Monday, March 24, 2014

What's New, Buenos Aires

After over 24 hours of travel, I arrived in Buenos Aires on Friday. Carrie, who travelled with me, and I were the last to arrive of the team, and the guys from our team came to pick us up and take us to Johanna's grandparents' home. We have spent the last three days in Buenos Aires, working with a church and seeing the city. Today, we leave for Mar del Plata, a seaside city, where we will be working for about two weeks. But before we go, I wanted to share a taste of Latin American life with you.

The skyline from the rooftop terrace on the house.

Facturas (typical breakfast food)

The team on the night we arrived.

It is not always safe to keep my camera with me, so the types of photos that I post may mostly be of us where we're staying or in churches, but this is such a new experience for me that I want to share as much as possible.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Crossing Paths

In two days, I will be back in the States again after nearly two years.

Well, for an hour and a half, but still.

I fly through JFK in NYC on my way to Argentina. The practical phase of this internship is over, and the team and I are flying to Argentina for six weeks, to use arts in evangelism and do performances in Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata. At the end of the six weeks, instead of returning to London, I will fly to the States to renew my UK visa. I will be in the States from the first week of May until the first week or two of August, so if you want to see me or have me speak at your church, you can facebook me or email (I won't have consistent internet while in Argentina, so my mom is making my church traveling schedule). I would love to see as many people as possible while I am in the States. I will be staying in Savannah, Georgia, but can travel around Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Please pray for the team while we are in Argentina. Most of us do not speak (good) Spanish, but we are all eager to share about the love of Jesus, both through our arts and through speaking to people. The country is also in a bit of turmoil right now, and we are sure to stand out as non-Argentinian, so please pray for our safety in the midst of it all. For me, personally, I'd appreciate prayers for understanding. I can understand a lot of Spanish, and speak some, but I would love to understand and speak quite a bit while I am there.

I will see some of you in the States!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Loving God, loving art

As Christian artists, we have to learn to love the Creator more than the gifts that He has given.

We have to learn to love God more than the talents that He has given us.

The truth is, it can be hard for those of us who are glorified for what He has given our bodies and minds the ability to do. But God will not share His glory, so sometimes He asks the singer to be silent. He asks the dancer to be still. He asks the painter and the photographer to put down the brushes and cameras in their hands and to use their hands and eyes to seek His face.

You see, when we create, we are acting in the image of the One who first created. We are imitating our Father, who showed us what to do when He first created us. But often, in our creating, we become fixated on the clay being fashioned into a jar in our hands, and we say, "What a beautiful jar I am creating! How amazing that I could make this! How my neighbours will love it!" And they do love it, and we become known as "the one who makes beautiful pottery," and we forget that God is the Potter, and we are the clay.

It is good to be an artist. It is good to use the gifts that God gave us, because when we do, He is happy. We are fulfilling one of the parts of the design that He planned for us.

But when we forget that we are, in reality, made to be a reflection of God, to reflect glory back to God, and not to receive glory ourselves, we thwart God's design and steal His glory. We make ourselves like God and use God's good gift for the Enemy. Whatever is not used for God is used for the Enemy.

It is so easy for us, and for me, specifically, to forget for whom I sing, for whom I photograph, for whom I act, etc. I don't do it for my own glory. I don't do it to make my name more famous, or even to please the people around me. Any glory that I receive for it disappears in an instant. But all of the glory that God receives for it lasts for eternity, because God's glory goes on forever.

Sometimes I still don't know how to respond when people tell me they like my photography. I tend to say, "God gave it to me," and people just smile and nod and think, "What a cliche Christian answer." But it's the truth. I recognise that God gave me the gift of photography, and I don't want to steal that glory from Him. I have no suave way of giving Him glory and not sounding ultra-holy.

I just wish I had that problem in other areas of my life, as well, where it is so easy for me to forget that God receives every ounce of glory.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

11 Things I Love About London

In two weeks, I leave London for five months (two months in Argentina with my team, then three months in the States renewing my visa and visiting churches - let me know if you want to hang out or see me!), so for the past few months, I have been conducting a mental list of things that I have learned to love about London in my two years of living here.

1. It is sunny and 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees fahrenheit), which in London heralds spring.Seriously, it has been sunny for two days in a row, which, after three months of chilling rain, feels positively balmy. I went running in just a t-shirt today - the first time my pasty white arms have seen the light of day since September! The birds are chirping, people are eating outdoors at restaurants, and it might even hit 15 degrees this weekend! Time to break out the bathing suit!

2. Despite there being millions of people in the city, I can still find quiet spaces to be alone. 
London has so many parks and green spaces, and it's quite spread out. Whenever I went to New York City, I felt claustrophobic, but London has loads of places to disappear to if I need quiet and space.

