Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Current Location

I noted at the end of my last post that I am currently living in Hawaii with my parents. I did not elucidate or explain what the next “phase of my life” is or how long I expect it to last. So here’s a look at what I’m planning on doing and the reflections that went into it:
I plan on staying here until early January, when I plan to go to Papua New Guinea in order to volunteer/teach/mission for two years through a program called CapCorps that is run by the Capuchin Franciscans. I will teach at a school starting in February (note: southern hemisphere = different academic calendar than us North Americans and others are used to).

The coast in Madang province, close to where I'll be living
This has actually been in the works for quite a while, and if you read this blog and know me in real life too then the chances are you already know about it. There have been so many little steps and hurdles to overcome that I’ve become accustomed to speaking about it in the subjunctive. I guess that’s my way of protecting myself from presuming or being too let down if suddenly one last thing didn’t come through. Right now, though, I’m very close to receiving my work visa that will allow me to stay and teach in the country for multiple years. You can pray that it would come quickly!

I was quickly captivated by the idea of going back to live in PNG. My love for the country and people of Papua New Guinea has of course influenced my desire to go back and live in the country. Since graduating from UISSC in 2006, I’ve visited twice, and I think both of these trips helped me to see PNG with somewhat different eyes. During the (North American) summer of 2008, I travelled around near the area I had lived in order to help show some AIDS awareness videos. The villages were all within a couple hours’ drive of where I had lived, but I hadn’t visited any of them before that summer. I wasn’t completely cloistered in Ukarumpa while I lived there, but that summer I began to realize how little I experienced of an extraordinarily diverse and beautiful country in the few small years that I was there. When I was back in 2010, despite all the other thoughts going around in my head, the thought of coming back to live in PNG kept occurring to me.

But more than a desire to return to PNG, I am embarking on this two-year trip as an expression of a desire that has been smoldering within me for the past several years. While at Brown, especially in my junior and senior years, I spent a fair amount of time reflecting on Christian community. This clearly dovetailed nicely with all the reflection I’ve had to do on the Church over the last couple years. Well before I started consciously thinking through that, though, I knew I felt drawn to intentional Christian communities centered around prayer and service.

For this reason, I’m quite excited about going to PNG. I’ll be in a context where I can pray morning and evening prayer, and attend Mass on a regular, daily basis with other Christians. I know in my heart that my soul benefits greatly both from clearly demarcated time for prayer every day and from a sense of “spiritual solidarity” with those around me.

Kealakekua Bay
Now, though, I’m living in Hawaii with my parents. In some ways this long gap between graduation and the start of the school year in PNG is providential. I had felt conflicted about the idea of living far away from my younger sister for so long. By coming back to the nest for these months, I get to spend more time with her, which is all the more valuable to me because she was only a year old when I moved out of the house to go to college.

I’ve struggled internally questioning how I should understand these months that I’ve been given. Is this a time of preparation, reflection, or recovery? Should my main priority be to work as many hours as possible in order to save some and pay off some student debt? Two months after arriving in Hawaii I still feel I haven’t yet found my ideal balance, but certainly all of the above have played a role. My time with my sister and parents is priceless. It has been good for me to slow down some, and I’ve enjoyed getting to work on my “Books I Need to Read” list.

Above all else, though, I constantly need to remind myself to live in the present, and to pursue holiness and communion with Christ in the here and now. These months are not an empty obstacle to be traversed or overcome. Here in Hawaii I am a pilgrim.