Monday, July 30, 2012

6 Days and Counting...

Good evening friends!

The "wow, we are actually leaving in less than a week" realization has invited itself into our daily thoughts and prayers, thus we are finding ourselves overwhelmed. We've kept busy to ward off any unwelcome thought trains:

last minute friend and family visits
new batman movie
bread baking
old Law and Order SUV and Scrubs episodes
doctors appointments
shopping trips

Great news! Our visas came in on Saturday, this means we will actually be allowed into Japan, what a relief! Tomorrow we get our second and last round of the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, preceding a celebratory trip to Wild River Country (Arkansas' Beach Within Reach!) :)

In addition to our departure, we are also preparing for our last event fundraiser with friends and family. We so look forward to sharing a meal with loved ones.

We ask for your prayers especially at this point in our journey--we feel these next 2 weeks will be some of the hardest as we prepare our bodies, minds, and spirits for the reality of a year away from the only life we've known for 22 years. It is comforting to know that we have your support every step of the way.

We'll leave you with some photos from our past week!

Friends in Christ,

Doug and Jenny

quilting with mom!

sister date!

 raspberry cheesecake (thanks, Kathleen!)

 Doug entered a watermelon eating contest!!

 double honey wheat :)

 mini golf!

 Kim and Doug

 Trolley rides



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Home From Toronto

Our time in Toronto has ended. The last couple days of orientation were used to connect all that we had been learning and prepare it for use in the mission of God. Conversations pulled together what it means to be "called to mission," what our denominations expect of us, and in what way we should begin our encounter with another part of God's sacred creation.

We also took many, many group photos. Yay!

                              The YASCers of 2012-13!

                The entire orientation group who we've been studying with, conversing with, growing with, and learning from for two full weeks! Deepest thanks and blessings to all of you.

Before we left, our Spiritual Director, Sonia, spoke these words to us all in the closing ceremony:
             "You are the people sent to people who have been created by God, to join with them as the light of the world. So, go in peace to love boldly and serve joyfully."

We (Jenny and Doug) would like to express our deepest gratitude to the Canadian Churches' Forum For Global Ministries for all of their hard work with this orientation. The skills we have begun to develop and the ideas we have begun to explore will surely bloom as we carry our light out into the world.

Thanks to all of the YASC officers for finding such a wonderful program for us to be a part of and for coming to Toronto to support us in our learning and preparation.

And our deepest thanks to everyone who has supported us thus far with the funds that made this learning opportunity a possibility. The gifts we have received in Toronto will find their way through us and manifest themselves in our work and presence in Japan. Thank you so very much.

For now, Jenny and I are back home in the lovely heat of an Arkansas summer. Today we are going to worship at St. Peter's Episcopal in Conway, which will be very nice after such a long and distant travel. Looking ahead, we can see that it is only two weeks before we board a plane for an even longer and more distant journey.

Keep us and the other YASCers in your prayers as we all fly off to be present in our many different placements scattered around the globe this year.

Fellow servants in Christ,

Doug and Jenny Knight

Friday, July 20, 2012

Toronto, Chapter 5

Things are beginning to wrap up here at the Canadian Church's Forum on Mission. We have spent a day with the head officers of our YASC program, talking about logistics and what it means to be a missionary, specifically for the Episcopal Church. Petero A.N. Sabune, the partnership officer for placements in Africa, told us that we are answering a very essential  call in what it means to be a Christian: to go! "You cannot be a Christian by yourself," he said, "you have to go!" Go and be with your neighbor, go and talk with a friend, go make a friend, go worship with a community, go out and worship in the community, go to Japan, go to Conway, go to camp, go into the world.

Other than that we've been doing a lot of detail-specific preparation. Days are getting long so coffee is a must!

Yesterday, we hosted a panel discussion on Decolonization, which was very interesting. Later in the day we discussed how mission had been a part of the colonization process. We talked about ways to begin healing this broken past and building a better future. Most importantly, I think, this involves developing a critical mindset: the ability to be aware of the social systems that we are in and how they function, how they empower some people and suppress others.
After a day full of discussion, we were instructed to meet outside our residence hall with nothing in our pockets. Everything we needed would be provided. We were given an address and some subway tokens and told to find our way. We hoped dinner would be waiting. It was simply a small exercise in what it is really like to answer God's call to go. We couldn't see the whole picture we had to trust that everything we needed would be provided for. And of course, it was:

Good eats at an ethiopian restaurant! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Toronto, Chapter 4

Yesterday, we visited the largest, Buddhist temple in Canada, Cham Shan Temple. People were praying all around to many different statues and incarnations of the Buddha. It was very interesting to see how their sacred space was so different from ours yet so similar. A few things I remember seeing: flowers, fruit, water, oil, incense, and candles. Our guide, simply a volunteer at the temple, introduced us to many of the shrines and explained to us the basic tenants of Buddhism. We had to take our shoes off at the temple door and wear slippers around all day. With very little time to spare before our afternoon visit, we headed to Tim Horton's for lunch.