3. Rail replacement services = transportation for free.
I live near the Overground, which is like the Underground, but above the ground and cheaper. They do repairs on it basically every weekend, and if I can stand the circuitous routes and traffic, I can get rides for free on the rail replacement buses. It takes two to three times the amount of time for the journey, but on the weekends, sometimes it's worth it.

4. The sky is so big in places.
There are wide streets, parks, and hills where the sky is so large that you can see the stars. Tonight, as my roommate and I walked home from the shop, we stopped to stare in awe at all of the stars and moon. We watched all the airplanes fly through constellations. From Primrose Hill, but also from some of the streets nearby, I can see the skyline, as well, which makes me feel so close to the centre, but with space to breathe and be.

5. The city is basically made up of hundreds of towns.
I live in Kensal Rise, which is right next to Harlesden and Willesden Green and at the top of Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill. Each area has its own high street (main street), post office, butcher, hair dresser, coffee shop, etc, and feels like a small town within the whole of London. I have a local corner shop where they know who I am (and grocery store and coffee shop), and it has the benefits of small town living and the wonder of being in London.

6. Corner shops.
My roommate just reminded me of this one. I love corner shops, where you can get so many useful things for a slightly elevated price, but at a time and place that is convenient. At my local corner shop, they ring up my chocolate milk right when I walk into the shop. They ask how my housemates are. And it's always lovely to take a walk to the corner shop in my slippers and sweatpants.

7. I can get a bus to anywhere.
I can get a bus to the centre from around the corner and ride straight to Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and the Embankment. I can also get a bus to the airport, or to Paris. Most of the time I choose the city centre, and not Paris, but hey, a girl can dream!

8. There are loads of different churches.
When my mom came to visit me, we went to my regular church, then to Hillsong London, then to Westminster Abbey for an organ concert and evensong. We heard Matt Redman songs, rap, and classical organ music. London isn't a religious city, but that doesn't stop it from having some fantastic houses of worship. It makes me feel like I have numerous homes around the city.

9. There are several markets where you can buy cheaply.
My team works out of a church a block off of Portobello Road, and I love getting fruit in the market. It's fresher than in the shops, and it's cheaper, too. We also do evangelism and prayer in Camden Market weekly, and we've begun developing friendships with shop owners there. There are dozens of ethnic food stalls in Camden, as well as clothes and trinkets that you can't find elsewhere in the city. I also love Brick Lane, a market in East London, because the live music on Brick Lane is the best. But beyond that, there are other large markets as well as small street markets throughout the city. Not only are things sold more cheaply at markets, but it's a chance to get to know people. Which brings me to my next point:

10. People are out of their houses and ready to talk.
Whether it's on the bus or Underground, in the queue for coffee, in Trafalgar Square, or at a market, there are people everywhere. Big cities can seem impersonal and lonely, because it's easy to get lost in the crowd, but for the most part, if you start talking to a person, they'll respond. For me, a missionary, this is fantastic news. For example, the people on the bus are prime opportunities for conversation, because they have nothing else to do as they wait to get wherever they are going. I'm not rude or overbearing about it, but I do enjoy speaking to people on public transportation or out on the streets. I know that England gets a bad rap for being a place where people are isolated from one another, but honestly, if you just start the conversation, you can meet so many interesting people.

11. All of the nations exist in one place.
I do a photography project that involves talking to strangers about their beliefs, and through that project alone, I have met people from dozens of nations. Without leaving London, I can experience life in Italy, China, Pakistan, India, Japan, Mali, South Africa, Colombia, Thailand, Argentina, Finland, Italy, etc, etc, etc. I can meet people from those countries in parks, I can go into their shops on Kilburn High Road, I can eat at their restaurants in Shoreditch, I can venture into their stalls in Camden Market or their religious buildings in Willesden. In Matthew, it says to go to all the nations. God sent me to London, and in doing so, He effectively sent me to all of the nations. I serve a big God in a big city, and He is giving me more and more of His heart for the people that He has placed here to live alongside me in this beautiful place.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Morning Commute

During the internship, we do our arts at the church every day, which means a daily walk into Notting Hill. Last week, I realised that this two mile walk constitutes my "daily commute," and that in a few years, when we live in a new section of London, I will want to look back on the daily sites that I take for granted right now.

Then I realised that, for some people, it's probably a dream to wander through Notting Hill daily, to see the Notting Hill Bookshop (of the film Notting Hill fame) and avoid the tourists who take pictures out front, to potentially run into celebrities and prime ministers, to browse the Portobello Road market on the way to Tesco to pick up more bread.

My morning commute is just one of the intricacies of my life that has the ability to lift my spirits on days when I am tired or anxious, and it's a reminder to me that the life that God has planned for me is much more beautiful than anything I could have designed.