Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Storey: Shannon's Christmas Address

Christmas Storey: Shannon's Christmas Address

“And so this is Christmas and what have we done, another year over and a new one just begun.”

I figure if the queen makes a Christmas address why shouldn't I, the peasant. My Christmas address is much the same as my current parents house. I digress. One year ago I found myself in shorts in sunny South Africa for a little Christmas hiatus from the rigmarole of life in Zambia. I was 10 months into a fairly challenging year on the mission field in Lusaka, Zambia. Two months later I returned home where my senses were bombarded with the comforts of, friends, and food! A week after I set foot in Canada the youth pastor at Bakerview resigned. Two weeks after that I was sitting bewildered at my new desk as the “Interim Youth Director” now in charge of running two weekly youth programs. With head still spinning from what the last year had brought this new endeavor was a frightening challenge before me to say the least. But by the grace of God I've somehow made it to today. I sure do love the students I work with a whole lot. If it weren't for them I don't know why anyone in their right mind would do this job!! The future is uncharted. The timeline of this job is still as ambiguous as it's ever been. And as for what comes next it is about as certain as the weather forecast. Boy, these update letters were sure easier to do when I did one every week.

As for Christmas I suppose I will address it. After all this is a “Christmas Address.” I'm not a huge fan of the holidays. I love Jesus and the whole revelation of Emmanuel- God with us...but all the hoopla of the holiday season seem to make a lot of people stressed, weary, and sad. But my favourite part of the whole shebang is going to church on Christmas eve. I remember as a kid the anticipation of knowing what the next day would bring, sitting in a candle lit service in a taffeta dress and tights that I probably begrudgingly let my mom dress me in, singing Christmas songs, staring at the trees, and then getting a goody bag when it was all said and done. This year I, along with my good friends Chrissy and Margie, had spent the last five months planning and preparing for our Christmas eve service. Now that I work at a church I have to admit I'm not all that thrilled about church services anymore because it is usually correlated with work and stress, but this one was different. We had this whole service entitled “Awakening to Emmanuel.” Like I alluded to before, the idea of Emmanuel captivates me. We had this whole story of a woman's spirit awakening to the presence of Christ over a series of events interspersed with songs sung by the three of us and a youth choir with kazoos and festive sweaters. So Christmas eve finally arrived. And so did about a foot of snow. And just like that it was all cancelled. I guess for some reason this was all in God's plan. That's what I cling to anyway. That He knows what's going on and it's all under control. Heart broken I set my aggression to the snow shovel shovelling the street for about three hours.

When we were little mom used to take us skating and swimming on Christmas eve to try and tucker us out so that we would fall asleep that night. But always skating THEN swimming. Never the other way around. That's an ear infection waiting to happen. But now that we are older I shovel for hours and the Storey ladies three trudge through the snow by foot to the nearest Starbucks, where I forgot to get a decaf which then pretty much nullified all the activity of the day.

When people ask what Christmas is like in our family I often respond, “Well, it's just the four of us so it's pretty much like every other day of the year except we have better food and not as much is on TV.” And there you have it.
Here are some Storey Christmas Traditions:
- a shrimp ring on Christmas eve!
- the TV yule long
- presents on Christmas morning
- reminding my Dad of the Christmas he broke my new awesome Playdough press where you could squeeze out playdough into really cool shapes. I've never that one go.
- taking Christmas sweater pictures with Dana
- eating turkey dinner...followed by “well, if that's Christmas dinner I guess we've had it!”
- watching the Barenaked Ladies Christmas special on TV: “Barenaked for the Holidays”...the best!
- we don't light advent candles at the dinner table anymore because I play with them and mom gets mad...we haven't had any for many years.
- every year after the CBC news they list at a rapid rate everyone involved in the production of the news and every year Dana and I try and read all the names aloud as they torpedo by.

