Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Home is found in those who surround you


Rainbow Trail,


Angel of the North: Largest sculpture in Britain looking out over my new home

Well I've now been in Jesmond, Newcastle for just under a week and I already feel like it's been ages with far too many stories to tell for one blog! I've been exhausted from jetlag, explored Newcastle city center (just a 3 minute bus ride from Jesmond), been to the coast to walk the beach and see a few lighthouses, met most of JMC's (Jesmond Methodist Church) steward team, visited china town, set up a bank account, conquered jetlag, bought a local mobile, moved host houses and am currently knee deep in looking for my own flat to rent for the year. It's been busy, it's been unreal, and through it all, it's become very apparent this is where I am supposed to be.

The Grey Monument in honor of the man who started Earl Grey Tea and kept the peace in England.

View of the Tyne and it's many bridges on the Quayside (Key-side) at the edge of the city center

Had lunch with Safwat (Church Steward from Egypt) at the waterside pub to the left
Me on the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, which just minutes before...
...was lifted for boats to pass through. You can't hear a thing as it lifts!!

From day one, staying with a steward from church, Jan, and her husband, Colin, I've felt so incredibly comfortable.  Normally I'm pretty timid when thrown into a new place with new people, and yet somehow, across the Atlantic and far from all I have known, it was so easy to feel comfortable. It could be that Jan and Colin seemed to be the British Beer Brewing versions of my own parents, but none the less I was shocked and relieved to feel so at home. It's difficult to explain, but as I marveled at their cacti collection and learned the ins-and-outs of Cricket (which was on the telly 24/7 for the 5 day match), I felt more and more that God was easing me into this year, subtly showing me that I should feel safe and at ease here.
Jan and Colin took me out to the coast for the afternoon (a 20 min drive from Newcastle). Many people were out walking their dogs on the rocky beaches with fog on the horizon. We ended the day with what Jan called a "usual British summer pass time"...sitting in the car at the beach, eating ice cream and watching the rain come down :)

From there I moved in with my boss, the minister of JMC, Rob and his wife Katie to stay while I look for a flat of my own. I think Rob and I will get along just fine, as was made evident to me at our first tea time (dinner) together. I had overfilled my water glass and was attempting to carefully sip it without spilling as he and Katie watched the debacle. As I was sitting at the table thinking "what a wonderful first impression I am giving off, struggling with my water," Rob confessed that he had an urge to yell "Boo!" as I was about to sip the overfilled glass in hopes that it would spill...yep it'll be a fun year :)

Rob and Katie's garden behind their house (and a view of it from my bedroom window shown above).

Funny Culture Shocks:

1) Trying to get into the driver's seat as a passenger of the car 
(within the minutes of meeting Jan)

2) Pudding=all desserts. 

So when Jan said let's get out the Puddings I was surprised to see 2 fruit crumbles, cheesecake, and a cream pastry and not the standard chocolate, vanilla and banana puddings from home.

3) "Single Room"=twin bed...."Double Room"=double bed

I had only been looking at adverts (advertisements/ tv commercials too) for "single rooms" and when Katie asked why I wasn't emailing anyone for doubles I said it was because I wanted my own room. Little did I know it referred to bed size not the number of people in one room.

4) City Center=Downtown

I told Rob and Katie I was going downtown to explore and get a feel for area, and they seemed concerned because "downtown" refers to the sketchier parts of cities and not the main street area.

On sunday they had a welcome service for me at church and to start Rob had me come to the front of the sanctuary and introduced me formally before he invited anyone who wanted to pray over me up to do so. Most of the people I had already met through Jan came to the front, but even a few people I hadn't met yet came up to lay hands on me while people spoke as they felt led.

Each person who blessed me did so with such heart and sincerity, that blessed doesn't even begin to describe how I feel to be here. All the cheesy, cliche feelings ran through me as I stood up there: I felt warm inside, I couldn't wipe a smile off my face if I tried, and I felt as if I was being physically held and embraced by this small but loving community I've only just met. As they laid their hands on me and stood in solidarity with me, I felt an overwhelming sense of home. God could not have given me a better confirmation than that moment...this had become my new home before I had even arrived.

Flight from Chicago: 4,239 miles,

Jetlag: 4 days,

Feeling so warmly welcomed and accepted into a community: Priceless.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Ship In a Harbor Is Safe, But That Is Not What Ships Are Meant For...

Hey there,

   For those of you I have not had the pleasure of meeting, my name is Elie Cahill and I'm about to move to Newcastle, England to serve with YAGM (Young Adults in Global Mission) for a year. I'm connected with the British organization "Time For God" and will be working in the Jesmond Methodist  Church to create a program for college students and young professionals to get involved. I'm excited, I'm terrified, and I'm ready to begin this new chapter of my life.

   A little background on who I am and how I got here...I grew up in Vail, Colorado in the same house with the same friends my whole life; so it's safe to say I am not very familiar with change as I step into this new adventure.  But I graduated from Gonzaga University this spring and have always wanted to travel and live abroad, so this opportunity was definitely one I could not pass up (especially considering youth ministry has always been a strong focus for me). I spent the summer working as a travel director at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp in the mountains of Colorado and am now beginning my YAGM experience with orientation in Chicago.
   In my final week at camp with some amazing family campers, a tight staff, and in entering this year here in Chicago after saying some difficult goodbyes, I am attempting to prepare and understand what this next chapter of my life means for me.  Some people have referred to this year as escaping the real world or putting my life on hold for a bit, and although I get the perk of putting my student loans on hold, this year is no pause for me. My roommates gave me a journal for graduation that has "life is like riding a bicycle, in order to keep your balance you must keep moving" printing on front, and that is the best way I can look at this next year.  I am not taking a break from life, but just getting started and am so glad to know I have such great family and friend support on this ride.

   I titled my blog in honor of the advice our camp director offers campers each week of the summer: that a ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are meant for...this could not be more true for me.  I find such comfort in home and my familiar spaces. I find confidence in who I am in that comfort, and in those places, and in the relationships I am leaving here in the states.  It is this confidence and this identity that has brought me to this opportunity and this identity I must bring out of my harbor and on to my next year. While, at the same time, I must open up this understanding of self and comfort to be positively changed by this experience and the new relationships I will be creating.
    Just the other day in one of our orientation sessions we spoke of being in a year of service under the idea of servanthood as becoming available and vulnerable to those we encounter. Not a year to "fix" or "improve," but to serve our new communities by becoming open and vulnerable to what this year can be and to what God will have us be for those we meet.

   So I want to thank you, whoever you may be, for joining me in my beginning.  Thank you for walking with me, not on a fun "Euro-trip," but in my life.  Who knows what will happen, who knows how I will feel in one year from now, but I will be open, I will be vulnerable, and I will keep cycling.

This ship is setting sail and headed East!