A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Spring 2014

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Rebecca Gamble, M.Div. Intern, Malaysia

Spending this year in Malaysia has afforded me all kinds of new experiences I could not have imagined. One example that comes to mind includes attending a wake for a church member's father, which was hosted hours away, at around midnight. Taoist, Buddhist and Chinese folk religion rituals and services were conducted simultaneously for the same man, in the same space, dueling for dominance with their blaring loudspeakers and booming drums. I was previously unaware that such over-stimulating events even existed. It was certainly a memorable experience! Some of my church members have taken it as their mission to provide me with new experiences as well, introducing me to things like kabayas (traditional dress), night markets and lots and lots of food. Now I really savor new experiences, but red bean sweet soup is on the list of things I've been wary of (really just boiled beans plus sugar). Vegetables, in or as desserts, both of which are quite common here, sort of make my stomach churn. My own experiences, and therefore expectation, agree that vegetables are NOT a replacement for or a complementary addition to dessert. Are you with me? Anyway ...

I knew very little about what this year would look like coming into it. When offered the position, both my congregation and supervisor were yet to be determined; however, I found I already had SOME expectations about what my experience would be like. Between research and conversations with contextual education and ELCA global missions, I gleaned tidbits like these: 90-degree weather; Chinese, Indian and Malay ethnicities; a moderately strict Islamic government; and a congregation that technically meets illegally. Beyond this, I had additional expectations. I assumed there would be an internship committee ready, a congregation who expected me, that I would not constantly be in and out of hospitals and that I would be my typical, adaptable self, not bothered by various theologies or worship styles I experienced. In reality, not all of these things happened. Actually, almost all of these things did NOT happen.

So, here's the thing: As we know, neither life nor internship is ever exactly what we expect it to be. Things don't go exactly as planned, supervisors and communities surprise us and we're even surprised by ourselves. Darn those expectations, invariably tainting our experiences! Yes, they can provide us with appropriate excitement or allow us to brace ourselves for something dreaded, but expectations can also pave the way for ignorant over-eagerness, unmerited apathy or skepticism and hesitance, as in the case of my introduction to vegetables as desserts.

Many of my hopeful expectations of what this year would look like just aren't meant to be. However, there have been plenty of surprises that continue to exceed anything I expected or hoped for, and things that are just different altogether, giving me life experiences I never imagined. This isn't a look-at-the-silver-lining speech. There's no getting away from having expectations or pretending difficult things won't come. They'll be there. What I have to offer is a quick word of wisdom: Whether you're headed out on internship, entering a call process, serving in a contextual education site or just fumbling your way forward in life, hold your preconceptions lightly. Tightly-held expectations--too great, too small or too specific--get in the way of openly experiencing, engaging and learning from what is actually before us. Maybe, if we hold our expectations a little more lightly, we'll find ourselves pleasantly surprised more often, and find our disappointments turning into genuine blessings more easily. What you think you want, enjoy or need may even change as you open yourself to experience what you've been given. Hold expectations lightly and give things time.

I've actually started enjoying red bean sweet soup...

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