Thursday, March 17, 2011

Finding My Place

This past year has been hard in so many ways for me. Over New Years, someone asked me what the hardest part of the past year was, and to be honest I didn’t know what to say at first.
Studying abroad was something that I had always planned on doing. In fact, Calvin’s high numbers of students who travel abroad is what finalized my decision to come here. As my Senior year approached, I knew it was now or ever. With the encouragement and support of family and I friends I applied and was accepted to the Hungary Semester! This is what I had wanted, this is the reason I came to Calvin (or so I thought). The next six months I spent learning more about Eastern Europe and dreaming about all the places I would see.

Last August, I packed up my bags, said good-bye to my family, my fiancé and my friends and boarded the plane to Budapest. What was next, I really had no clue. As the plane landed in Budapest, the excitement grew as me and other Calvin students looked excitedly out the plane windows at the city that would be our home for the next four months.

Budapest, for those of who have not been there, is lovely. We spent the first week exploring the city and all its main spots and registering for our classes and such. We balanced home-sickness with excitement for the things our new home had to offer. This was not so bad until I spoke with my family.

I will never forget sitting at my computer reading the news. Could this really be happening? Someone very close to me fell ill and I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t be there for four months. The thought of this seemed impossible. So I had a tough decision to make, do I leave this great opportunity or do I wait in see what happens?

And with that I was once again boarding a plane. Only this time, I was alone and even more unsure. Was I making the right choice? Why is this happening? This doesn’t seem fair, I always wanted to study abroad and just when I get here life is calling me back to the US. The plane ride back to Grand Rapids is long and feels even longer when your head is full of doubt, sadness, relief, frustration, anger and just plain uncertainness.

The hardest part of last year wasn’t leaving Budapest. Or dealing with the changes in my family. Or adjusting to being at Calvin when I wasn’t supposed to be here. Yes, these things were all hard. But the hardest part was to remember to choose joy. My life felt pretty broken. Things didn’t go according to my plan. But through the hard times, I had to remember that God brought me back here for a reason and that I had to keep living my life.

And to be honest, God brought me so much Joy that semester. I fell in Love, for the first time in my four years at Calvin, with the city of Grand Rapids. I have found out that I am staying in Grand Rapids for the next four years and I could not be happier. I have realized that God brought me to Calvin not to send me on an adventure, but to discover Grand Rapids and all it has to offer.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Continuous Beginnings

It may seem like I am "cheating" the system by using an old blog post, but I have thought back to it multiple times in the past couple of weeks and am amazed at God's ability to teach and re-teach through past experiences and thoughts.

I always want to say something profound or reach some kind of revelation when I sit down to write [a blog]. Why is that? Why do any of us have the desire to say profound things or to do profound things? To be people who change the world and "make their mark." Can we not be more happy if we simply humble ourselves and stay quiet? Won't God teach us more through this than through constant meaningless chatter? And if we ever reach that point where we are no longer intentionally trying to say profound things or be profound people, this is when God will shine through us most and speak truth into our lives. Isn't it ironic how that works? We need to be willing to give it up in order to recieve and obtain what we desire. And of course that very lesson is portrayed through the verses of Matthew 10:38-39:

"and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

It is easy to look at those words and ignore the truth in them. But once you take a deep look into yourself and what you are striving for, their relevance speaks clearly.

Over the past few days I've been thinking about this concept and wondering what my ultimate goal is. What am I striving to be? More importantly, who am I striving to be? The person God made you to be is not too far from the reality. The question is are you going forward and actively trying to be that person and make it reality? Are you trying to bring the eternal to the mortal and live out God's kingdom on earth, like Jesus did?

Are you bringing joy, peace, happiness, positive energy, patience, kindness, and wisdom to the table? Or are you bringing the opposite?

I know for sure that I am messing up and making plenty of mistakes along the way, but the important thing is that with every day I am trying. I want nothing more than to bear and bring the fruits of the spirit to those around me. And although it is messy and not always the most fun and again, mistakes are gives life the value that it deserves and makes it worth the struggle. 

"It is not that we are perfect now or that we will never have to struggle. Or that the old person won't come back from time to time. It's that this new life involves a constant, conscious decision to keeping dying to the old so that we can live in the new."
                                                                                         -Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis

So you've messed up. Ask God's forgiveness, apologize and make amends with those you need to, forgive yourself, and then pick yourself up and move on. Move foreward and put the past to rest. Continue to strive to be the you that God intended you to be and bring the best he has blessed you with. God is doing a new thing now."

Our lives consist of continuous beginnings. We are constantly starting new phases and making new discoveries. We are forced to find a balance of old and new. We make mistakes and start over. We experience the vibrancy and beauty of life right alongside the death and darkness. We must die, to truly live. What a mystery.

Spring is on the horizon. Praise the Lord for another new beginning.

-Melanie Roorda

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Turning Love into Action: Sowing Seeds and Reaping Justice.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the Faith and International Development Conference on Calvin’s campus. The theme this year is "Turning Love into Action: Sowing Seeds and Reaping Justice" based on Christ's mandate to "love not with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18). Keynote speakers included Carlos Hernandez (Association for a More Just Society), Nicholas Wolterstorff (former Calvin philosopher, also professor at Yale), Dirk Booy (World Vision), and Michelle Tolentino (Compassion International). Representatives came from organizations such as Mennonite Central Committee, International Justice Mission, and CRWRC, to name a few. Lectures and breakout sessions ranged from human rights to charity, from justice to holistic development. I was inspired by courageous individuals who persevere in the face of struggles against violence, corruption, and injustice.

For me, the conference reinforced ideas that first smacked me in the face last year, at exactly this time. I was in the bustling city of Tegucigalpa, listening to enticing beats of Regueton, eating baleadas* and pupusas, speaking slang with my host family, learning about a different way and pace of living life. This was the first time I took a development class; a starting block on a journey of understanding what it means to be an agent of reconciliation, a catalyst for change, and a faithful presence in a community. My ideas of what it meant to engage with another were shattered and rebuilt.

Thinking about International Development has caused me to re-examine local development at Calvin and in Grand Rapids. I think the Service-Learning Center is a place where the core of good development is addressed. Service-Learning is a powerful means of fostering civic engagement and a healthy pride in one’s neighborhood and community. There is space for service no matter where we are in the cycle for understanding Service-Learning, from naïve to charity, to reciprocal and generative (Educating for Citizenship, By Carn McTighe Musil).

In reflecting on last year and attempting to be present in this year, it seems to me that it was easier for me to engage in a culture that was far different from my own. It was easier to find the strengths and be patient with areas for improvement in Honduras. Taking a step back seemed simpler as it was not a permanent space for me. When I think about North American culture, it is easy for me to be critical of a fast pace, consumerist, efficiency-driven society. Service-Learning (among other things) gives me a moment to take a step closer to my community, and simultaneously a step back to ask deeper questions about how we got to where we are.
I learned so much going abroad and was reminded of that through the conference. But I really think most of the learning has been in returning, especially experiencing Grand Rapids in a new and deeper ways through Service-Learning. There is great importance in acknowledging where we are in a cycle of learning, always on the lookout for the next opportunity to gain head and heart wisdom.

*Fresh handmade flour tortilla with beans, eggs, and mantequilla crema (sour cream) in the middle=yummy!

Posted by Liesje