Afterwards, we visited the Islamic Foundation of Toronto. A volunteer there talked us through the basics of the Islamic tradition and we were invited to observe mid-day prayer! This was an especially unique experience for most of us, and we felt very blessed to have had that opportunity! After prayer, we toured the foundation which also serves as a school and cultural center for many muslims in the area.
We were given reading materials from both places and can't wait to read more about these faith traditions!

Today was "denomination day." We only met with the Episcopal missionaries and were able to talk a few more specifics than we have been able to up til now. This was incredibly helpful and reassuring, seeing as communication has only been here and there since our discernment weekend in February. We met Peter Ng, the Partnership Officer for Asia and the Pacific in the Office of Global Partnerships of The Episcopal Church (whew...mouthful!) He will be visiting us at least once if not twice or thrice while we are serving in Japan. 

Tomorrow we are back to the large group with everyone to talk about Health & Safety and Security & Risk Management. Our time here in Toronto is quickly coming to a close, two more days of information, Friday we integrate and debrief, and we fly home Saturday! We'll try to post at least once more before we leave, thanks for reading!

Tired (a little cranky sometimes) but excited,

Doug and Jenny

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Week Ends the Week Begins

Hello friends!

Can't believe our time in Toronto is half-gone! Which means we leave for Japan in exactly 3 weeks! As we mentioned before, we spent Saturday, our day off, at Niagara Falls.

We took a greyhound from Toronto to Niagara (well, eventually...they had to grab a second bus they had overbooked so many of us!) and then walked to the falls (about 2km). The day was filled with sunshine and “rain” :)

Today (Sunday), we split into groups and headed all over Toronto to worship with different Christian communities: San Lorenzo Anglican, St. John's Evangelical Lutheran, Assemblee Nouvelle Alliance, Toronto Chinese United Church, Church of St. Stephen Anglican, and Friendship Community Church. Doug and I went with a few others to Friendship Community Church, a reformed community that is incredibly diverse and welcoming. 

We met people from Jamaica, Nigeria, Ghana, Sri Lanka, and also native Canadians, all who have formed this faith community and consider one another family. They welcomed us with open arms and invited us to their potluck after the service (potluck...reminded us of Arkansas!). The food was, of course, delicious. The experience as a whole was a great way to begin thinking about encountering people in a different place that tell their story in a different way.

Tomorrow we will be hearing even more diverse stories. We are going to be visiting Cham Shan (a Buddhist temple), and the Islamic Foundation of Toronto. We are very excited to begin a practice of stepping outside of our own religious boxes to engage in what we hope will be a two-sided, inter-religious and inter-ideological dialogue.

Fellow servants in Christ,

Doug and Jenny

Friday, July 13, 2012

Toronto: Visual Aids

Here are some pictures to illustrate some of the adventures we've been on thus far. Tomorrow (Saturday), is our day off and we are headed to Niagara Falls with fellow participants! Will of course post on that later!!
Working on stories!

some sites...

Doug's expression of what's he's learned so far


These pianos are everywhere for anyone to play!


Our new friends, Zach and Emily

Music Garden

Band playing by the harbor!

Fellow servants in Christ,

Doug and Jenny

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Toronto, Chapter 3

So yesterday was really a good exercise in the tradition of story telling. After hearing everyone's story our group of people is beginning to see each other in a different light; we are no longer just fellow conference attendees, but we are beginning to see each other as fellow human beings. We realize how allowing the story of all peoples to be heard is a central part of being a humanist. To speak of this spiritually, to listen with the heart to the story of a person or a people allows us to better see everyone as children of God.

Today we began to talk briefly about the history of the idea of mission. We heard from three speakers today who gave us very different perspectives on how "mission" has affected their life.

Rev. Dr. Girma Bekeele, originally from Ethiopia, told us of how he became a Christian through an underground high school Christian fellowship in 1982 during the rule of Ethiopian communism. He shared with us how he has seen that we all have a message to give to each other. There is no proper way for the message to be carried. That is up to the people who hold it. It is up to us to be open and listening.

Rev. Chun Zhang, a humble preacher from China, shared with us his story of immigration to Canada and his conversion to Christianity. He shared with us his view of how "mission" begins within each of us.

