Thank The Lord for friends that send me gentle reminders to update my blog. When will I learn? Alright, BELGIUM! I’ve been just outside Brussels for my last bit of training before heading to Tokyo. My mornings were filled with classes that hit a variety of topics: culture preferences, culture shock, evangelism, justice and mercy ministries, conflict management, language learning through the PILAT program, prayer, personality types, and emotional intelligence. Yowsa! For all those wondering, I’m an ENTP. So, in the Harry Potter and Star Wars worlds, that makes me Sirius Black and R2D2. Sweet!
When I wasn’t in class, I was out in Brussels, working with the Evangelical Armenian church, doing ethnographies (observing and analyzing the surrounding neighborhoods/cultures for extended periods of time), and interviewing people from the area. When I wasn’t doing that, I was in community with my fellow trainees. It was like living in a hostel for a month with 20 other adults and 9 energetic kids under the age of 13. I shared a tiny room with two other single ladies which enabled us to practice conflict management and emotional vulnerability. I watched a lot of pixar movies with the kids and at the end of the day, a lot of the adults and I would head out to our new favorite pub, the Bru House, for a Belgian brew with the pub owner, Allan. He’s one of the most genuine Irishman I’ve ever met and a recent born again Christian. There were some rough patches while we all lived together but I miss it dearly now. True community is beautiful. If you want a good read on the subject, I highly recommend Life Together by the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written while Bonhoeffer taught at an underground seminary in Germany before being arrested and executed by the Gestapo. It’s so convicting and encouraging at the same time.
The PILAT program focuses on listening before speaking, building up comprehension and thus improving accents. It’s sort of like when you learned your first language. You listened for 2+ years, understanding loads before you babbled a few words. My group learned the methodology with the help of an Indonesian woman. Apparently, of the other language being learned, Lingala from the Congo, Flemish, and Spanish, my group had it the hardest. However, I loved it and I was amazed how much I could understand after a couple of hours! I was having so much fun that I think I overdosed because my brain was SHOT at the end of the day. I forget how exhausting language learning can be.
On the weekends, I would do a bit of traveling. I spent 24 hours in Amsterdam and another 24 hours in Luxembourg City. I spent Sundays at the Armenian church, which will always hold a dear place in my heart. It is a rare thing to be so loved by strangers. At one point, an older woman took my face in her hands, kissed me and just beamed with joy as she smiled at me. There were no words, just love.
Last thought. I’ve been traveling a lot this year. I’ve been all over the world and the states and it’s been wonderful. Traveling has always had this romantic place in my heart but I’ve come to learn the value of roots, of home. As a traveler, I’ve only spectated and never dwelled. I struggle with missing people and fill the voids of friends and family with new friends and experiences so that I won’t feel lonely. But humanity was meant to DWELL in community. Why are we so quick to sever the roots that anchor us to life?