I hope your Christmas is filled with good times and all the things that it's meant to be about. May you know that God is with us this Christmas and in the year to come. And I'm not just saying that cause I'm a “pastor”! I mean that in a most sincere and un-cliche way.


ps. if you have any thoughts on what I should be doing in a couple months when my time is up at Bakerview please tell me!!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Afrikan Adventure: 525 600 Minutes

Five-hundred twenty-five thousand six-hundred minutes. There is a little musical ditty that speaks of the minutes of 365 days and begs the question, ‘how do you measure a year?’ And so as I sit here in these insomniac, jetlagged moments I ask the same question. I’ve been back in Abbotsford a week now and still can’t seem to wrap my head around all that has happened in the last year.

The past year was really nothing that I expected it to be. It was a trying year filled with frustration, confusion, heartbreak, pain, growth, joy, and love. But what would I have ever learned if everything had gone smoothly and expectedly, am I right!? I think back to some of my most content and unexplainably joy and peace filled times of walking down dusty roads, the sun shining down, greeting neighbours as they walked past and sitting in the homes of my friends, listening to their stories and laughing together. Or hanging out with the youth at Chisomo drop-in centre, being dragged by the hand by two 10 year old street kids up the stairs of the waterslides at our Christmas party and seeing them just be kids again. Or experiencing the unexplainable way of how music and singing together has the uncanny ability to transcend all cultural boundaries. Or traipsing around the bush with kids looking for snakes and scorpions (even though I’m terrified of them) skipping rocks and shooting slingshots where there is no need to speak a common language, and the way there is nothing more beautiful than the smiles of these children. It’s not raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but these are a few of my favourite things! And so maybe nothing I did there was a thriving success by my expectations or this worlds standards, but maybe that was the point. I didn’t change Zambia. Zambia changed me. Jesus changed me. And so as the aforementioned song suggest to measure a year in seasons of love, in that case this year was a success in a more powerful way than could have been imagined.

But now I find myself back home trying to adjust back to life here. Many tell me this is the most difficult part, much harder than adjusting to life in the new culture. Right now it has just been so good to reconnect with so many people I love and have missed over the past year. It feels like some kind of time warp because it appears many of your children have turned into giants in just one year. I don’t understand how a human being can add that much height in such a short time. Must be something in the chicken! But there is a part of me that doesn’t want to let go of Zambia and the people I love there. I’m afraid of forgetting. Forgetting their faces, forgetting their pain, forgetting their courage and strength, and forgetting the way it all changed me.

I’ve heard it said that you leave your heart in Africa; it gets in your blood. And as I shared in front of the whole church this morning, it probably is not only in my blood but in my intestinal track from all the things I ingested there! (Don’t worry I have taken precautionary de-worming medicine as we do every 6 months!). Boy, it seems I just have a way with words and eloquent public speaking.

So now I’m stuck with the question: what now? My answer: I don’t know. I would love to go back some day for a longer period but as to when that would be I don’t know. And what am I doing in the here and now? I don’t know! I guess I need to find a job of some sort. Feelin’ a little lost! But what’s new.

And so I guess this is the last letter of this Afrikan Adventure. I thank you all again for all your love and support this year. It has meant so much to me it is really quite indescribable. I would love to get together sometime and hear what you have been up to and share more about Zambia! Keep in touch. God bless you. Signing off.

Love shannon

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16

Monday, January 28, 2008

Afrikan Adventure: The 12 Days of Zambia

And so it has come to pass that time has held to its steady rhythm and I find myself with but twelve days left in this country. There were certainly times when it felt like I would never see this day (that made it sound like I live some kind of glorified Indiana Jones type lifestyle, don’t be fooled…although I do ride the minibuses on a consistent basis). This time feels somewhat surreal as I get ready to depart and reflect on the year gone by. There are a lot of things (people mostly) that I don’t want to have to leave behind here but at the same time am jubilant about seeing those I left behind a year ago. I leave Zambia on February 5th and will spend five days in London visiting a friend and then return to Vancouver on the evening of February 10th!

It is pouring here. I guess they don’t call it “Rainy Season” for nothing. Although this year there seems to be an excess of rain which is causing much problem. There has been a lot of flooding, houses are being destroyed, and roads are taking quite a licking. The orphan home that we work with is on the brink of flooding as right now the water is clear up to the doorstep. With all the water comes the increased risk of disease quickly spreading within the compounds (the poorest areas).

