Southerners Living in the North
Layne and I have lived in Calgary for about a month now. We are slowly adjusting to the different culture, new rhythms, new speed and the cold, which by the way is VERY COLD! We got unpacked fairly quickly but there’s still a few pictures I want to hang before I show pictures. We’ve been a little too busy to get the last few details done. But you know that I am a decorator and can’t live in a white box or I’ll go insane, so it is on the to do list just not a top priority. It’s funny how little things can drive you insane when you move to a different country, the biggest annoyance I’ve had is the grocery store. Everything is a different brand and in a different place than where I would think it is and some of our food staples are not as available or affordable like I prefer. Like biscuits in a can - I had to dig for it but I did find three cans, so I bought them all! I only needed one but it was like finding water in the desert for a southerner living in the north. So adjusting is just taking a bit longer than I thought it would, but we are getting there slowly but surely.
So the staff at Multiply has been amazing. This past month I have been in training mode, learning the ropes with how things work at a church plant as opposed to an established church that meets in an established building. It takes the team two and a half hours to set up the few theatre rooms to be ready for worship time, then we have an hour of worship and an hour to tear it down. Poor little Thaddeus is not used to a long morning like this. So far I have been meeting with the previous children’s director to learn the curriculum that we use for the kids, and learning how to set up the class room. He and I have met almost every Friday to prep the lesson and now he is able to hand off the baton and I can FINALLY start teaching again. I miss teaching kids because it had been months since I was in a classroom rather than speaking at churches to raise the funds to get up here. The other thing I had to learn is the “virtual office” as we so lovingly call it. We use this program (Elvanto) to manage and keep track of the people who attend our church and how we can schedule volunteers. Now the last step to all this training is getting to know the congregation so that I can get volunteers into the children’s ministry.
This has definitely been like drinking from a firehose. Working in a church plant in a big city is way more formal than a small rural church. One big thing that I have to adjust to is staff meetings. So in my past experience, I have gone to maybe four staff meetings in the four years that I have worked for a church and it was young, female me in a room with a bunch of older men and I just listened to what they had decided to do and did what they told me to do, which I was perfectly content with and almost preferred it that way. But here I am included in the conversation and my opinion is wanted; my introvert self is not used to that. So I am quickly learning that my expectation of coming here and doing exactly what I was doing at Millersville is not enough! I will have to be honest with you, missionaries like myself are not super humans. Well at least I am not, Pastor Chris might be but I am definitely not. God has been working on me for sure. In my first staff meeting Chris told us that we need to start clocking hours, mainly just a formality in case we ever get audited. But I can see the other’s hours when I log my own. I see everyone else is able to get close to 40 hours into their week, while I am struggling to fit in 20. So, my first reaction was disappointment in myself because I felt that I wasn’t doing enough. But then anger crept in along with my excuses; I am a mom, plus I have to do Apartment life, poshmark, AND keep the house in order, it’s not fair! Then regret and homesickness came up so much so that I felt literally sick. But right now I am sitting in a tiny loft with this amazing view, I see God’s awesomeness. Ya know, I thought through this whole process that God sent me up here for the Canadians, but I think God sent me here for myself and the effect I might have on the Canadians would just be an added bonus. If I were to stay in Millersville I would have kept doing the same ol same ol and not drawn any closer to Him. This new schedule is overwhelming for sure but it is challenging me to rely on God and draw closer to Him and His people. It will also push me to live a healthier lifestyle. It was a slight smack in the face, come to Jesus moment up in that loft, but I’m grateful for it.
Quick explanation of what I am doing in this loft though. So Chris brought the whole team out to a retreat called Kingsfold. “The origins of King's Fold go back to the seventies, when the concept of "making a retreat" was new to multitudes of believers outside the Catholic tradition. A small group of Christians from various churches gently and prayerfully carried the dream of a non-institutional centre of hospitality with a family-like atmosphere that would be a place of rest, renewal and spiritual nurture for God's people.” (Quoted from the about page on kingsfoldretreat.com.) So every year the whole staff of Multiply Church come out here for the whole day and before lunch they plan the entire year’s sermons. Then after lunch we break off by ourselves and just have that time of peace to reflect on God. So I found this tiny room at the very top with this view, how could I not reflect on God!
So on the other side of what is going on up here in Canada; Layne and I had our first Apartment Life event last week. It was a long process to finally get everything finalized, with Boardwalk being such a large company, there are quite a few hoops we have to jump through. On the Wednesday before we finally decided to have a “Cold Weather Get Together” as we called it. It snowed 10 inches over the weekend, so we just had a casual Hot Chocolate Bar Saturday evening. I set it up to have a wide variety of choices to spice up a typical cup of cocoa. I tried a salted Caramel recipe and it was amazing! We had a total of fourteen people attend. With all things considered, I was surprised with how many people showed up. I also brought some board games in case the conversation lagged but never needed them. (well except to entertain Thaddeus.) People were very open to talk, and we made some great connections.
We have been advised not to bombard our residents with Spiritual conversation, but if they ask what you do it is not bad to be honest. So a lot of people did ask us what brought us to Canada and our response was a job opportunity at Multiply church, I am working as a children’s director. It is what apartment life calls a spiritual connection; something that hints at the connection between you and a relationship with God. One conversation did go deeper than that. She asked, “Why Calgary, was there not a chance to do that in the states?” to which I told her that is what I did in Missouri. So she asked “what made you choose Calgary?” I said, “I didn’t, Calgary was presented to us and after that it was just a matter of being obedient.” To her I was speaking a different language, she had to be thinking obedient to what? Living in the Bible Belt of the states we don’t think twice about wording things like that, but here it is unfamiliar territory. I have been told that it takes a while to get in with Canadians, but the good thing is once you are in, you are in for good. It will take a while to really get these residents to truly open up but I know the Lord is already at work here and I cannot wait to see His plan unfold.
A few things to be praying for:
1. Layne still has yet to find a job, he has filled out at least 25 applications and had two interviews but nothing further yet. We know it is all in God's timing, so we are being patient. (please don’t pray for more patience haha)
2. Multiply Church as a whole.
3. Myself as I struggle through being homesick and adjusting to the new pace.