Sabbath or otherwise and I have someone else do it for me, then I have encouraged someone else to do wrong on my behalf (even if they do not think it is wrong themselves). So in addition to making it easier to determine what is Sabbath appropriate, these questions aid me in determining what is appropriate for a Christian in general, even if I do not follow through all of the time.

Usually I am in church for a large portion of my Sabbath but now that I am in another city (and punked out about going to an unfamiliar church) I like to take walks. I get to enjoy God’s creations, exercise and learn how to navigate all at once (3 birds, 1 stone…booyah). I would also like to do more community service when it gets warmer. After I study my lesson, I even have plenty of time for artistic things I enjoy like painting, taking photos and writing poetry or blog entries.

There is a lot to consider and be wary of when it comes to keeping the Sabbath holy but I feel so complete when I do not break my Sabbath and spend it entirely with God. Even though it can be difficult with my secular desires and all, I could never think of my Sabbath as a waste. God thinks we are worth his time, is not he worth ours?