Dr. Christina Hee-Yeon Han, a fourth generation Christian, emigrated from Korea as a child. She shared with us the history of how Christianity became an important piece of Korean culture: through a liberating partnership, rather than oppressive conversion.

We will ponder all of these stories as our week continues and we continue to talk about what mission means to us.

Thanks again to everyone who made this incredible learning experience possible for us!

Doug and Jenny

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Toronto, Chapter 2

Good morning everyone!

This morning Jenny and I are staying in to prepare to tell the group our story. Today we will be splitting into three groups and each person will get the chance to tell their story--why they are who they are. This telling AND listening of everyone's stories is a perfect practice to accompany yesterday's session.

Yesterday, we did some improv exercises where we all wrote a story as a group. For example one exercise we all stood in a circle and everyone wrote one word of the story. This made us realize how we write our story as a group and how we have to respect the piece of the story that each person had to tell.

Then we watched a short speech by the Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie. It was about the danger of the single story. The speech emphasized that everyone and everything has many stories. To tell just one story of any people or place is to limit the freedom they have to be who they really are.

Here is a link to the speech if you wish to watch here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Toronto, Chapter 1

Greetings from Toronto, everyone!

We just wanted to quickly notify everyone that we made it to Toronto and we are smack-dab in the middle of it! Our room is on the eighth floor of a residence hall of the Toronto University. Every direction that we look we can see skyscrapers and high-rise apartments, with lots of beautiful old churches and colleges in between. This is a kind of city that these Arkansans have never seen before!

It is good to gather again with our fellow YASCers as we all prepare to take a year-long leap around the world. We are also getting to meet a lot of outgoing missionaries of the Lutheran Church as well. Today was our first full day. We got many intros and runndowns of how this week is going to go. WE are especially excited about a visit to a Buddhist temple here in Toronto. We talked a lot about the experience of learning and multiculturalism. 

More detailed notes and pictures to come. Tonight we are going to sleep early so we can be bright and fresh for a full day of learning tomorrow. 

Also, we started our first lesson of Japanese on our Rosetta Stone. Thanks Patrick!

Until tomorrow,


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

 Along with celebrating the independence of our country, Jenny and I have been earnestly preparing for our orientation in Toronto. We’ll leave on the 8th of July, this Sunday. As part of our preparation for this, we have been reading a pile of articles that the directors of the program asked us to be familiar with. Many of the readings describe difficulty in cross-cultural living. Others explore the changing definition of “mission.”

The term missionary and the theology that surrounds the idea of mission has been changing since the beginning of the Church. Even today, the term mission is broad and used to describe many different ideas. So when Jenny and I tell people that we are going to be missionaries, the term itself doesn’t do very well to convey the exact meaning and substance of our work.

Luckily, these two weeks that we are about to spend in Toronto will be a chance for us to learn about the history of mission, the ideas associated with mission today, and what our place in this term will look like. I’ll share a few of our favorite thoughts we’ve come across so far in our readings below:

“A Journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policies, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
-          John Steinbeck

“If those who are with you always agree with you before you open your mouth, they are not companions but shadows. When disagreement is not a form of systematic blocking, when it rises from a different vision, it can only enrich us.
“It is possible to travel alone, but the good traveler knows that the journey is human life and life needs company. ‘Companion’ means one who eats the same bread.”
-          Camara, Dom Helder. The Desert is Fertile. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. 1974. pg. 15

“The missionaries of the future will promote understanding and appreciation among peoples of different—and sometimes conflicting—religions. The missionaries of the future will be bridges and bridge-builders.”
-          Fr. Dave Warren, Mission Redicovered. Forum Focus Annual. Issue 2007-Number30. p 2. The Canadian Churches Forum.

“Mission belongs to the very being of the church. Proclaiming the word of God and witnessing to the world is essential for every Christian. At the same time, it is necessary to do so according to gospel principles, with full respect and love for all human beings.”
-          “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct,” by the World Council of Churches, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the World Evangelical Alliance

We’ll post a lot more on this subject as we move through our sessions in Toronto this coming week.

Other than reading a lot, we’ve been celebrating the 4th. We traveled to Camden, Arkansas, where we had a big fish fry and red-neck golf game. My family had set up a money tree to collect donations for our mission. Thanks to everyone who pinned up a green leaf for us!

Then we came back and got the first round of our Japanese Encephalitis vaccinations, which didn’t hurt too bad. Then we watched the fireworks at Fourth Fest. Patrick Russell, a friend of ours from college, came over to share his Japanese Rosetta Stone with us. It was good for two downloads so we bought half of it from him! We are super excited to dive into this language, this world of many faiths, and continue building bridges of love and understanding.

Your friends and companions on this journey,

Doug and Jenny Knight