Friday, August 06, 2004

Oriented in New Jersey

The window is open, allowing a cool breeze into the tiny room, equipped with nothing more than a single bed and a desk. My laptop is plugged in; my books are in place. The clock reads 10:34 pm, but it feels like the middle of the night.

Leah has the tiny room next to me, but she’s not ready for bed yet. In fact, she’s out in the living room of this four-room suite, watching TV with our new missionary friends, Jeffrey and Millie Frese.

These rooms will be our home for the next sixteen days, while we experience Standard Support Missionary Training by the United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries.

We are staying at Centenary College, located in Hackettstown, New Jersey, which is, incidentally, the home of Mars/M&M’s.

The day has been a long slow whirlwind of trudging through airports, waiting for vans, and unpacking clothes that need to be re-ironed. I could use more sleep than I got last night.

After dinner tonight, we had a chance to meet our fellow participants. Nine of us are standard missionaries, meaning that we are headed overseas. Another eight young adults are US2’s – meaning that they have just graduated from college and are serving somewhere in the US for the next two years. They are an encouraging group of kids – energetic, tough, and passionate about social justice.

Our training coordinators are Mark and Kathleen Masters. Tonight, they oriented us to the living arrangements, and ran through our entire itinerary. They admit that two weeks is not long enough to train and prepare people to become missionaries in foreign countries. This is a process that used to take several months; now it’s called “orientation.” And that’s about all it will be.

As Mark put it, the goal of this process is to pass on “survival skills to help us get through our first missionary term.” Thus, we can expect to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of living and serving in a different culture, rather than on the theological implications of mission work.

The next two weeks is itself a kind of mini-exercise in cross-cultural work and handling transitions; Leah and I have to adapt to a different kind of accommodation, with a group of strangers. This is a dry run on what we’ll handle on a much larger scale later this month.

I plan to blog regularly; the room comes equipped with wireless internet access. And the sweet smells of rural New Jersey that waft through my window only encourage me to sit here at the keyboard longer.

I’ll save it for tomorrow, though.

For now ... good night, Rachel, Chloe, and Mallory.