I had a good trip down south to Sinazongwe to spend time with friends who run a medical ministry down there, the highlight being Susan pulling a bug out of a child’s ear. I did not witness it but I trust her testimony of the event to be factual.

I am currently honoured to have my friend Anna Maria Enfield visiting me. She was part of the team I first came to Zambia with four years ago and has been in Uganda for the past two weeks and now here! There is also a team from California here so it’s a busy time but good. Today I took them to Chisomo Drop-In Centre, whom I’ve been working with, to show them around there. We had a fun time with the kids as usual. Each time I am with them I get sadder about having to say goodbye to them. It’s awful!

So I am attempting to wrap things up here and begin saying goodbyes. What strange things our hearts do to us. This year has been nothing that I expected it to be and many a time I have wondered what I was doing here and why God brought me here. It has held confusion, frustration and discouragement like I have never really known before but at the same time God has revealed Himself and worked in my life in ways that couldn’t have happened without this time. I’m at a loss with what to do with all that this past year was and has meant but I suppose it’s time to start processing it!

And so much like that beloved festive song “The 12 Days of Christmas” I have revised it for “The 12 Days of Zambia”…and yet I still have no true love to give me a partridge in a pear tree…or even a monkey in a mango tree. But then again, who gives away wild animals in fruit trees. That’s weird. I’ll leave you with that thought.

Love shannon

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” ~James 1:2-3

“… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” ~Romans 5:3-6

Monday, January 7, 2008

Afrikan Adventure: Auld Lang Syne

Well, it looks like it’s another year over and a new one just begun. I trust we have all made lofty and unattainable resolutions for this year of 2008. I personally have resolved to swim across the Atlantic using only the butterfly stroke for the entire voyage. Moving on…my time in South Africa was grand. It was great to be able to spend Christmas with the Armes/Hilty family and see some of the beautiful country. South Africa is like a whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew! I arrived back in Lusaka on New Years Day after ringing in the New Year by going to bed at 11:55pm…I got up 20 minutes later to finish packing.

I arrived back in Lusaka to a climate that seems all too familiar. It has been raining like crazy here, in an unseasonably heavy fashion in fact. It seems that it is preparing me to arrive back in BC. So with the new year brings the task of beginning to wrap up here in Zambia. On Thursday night I had an “All-nighter” with Chisomo drop-in centre as somewhat of a farewell. Many of the youth will be going back to boarding school this coming week and since I will be leaving soon as well we decided to have one final shebang all together. The kids prepared songs, skits, and testimonies which were awesome. We had a nice meal of chicken and rice and then had popcorn and watched movies all night. It was a good time but a saddening realization of all the goodbyes that are looming.

This coming week I am headed down to Sinazongwe, which is in the southern part of Zambia, to visit Susan and Stephanie, former team mates who now work as a nurse and midwife down there.

And so I leave you with my new motto for 2008, but first how I came upon it. While in South Africa I stayed about 6km from my friends so they lent me a bicycle so I could get around and cycle to and from their house. I was pretty excited about all of this until I realized that the route to their house was almost entirely uphill. To top it off Port Elizabeth is a seaside city and for some reason the winds seemed to have it out for me. Every time I made the uphill trek it seemed like I would be cycling into gale force winds. You know its trouble when you have to pedal to go down hill. So on my final cycle, December 31st, I was reflecting on the year gone by and thinking that this was a good depiction of what the past year has felt like at times. So if 2007 was “an uphill cycle into the wind,” then my new motto for 2008 is: “It’s all downhill from here!” I don’t know, call me an optimist!

Looking back on auld lang syne (times gone by) I can begin to see glimpses of how God has been at work in my life and those around me and that is just the tip of the iceberg as I try and begin to process this year gone by. I hope you had a happy and festive Christmas season. I thank you again for all your support and encouragement over this past year. I am so grateful and can’t even begin to tell you. Well, I guess that’s a lie because it seems I just attempted to. Anyway, take care and I look forward to seeing you soon!



“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” ~Titus 3:4-5a